An insider's guide to the county's best kept secrets
Tel: 07979 087228
A quirky restaurant on board an old sailing ship overlooking the quay and tidal marshlands that serves authentic Dutch pancakes and local real ale.
Where to find it
Wells-next-the-Sea is a traditional seaside town largely unspoilt by modernisation that has an expansive sandy beach; famous for its rows of beach huts on stilts. Head to the town centre though and you’ll soon come across the quay. Wells harbour is an active port where many fishing boats and sailing ships dock. The Albatros is unmissable by its sheer size and old school grandeur.
What to expect
Built in the Netherlands in 1899, this North Sea Klipper was the last commercial sailing ship in Europe and remains the oldest ship that is still afloat today. Serving a 98 year career as a freight carrier, it weighs 119 tonnes and is 40 metres long. During World War 2 it was used to smuggle Jews and political dissidents from Nazi occupied Denmark to neutral Sweden so you’re stepping on board an impressive history.
The ship is very much as it was then, being used for educational purposes up until 2005. Its sails remain albeit tied up and its decks are still wooden and polished. The cabin is now the kitchen and the bar and restaurant are in the former cargo hold. There are plenty of tables and chairs on deck too for al fresco dining on sunny days taking in the views across the harbour and quay life – you’ll see fishing boats unloading crabs and can effortlessly spend an afternoon watching the water levels rise as the tide comes in.
Under deck – be careful, the steps are extremely steep – prepare for raw quirkiness. A mismatch of wooden benches and a random collection of nautical and Dutch memorabilia adorn the place. Old maps line the walls next to posters of gigs gone before. So often in such ramshackle places you find the best food and drink for miles.
Dutch delights & real ale
In keeping with its history the restaurant serves authentic Dutch pancakes and other nationality favourites such as pea soup and omelettes. The pancakes are their speciality though and you’ll find an extensive menu of toppings both sweet and savoury. On my last visit I tucked into an apple, cinnamon and syrup delight and thoroughly enjoyed every mouthful. The pancakes are thicker that crepes and very filling, the size of a good 10inch pizza. The norm is to wash it down with an ale from Woodforde’s Brewery. Listed in the Good Beer Guide since 2010, they serve Wherry, Nelson’s Revenge and Sundew.
Music venue and B&B
The Albatros is also a top gig venue with live music on a Friday and Saturday night, and a Sunday afternoon. These intimate affairs in the bar provide a great atmosphere and are very popular with the locals. If you’re coming from afar though, bed and breakfast is available in the former crew cabins. Don’t expect luxury but if you’re looking to learn about life on board a traditional sea going sailing vessel then this is your chance to do it without getting sea sick.
So whether you hop on board for a drink, a pancake or a full overnight encounter, The Albatros is a great place to experience something a bit different. When the daily catch comes in, you can even enjoy freshly caught mussels. It’s simple indulgence at its best.
Open daily from 12 noon. Available for hire; private parties of up to 50 guests (in good weather up to 85 guests) with the ships galley offering a range of different menu options from finger foods to four course meals. B&B rates are £27 - £35 a night. Children and dogs welcome.