The beautiful Victorian Pier at Clevedon has seen many changes over the years.
Opened in 1869 as a pickup point for paddle steamer trips for wealthy Victorians, this year was voted Pier of the Year for the third time, Somerset’s landmark continues to thrive.
Its history has been interesting.
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From its birth in the 1800s to its collapse in 1970, including the reconstruction of the structure following a campaign by the local community determined to see it survive.
In recent years, the pier has also become a filming location for many famous films, with the boy band One Direction using it to film a music video for one of their songs.
But like many other attractions, the coronavirus has hit the pier hard with a forced closure due to the lockdown, putting a huge blow to its finances and posing a threat to its future.
However, the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust – which manages the monument – refused to let the pandemic beat them.
Instead, Confidence and its army of volunteers have ensured that the pier continues to evolve.
The landmark – the only Grade 1 listed pier in the country – is emerging as a foodie destination, thanks to its Glass Box cafe and restaurant.
The restaurant was opened in 2015 following a massive investment program on the pier.
It was initially run by the Tiffin Group, but last year – due to the pandemic – the restaurant was returned to the trust.
Opposite a gorgeous – but empty – restaurant Confidence worked during the lockdown to reinvent the restaurant, which boasts stunning views of the Bristol Channel.
And it’s fair to say that customers love it.
The Glass Box opened at the end of July and has been drawing crowds ever since.
“Taking a trip to the seaside, a stroll along the pier and fish and chips is a very British day,” said the chairman of the trust, Phil Curme.
“And that’s what our offer is now on the pier.”
The trust enlisted the talents of Nick Thick – a former chef at the revered Charlton House, owned by Mulberry in Shepton Mallet – and together they developed a lunch menu that celebrates the sea.
And the summer menu, soon to be replaced by a new fall dining experience, is tasty but simple.
From cod and fries and hake stick sandwiches to vegan options such as banana blossom and fries, the Glass Box has generated many followers.
On the day of my visit I tried the fish sandwich.
And it wasn’t an average fish sandwich. It was actually pretty epic.
With hake sourced from Brixham, the fish was light and flaky and collapsed on attack.
The hake was coated in a specially created light fish paste before being rolled in panko breadcrumbs to give it the most delicious crunch.
The vegan tartar sauce that came with it was also homemade and served well with a salad of pea shoots, mizuno, arugula and red chard.
All sprinkled with a vegan vinaigrette made with maple syrup, lemon juice, whole mustard and vegan mayonnaise.
It was a shame I was driving – and it was lunchtime – as I wish I had washed it down with one of the many wines the Glass Box had to offer.
The trust decided to take over the management of the restaurant itself on a trial basis. He attracted funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund to help cover start-up costs.
The money generated by the company is used to support the operating and maintenance costs of the jetty.
The trial will run until the end of the year, but it’s fair to say that the future looks bright and the trust plan to ensure the Glass Box is a permanent feature.
“It’s going really well,” said Phil.
“And in addition to the visitors who adore it, it is becoming a favorite haunt for the local community, many of whom have become regulars, who come to lunch every week.”
In addition to the main restaurant, there is also a dining area on the outside balcony where one can enjoy the view of the canal.
Seats are also available on the main deck of the pier.
The restaurant is about to launch its fall menu, which promises to be as delicious as it is fish-themed.
Dishes include fish cakes with haddock and homemade smoked leeks, vegan-style crab cakes with homemade parsnip bhaji and roasted butternut squash, spinach and goat cheese quiche.
Still got your mouth watering?
The Glass Box menu is mostly egg and dairy free and there are gluten-free and vegan options as well.
One of the favorite vegan options is the banana blossom which is flavored with seaweed and Japanese five spices before dipping into a gluten-free paste.
The restaurant also has a children’s menu and has a good selection of wines, ciders, gins and soft drinks from the bar.
And once you’ve filled your boots in the Glass Box, more delicious treats await.
Just a stroll along the pier is the Pagoda Cafe – run by volunteers – which offers hot drinks and cakes as well as alcoholic drinks from G&T to prosecco.
I mean, what’s not to love?
At this point I will mention Christmas.
The Glass Box has put together the most amazing Christmas lunch menu that alongside traditional turkey has alternatives including pan-seared sea bass fillets on a bed of brown shrimp risotto with pepper sauce and pesto. arugula with beet wellington in a puff pastry.
The desserts are also very tempting, from baked eggnog cheesecake with raspberry and champagne coulis to homemade Christmas pudding with Somerset apple and brandy sauce.
The Glass Box is also available for hire for private parties.
Those wishing to book to eat at the Glass Box will also need to pay entry to the pier.
But it is a good thing.
Because besides being able to explore one of Somerset’s most popular attractions, the walk along the bridge will help burn those calories.
Learn more about The Glass Box here.