Why Cromer crab is the best in the UK

Cromer fisherman John Davies. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Cromer fisherman John Davies. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis speaks to eighth generation crab fisherman John Davies.

Q: What makes Cromer crab so special? Is it something in the water?

A: A lot of the crab in Cromer are down at the seabed in relatively shallow water. It's very flinty and chalky at the bottom so they filter in very clean water. A lot of other crabs are caught on a muddy bottom. I compare it with chalk stream trout. The purer water and better conditions give Cromer crabs their unique taste

Q: Does the flavour change through the seasons?

A: It does a little bit. It's a bit like new potatoes. When you first get them out they're sweeter than later in the year because they're a bit stronger then, so that does vary.

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Q: What's the most challenging aspect of your job? Have you had many hairy moments at sea?

A: The most difficult challenge is the weather and sea conditions. It's getting on and off the beach which is the most difficult thing we face. And we've had several hairy moments. It's just part of what we do and it can be an every day occurrence. You have to respect the sea and be appreciative of its power and you have to weigh up the decision of whether you go to sea or not, and that comes with time and experience.

Q: Is there anything that surprises people about crabs?

A: The female carries the eggs external to the shell throughout the winter months and spawns into the plankton in the summer. For the time when they carry the eggs, like around now, they don't feed as much.

Q: What's your favourite way to eat crab?

A: I've eaten it in loads of ways and rarely been disappointed. I prefer it at the start of the season simply with bread and butter and a little balsamic vinegar and salad cream in a fresh sandwich or roll. That takes some beating.

Q: Do many celebrity chefs use your crabs?

A: Galton Blackiston uses them. And Rick Stein met me and my father and wanted us to send some down to Padstow! We've done things with the Hairy Bikers and Brian Turner- a lot of TV chefs. And we used to have a guy who used to fly into Norfolk regular just to pick up his crabs!

Q: Cromer crab is an iconic local ingredient – do you have any other favourite produce from Norfolk?

A: I like the asparagus when it comes out. And we have some very good butchers and cheese makers in the area. We try and eat as much as we can from around here and we're fortunate to have so much on our doorstep.

Q: Where do you like to eat out around Cromer?

A: There's too many to mention. We supply several local outlets and I must admit we supply The Grove and that's nice to go to. If you want a simple crab sandwich you can get those in lots of places in the town.

Q: Why should people visit Cromer right now?

A: The autumn is my favourite time. We get, hopefully, some nice warm sunny days and you can take brisk walks all through the wintertime. It's a bit quieter now and it's just nice to take in the local surroundings and have the walks to yourself. You can walk the prom and beach and look out to sea and admire the scenery because it changes every day.

Get fresh crab at Davies Fish Shop, 7 Garden Street, Cromer. The shop is open from 8.30am to 4pm Monday to Saturday, and from January will be open Tuesday to Saturday.

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