THE historic port of Rye celebrates the peak of the scallop season with its annual festival when the plump and succulent seafood is on the menu all over town.

The 16th Rye Bay Scallop Week, which runs from February 24 until March 4, is a chance to indulge in seafood delights as more than 30 local restaurants showcase a range of different scallop dishes.

The most popular ingredient this year is chorizo, with garlic, coriander, lemon and chilli also being paired with scallops in many of the recipes, many of them unique.

Scallops have long been fished in the port town and the shallow waters of Rye Bay are home to some of the world’s finest specimens of scallop, known for being exceptionally large and succulent. Scallops come into season around late February, which is when Rye celebrates its local bounty with an annual food festival that began in 2003.

Chefs in dozens of restaurants in and around Rye have been conjuring up a series of scallop-based dishes for seafood-lovers to taste, and foodies can also try their hand at preparing scallop dishes at the Scallop School at Webbe’s at the Fish Cafe restaurant.

There’s also live music from local musicians at pubs in and around the town during the festival, and on the final day there’s a fun What A Load Of Scallops wheelbarrow race, when teams race to collect a barrow-load of shells from the quay and back to The Ship Inn.

“If you’re heading to Rye Bay Scallop Week this year, don’t miss Russell Drew’s shucking demonstration and scallop talk at Market Fisheries,” recommends event promoter Oliver Campion. “He’s one of Rye’s fishermen, and knows everything there is to know about fishing for them, preparing them and cooking them.

“My pick of the restaurants would be The Ypres Castle Inn, which always has the largest scallop menu of the festival, but for something that is in no way pretentious, head to Marino’s fish-and-chip-shop on The Mint and try their Battered Scallops with Sweet Chilli.”

Among Oliver Campion’s highlights of Rye Bay Scallop Week are:

On the menu at The Globe Inn Marsh, at 10 Military Road, Rye, are Hot Skillet Rye Bay Scallops with onion, peppers, sweet chilli, lime and flat bread and Bonfire Scallop Mini Pizzas. Andrew Neate is singing here on Thursday March 1.

Marino’s Fish Bar, at 37 The Mint, Rye, are battering their scallops again this year, served with chips and a choice of sweet chilli or tartar sauce.

The George, at 99 High Street, Rye, have four offerings including Rye Bay Scallops on Cornish Crab and Smoked Pancetta Pearl Barley Risotto and Pan Fried Rye Bay Scallops with Boudin Noir, Samphire and Celeriac.

Another favourite in February is Ye Olde Bell Inn, at 33 The Mint, Rye, who have an impressive menu, where you will find King Prawn and Scallop Ragout with Spaghetti and Slow Cooked Pork Belly with Savoy Cabbage & Scallops.

Once again, the Ypres Castle Inn, at Gungarden, Rye, have provided the event’s largest scallop menu, on which you can choose Scallop Paella, Scallop Seafood Linguine and Surf and Turf amongst many, many other dishes. Stone Junction perform here at 4pm on Sunday March 4, Jake Hertz Duo at 8pm on Friday  February 23, and Geoff Everett Band at 9pm on Friday March 2.

The Kings Head Inn, in Rye Road, Rye, have Pan Seared Rye Bay Scallops with a Potted Prawn Sauce and Rye Bay Scallop and King Prawn Skewers on a Bed of Sesame and Soy Spinach amongst their scallop dishes. Irish folk musician Phil Trainor is performing at The Kings Head at 4.30pm on Sunday February 25.

Restaurants as far out as Battle and Stone in Oxney are joining in this year, with The White Dog in Ewhurst Green serving Whole Rye Bay Scallops steamed in their shell with a Garlic, Ginger, Chilli and Soy Butter and Tempura of Rye Bay Scallops served with a Sweet Chilli Dip or Homemade Tartare Sauce. The Stallions play at The White Dog at 4pm on Sunday February 25 and The Ninety-Nines at 4pm on Sunday March 4.

This year, The Ship Inn on The Strand, Rye, have a Winemaker’s Dinner on Wednesday February 8, a five-course scallop tasting dinner hosted by Victoria Ash, head winemaker at the Hush Heath Winery. She will talk diners through the pairing of each course with a glass of wine. Tickets are £60 per head.

At the Scallop School, at Webbe’s at the Fish Cafe at 17 Tower Street, Rye, courses are at 9am- 4:30pm on Monday and Tuesday February 26 and 27 and Monday March 12, where students will prepare and eat a seven-course luncheon with wine, for £105 per person. Guests can join students for lunch from 1pm for £40 each.


Above: scallops served at Olde Worlde Wines, 56 Cinque Ports, Rye/picture: Oliver Campion

Main picture, top: on the menu at the Flackley Ash Hotel, Peasmarsh

Below: scallops at the historic Mermaid Inn on Mermaid Street, Rye/picture: Oliver Campion

Above: prawns and scallops/picture John Fewster

Below: tagliatelle alla capesante at The Tuscan Kitchen at 8 Lion Street, Rye

Above: scallops served at The George, 98 High Street, Rye, and, below, at Webbe’s at the Fish Cafe, 17 Tower Street, Rye

Pictures: scallop dishes at (above) Market Fisheries, Simmons Quay, Rock Channel, Rye/picture: Oliver Campion; below, at Carey’s Seafood and Steak Bar, The Strand, Rye/picture: Oliver Campion; and, bottom, at Simply Italian, Strand, Rye/picture: Oliver Campion