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Eating out in Cornwall

No longer a land where pasties, cream teas and fish and chips head-up every menu, Cornwall has undergone a foodie revolution in recent years. Now gastronomes flock here from all over the world to dine on the freshest ingredients from land and sea, and bag tables at stylish beachfront eateries restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs.

Rich food culture

Cornwall’s rich contrast of coast and countryside means that the calibre, and diversity, of the food produced here tops that of almost any other region in the UK. It’s a place packed with artisan producers making the most of the ingredients at their fingertips; picking seasonal veg from kitchen gardens, making charcuterie and cheeses, baking award-winning breads, rearing the finest Cornish meats and even distilling a range of Cornish spirits using flavours plucked from the hedgerows.

Whatever time of year you’re visiting Cornwall, you’ll find an array of events celebrating the county’s rich food culture. The Falmouth Oyster Festival in October celebrates the oyster-dredging season in one of the last traditional oyster fisheries while, of all the fish festivals, Newlyn hosts the whopper on August Bank Holiday, in the home of Cornwall’s largest fishing fleet. Even the Isles of Scilly hosts a huge annual ‘Taste of Scilly’ food festival, while back on the mainland some of the annual foodie highlights include the Porthleven Food Festival, St Ives Food Festival and the Padstow Christmas Market.

Rick Stein's Cookery School

At Rick Stein’s Cookery School, in Padstow, you can learn to prepare seafood, create curries, rustle up tasty tapas and bake your own bread and pastries

You don’t have to catch the food festivals to learn how to conjure up a culinary masterpiece using the abundance of Cornish ingredients: these days there are plenty of cookery schools where you can hone your skills in the kitchen. At Rick Stein’s Cookery School you can learn to prepare seafood, create curries, rustle up tasty tapas and bake your own bread and pastries. Tucked in the sublime scenery of the Roseland Peninsula is the Philleigh Way Cookery School, where you can get to grips with Cornish farmhouse-style cooking, using recipes and techniques handed down through generations. Nancarrow Farm has become famous for its feast nights held in a barn setting on the outskirts of Truro, and in 2019 will be running workshops for guests to experience farm life, hone their knife skills at a butchery class and learn about the arts of pickling and preserving.

It goes without saying that there’s no better way to taste the mouth-watering Cornish cuisine than by eating out in the county’s foodie hotspots – from the restaurants of big-name super chefs to the kitchens of lesser-known culinary artisans. The Fish House in Newquay was named Restaurant of the Year in the Cornwall Tourism Awards, and continues to be the go-to for fresh, unfussy fish dishes beside the waves. Prepare to be surprised in the intimate setting of The Kitchen in Falmouth, where little plates of lip-smacking local produce are served in a boho-style dining room. Not all the best spots are by the sea; for a pretty plate of local and homegrown produce served beside lily ponds, seek out the award-winning Penrose Kitchen on the outskirts of Truro.

It goes without saying that there’s no better way to taste the mouth-watering Cornish cuisine than by eating out in the county’s foodie hotspots

Padstein

Seeing as ‘Padstein’ sparked Cornwall’s foodie revolution when Rick Stein opened his flagship Seafood Restaurant here in 1975, this picturesque harbour town is a good place to begin a culinary tour of the county. While Stein is still a huge name in town and you need to book months ahead to bag a table at the famous Seafood Restaurant, these days there’s much more than the celeb chef’s stable of eateries to choose from. Arguably the best place to eat is Paul Ainsworth at No.6. Here Ainsworth spins bold, seasonal ingredients – think Porthilly oysters from the Camel Estuary or monkfish fresh off the day boats – into mouth-watering, modern British dishes. More informal – and affordable – is Ainsworth’s Rojano’s in the Square, where you can tuck into the devilish combo of Italian cuisine and Cornish produce.

Prawn on the Lawn has made its mark with a seafood bar serving lobsters, crabs and fish flipped straight off the boats onto the charcoal grill, and now its sister restaurant, Barnaby’s Bistro, has received equal amounts of applaud for its sharing dishes piled high with wonderful combos from partridge to king oyster mushrooms. If you’re prepared to depart from the harbour-side hub, seek out Trevisker’s Kitchen on the outskirts of town, where Henk De Villiers Ferreira’s mission is to dish up fuss-free, quality food that echoes the coastal and country lifestyle of North Cornwall.

North Cornwall’s food scene is by no means relegated to the gastronomic enclave that is Padstow; the surrounding area is also smattered with tasty gems. Topping the list is Nathan Outlaw’s duo of Michelin-starred restaurants in pretty Port Isaac. The menus at both Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen (by the harbour) and Restaurant Nathan Outlaw (at the top of the hill), are driven by what comes in off the fishing boats on the doorstep.

If you prefer a more laid-back, beachside venue for a summer’s day, wander the short distance from Port Isaac to neighbouring Port Gaverne to munch on the likes of mussels and mackerel at the waterside Pilchards cafe – an off-shoot of the stylish Port Gaverne Hotel. Or, watch the sailing dinghies beside the serene Camel Estuary, where Outlaw has teamed up with Sharp’s Brewery to take the reins of The Mariner’s in Rock. Make a day of it and arrive on the Black Tor ferry from Padstow, before whiling away the afternoon over a crisp Atlantic Pale Ale with Porthilly oysters, lobster, mussels and catch of the day.

Prawn on the Lawn has made its mark with a seafood bar serving lobsters, crabs and fish flipped straight off the boats onto the charcoal grill, and now its sister restaurant, Barnaby’s Bistro

Locally-sourced ingredients

Emily Scott is somewhat of a local food hero who made her name in Port Isaac before spreading her foodie wings to the nearby village of St Tudy. Here, at the cosy St Tudy Inn, she lures gastronomes from far and wide with ‘simple, seasonal, beautiful’ food. She’s even hand-made her own limited edition wine to match her dishes.

Fifteen Cornwall’s former head chef Andy Appleton has made a sterling name for himself at Appleton’s Bar and Restaurant, tucked away at Trevibban Mill’s vineyard and orchard between Padstow and Mawgan Porth. Bringing together specialist Italian ingredients with produce from the kitchen garden and lamb reared on the land, here Andy and his partner Lyndsey lure diners with a seasonal menu and one the finest Sunday brunches for miles around.

Take a quick pitstop to break up your day of surfing

Take a quick pitstop to break up your day of surfing

As you cruise down the Atlantic Highway from Wadebridge towards the UK’s surf capital – Newquay – make a pit stop at Hawksfield and the trendy roadside cafe that is Strong Adolfos. Here you’ll find a unique mix of world flavours, motorcycle culture, Cornish ingredients and coastal life. Sample Swedish Fika (sweet treats), fuel up with a hearty breakfast before a surf on one of the nearby beaches, or tuck into big burgers and global dishes from Moroccan stew to Sri Lankan curry.

Heading into Newquay, where there are swanky restaurants nudging the Atlantic rollers, it’s plain to see that this surf town has shed its all-night party image and grown into something of gastronomic honey pot. While you can still enjoy fish and chips or ice creams on the beach, you’re more likely to find yourself ordering delicious gluten-free delicacies, vitamin-packed smoothies and dishes showcasing local ingredients from seafood to samphire.

If you prefer the sort of place where you can come straight off the beach without shaking the sand from your toes, take a seat downstairs at The Beach Hut, and grab a legendary burger, an extreme hot chocolate or seafood-biased bistro favourites.

While you can still enjoy fish and chips or ice creams on the beach, you’re more likely to find yourself ordering delicious gluten-free delicacies, vitamin-packed smoothies and dishes showcasing local ingredients from seafood to samphire

International flavours

You can travel around the world in Newquay’s platter of eateries, from tacos at trendy Gilmore’s (where you can also enjoy a round of mini golf), to kangaroo and crocodile at the Aussie-style Bush Pepper. Re-igniting a popular surfers’ hangout of the 1960s, The Slope Bar & Kitchen on Great Western Beach, serves food fit for hungry beach goers (think share platters, loaded fries and vegan food) alongside Sharp’s crisp Offshore lager.

If you want to sample the fruits of the sea, both the unpretentious Boathouse (hunkered beside Newquay Harbour) and the Harbour Fish and Grill (overlooking the harbour) are stunning locations to try the lobsters, crabs and fresh fish landed here.

Echoing Australian beach life, Newquay’s Fistral Beach has also spawned a huddle of eateries overlooking the world-class waves. Surfer and chef Paul Harwood serves elegant, rustic seafood platters at The Fish House (Cornwall’s aforementioned Restaurant of the Year 2018), while Rick Stein’s Fistral serves up Indian specialities alongside fish dishes. Upstairs at The Stable, hand-made pizzas and pies are piled high with regional produce and accompanied by a vast selection of West Country ciders. With so much going on at Fistral North, it’s easy to miss Seaspray, which is tucked in the cliffs at the southern end of the beach, and serves surfers’ breakfasts (from vegan fry-ups to Nasi Goreng) and simple lunches including sourdough toasties and ‘big boy’ salads.

Rick Stein's FIstral restaurant

Enjoy dinner with a sea view at Rick Stein’s Fistral restaurant, Newquay

Meandering west along Cornwall’s main artery, the A30, there are a few places worth stopping for food and drink. Pause in The Fox’s Revenge at Summercourt, from the team behind one of Truro’s best food and music venues, The Old Grammar School. The Fox is more of a country-pub affair, with great food, a vibrant ambience and crowd-pulling events such as outdoor movies and live music. Furthermore, The Old Bakery Studios has opened a lively little cafe alongside its events space.

Continuing west, pause on a deckchair by the Hayle Estuary and tuck into crab tacos at the Black Lobster, before hopping on the coastal railway to St Ives – the arty town that’s fast chasing Padstow for the reputation of Cornwall’s top culinary destination. Here the Porthminster Café boasts a string of accolades, so if you want to soak up the beachside vibes over ingredients plucked from the ocean and the cafe’s kitchen garden, it’s worth booking ahead. Also from the team behind The Porthminster Café is the Porthminster Kitchen, where you can sample a light and creative twist on Cornish cuisine in a chic urban setting overlooking the harbour. Another newbie in the heart of town is Gilmore’s, which – following the success of its Newquay venture – serves burritos and beers in the atmospheric setting of The Old Custom House on the wharf.

The Fox is more of a country-pub affair, with great food, a vibrant ambience and crowd-pulling events such as outdoor movies and live music

St Ives

With so many restaurants along the pretty seafront in St Ives, there’s a style of restaurant for every taste and budget. Vegans will love the new menu at the Rum and Crab Shack, with its bestselling dish Tofu Fish ‘n’ Chips (tofu marinated in lemon juice, wrapped in nori seaweed sheets and cooked in a vegan-beer batter), served with a home-made vegan tartare sauce and egg-free mayonnaise and chips.

If you want fresh Cornish ingredients fused with the global flavours of Asia and the Med, head to the Porthgwidden Café, a relaxed and intimate setting hunkered on the edge of a white-sand cove. If you’ve been visiting the Tate St Ives or surfing the waves on Porthmeor Beach, watch the sun go down over tapas and Mediterranean-inspired dishes at the Porthmeor Café Bar. If you’ve been watching boats come and go in the harbour grab a burger with an ethical twist from the legendary Blas Burger, or don your glad rags and book a table in the upstairs dining room at the stylish Alba – a former lifeboat station where you can enjoy modern British cuisine.

Beyond St Ives, the ends-of-the-earth location of The Gurnard’s Head, already has a good reputation for its seasonal, sometimes foraged, ingredients and fine wines served in a laid-back, rustic venue on the wild coastline of Penwith. This year, alongside its usual offerings, it’s also running a supper club, promising social dining experience with shared tables, good conversation and excellent food. It will also be continuing its popular foraging walks with Caroline Davey of the Fat Hen Cookery School.

Heading around the tip of Cornwall and into its southern flanks, Porthleven is making a name for itself as an emerging foodie enclave, what with Stein serving his classic seafood by the harbour alongside the likes of Amélies, which has long been famous for its Sunday roasts, seafood and music nights. Lesser known and hidden away from the harbour is the SeaDrift Kitchen Café, flaunting a menu that’s scrawled daily with whatever the local fishermen have caught, as well as Cornish-reared steaks. Not forgetting Porthleven’s multi-award winning Kota, where Jude Kereama combines the best from land and sea in his signature Asian-fused dishes.

Meanwhile on the Lizard Peninsula, head chef Jeffery Robinson is bringing in some new sustainable menu options at The New Yard Restaurant on the Trelowarren Estate, where you can dine on locally-sourced, seasonal Cornish ingredients in a scenic setting.

Porthleven is making a name for itself as an emerging foodie enclave, what with Stein serving his classic seafood by the harbour alongside the likes of Amélies, which has long been famous for its Sunday roasts, seafood and music nights

Riverside dining

The bigger, more vibrant harbour town of Falmouth is abound with waterside eateries, including the unusual Oliver’s – a stripped back little bistro that’s made its name from serving up exquisite seasonal dishes and excellent vegan options. Seafood lovers, get your bibs and finger bowls ready for lashings of seafood served in Portuguese cataplanas (cooking pans) at the Wheelhouse Crab and Oyster Bar, or stroll along the coast path to Hooked on the Rocks at Swanpool Beach, where it’s hard to take your eyes off the view, even when a whole Cornish lobster is brought to the table. Enjoy sublime harbour views, fish fresh from the day boats, and local meats that have been cured and smoked by the chefs behind the award-winning Star & Garter gastropub. If you want to dine on the beach of your choice, lay out your rug and Picnic Cornwall will deliver a bespoke hamper stuffed with delicious Cornish goodies from champagne and strawberries to artisan breads and Cornish cheeses.

Seek out the historic Pandora Inn tucked up the creek away from the buzz of Falmouth, or hop on a ferry from Falmouth to the Roseland Peninsula. Here the Driftwood Hotel, overlooking Gerrans Bay, flaunts a Michelin star for its divine seafood served with sublime views. The secret is long out about the Hidden Hut on the Porthcurnick Beach, where you can enjoy summer salads or seasonal soups at lunchtime, or try your luck for a gold-dust ticket to one of the magical feast nights, when the likes of paella and wood-roasted lamb are cooked over the beachside fire-pit.

Mussels with cherry tomatoes and coriander

You don’t have to dine right on the seafront to enjoy the freshest seafood

Follow the sailing boats along the coast, stopping at Poldark’s port of Charlestown for locally-sourced and seafood at The Longstore. Once you reach picturesque Fowey, savour a plate of Fowey River oysters while watching the boats from the terrace of Q at The Old Quay House Hotel, or enjoy a tipple and tapas at the Spanish Pintxo bar.

East Cornwall is sometimes the forgotten corner of a foodie tour, but it’s worth making the effort to discover some of its hidden gems. In the small village of Antony near Torpoint, the Carew Arms focuses on seasonal ingredients and an innovative play on classic dishes. Graze on simple, modern seafood dishes at The View in Whitsands, and as you look out to Eddystone Lighthouse and the Cornish coastline it’s easy to see where the restaurant got its name.

Enjoy sublime harbour views, fish fresh from the day boats, and local meats that have been cured and smoked by the chefs behind the award-winning Star & Garter gastropub

Keep it local

It’s not only Cornwall’s food that’s highly rated on the national menu; with gin distilleries, an internationally-acclaimed vineyard and local coffee roasters, its drinks are creating a tasty tidal wave, too. Colwith Farm Distillery, Cornwall’s first ‘plough to bottle’ gin and vodka distillery, which celebrates its first anniversary in July 2019, runs gin-making master classes, finishing with bottling and labelling your own gin. Meanwhile, Tarquin’s range of gin and spirits, hand-crafted on the north coast, continues to grow and win more awards.

The multi award-winning Rebel Brewing Company and the Harbour Brewing Company are amongst a growing number of microbreweries producing specialist craft beers, while Healey’s Cornish Cyder Farm turn the fruits from their orchards into thirst-quenching ciders and tangy spirits. Nowhere is better proof of the advantages of the sub-tropical climate for growers than the vine-covered slopes of the Camel Valley, where award-winning wines include the county’s own ‘Cornwall’ Brut sparkling wine.

St Austell is home to one of Cornwall’s biggest breweries, St Austell Brewery, where you can take an interactive tour into the inner workings of the brew house before sampling some of the beers made here. However, it’s Sharp’s Brewery that makes the UK’s No1 cask ale, Doom Bar, alongside a wide range of ales and lagers that go hand-in-hand with the Cornish lifestyle. Why not hop on a wine or brewery tour with Cornish Wine Tours to discover the finest craft ales, ciders and wine made in Cornwall, alongside some delicious local food?


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Image credits: ©Alex Holyoake/Andi Whiskey/Dan Gold/Unsplash; David Griffen Photography/Rick Stein's Cookery School/Rick Stein Porthleven; James Ram/Rick Stein Fistral; Steven Joyce/Prawn on the Lawn; Shutterstock.com; St Austell Brewery

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