But it’s not just the calibre of the food and drink, or the talent in the kitchen, that gives Cornwall’s dining scene the edge – it’s the location. Tables spilling out onto the sand and dining rooms boasting amazing coast and countryside views are commonplace. As Jamie Oliver said when he opened Fifteen Cornwall on Watergate Bay: “I have never seen a better seaside setting for a restaurant – I am well chuffed”.
As we care more about the provenance of our food, it’s little wonder that Cornwall has become so popular with epicureans. Not only can you look out to the sea, cliffs and countryside where your food has come from, you can also forage, fish and learn to cook under the tutelage of the region’s experts.
Take a walk with Fat Hen’s Caroline Davey and gather the likes of wild garlic, edible seaweeds, berries and herbs, before using them to create hearty and delectable dishes. “The seashore is one of the most productive places for wild food,” says Caroline, who has proved the potential of Cornwall’s natural ingredients by supplying them to some of the county’s top chefs. If you’re a fan of Rick Stein, you can follow in the food hero’s footsteps and learn how to fillet, prepare and cook the finest local produce at his Cookery School in Padstow.
It’s not only Cornwall’s food that’s highly rated on the national menu; with a Cornish gin distillery, an internationally-acclaimed vineyard and local coffee roasters, its drinks are creating a tasty tidal wave, too. 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 including the county’s own ‘Cornwall’ Brut Champagne.
As we care more about the provenance of our food, it’s little wonder that Cornwall has become so popular with epicureans. Not only can you look out to the sea, cliffs and countryside where your food has come from, you can also forage, fish and learn to cook under the tutelage of the region’s experts
If you want to sample the best of the region’s produce in one sitting, there’s a smorgasbord of foodie events to tantalise your taste buds, and it’s no surprise that plenty of the festivities are in honour of the fruits of the sea. 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. Truro hosts a fabulous farmers’ market every Wednesday and Saturday on Lemon Quay, but the biggest annual foodie extravaganza is the Great Cornish Food Festival held here in September. There’s no better way to sample the mouth-watering Cornish cuisine than by taking a tour of the county’s foodie gems – from the restaurants of the big-name super chefs to the lesser-known kitchens of local culinary artisans.
Seeing as ‘Padstein’ sparked Cornwall’s foodie revolution when Stein opened his flagship Seafood Restaurant here in 1975, there’s no better place to begin than this picturesque harbour town that has made its reputation from the quality of the produce plucked from the surrounding coast and countryside.
Stein still has the monopoly over the town and you need to book months ahead to bag a table at the famous Seafood Restaurant, which serves out-of-this-world seafood at prices to match its pedigree. More intimate and affordable is Stein’s Café, where you can enjoy a reasonably-priced set menu showcasing local seafood and global flavours. Year-round queues suggest that Stein’s Fish and Chips is the best chippy in town, and it undoubtedly serves up the widest range of locally-landed fish, which can be washed down with ales made by nearby Sharp’s Brewery.
However, an essential departure from Stein’s restaurants, and arguably the best place to eat in Padstow, 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. If you can’t get a table or aren’t keen on the price tag, opt for the more informal experience of Ainsworth’s Rojano’s in the Square and tuck into the devilish combo of Italian cuisine and Cornish produce.
If you want to sample the best of the region’s produce in one sitting, there’s a smorgasbord of foodie events to tantalise your taste buds, and it’s no surprise that plenty of the festivities are in honour of the fruits of the sea
In a small town so well endowed with gourmet treasures, picking a place to eat can be somewhat confusing. Notable newcomers making a splash include the trendy harbour-side Burgers and Fish, and the Prawn on the Lawn fishmonger and seafood bar that serves lobsters, crabs and fish flipped straight off the boats onto the charcoal grill.
North Cornwall’s foodie gems are by no means relegated to this gastronomic enclave; the surrounding area is also smattered with tasty gems. Topping the list is Nathan Outlaw’s duo of restaurants in pretty Port Isaac, where his menus are driven by what comes in from the fishing boats a pebble’s throw from the kitchen. You don’t have to wait for a special occasion or even a sit-down meal to experience the freshest local catch – make a pit-stop at nearby Port Quin and take away one of the best crab sandwiches in Cornwall, served from the hatch of Fiona’s vintage van.
Emily Scott is somewhat of a local food hero who made her name in Port Isaac then relocated to transform the St Tudy Inn into one of the region’s dining hotspots. Tucked away between the coast and the moors, this remote country inn lures gastronomes from far and wide with ‘simple, seasonal, beautiful’ food. Another of the area’s cosy local pubs that’s a regular in the Michelin Guide is the St Kew Inn, where you can hunker under the beams for hearty Cornish fare accompanied by St Austell beers from wooden casks.
On the outskirts of Padstow, one of Jamie Oliver’s protégés, Andy Appleton, brings together the best of Cornwall and Italy at Appleton’s at the Vineyard. Enveloped by Trevibban Mill vineyard and orchards, with his own vegetable garden and pastures to rear lambs, Appleton’s ground-breaking venture smacks as much of the enviable Cornish lifestyle and the importance of local provenance, as it does of mouth-watering, innovative dishes such as roasted squash, ricotta and bee pollen granola.
Appleton’s ground-breaking venture smacks as much of the enviable Cornish lifestyle and the importance of local provenance, as it does of mouth-watering, innovative dishes such as roasted squash, ricotta and bee pollen granola
Cruise down the Atlantic Highway to Newquay and you’ll find that the UK’s surf capital and its surrounds have undergone somewhat of a foodie resurgence in the decade since Jamie Oliver opened the doors of Fifteen Cornwall here. Serving Italian-inspired cuisine overlooking Watergate Bay’s two miles of surf-lashed sands, Jamie Oliver’s restaurant needs little introduction. If you can’t get a table for lunch or dinner try your luck for breakfast, or see if you can bag a last-minute seat at the antipasti bar. 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.
Newquay’s platter of eateries offer a global dining experience, from Portuguese to a unique Aussie-style restaurant, Bush Pepper, serving kangaroo and crocodile. However, in a place where you can watch the fishing boats putter in and out of the harbour, Newquay’s the perfect location 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.
If you prefer to dine looking out to world-class waves, there is a congregation of eateries vying for attention beside the surfing mecca of Fistral. Surfer and chef Paul Harwood uses local ingredients in elegant, rustic dishes at The Fish House, while the neighbouring Rick Stein’s Fistral serves up Indian specialities alongside the finest fish. 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. While there are lots more places in Newquay where you can dine with a sea view, Gusto Deli Bar takes it one step further by packing up finger-licking food boxes – including Sunday roasts – to take away and eat with toes in the sand.
Head West to St Ives, and you’ll find that this arty town is fast chasing Padstow for the reputation of Cornwall’s top culinary destination. The Porthminster Café is a long-standing favourite with a string of accolades, so if you want to soak up the beachside vibes over ingredients plucked from the ocean and the café’s kitchen garden, it’s worth booking ahead. Or, you could detour to The Porthminster’s more relaxed and more intimate sister restaurant, the Porthgwidden Café, where you can enjoy Mediterranean and Asian-influenced dishes on the edge of a white-sand cove.
Newquay’s platter of eateries offer a global dining experience, from Portuguese to a unique Aussie-style restaurant serving kangaroo and crocodile. However, in a place where you can watch the fishing boats putter in and out of the harbour, Newquay’s the perfect location to sample the fruits of the sea
Other notable jewels in St Ives’ Michelin-starred stable include the retro-chic Porthmeor Café Bar – serving tapas and Mediterranean-inspired feasts beside St Ives’ famous surf beach, and the stylish Alba – a former lifeboat station where you can enjoy modern British dishes and bag the best bay views from the upstairs dining room. One restaurant worth bypassing the views for is The Black Rock, a true Cornish gem run by a third-generation fisherman who uses line-caught fish, forages for wild ingredients and keeps his own Galloway cows on the family farm in Zennor.
Beyond St Ives it’s worth seeking out the wild, ends-of-the-earth location of The Gurnard’s Head, a stylish country inn serving seasonal produce plucked from the Cornish larder. Here the chefs make the most of the landscape’s natural bounty such as sea beet, samphire and three-cornered leeks.
One of Cornwall’s top chefs, Ben Tunnicliffe, has made his mark on the culinary map of West Cornwall, with the transformation of Newlyn’s Tolcarne Inn into a simple, seafood restaurant serving seafood from the local fishing fleet in the ambience of a traditional boozer. On the back of his success he has also opened Ben Tunnicliffe at Sennen, where he serves his signature dishes in a laid-back, family-friendly location overlooking stunning surf-lashed sands.
Moving onto South Cornwall, Falmouth is littered with foodie gems, from Rick Stein’s Fish to the more unusual Oliver’s – a stripped back little bistro that’s made its mark by using exquisite seasonal and foraged foods. 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. 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.
Beyond St Ives it’s worth seeking out the wild, ends-of-the-earth location of a stylish country inn serving seasonal produce plucked from the Cornish larder. Here the chefs make the most of the landscape’s natural bounty such as sea beet, samphire and three-cornered leeks
Hop on a ferry from Falmouth to chic St Mawes on the Roseland Peninsula, where Olga Polizzi’s Tresanton Hotel is still one of the hottest dining spots for a slap-up seafood feast overlooking the water. Nearby, The Watch House also serves local seafood in a relaxed dining space with booths and portholes looking out to sea. 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.
East Cornwall is sometimes the forgotten corner of a foodie tour, but it’s worth making the effort to discover some of its hidden gastronomic gems. In the small village of Antony near Torpoint, the Carew Arms has recently been opened to huge acclaim, with consultant chef Emily Watkins (of the Great British Menu) focusing on local and seasonal ingredients and an innovative play on classic dishes, such as roasted beets and goat’s cheese ‘in the hole’.
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. Inland at London Apprentice, the wow-factor of the fresh fish and locally-reared beef served at the Kingswood doesn’t rely on any such views to make it one the area’s must-go dining spots. On the other hand, if you do want a fully-fledged toes-in-the-sand beach experience, throw caution to the Cornish weather and head to Crinnis Beach in St Austell, where Sam’s @ The Bay serves classic ‘Samburgers’ and Fowey mussels from a quirky Tikki hut with al-fresco seating.