Not so long ago, the taste of Cornwall was unwrapped from Cornish pasties, fish and chips, and clotted cream ice cream. And while these lip-smacking ingredients are still on menus across the county, a new wave of gastronomy has swept the region. 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. Combine that with a growing number of celebrity chefs and stylish eateries spilling out beside jaw-dropping beaches, and it’s little wonder that Cornwall has bagged a firm spot on the gastronomic map.
If you’re keen to conjure up a culinary masterpiece using the abundance of Cornish ingredients you can get your hands on, you’ll find a growing number 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.
With so many dazzling producers, ingredients and styles of food to sample, it’s little wonder that recent years have seen ‘food halls’ rise in popularity. Here, artisan producers come together and showcase their goods, so your taste buds can take a tour of Cornwall’s foodie treasures under one roof. Sample charcuterie, baked goods and Cornish rum at the Norton Barton Artisan Food Village near Bude, or find the finest coffee, craft beers and flavoursome foods at the brand new Temple near Summerleaze beach. St Austell Bay is fast vying for its place on the foodie radar, where Cornucopia boasts a smorgasbord of regional produce alongside a pasty heritage centre.
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. The biggest annual foodie extravaganza is the Great Cornish Food Festival held in Truro in September.
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. And 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. 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 empire of eateries to choose from.
If you’re keen to conjure up a culinary masterpiece using the abundance of Cornish ingredients you can get your hands on, you’ll find a growing number of cookery schools where you can hone your skills in the kitchen
Fish flipped straight off the boats
Most notable amongst the newcomers is Prawn on the Lawn, a seafood bar that serves lobsters, crabs and fish flipped straight off the boats onto the charcoal grill. 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.
Year-round queues suggest that Stein’s Fish and Chips is still the best chippy in town, and it undoubtedly serves up the widest range of locally-landed fish. Of the rest of the Stein’s stable, the most crowd-pleasing is Stein’s Café, where you can enjoy a reasonably priced menu showcasing local seafood and global flavours. If you’re prepared to depart from the harbour-side hub, seek out the boutique garden centre on the edge of town, where you’ll discover the new Margots at Trevisker – the re-invention of what was one of the most booked-out restaurants in Padstow before it closed its doors a few years ago.
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 Pilchard’s Café. 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.
Most notable amongst the newcomers is a fantastic seafood bar that serves lobsters, crabs and fish flipped straight off the boats onto the charcoal grill
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. Also on the outskirts of Padstow, Appleton’s at the Vineyard beckons punters passionate about Cornish food and the Cornish lifestyle, to a stunning venue enveloped by vegetable gardens, pastures and Trevibban Mill’s vineyard and orchards.
As you cruise down the Atlantic Highway towards the UK’s surf capital – Newquay – it’s easy to zoom past the trendy roadside café that is Strong Adolfos. If you miss it, it’s worth making a U-turn to experience the unique mix of world flavours, motorcycle culture, Cornish ingredients and coastal life. Make a pit stop for coffee and 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 big names like Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver are behind 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.
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.
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
Platter of eateries
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 has recently opened on Great Western Beach, boasting a sustainable ethos and serving freshly ground coffee and food fit for hungry beach goers – think share platters, loaded fries and vegan food.
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.
Prefer to eat with your toes in the sand? Head to Gustos and grab a takeaway Med-style food box filled with the likes of falafels, flat breads and smoked meats. 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, 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.
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, the latest venture from the team behind the food and music venue, The Old Grammar School, in Truro. 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.
The Slope Bar & Kitchen has recently opened on Great Western Beach, boasting a sustainable ethos and serving freshly ground coffee and food fit for hungry beach goers – think share platters, loaded fries and vegan food
The finest artisan ingredients
Detour to Trevaunance Cove in St Agnes and you’ll find Schooners – a beauty of a beachside restaurant that’s just been re-opened – to much applaud – by a trio of talented locals who know exactly where to source – and how to cook – the finest artisan ingredients. Tucked in the countryside surrounding Truro is Nancarrow Farm, where organic beef and lamb are reared in lush pastures, and huge feast nights are thrown in the farmhouse kitchen.
Heading west, pause on a deckchair by the Hayle Estuary and tuck into crab tacos at the new 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 café’s kitchen garden, it’s worth booking ahead.
Also from the team behind The Porthminster Café is the newcomer, 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.
With so many restaurants along the pretty seafront in St Ives, it’s worth doing some homework to ensure you end up eating out in the best of the line-up. 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.
Detour to Trevaunance Cove in St Agnes and you’ll find a beauty of a beachside restaurant that’s just been re-opened – to much applaud – by a trio of talented locals who know exactly where to source – and how to cook – the finest artisan ingredients
Modern British cuisine
If you’ve been watching boats come and go in the harbour grab a burger with an ethical twist from the rustic 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. Tucked away in the cobbled streets, The Black Rock is 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 nearby.
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. It’s far out west that one of Cornwall’s top chefs, Ben Tunnicliffe, has made his mark: First he transformed Newlyn’s Tolcarne Inn into one of the West County’s finest fish restaurants, then he opened Ben Tunnicliffe at Sennen, where he serves his signature dishes overlooking stunning surf-lashed sands.
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, renowned for its seafood-biased menu fusing Cornish ingredients with Asian influences.
Heading around the tip of Cornwall and into its southern flanks, Porthleven is making a name for itself as an emerging foodie enclave
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 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.
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.
Follow the sailing boats to picturesque Fowey, where sailors come ashore to wine and dine. 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.
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 and foraged foods
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, Emily Watkins (of the Great British Menu), helms the kitchen of the Carew Arms, focussing 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.
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 include the county’s own ‘Cornwall’ Brut sparkling wine.
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