Looking for West Cornwall restaurants? Planning a foodie roadtrip through Cornwall? Read about our favourite Penzance restaurants and places to eat in Penzance Cornwall as well as St Ives restaurants and where to eat in Newlyn…
St Ives, Cornwall
St Ives may be the end of the road in geographical terms but visiting Far West Cornwall doesn’t mean having to navigate a culinary cul-de-sac. St Ives is well known as a ‘foodie hot spot’. The jumble of winding alleys that once knotted together a humble fishing village are now lined with chic shops, galleries and delis. Make sure you don’t overlook the fresh mackerel sold from an ice bucket and honesty box up a tiny alleyway away from the seafront.
This deli in St Ives is perfect for picnics. The counter and shelves heave with Cornish produce, from locally grown fruit and veg, to wines and Cornish cheeses. You can take away a picnic hamper made to order full of freshly made scotch eggs, goat’s cheese tarts, Ann’s pasties. You can even tuck into a takeaway curry. Leave room for homemade cakes, including the epic rock bun.
There are more Cornish pasty shops than you can shake a rolling pin at in St Ives, but our vote for the best in the region goes to Penzance’s Cornish Hen deli.
Moomaid of Zennor
Looking for the best ice cream in St Ives? Ice-cream wars are waged between Kelly’s vans and the classy Moomaid of Zennor parlour – its Shipwreck Extra Stormy flavour (salted caramel ice-cream with chunks of honeycomb and chocolate) is the overall winner.
Rum and Crab Shack
This bright and breezy restaurant serves the unlikely combo of rum and seafood. The food menu has a section dedicated to ‘po boys, rolls and tacos’, as well as a selection of small plates including popcorn shrimp with Creole dipping sauce and fresh crab and tomato bisque. Larger dishes put exotic twists on classic seaside favourites – Jamaican beer-battered fish and chips, Louisiana gumbo and Cajun blackened fish with a spice crust. As its name suggests, crab is a highlight – don’t miss the soft shell crab burger.
Wash down with one of the extensive list of rums (light, gold, spiced, overproof… all sorts!), or try a rum cocktail (Flor de Cana extra dry rum with ginger liqueur and thyme, raisin-infused Black Seal rum with Creme de Cacao and Aztec chocolate bitters, or a straight-up Old Fashioned).
This burger joint down a tiny little backstreet of St Ives serves legendary Cornish beef burgers. The classic Blas burger piles a beef patty from Trevaskis Farm with pickled cucumber, salad and aioli. Add Davidstow Cheddar or Cornish Blue cheese, chilli relish or chargrilled corn salsa for less than a quid, or vegetarians can go for a black bean burger. Oh, and there are banana splits (a vegan option too) for pud!
Raw Chocolate Pie Company
This little shop is where to head for villainous-tasting but virtuous snacks. The raw chocolate ‘pies’ and raw fudge are all vegan and completely moreish.
From St Ives head past the sandy cove at Porthcurno, the breath taking Minack Theatre carved into the cliff and tiny, teetering Mousehole (pronounced mow-zel). Because it’s at Penzance, where the food scene really snaps at St Ives’ heels.
On the other side of town, Bruce Rennie (formerly of the The Gurnard’s Head gastropub near St Ives) opened his own fish restaurant, The Shore, at the end of last year. Find space for lobster and spider crab, served shredded in a powerful bisque, followed by a delicate steamed sole on a squid ink linguine with a velvet crab sauce.
The owners of Penzance’s small but award-winning Polgoon vineyard, John and Kim Coulson, were Newlyn fish merchants until a winemaker inspired them to plant vines; they also produce artisan cider and apple juice, and run tours and tastings. As their daughter, Emma, pours me a 2014 bacchus single variety white, she tells me that their first wine won the UK’s best rosé back in 2006.
This autumn Rennie is teaming up with Susan Stuart who recently revamped the old Penzance Arts Club and turned it into a luxury b&b, Chapel House, to run gourmet foraging and cookery breaks. The six rooms all have sea views, painted white floors and vibrant modern artworks. The huge, stone-flagged kitchen diner in the basement is the scene of Susan’s regular weekend suppers, and lengthy brunches. I try the breakfast speciality: cod’s roe, smoked bacon, samphire and a poached egg. It’s a cheap, nutritious dish and it’s easy to see how it became a favourite with fishermen.
Artist Residence hotel
D coolly colourful 17-bedroom hotel in Penzance’s old quarter with a relaxed vibe (checked blankets, yellow Roberts radios, contemporary artworks) and a retro-chic restaurant and bar, The Cornish Barn. The menu includes meat and fish from its in-house smokehouse but I tuck into tapas-style dishes of deep-fried squid with chilli, lime and salt, and parsnip rösti with caramelised shallots and goat’s cheese. Dessert is rum-infused crème brûlée, hazelnut brittle and homemade banana ice cream.
Penzance art scene
The art scene is another area where Penzance is stealing the limelight. St Ives might have the Tate and the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, but Penzance has long been an artistic hub, home to the Newlyn Art School and galleries such as The Exchange and Newlyn Art Gallery.
Then there’s the Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens. Its verdant grounds are full of art and are also home to The Kitchen, a café serving charcuterie boards and bowls of mussels steamed in Polgoon cider with garlic, parsley, lemon and cream.
Head out to Newlyn, a fishing port on Cornwall’s wild western fringe, to watch trawlers unload their catch then make a beeline for Stevenson’s – a fishmonger with its own fleet of boats. Along with buckets of vermilion crab, its shelves are lined with the likes of dried dulse and kombu from the Cornish Seaweed Company.
The Tolcarne Inn
Some of the pubs in Newlyn still veer towards gritty, but Ben Tunnicliffe’s gastropub The Tolcarne Inn is the perfect pitstop. Just a pebble’s throw from the harbour, the all-fish menu majors in dishes such as fillet of mackerel with pomegranate and avocado salad – the fruit’s tartness cutting through the oily fish.
In Newlyn the cinema is the place to eat. No, not gourmet popcorn. At Newlyn Filmhouse you can enjoy a steaming bowl of Thai fish stew, aromatic and spicy and sprinkled with peanuts.
Suzie Sinclair and Alastair Till moved back to Cornwall from London eight years ago. What they missed most, Suzie tells us, was grabbing a bowl of noodles after the cinema. So they converted a 19th-century fish merchant’s warehouse, next to shellfish specialist W. Harvey & Sons, into a sumptuous cinema and café bar with an Asian-influenced menu and a vague Pirates of the Caribbean vibe (dark wood floors, columns wrapped in rope).
Last port of call is Ben’s Cornish Kitchen in Marazion, run by Ben Prior and his brother, Toby. The dessert catches my attention. The sweet curry plate is an exotic assembly of curried rice pudding, cardamom ice cream, a poppadom, coconut purée, mango curd, ginger jelly, spiced caramel, coriander leaf. A sweet surprise, it’s worth going out on a limb for – like Far West Cornwall itself.
Where to stay in Penzance
Double rooms at Artist Residence cost from £75 per night, room only and at Chapel House from £150, b&b.
Words by Lucy Gillmore
Photographs by Getty and Lucy Gillmore