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…
Then travel up the coast to Port Isaac and Bude via the villages of Wadebridge, St Kew and St Tudy.
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 and Ann’s pasties. You can even tuck into a takeaway curry. Leave room for homemade cakes, including epic rock buns.
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 – the latter’s Shipwreck Extra Stormy flavour (salted caramel ice-cream with chunks of honeycomb and chocolate) is a winner.
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 it down with one of the shack’s 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).
Down a tiny little St Ives backstreet, this place 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!
From St Ives head past the sandy cove at Porthcurno, the breathtaking Minack Theatre carved into the cliff and tiny and 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 delicate steamed sole on 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.
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.
Where to stay in Penzance: Artist Residence hotel
A coolly colourful 17-bedroom hotel in Penzance’s old quarter, this hotel has 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.
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. 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 caught our 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.
The villages inland are often neglected in favour of the honeypots of Padstow and Port Isaac. But, for foodies, there’s plenty to draw you up-country. Near Wadebridge, Strong Adolfos serves burgers, soups and cakes to surfer dudes, families and grannies alike.
That the name is a twist on the circus strongman from Pippi Longstocking (the classic children’s book series) makes sense when you learn that co-owner Mathilda Friström Eldridge is Swedish. As does the menu of Swedish chocolate balls and carrot and parsnip cake Mathilda serves alongside locally roasted Origin Coffee (origincoffee.co.uk).
The market town of Wadebridge, sedately straddling the River Camel, may not have flashy restaurants, but it does have its own coffee roastery, Rising Ground, based inside Relish deli and café. Pick up a bag of Ethiopian sidamo, with its earl grey undertones, then head along to nearby Baker Tom’s to stock up on sourdoughs and sunny saffron buns to go with it (bakertom.co.uk).
No trip to Cornwall would be complete without a pasty, but the best in the area involve some serious tracking down – nip behind the petrol station at St Kew Highway and look for the signpost to Aunt Avice’s Pasty Shop. Eighteen years ago, having been made redundant, Peter Gill and his wife, Avice, started making pasties to Peter’s mother-in-law’s recipe. This stipulates potato, onion and beef skirt, but – unusually – no swede. It’s the pastry, though, that makes their pasties famous, says Avice as she deftly crimps a line of them in her 50s-style kitchen next door. “Never hold a pasty by its crimp,” she instructs. “Hold it by one end and eat it like an ice-cream cornet.” I do as I’m told, and bite into its rich, doughy pastry and fall-apart filling. They’d keep any Cornish miner going for a while.
St Kew Inn
Ancient St Kew Inn, with its high-backed wooden settles and flagstone floors, is as convivial as pubs come, and its honest food clearly gets a thumbs-up from local resident Gordon Ramsay, who is often spotted supping here.
The lane opposite St Kew Farm Shop (with a café) leads to more booze: Haywood Farm cider made from apples grown on Tom Bray’s family farm. The day to visit is Sunday, when there’s live music and cheese tasting in the ancient barn where Tom presses the apples.
A gastropub-with-rooms that prides itself on creative cocktails and scrupulously sourced seasonal ingredients that shine in uncomplicated dishes such as Porthilly mussels with fennel, cider and dill, or summer risotto with broad beans, courgettes and lovage butter (sttudyinn.com). Enjoying a new lease of life since the energetic Emily Scott took it over in 2015, the inn not only makes its own sausages but also boasts homemade St Tudy ale (brewed by Padstow Brewery) and its own wine (produced in Bordeaux). Bedrooms, in a converted barn opposite, are small but stylish.
Port Isaac, Cornwall
Fresh from the Sea
Back on the coast, amble among the slate-hung whitewashed cottages that cascade down a gap in the cliffs at Port Isaac. Life here revolves around the tides and the fortunes of the town’s five remaining fishing vessels, which mainly land crab and lobster.
Fisherman Calum Greenhalgh catches the shellfish, which he carries 100 metres from his boat, Mary D, to the café where his wife Tracey cooks it for lunch. At the top of the hill overlooking the harbour at Port Isaac, the aptly named Fresh From The Sea opened in 2010 and now attracts customers from as far afield as Australia and Canada.
Served on locally baked bread, perhaps accompanied by a glass of Padstow Brewery beer or Cornish Camel Valley wine, the crab sandwich (which local Michelin-starred chef Nathan Outlaw claims to be the best he has ever tasted) and the lobster salad are safe bets. Other options include Porthilly oysters, homemade smoked mackerel pâté and toast, or a simple Davidstow cheddar cheese and chutney sandwich.
Nathan Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen
In pole position to grab the best catch is Port Isaac’s wonkiest and oldest building, once two fishermen’s cottages but now housing Nathan Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen. Although it’s Michelin starred, this tiny restaurant is so tightly packed that everyone relaxes.
For simpler, more modern dining there’s Temple, offering “edibles and threadables” in a pavilion-style building. The ethos is planet-friendly, homemade and healthy, which applies both to the clothes and skincare products it sells, and to the food and drink (including a water-based kefir) it serves in its café. At night, the place morphs into a laid-back restaurant, making the most of impeccably sourced ingredients (organic, unhomogenised milk, for instance, is bought direct from a nearby farm). It’s no surprise that flavours are reminiscent of Ottolenghi – head chef Craig Tregonning previously worked at the branch in Islington. The breakfast menu’s zesty mushrooms with dukkah are well worth getting out of bed for, but the dish I’ll be ordering again on my way back to Paul Ainsworth’s No 6 is the toasted sourdough sandwich filled with home-fermented kimchi and mature cheddar. It slings all other toasties into the shade.
Workaday Bude, horseshoed around the vast sands of Summerleaze Beach, is a lot more low key than manicured Padstow and Port Isaac. But it still does (relatively) posh at The Beach at Bude, a boutique hotel teetering on the cliffs. Don’t be put off by its slightly bling feel, because the food (produced by Bath Priory-trained Joe Simmonds) is excellent – try the elegantly gutsy herb-crusted lamb striploin with cassoulet.