The chef-owner is all-round good guy and fantastic chef Andy Appleton, who used to be head chef of Fifteen Cornwall. The restaurant is in the middle of nowhere at Trevibben Mill Vineyard so you need a car and you need to set the sat nav. I love Andy’s relaxed style of cooking with a distinctly Mediterranean vibe… Expect delights like warm ‘nduja (spicy sausage) with dollops of burrata melting into it and toasted sourdough for dipping, or prosecco-battered polenta chips with ‘nduja ketchup, or squid ink and crab linguine with crunchy crumbs on top. It’s all SO GOOD . The brunch is famous (and it includes hash browns – yes), but look out for negroni Mondays, too.
2. Porthminster Café
Right on Porthminster, one of the best beaches in the famous arty town of St Ives, this whitewashed building has remarkable views. They’re at their best on a sunny day, of course, when it’s hard to tear your eyes away from the magic combo of blue sky, turquoise sea and white, white sand to look at the plate in front of you – but when you do, you can be assured that plate will a) look pretty and b) taste pretty darned fine.
I’ve eaten here scores of times, but the last time I had crisp-fried whitebait with samphire – excellent – followed by Cornish plaice with sweet shrimps, brown butter, crispy Cornish new potatoes (which taste buttery even before they’re cooked), capers and preserved lemon purée, decorated with a few edible flowers. A dish to remember – and return for another time. The café is a stone’s throw from St Ives’ cute little branchline station, and I’d suggest that’s the only way to get there in high summer as parking is nigh on impossible.
3. The St Tudy Inn
This beautiful pub with rooms is in the village of St Tudy – inland but not far from Rock, Port Isaac and Polzeath. The chef/owner is the brilliant and lovely Emily Scott, who recently made her TV debut on the Great British Menu. Her cooking treats ingredients with respect and I’d describe the flavours as modern British with French and Italian influences. I enjoyed perfectly cooked fish and a wonderful risotto Milanese when I was there earlier this year. There are rooms, too (£150 per room, per night B&B; £210 including dinner), so you can stay over if you want to.
4. Restaurant Nathan Outlaw
High on the cliffs above the quaint town of Port Isaac (famous for the filming of Doc Martin and, more recently, the film Fisherman’s Friends) is a restaurant offering an experience you won’t forget. It’s fine dining in style and also pricey (£140pp; set menu), but I promise you this is food worth saving up for. There’s a reason why the gentle, talented giant Nathan is the only restaurant in Cornwall to have two Michelin stars. If that’s a bit out of your price bracket, also wonderful is…
5. Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen
It’s in a quaint, curvy-walled whitewashed building right on the quayside in Port Isaac. This is relaxed, small-plates food for sharing, all seafood, and the quality is right up there – plus they sometimes do lunch deals out of season. But it’s tiny (eight crammed-in tables), so booking is essential.
6. Paul Ainsworth’s No 6
Another favourite – we go every time we’re in Cornwall. The restaurant is in a small townhouse in Padstow and has no views, but who cares? This is cooking of the highest order, and Paul’s generosity of spirit shines out in the welcome you receive and in every mouthful of the outstanding food. Enjoy the best crusty bread, caramelised whipped butter, deep-fried oysters, tarte tatin with a wedge of cheese and a tiny glass of local cider, a pull-out-drawer treasure box of home-made chocolates – and the ever-changing menu of delights in between, meat and fish, cooked with dexterity and finesse.
7. NEW: The Mariners
Paul Ainsworth and his wife Emma recently took over this pub in Rock (just across the water from Padstow), gave it a complete revamp and opened in early summer 2019. When we visited, Paul had his top chefs in the kitchen and the food was ridiculously good: a croque-madame, a warm pork pie (none of that cold jelly nonsense – I know, I know…) – you get the picture. Grab a seat on the balcony if you can and soak up the balm-to-the-soul view over the Camel Estuary.
8. Fifteen Cornwall
My top spot for breakfast with a view, followed by a walk on the vast, beautiful expanse that is Watergate Bay beach. If you want to learn to surf or kite-surf (preferably before you eat), this is your place.
9. Gurnard’s Head
A pub near the cliffs on the beautiful coastal drive from St Ives heading towards Land’s End. You can’t miss the building: it’s painted bright mustard. There’s a garden to eat in during summer and a roaring log fire to welome you inside from the howling winds during winter. Have a snack and a pint of local beer in the bar or a full meal in the restaurant. From there you can park and take a stunning walk down and along the cliffs. There are rooms, too.
10. The Seafood Restaurant
I can’t finish my top 10 list without mentioning the Rick Stein eatery that put Padstow on the map and gave me my first glimmer of excitement that food in Cornwall was about to become something even more special. That was way back in 1985 and, at the time, this quote, on a little card on the table, written by a food critic, summed up my feelings: ‘A meal to crawl five miles on your hands and knees for.’ I’ve loved the place ever since. And it does a great breakfast, too – top tip if you can’t get in for dinner.
7 more worth checking out…
You’ll find this special spot at the Tremenheere Sculpture Garden, overlooking St Michael’s Mount on the south coast: I love it for its breakfasts (you have to try the croque monsieur – another melty-cheesy winner) and wonderful scones, jam and clotted cream for afternoon tea (or any time).
The Watch House
St Mawes, opposite Falmouth, is the place to find the best beer-battered fish and chips we’ve eaten in Cornwall, not to mention crisp-perfect onion rings and excellent seafood pasta, among other treats. They serve soft-whip ice cream from the hatch at the side of the restaurant during the day in summer, too.
New Yard, Mawgan
On the Trelowarren Estate on Cornwall’s rugged Lizard Peninsula. Head chef Jeffrey Robinson sources 90 per cent of his ingredients from within a 15-mile radius, and the proof is in the tasting. There’s an open kitchen and the vibe is as relaxed as the food is good.
The Mackerel Sky Café
A tiny no-bookings seafood restaurant in Newlyn (the town famous for its fishing and fish market). I haven’t been there yet, but reports are making me hungry.
Where chef Bruce Rennie works away in his tiny Penzance kitchen producing dish after excellent seafood dish.
Ben’s Cornish Kitchen
An award-winning family-run restaurant in the coastal village of Marazion.
The recently done up Stargazy Inn, Port Isaac
Again, I haven’t tried it yet, but reports are excellent.
A brand new hotspot that’s just been opened by the talented, visionary team behind London’s acclaimed Jolene, Westerns Laundry and Primeur restaurants. It’s top of my list of new places to try.