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  • Cathy Henderson

Coastal culinary retreat in Cornwall

Updated: Aug 20, 2019

Padstow to Padstein... Thrilled at the thought of visiting Padstow, a picturesque, quaint little harbour village with cosy inns alongside trendy Rick Stein-inspired bistros sprang to mind...

The quaint harbour town of Padstow at twilight

There was this, of course, and so much more other local flavour and country charm, enhanced by a rugged coastal backdrop and sea air. To be sure, there could be oysters for shucking and lobsters for cracking, and there should be Cornish pasties and cream teas! But it was also the dog lovers and doggies everywhere with the gentle caw of seagulls at twilight that made it all feel so welcoming and tranquil.

Our trip began as all country vacays should: with running commentary from a quirky local cab driver. He cautioned us early that it truly would be a visit away from it all, and to ease into country time: “When asked how we do things round ‘ere… we say, it’ll be done drickleigh!” Clearly this is the manyana manyana of the UK. There is something so endearing about the Cornish, and along with the Lilliput-Lane-meets-Hobbiton appeal of the small town, one can’t help feel an element of some kind of magical allure, almost as if this could indeed be somewhere in the Shire, with places so quaintly named… Tregurrian, Trevarrian and Mawgan Porth, for example.

Above: Rojano's in the centre of town; Below: cauliflower soup with aubergine caviar and curry oil

With something literally for everyone, there are traditional locals such as Shipwrights in the harbour, the Golden Lion or the London Inn – opposite each other in the village and with their own following – to more contemporary glasshouse-style the Basement, Rojano’s in the Square, and Pucelli’s above the local Fish and Chip Cafe and overlooking the harbour. Hotels like the Old Custom House and the Old Ship are practically an institution; the Old Ship has a front ‘deck’ in Mill Square, and local evening watering holes share great menus with classics like pork belly and Lobster Po-Boy!

The centre of the small town has an inner sanctum of its own; after rambling through arty and surf shops, including another Stein offering of the shop with Jill Stein’s personal range of scented candles, handwashes, and soaps inspired by the beauty of the Cornish coast. It is also where one can find other local celeb chefs like Paul Ainsworth at No. 6 for seriously reputable fare, and Stein’s St Petrocs Bistro. I popped in for a light lunch, and devoured the cauliflower soup with aubergine caviar and curry oil; one of the most flavoursome I’ve ever come across. One of the wonders of fine-food retreats are the little surprises – the cumin in the soup was also in fact the ‘curry’ aspect, lending almost a touch of Thai, not in the heat but in that special added flavour dimension.

I then saw chocolate and rose cream on the dessert menu and couldn’t quite help myself. Thank goodness I’m not blessed with much self-restraint as it was indeed sublime, arriving with aplomb in the name of a baked white chocolate crisp addition, and once again, a secret little snap of something else that turned out to be a dash of rhubarb.

Although driving – and sipping on an Elderberry Bubbly – I had a good look at the wine list and loved the look of Rick Stein’s Spanish White from Spain, a 2015 Viura/Verdego from Castilla y Leon – also due to the fact that, like most of the wines, it had its own little personal anecdote.

Above: the salmon special; Below: scallops with sweetcorn and Serrano ham

The ever popular Seafood Restaurant, also part of the Rick Stein culinary journey, is down by the harbour and I managed a taste or two there over the weekend. Where St Petrocs is smaller and intimate, the Restaurant is a larger, sociable space and the seafood did not disappoint! Artistically and colourfully done, the colours and flavours complemented perfectly in my salmon starter, and the scallops with sweetcorn and serrano ham were succulently sweet and creamy.

Trying to drudge up the last vestiges of willpower, I bid au revoir (definitely see you again) to the little town for a day, as adieu (farewell) would have been a cruel fate to contemplate. I headed down the coast with its fabulous vistas… into more farmland territory for a cosy stay at a converted barn – Swallows, Penvose Farm Holidays – complete with fireplace and creature comforts. The location also appealed as it was a stone’s throw and a bit from Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall, Watergate Bay and Mawgan Porth, as well as still close enough for a return to Padstow, and another of my ultimate favourites: off-the-beaten-track country wineries! Cheers!

Useful contacts:

Penvose Farm Holidays – Ann Bennett – Tel: 01637 860277/432

Car Hire Cornwall – Linda or Alan Tel 0800 170 1567 Free collection and delivery

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