The south-western corner of England is a slice of foodie heaven. From mouth-watering local specialities to the hottest restaurants and must-do food experiences, Cornwall’s culinary capabilities are not to be missed.
Regional specialities and where to taste them
CORNISH PASTY: Succulent meat and vegetables encased in warm, golden pastry, formed into a distinctive ‘D’ shape and should be crimped on one side to ensure it’s a genuine Cornish pasty.
Where can I eat it? Pretty much in every butcher’s shop or bakery in Cornwall. Rowe’s Bakeries, dotted throughout the county, make award-winning pasties, with four bakeries in the coastal town of Falmouth alone. Malcolm Barnecutt has several bakeries around Cornwall selling hand-made goodies made fresh overnight, plus two restaurants where you can linger over a pasty, one in St Austell and one in Bodmin.
CORNISH CREAM TEA: A truly scrumptious treat, this is where you load jam and melt-in-the-mouth Cornish clotted cream onto a sweet scone. And, if you’re in Cornwall, the jam goes on first, topped off by the cream (neighbouring Devon does it the other way round)!
Where can I eat it? Cream teas are ubiquitous throughout the tearooms, restaurants and hotels of Cornwall. The Cream Tea Guide is a handy source of where to find some of the best – check out either the traditional cream tea or a savoury cheese tea with Cornish cheeses and chutney at The Elm Tree in Truro, or enjoy cream teas on the terrace of the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery Café, with views over the 13th-century Restormel Castle.
KERN AND YARG CHEESE: Crowned Supreme Champion at World Cheese Awards in 2017, Kern matures over 16 months and is a hard cheese with buttery and caramel notes. It is made by the same dairy that makes Yarg cheese (wrapped in nettles to produce a lemony, creamy taste), Lynher Dairies, and both are only produced by this dairy.
Where can I eat it?: Kern is not yet available to buy from the dairy (although watch this space – you could be among the first to buy it) but you can buy Yarg and it is often served on restaurant cheeseboards throughout the county, such as at The Herring at the Bedruthan hotel.
TREGOTHNAN TEA: The first tea ever to be grown in England is made from Camellia sinensis leaves from the Tregothnan Estate in south Cornwall, the first estate to grow ornamental camellia plants in the UK, which is possible thanks to the area’s microclimate. As well as Black Tea it also produces Green tea, herbal infusions and Earl Grey tea.
Where can I drink it?: Tregothnan is sold in supermarkets across the UK and is served in many tearooms across Cornwall, but why not sip it while overlooking the gorgeous views of St Michael’s Mount at the Godolphin Arms in Marazion.
CORNISH WINE: Thanks to the development of grape varieties that work well in the climate of south-west England, Cornish wine regularly wins awards, particularly with its sparkling wines. There are several lovely vineyards to explore in the region – Polgoon, Trevibban Mill, Knightor, Bosue, Polmassick and Cornwall’s largest vineyard Camel Valley.
Where can I drink it?: Cornish wine is sold in supermarkets and off licences throughout the UK, but a lovely spot to enjoy a glass is on the sun terrace at Camel Valley – overlooking the vineyard itself.
5 must-do food and drink experiences
Tea: To fully understand how tea is grown in England, join a garden tour of the Tregothnan Estate’s botanical garden or even learn how to become a tea guru with a Tregothnan tea masterclass. You’ll pluck your own tea leaves and have the chance to create your own bespoke blend of tea.
Beer: Take a tour around Cornwall's oldest independent family brewery, established more than 150 years ago, at the St Austell Brewery Visitor Centre. Many original traditions and skills remain in its brewing method today, from the raw ingredients that are used through to the sampling process.
Chocolate: Watch chocolate being lovingly created by hand at the factory of Kernow Chocolate in St Eval, in the south west of the county. Every piece of chocolate is made by skilled chocolatiers and while you can’t tour the factory itself, its large viewing window allows you to see how its 20 flavours come together. An added bonus? There’s a tasting table so you can decide which chocolate is your favourite.
Fish: The Fat Hen near Penzance in the south of Cornwall offers a series of great experiences run by sustainable-living guru Caroline Davey. Courses including picking out and cooking live crab fished the same day, learning how to source, prepare and cook Cornish fish and shellfish, and there’s also a range of foraging courses.
Ice cream: If you enjoy Cornish clotted cream on a scone, can you imagine how delicious it must taste in ice cream? Discover how this delectable treat is made at Callestick Farm in north Cornwall, from the mixing of flavours, to freezing and the filling of tubs. And, of course, there’s ample opportunity to try the resulting product, flavours which range from clotted cream vanilla and Cornish sea salted caramel, to cinnamon, chunky root ginger and even bubblegum!
Hot restaurants you have to visit
Rick Stein, Padstow
You can’t come to Cornwall and not try a meal at a Rick Stein establishment – there are now nine across the county. Padstow is famously known as ‘PadStein’, such is the great chef’s influence in the area. His flagship restaurant is The Seafood Restaurant and the town is also home to Rick Stein’s Café, Stein’s Fish & Chips (for something a little more casual), Fisheries & Seafood Bar, Ruby’s Bar and St Petroc’s Brasserie (which also offers accommodation). Whichever eaterie you choose, the focus is on serving the freshest of fish, cooked to perfection.
Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Port Isaac
Another master of seafood cuisine, chef Nathan Outlaw worked under Rick Stein at The Seafood Restaurant, and has since gone on to run the eponymous Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen and The Mariners (also a pub serving local beers from Sharps Brewery), and is the proud owner of four Michelin stars. Restaurant Nathan Outlaw is a real treat for lovers of seafood; it exclusively serves a seafood tasting menu highlighting the best in sustainable produce caught off the Cornish coast.
Fern Pit Café, Newquay
Choose your live crab or lobster caught by the Fern Pit Café’s own fishing boat, have it cooked to order and then savour the flavours while overlooking the beautiful Gannel Estuary or order it in takeaway form and head down to enjoy your food on Crantock Beach. Simple yet tasty crab sandwiches are also on the menu and, through the lobster season, the café creates its must-try lobster salad lunches.
Alba, St Ives
Alba’s first-floor restaurant one of the places to go in St Ives for an elegant dining experience. Housed in the refurbished Old Lifeboat House on St Ives harbour, the experience is further enhanced by the panoramic views to Godrevy Lighthouse across St Ives Bay, as well as a menu created from locally sourced ingredients and herbs grown on site. Award-winning chef and proprietor Grant Nethercott serves up modern British style cuisine that comes in the form of dishes such as blow-torched gin-cured sea trout and Cornish grass-fed beef fillet. For cocktails and small plates, head to its walk-in A Bar downstairs.
Fifteen Cornwall, Watergate Bay
Eat well and feel good; not only does Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen offer an amazing menu of Italian dishes using Cornish produce but this award-winning restaurant from the TV chef is also a social enterprise, with all profits going to its charity Cornwall Food Foundation. Why not try Jamie’s Corn Fritters with poached eggs for breakfast, slow-cooked duck with lentils and agro dolce for lunch and olive oil poached turbot with vignole for dinner?
The Hidden Hut, Porthcurnick Beach
It may be little more than a wooden hut on a beautiful beach on the Roseland Heritage Coast, but The Hidden Hut, located around 30 minutes’ drive from Truro, hosts spectacularly large outdoor cook-ups, where there’s only one dish served – think rotisserie duck, 12-hour Greek lamb, wood-fired mezze or Sri Lankan monkfish curry (there are always vegetarian options too). It’s bring-your-own plates, cutlery and drinks, and dress for the weather because it all takes place outdoors come rain or shine. Feast nights take place from May to September and you have to book ahead.
Paul Ainsworth at No.6, Padstow
It’s easy to understand why Paul Ainsworth At No.6 has a Michelin star, with inventive menus filled with gastronomic delights such as hogget (sheep meat that’s one to two year’s old) from the Tamar Valley (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that straddles both Cornwall and Devon) with red garlic ketchup and sweetbread fricassee, and raw sea bream with sand shrimp slaw and katsuobushi mayonnaise. Located in a lovely Georgian townhouse in Padstow, dining here is a special experience.
Gylly Beach Café, Falmouth
Family-run, Gylly Beach Café comes with views to die for over Gyllyngvase Beach and with panoramic views of the Lizard Peninsula. Its menu is pretty special too. Breakfast and lunch is about walk-ins; try the Full Cornish Breakfast early on or how about a slice of Homity Pie (puff pastry filled with creamed potato, leeks and Cornish cheddar) for lunch? Come evening, book a table so you can try out dishes such as locally sourced pork and prawns, venison loin and Newlyn pollock fillet.
A 48-hour foodie itinerary
The whole of Cornwall is filled with incredible food destinations – here are suggestions for just one area, from Port Isaac on the rugged Atlantic coast to Falmouth in the south-east of the county, to tempt your tastebuds.
09:00 Don’t go light on breakfast (it’s the most important meal of the day after all!), enjoy a plate of delicious Cornish produce at the Chapel Café in the pretty coastal village of Port Isaac, which includes Cornish hogs pudding and local meats, all for under £10. Even the coffee is locally roasted using ethically-sourced beans.
10:00 Discover the art of cooking seafood and check in to the masterclasses at Rick Stein’s Cookery School in Padstow, 45 minutes from Port Isaac. Got seafood sorted? Check out one of the other fantastic courses available here, which range from Indian street food, Spanish tapas or patisserie.
13:00 You can’t come to Cornwall and not hit the beach – half an hour from Padstow is the surfer’s paradise of Newquay – and here you can walk straight off the sand and straight into the Beach Hut Café, with its awesome views over the sea and vibrant atmosphere. Order Cornish mussels or huge dishes of beef chilli.
15:00 Head 20 minutes from Newquay to nearby Perranporth, home to Healey’s Cornish Cyder Farm. Take a self-guided tour through its press house, bottlery and jam kitchen or book onto a fully guided tour, plus a tutored tasting.
17:00 Set off on the 20-minute drive to Truro, but don’t forget to stop off at the Great Cornish Food Store and stock up on some enticing local delicacies to take home.
19:30 Truro has lots of lovely places to dine – for more fish favourites head to Hooked! Restaurant & Bar and for a fine-dining experience try out Tabbs, which is listed in the Michelin Guide and has two AA Rosettes.
09:00 Drive 30 minutes from Truro to the cute fishing village of Charleston, close to St Austell, and fill up on a breakfast packed with local goodies at Charlie’s Boathouse. As well as the harbour views to admire over your meal, the restaurant has its own resident artist, whose work you can buy as a keepsake of your time in Cornwall.
11:00 Time to explore one of Cornwall’s excellent vineyards; just 15-20 minutes from your breakfast stop is Bosue Vineyard and its award-winning wines, or tour what is Cornwall’s oldest vineyard (planted in 1976!) at Polmassick Vineyard.
13:00 Head to the picture-perfect fishing village of Mevagissey, 15 minutes’ drive away, which is part of the stunning Roseland Peninsula and enjoy lunch at one of the superb restaurants, such as No.5 Mevagissey. Proudly using local produce in its dishes, you’ll also find an awesome selection of locally made drinks, such as Cornish beers, lagers and ciders, Cornish gins from Tarquin’s and Stafford distilleries and Cornish vodka Aval Dor.
16:00 If you’ve had a relatively light lunch, now’s a good time to tuck into a gorgeous Cornish cream tea. For a pretty setting as well as a delicious treat, try the freshly baked homemade scones, homemade jam and Trewithen Dairy Cornish cream at Miss V’s Vintage High Tea, located in semi-tropical gardens on the banks of the Fal Estuary.
20:00 When you’re in this part of the world, a meal overlooking the sea is a must; end your foodie trip in Falmouth and enjoy crab, squid, mussels, prawns, oysters and scallops in the unassuming, but charmingly rustic shellfish bar, The Shack.
Food festivals in Cornwall 2018
Central Cornwall is approximately five hours by train or car from London, with high-speed train services running from London Paddington, including the Night Riviera Sleeper Service to Penzance. There are also daily direct trains from Bristol and Bath.