Savour Cornwall’s food scene while drinking in the sea-view landscape at the many beach cafés, waterside inns and cliff-top restaurant dining rooms along the coast.
Words: Alex Reece
1. FOR… A SURFING HANGOUT
The Beach Hut, Watergate Bay
Enjoy thrilling views of the surfing action through the sea-facing windows in this informal eating place, which belongs to the Watergate Bay Hotel. With timber cladding and pendant lighting, the venue has a beach shack vibe – local dog-walkers and surfers often stop by, after exerting themselves on the shore. Pop in for a morning coffee or a fry-up, take the kids out to lunch (there is a separate children’s menu, and burgers are a speciality) or dine à deux in the evening on Cornish mussels, crab spaghetti or a rib-eye steak with frites. Check the website for details of the regular event nights, which involve a fire-pit on the beach and live music. Evening mains from around £12 (01637 860877, the-beach-hut.co.uk).
2. FOR… SUBLIME SEAFOOD
Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Port Isaac
One of the leading lights of the Cornish culinary scene, Nathan Outlaw has two restaurants in Port Isaac – the pretty harbour village of Doc Martin fame. Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, which specialises in small seafood plates, is housed in a fisherman’s cottage on the waterfront, while Outlaw’s New Road is set above the village, with sweeping views of the coastline. The latter serves one set seafood menu for lunch and dinner, and offers an array of sustainable fish and shellfish caught around the Cornish peninsula, presented with Outlaw’s trademark simplicity. You might start with cured gurnard and raw bass, building up to turbot with bacon and peppercorn sauce via a series of fishy delights, and finishing off with a spiced pear and cider tart. Lunch and dinner menu around £80pp (01208 880896, nathan-outlaw.com).
3. FOR… A PANORAMIC OUTLOOK
Lewinnick Lodge, Pentire Headland, Newquay
Perched on the cliffs of the Pentire peninsula, this boutique hotel and restaurant has an away-from-it-all feel, despite its proximity to the buzzing town of Newquay, with a dining area and terrace facing the Atlantic on the edge of Fistral Bay. Offering a relaxed atmosphere with bistro-style dining, the kitchen is well stocked with Cornish fare, and as much produce as possible is sourced from around the county, including the wines, beers and spirits. Take your pick from Cornish steaks (usually partnered with chips and salad) to seafood specials. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are available, too. Mains from £13 (01637 878117, lewinnicklodge.co.uk).
If you’re searching for a staycation hotspot for your Cornish break, try these top Cornwall hotels.
4. FOR… FUSION FOOD
Kota Kai Kitchen, Porthleven
From the Kota Kai Kitchen in Porthleven, diners can look out over the boating activity in the inner harbour towards the sea beyond. Head chef Jude Kereama, who also presides over the more formal Kota Restaurant nearby, has earned numerous accolades for his distinctive cooking style, which melds local ingredients with international influences, drawn from his Maori and Chinese-Malay heritage. The menu here does a fine line in Asian tapas-style dishes, along with more substantial curries and soups. Traditional favourites, such as fish and chips, also feature. With a seaside colour scheme, the restaurant has a laid-back, family feel plus a children’s room where kids can play while the grown-ups unwind over a mocktail or a glass of Cornish fizz. Mains from around £13 (01326 727707, kotarestaurant.co.uk).
5. FOR… A FOODIE PUB
The Star & Garter, Falmouth
This stylish and award-winning foodie pub is set in a Georgian townhouse with compelling views over Falmouth Harbour. It is owned by husband-and-wife team Becca and Elliot Thompson and together they have devised an imaginative menu based on day boat fish and locally farmed meat, which is butchered, cured and smoked on site. Served with artisanal flair, the Sunday roasts are generous and come with duck fat roast potatoes, horseradish and thyme Yorkshire puddings, spring greens, parsnips, roast cauliflower cheese and swede mash. As many dishes are cooked over an open fire, lunches and evening meals are full of interest, too – try the blackened aubergine with swede butter, dukkah and chickpeas. Mains from around £17 (01326 316663, starandgarter.squarespace.com).
6. FOR… SEAFOOD ON THE BEACH
Porthminster Beach Café, St Ives
Surveying Porthminster Beach is this handsome Art Deco-style building, where the window and terrace views encompass the full sweep of St Ives Bay – from Godrevy Lighthouse to the town’s harbour. For dinner, expect sustainable seafood suffused with Mediterranean or Asian influences, such as seafood linguine or a crispy fried whole sea bass served with a Thai-style salad. Dishes also include produce grown in the nearby kitchen garden, plus ingredients foraged from the coast path and seashore. In the past year, the Café has produced its own artisan gin using wild botanicals harvested nearby, infused into a spirit made with Cornish potatoes. Mains from around £14.50 (01736 795352, porthminstercafe.co.uk).
Read next 10 Best Sustainable Seafood Restaurants
7. FOR… FAMILY-FRIENDLY LUXURY
Fowey Hall Hotel, Fowey
Family-friendly Fowey Hall Hotel has a relaxed but elegant look to the restaurant. The Grade II-listed, 19th-century building stands high above the Fowey Estuary, affording panoramic views of the water. Head chef Wesley Pratt works with local suppliers to serve an authentic taste of Cornwall, sourcing seafood from family business Fish For Thought, ice cream from Callestick Farm near Truro and wines from Camel Valley. If you’re staying, a range of dining options is available: families can eat together at 6pm, or, after a children’s high tea at 5-6pm, adults can enjoy a fine dining experience once little ones are in bed (babysitting services are available). Mains from around £11 (01726 833866, foweyhallhotel.co.uk).
Read our Fowey Hall hotel review.
8. FOR… A WATERSIDE INN
The Ferryboat Inn, Helford Passage
Set beside a cove on the Helford River, near Frenchman’s Creek, The Ferryboat Inn is a 300-year-old pub whose interior blends contemporary touches with traditional materials such as slate floors, panelled walls and nautical memorabilia. It is owned and run by husband-and-wife team Zander and Sarah Towill, in partnership with Zander’s brother Ben and his wife Kate. Among their signature dishes are mackerel tacos with crunchy slaw, beetroot harissa mayo and lime or River Exe mussels served with samphire and warm bread. There are daily specials, too, along with time-honoured favourites such as fish and chips and hearty Sunday roasts. Take a table on the terrace outside to watch the boats drift up and down the tree-fringed estuary. Mains from around £13 (01326 250625, ferryboatcornwall.co.uk).