As my readers know, Cornwall, England is the setting for my Davies and West mystery series and my second home (at least in my heart). At the far southwest tip of England, with its soaring ocean cliffs, pearlescent beaches, granite knuckled tors, stone built hamlets in pocket ports (think Doc Martin’s “Porthwenn”—actually Port Isaac), and prehistoric monuments and settlements dating back 5,000 years scattered all over the landscape and still intact, it manages to feel magically untamed yet today.
But of its many secrets, one stands out: it’s a gastronomes’ paradise. Kissed by the warm remnants of the Gulf Stream (yes it reaches that far), its climate is mild and roughly evenly moist and sunny. It’s ideal for grazing prime livestock and growing fresh produce year-round. Flowers, too: Cornwall is the world’s leading producer of daffodils. And, of course, there is the sea. Newlyn, next door to Penzance, is the top whitefish landing port in the UK and a rich source for shellfish as well.
Little wonder, then, that some of the top TV and Michelin-starred chefs in England—Rick Stein, Jamie Oliver, Nathan Outlaw, Paul Ainsworth, to name only a few—have opened flagship restaurants in Cornwall in the last ten years or so. Rick Stein’s seafood “empire”—restaurants, bistros, cooking school, cookware shops, and boutique hotels—all located in the Atlantic harbor village of Padstow have residents there calling the place, “Padstein.”
The list of stunning restaurants in Cornwall seems to grow daily. Some years ago I was given the task of writing about the gourmet scene in Cornwall for a major magazine. It was a horrible assignment. I had to eat in all the best restaurants. Nightmare! My favorites then and now? Stein’s “The Seafood Restaurant” in Padstow (Stein is a minor character in some of my mysteries) and Paul Ainworth’s “#6,” both in the same village; Nathan Outlaw’s restaurant in Port Isaac, and Jamie Oliver’s “Fifteen Cornwall” just north of Newquay on spectacular Whitesand Bay, where Oliver trains disadvantaged young people to become chefs. These are among the finest restaurants in England and, with the British pound weak compared to the dollar, they’re very affordable as well!
But I must confess that my heart longs for lunch or dinner by the fire at Cornwall’s most ancient pubs—many of them now upgraded to “gastropubs” because of the quality of the food. My favorites though are, I suppose, personal. They include “The Tinners Arms” on the wild Atlantic coast in the hamlet of Zennor almost at Land’s End, built in the 1200s, and “The Crown” tucked into a hollow in tiny Lanlivery near Bodmin Moor, and built in the 1100s. I have to duck to get into each of them and am often recognized and welcomed.
You will be, too.