It may not immediately seem it, but February is a great time to visit Cornwall. With tourism at its lowest this time of year you will have the place to yourself. Empty beaches, free car parks, and no need to book a table anywhere! This February we took ourselves down to Porthallow for a week. This little fishing village is the perfect base to explore the Lizard peninsula and was a perfect retreat from busy lives! For those that enjoy having no phone signal, no traffic noise, no street lights and all the sea air you can breathe!
The Lizard peninsula is the most southern tip of mainland UK and is a breathtakingly beautiful part of Cornwall. Leaving Helston (a town which stands like a gatekeeper to the peninsula) you leave large roads behind and enter a labrynth of country roads and lanes. Considering the small area, there is a huge variety of places and things to do. From the helford river, with beautiful villages such as Helford, and Gweek, to the quaint cornish fishing villages of Cadgwith or Coverack, and the wind beaten views from Lizard Point and Kynance Cove.
For me, one of the biggest pleasures in visiting Cornwall is the pride and effort that the Cornish put into their local produce. In nearly village you can find some good quality ingredients and in most villages and all the towns you can find exceptionally good fishmongers, butchers and bakers. Even the small local grocers go further than you would expect, stocking local cheeses and dairy products. Cornish people are very friendly and welcoming to visitors, it’s not unusual to be on the receiving end of a wave whilst driving through a village, and shopkeepers will be more than happy to discuss the providence of their wares and impart advice. So it was easy to stay away from supermarkets for a week and enjoy the amazing produce. Particular highlights were the padstow mussels we picked up from a fishmonger in Falmouth (cooked simply Mariniere), and the luscious Cornish lamb chops be bought in St. Keverne’s butcher.
This is not an exhaustive account of Cornish food by any means. These are just the things I enjoyed during this seven day break. I have visited Cornwall a lot however, and I lived there for a year, so I have eaten a few pasties in my time!
Never tried before but will be keeping an eye out for in future: This stole the show and we demolished the whole block in one sitting! Creamy like a good Stilton but much softer and milder and with a tangy, slightly briny edge, reminiscent of some of the french blues, superb! Made on the Helford river at Treveador Farm Dairy; this is a family business where the father runs the cheese making and the son runs the dairy farm. This is one you need to try!!
Creamy mild cheese, often compared to Caerphilly, but it is more buttery, with a zesty edge and less crumbly than the famous Welsh cheese. Wrapped in nettles (which are apparently hand painted on), it starts firmer in the centre and softens towards the outside, becoming creamier and smoother, lush! Yarg is now made in Ponsanooth (not too far from Falmouth) at Lynher Dairies, the cheese was first invented 30 years ago by Alan Gray, a farmer on Bodmin moor who based it on a 17th century recipe for a cheese wrapped in nettles. He famously named the cheese by writing his name backwards!
A hard cheese, with a nutty, buttery salty taste. Melts really well if you can bear to cook with it (see the pizza below). Almost like a hard Roquefort. Complements the Yarg well. Made on Bodmin moor on the family farm Stansfield’s farm, this cheese has now been in production since 2001 and has won several prestigious awards.
This working organic dairy farm is surrounded by a network of walks, many of which take in wetlands and ponds, filled with wildlife. This place holds a special place in my wife’s heart, having visited it often as a child.
The farm itself has a tearoom/ice cream parlour and a shop where you can buy the farm’s produce. Highlights include the ice cream and the clotted cream fudge. There is also some really well made chutney’s (we enjoyed the Gingery Apple and Almond chutney with the cheese above) and jams. The ice cream is the creamiest you can imagine, and the flavourings, such as the vanilla, are very natural and wholesome. A good way to spend a sunny afternoon!
The Paris Hotel at Coverack
This unpretentious Cornish Pub (St Austell brewery), serves good pint of Tribute (or Proper Job) and is a great place to escape the weather for a bit whilst still being able to enjoy the scenery! Tribute has been one of my favourite beers since I lived in cornwall; this light smooth beer is full of flavour and leaves a lovely zesty after taste (widely available outside Cornwall). Proper Job is also great, a citrusy IPA with a big emphasis on hops! Good, reasonable carvery Sunday lunch with locally sourced produce, nothing fancy but tasty and filling after a morning outside in February! Family friendly and nice mix of locals and tourists. The dining room has view from three sides with stunning views from the point of Coverack, over two bays and a small but working fishing harbour. Lovely fresh breeze. Watch the catch being brought in! For a quicker lunch the fish and chip shop located in the old life boat house next to the pub is also great!
‘The Stable‘ in Falmouth
This was a great find, a casual bar/restaurant with a huge range of local ciders. We stumbled onto it looking for somewhere to escape the torrential rain! The view from upstairs over the marina is great, and it’s a good place to spend a few hours. Although this is a chain restaurant, the menus are unique to each one and reflect the local produce, and this one certainly had none of the sterility I would associate with a chain (I will certainly be trying the Cardiff one out soon). The menu is made up of pizzas and pies, made with locally sourced ingredients. The pizzas had lovely thin crispy bases and they come topped with some unusual combinations. We shared the crab pizza with chilli and mozzarella (big dollops of dressed crab) and the Cornish blue, roast potato and spinach.
Recommended: the cider tasting board (five 1/3 pints of different ciders):
Ash ridge Blush 4% still, sweet (but not sickly), red fruits, plum, really good
Lyonesse 5% medium, full bodied, still, floral edge- lovely!
Cornish gold 4.5% slightly sparkling, medium body, fairly generic cider
Stable drop gold 4.5% mellow medium sweet, very slight sparkle, very pleasant
Many places prize themselves in selling the world’s best pasty, but one such place that really is a contender is Ann’s Pasty Shop in the town of Lizard. Ann makes all the pasties by hand and the result is perfection- crisp, flaky, tasty pastry surrounding well seasoned beef, potato, turnip and onion. Cornwall’s answer to fast food! And what better place to eat them than the lizard point, the most southern edge of England, where you can watch the waves crashing beneath you!
Again this is a family business, and if you drop into her shop in Lizard town Ann will probably be there and keen for a chat! The link above takes you to her website where you can read more, order pasties online, and even find Ann’s recipe for her pasties! I’ll definitely be trying this soon (don’t think mine will be the same without Ann’s amazing local ingredients or pasty making experience)!
Sorry, no photos I’m afraid as we ate the pasties too quickly!
These well made beers were originally made in St Keverne but the brewery has now moved to a nearby old nuclear bunker!
Lizard bitter: A warm nut brown lightly sparkling beer. No overarching flavour but elements of malt and hops. As it warms to room temperature it improves and there are orange zest and liquorice notes. An easy drinking beer that matches well to some garlicky lamb chops, but not outstanding. One to buy if you come across it but not to seek out.
Frenchman’s Creek Cornish Pale Ale: A big step up on the Lizard Bitter. This is a smooth mellow pale ale with a pleasant hoppy aftertaste. Still not a beer I would chase down I’m afraid but very quaffable and I’d certainly drink without protest!
Helford Creek Cyder 6.5%
Lightly sparkling and slightly cloudy, warm straw/gold on colour. Medium dry, medium body, full of floral apple juice, slightly oaky edge, fresh after taste. No sour/bitterness. High juice content. Very easy drinking.
Made from old Cornish cider apple varieties grown above the helford river, matured in oak brandy or whisky barrels.
Over all a really good quality cider especially considering it’s available from many small ‘corner shops’ in Cornwall with change from £3 per bottle. I bought one bottle with a selection of other local drinks and quickly came back to buy a handful more to take home!
Thanks for reading, if any of you have tried any of these things or been to these places, I’d love to hear if you agree with me (comments/twitter/Facebook)! Even better: if you have any recommendations for anything I haven’t mentioned, as we will definitely be returning to this lovely part of Cornwall very soon!