Soliciting Flavours

Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine

Cornish Capers before the “circuit breaker” – St Ives Bay and beyond

As we are (at least here in Wales), back in our gilded cages with our lockdown/circuit breaker/fire break (always interesting to find out what items our lords and masters consider to be essential – everything if you buy it on Amazon, not so much if bricks and mortar where 20 Lambert and Butler and gossip magazines are a yes, but books and baby clothes are a no it seems 🤔) my thoughts (and thus the blogs) go back to happier times holidaying in Cornwall.

Following on from a week in Padstow (see my Part I post a few weeks back), we move further south to Carbis Bay (just outside of St. Ives) for our second week (seems eons ago now).

About an hour from Padstow, its location allows for easy access to the fabulous beaches (many of which are dog friendly) of St. Ives Bay and beyond and is paradise for our dogs.

who like nothing better than a mooch on the beach and a paddle in the sea (as do I).

The accursed Covid once again affected our plans, with new rules regarding self catering meaning we had to be out of our cottage in Padstow before 9am and couldn’t access the one in Carbis Bay before 5pm, but thank God we managed to get away when we did and got the two full weeks!!

As Padstow is only a hour from Carbis Bay, at most, this meant we had pretty much all of the day to kill.

Luckily the weather was with us and we spent a rather lovely morning at Tremenheere Sculpture Garden.

This place, in addition to the gardens and sculptures has a very decent cafe/restaurant. Nice menu

and a short, but not bad, wine list.

We had, however, booked in for lunch further afield.

The change over day – The Gurnard’s Head, Zennor.

On a windswept moor, is the Gurnard’s Head.

It sits in splendid isolation in the middle of nowhere

and is seen by many as one of the/the go to eating pub in Southern Cornwall, getting high praise from one of my favourite bloggers – Cheese and Biscuits, who knowns a good pub when he eats in one.

Come here without a booking and count yourself very lucky to get a table – it seems to be packed 7 days a week.

Popular with walkers and cyclists, as well as “lazy bastard” drivers (like me), I defaulted to full on smug mode as a myriad of outdoor types without a booking were politely turned away, Slaughtered Lamb – esque, out on to the “An American Werewolf in London” moorland.

The menu is succinct, but full of stuff that was of interest to me with a mix of small plates and larger dishes

It was a tricky menu to decide from (in a good way), with lots on the seafood front, but I love the spicing in merguez sausages and thus was drawn to the merguez meatballs (£9/£16.50) on the menu.

Six (the larger option) well spiced and flavoured meatballs sat on a rather good hummus, with crispy whole chick peas topped by a yoghurt dressing and a scattering of za’atar (didn’t get any of the advertised pomegranate – looks like I wrote the menu description on that one!)

made for a satisfying (if a touch pricey based on the size) lunch.

Mrs. SF went for the crab, spiced butternut squash, pumpkin seeds and coriander (£10.50) – a small plate dish.

Lovely flavours and textural contrasts, if perhaps a tad small for a tenner, to this dish.

We added some very good chips (£4) to beef her meal up a bit (I, of course, nicked a few – well alot).

Mrs SF continued her Picpoul de Pinet obsession and ordered a large glass. I had a shandy (as was driving)☹.

Proceedings were finished off with a rather fine sticky toffee pudding (with loads of toffee sauce and a good sponge and vanilla ice cream – £8).

All in all a very nice meal – not cheap, but it is quality gear here.

It was a nice way to while away a few more hours before we could access the cottage.

Website: http://www.gurnardshead.co.uk/

A port of call for seafood at its very best – Tolcarne Inn, Newlyn

As Cornwall has a coastline that is in excess of 400 miles, sampling the seafood really is a must.

There are not many places in the UK where you will get fresher seafood than Newlyn (one of the UK’s biggest fishing ports) and the charming Tolcarne Inn (abutting the harbour wall) is a stone’s throw from where they land the fish.

The menu is unashamedly seafood oriented, with a token meat dish and nothing for the veggies.

You come here for the seafood and, whilst the concept is small plates, what you get is surprisingly substantial (at least to my mind) for the prices.

I started off with some absolutely top notch oysters (£3 a pop), with all the accoutrements.

Lovely briney, zingingly fresh numbers, these were absolutely stunning (better and cheaper than those I had at the Mariners at Rock the week before).

Oysters this good are just an absolute joy to eat

Mrs. SF went for the fish soup. Rich in colour and flavour, it was heavy on the shellfish.

Salt cod croquettes were light and fluffy,

with a punchy aioli, yet full of fish.

Stars of the show, however, were a red mullet (with a squash puree, preserved lemon, anchovies and borlotti beans)

and a gurnard dish (sat in a crab bisque, with braised fennel).

Both features a generous portion of perfectly cooked fish, with interesting ingredients that worked a treat. This place is an absolute whizz at fish cookery.

My gurnard had so much depth of flavour, with a great flake on the just past translucent “daz” white fish, a killer crab bisque and some lovely veg (braised fennel and crunchy kale).

Individually all the ingredients were lovely, but together they really sung.

A case of the whole being greater than tbe sum of its very good individual parts. Now that is what I go to a good restaurant to get.

Booze looked pretty good too,

making me rather sad I was driving. Food this good deserves to be eaten with a bottle or two of good wine.

I am a big fan of the Domaine Talmard Macon on the list, but as it was only by the bottle Mrs. SF went for the Saffer Chenin blanc. This worked well with the diverse flavours on display here.

Everything at the Tolcarne Inn is an an utter joy to eat and I can’t recommend this place highly enough. A must go to if you are in this neck of the woods.

Website: https://tolcarneinn.co.uk/

“Party on dude” dining – Lula Shack, North Quay, Hayle.

It is always nice to stumble upon a (good) new place by accident/chance and this was very much the case with Lula Shack.

Whilst walking with the dogs on the beach by the Hayle estuary I spied a load of building works on the otherside of the water.

On looking more closely I also noticed what looked like a beach bar (just up from the boat in the above picture). I googled “beach bars in Hayle” and up popped this place. The fact that it was a seafood restaurant sealed the deal and we made plans to go there the next day.

The approach is not promising as you go through a building site (going to be very some upmarket townhouses and apartments when finished) and the place itself is a couple of funked up shipping containers,

set on the beach.

You can’t book (or couldn’t when we went) for lunch, but the queue wasn’t too bad and the weather was with us (indoor seating is available).

We were escorted to our table by our server, who should have been called either Wayne (from Wayne’s World) or Bill or Ted (From Bill and Ted’s Excellent adventure) on the basis that he prefaced every utterance with “excellent” “dudes” or “right on” (quite often all at once). Despite his somewhat surfer dude lingo, he was actually a “most excellent” server.

The menu is a fine looking thing for a seafood lover,

as well as having stuff for meat eaters (and even veggies)

On the day of our visit it was supplemented by some fine sounding “Specials”.

Whilst tempted by the prawn po boy (they were huge – oddly the falafel one seemed the most popular on the day of our visit), I decide that a “go large or go home” approach was the order of the day and thus plumped for the Steampot (very much a bit of everything on offer at £19.50)

Fabulous ménagère of crustaceans (juicy prawn and meaty crab claws),

shellfish (meaty mussels and sweet clams), as well as some cajun spiced white fish, all sat in a lovely broth. A chunk of white bread served its mopping up purpose admirably and I rather enjoyed the ” token veg ” corn on the cob. Perhaps pricey as against other stuff on the menu, but I was well and truly stuffed after eating all the seafood.

I make a right mess of myself, with a high wet wipe down.

I loved the simplicity of this dish, which relied on the flavour of the seafood rather than a fancy pants sauce.

Mrs SF loves a good fish pie and went for that off the Specials menu.

This was a behemonth of a pie (not actually a pie in my eyes)

which was packed to the gunnels with chunks of white and oily fish, as well as prawns.

It sat in a rather fine creamy sauce, with a fish stock base.

Really fabulous comfort food this and an absolute bargain for the £9 price tag (it was huge).

Tbe booze offering is OK, if a bit limited and uninspired,

but we were perfectly happy with a couple of glasses of a decent vino verde (good crisp dry white, with a touch of spritz, that works well with seafood), which was £5.50 for a 175 ml pour (£23.50 for the bottle – retails at around the £9 -£10 mark). A pretty good sit back and kick your shoes off on the beach wine.

Not fussed on the glass used, but heyho.

Really like this place. You can just pop in for a beer, glass of wine, nibbles or go the full moby dick. Will certainly go back when we are next back in this neck of the woods (who knows when that will be mind).

Website: https://lulashack.co.uk/

The Breakfast Club – Cafe 54, Carbis Bay

One of the pleasures of a holiday is the long lazy breakfast and we found a couple of nice places to relax and fuel up before a long walk with the dogs.

Cafe 54, a relatively new addition to Carbis Bay and a welcome one at that as it is dog friendly and serves wine.

It also does breakfast and lunch, as well as baked goods.

Whilst the baked goods display was rather tempting

both Mrs SF and I fancied something meaty for breakie that day.

Lots of interest on the breakfast menu,

we both thought about the tortilla and pan con tomate.

We, however, decided on a bacon (£5) and sausage and egg (£6) sarnies.

Big buggers these with good quality ingredients. Just the job for fortifying you for a walk on the nearby Coastal path and on to the beaches (both accessible from Carbis Bay).

The lunch menu looked good

and the wine one passable.

Next time for both.

Website: https://m.facebook.com/pages/category/Bakery/Cafe-54-103060581515274/

The details

We stayed in Gonwin Manor Cottages, which makes for a lovely base.

Very well appointed (dog friendly) cottages, with lovely grounds and easy access to the Coastal Path and (dog friendly) Porthkidney Beach.

Ideal base if you want easy access to St. Ives but not the madness of driving and parking there. It is a nice gentle 30 odd minutes walk to Portminster beach (Portminister Beach Cafe is good for breakfast, lunch or dinner)

or you can take the train (the cottage is a 5 – 10 min walk from Carbis Bay Station).

The verdict

South Cornwall never disappoints, with lovely beaches and good food and drink options.

For your booze needs, you have Scarlet wines in Lelant, VinoSA in Penzance and John’s in St Ives. I had a nice haul from these to bring back.

When the weather is with you who needs a foreign holiday when you have beaches like this?

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