Cornwall LivingIssue #90
Surrounded by the ocean on all sides but one, it’s unsurprising that Cornwall and Cornish people are deeply connected to the sea and everything it holds beneath its surface.
With a rich seafaring history that spans well over a millennium, before they were tin miners and smugglers, the Cornish were fishermen. Cornwall sits at a maritime crossroads with Gulf Stream currents bringing warm water species, and cooler northern currents bringing cold water species. As a result, Cornwall’s fishing grounds are home to an astonishing diversity of fish, shellfish and crustaceans, a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the many seafood restaurants who are lucky enough to be able to pick from the incredible selection of seafood that the Duchy’s rich waters have to offer.
With numerous fishing villages, ports and harbours dotted around Cornwall’s coastline, some of the most popular fish restaurants are based in these areas. Take Nathan Outlaw’s two restaurants in Port Isaac for example: Restaurant Nathan Outlaw and Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen (nathan-outlaw.com). Both champion the use of Cornish fish and seafood and boast views of the surrounding coastline. Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen is housed within a traditional 15th century fisherman’s cottage, and provides a menu filled with unique dishes created from the freshest seafood landed from the surrounding waters each day. We hear from Head Chef, Tim Barnes, who tells us: “The sea and fishermen dictate our menu and we never compromise on quality or sustainability.” The majority of the fish served in Nathan Outlaw’s restaurants is from Cornwall, predominantly Port Isaac, Newlyn and Looe. You don’t need to go far to get the best crab and lobster in the world, making it a no-brainer to source locally.
Similarly, Rick Stein has restaurants located in some of Cornwall’s most acclaimed harbour towns (rickstein.com). The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, for example, is famous for establishing an international reputation for the freshest fish and shellfish, often landed on the doorstep. Chef Director, Jack Stein, tells us: “The local fishing industry is essential to everything we do, without them we wouldn’t be here. The fishermen provide us with great quality seafood, we cook it simply – there’s nothing better.” Padstow based fisherman Johnny Murt has a close relationship with Stein’s and ventures out of the Camel Estuary and towards Trevose Head or Port Isaac for his catch. When it comes to fishing he has this to say: “When the weather’s good and your fishing is good, there isn’t a job in the world that can touch it.”
Located across the Camel Estuary in Rock you’ll find The Mariners Public House, re-launched by Paul and Emma Ainsworth in May this year (paul-ainsworth.co.uk). The pub looks out over the Camel Estuary and offers an all-day menu using the exceptional local produce that Cornwall has to offer. Paul tells us: “In my opinion, Cornwall produces the best oysters in the world. The very best, however, are Porthilly oysters. Rock Shellfish is run by Tim Marshall and his son Luke and they’re based in Porthilly on the Camel Estuary. Tim and his family started out as dairy farmers, then 30 years ago diversified into shellfish. Their oysters lay on beds in the clean sandy waters of the Camel Estuary meaning there’s a good ratio between saltiness (from the sea) and freshwater (from the river). This produces a beautifully plump oyster with a creamy, fresh and almost buttery flavour. We are so lucky to have such a unique product on our doorstep and at The Mariners you can enjoy these world-class oysters while looking over exactly where they came from, just 500 yards away.”
Prawn on the Lawn is also based in Padstow and is both a fully licensed fishmonger and a restaurant (prawnonthelawn.com). Providing exceptional seafood sourced from around Cornwall, you can enjoy a sit down meal or take your fish away to prepare at home. As a measure of its fabulous fayre, Prawn on the Lawn was featured in the 2019 edition of the Michelin Guide and was listed in the Sunday Times’ Top 100 Restaurants for 2018. This restaurant and fishmonger provides the perfect spot to snap up something tasty for dinner, or sample dishes prepared by the talented kitchen team. The daily changing menu relies on what the fishermen have hauled in that morning and is made up of small plates as well as whole fish and shellfish straight from the counter. Owners Rick and Katie Toogood tell us: “We focus on being as seasonal and sustainable as possible, so nearly all of our seafood is sourced from Cornwall. We have our fishermen, Johnny Murt and his brother Martin who are 5th generation fishermen based in Padstow and who supply us with crab, lobster, mackerel and pollack. We also source day-boat fish from Newlyn and St Ives further down the coast. To ensure that we’re offering the freshest seafood, our menu at Prawn on the Lawn changes daily, as it’s very much dependent on what catch the fishermen bring in that day.”
These are some of Cornwall’s most well established seafood restaurants, headed by world-renowned chefs and sourcing seafood from local Cornish waters. Here at Cornwall Living, we like to keep an eye on the up and coming restaurants as well and two that have caught our attention over the last few months are The Mussel Shoal (The Mussel Shoal) located here in Porthleven (where our headquarters are based) and Nik Boyle’s new restaurant in Falmouth (nikboyle.com).
We all looked on as the wooden hut that houses The Mussel Shoal was constructed at the beginning of the summer season, and was subsequently filled with a brilliant selection of local drinks and an offering of fresh seafood.The location on the harbour head is simply stunning, as you can watch the tide slowly rise and fall and witness the mussels arrive, ready to be prepared by the friendly team of staff. Founded by local Kelvin Batt, The Mussel Shoal aims to provide exceptional seafood in a relaxed, rustic environment right on the water’s edge. Catching up with Kelvin, he tells us: “Porthleven has some amazing fine dining eateries, what I wanted to do was introduce something a little different and a bit more laid back. We have a small kitchen so we encourage people to come and enjoy the view; our by-line is ‘fun not fine dining’ and that’s the kind of atmosphere we like to promote.” The team source all the fish locally using mussels from The Cornish Shellfish Company based in Gweek and the rest of the fish from St Ives. It’s safe to say that they’ve had an amazing season so far and are constantly looking at ways to continue to improve the customer experience. The location and nature of the business means it’s only open during the summer season, so make sure to head down and make the most of the beautiful views and delicious offering of seafood before it closes for the winter!
The harbour town of Falmouth lends itself entirely to enjoying a fish dish alongside a refreshing tipple. The buzzing town has a great selection of bars and restaurants, and recently opened Restaurant Nik Boyle has caught our eye thanks to its high-end offering of carefully crafted dishes. What stands out to us is the use of locally sourced produce throughout the menu, featuring Falmouth bay lobster and scallops, south coast hake fillet, Helford river oysters and Porthleven day boat turbot. It’s great to see a restaurant commit to supporting the local fishing industry and we love the fact that the provenance of the food is made explicitly clear; it makes it that much more enjoyable to know you’re eating seafood that’s been landed just a stone’s throw from the restaurant.
Another business that stands out is Fish For Thought (fishforthought.co.uk). Marrying the expertise and personal service of a traditional fishmonger with the speed and convenience of online shopping and direct delivery, Fish For Thought provides unbeatably fresh Cornish seafood, delivered to your door. The company also provides healthy and convenient fish and sauce packages so that you can create a delicious meal with the freshest fish. “We want to inspire more people to cook and enjoy incredible seafood and a happy, healthy lifestyle,” says owner Paul Trudgian.
Supporting Cornwall’s age-old fishing industry is hugely important, so that it can continue to thrive and prosper. This extends not only to restaurants sourcing their fish locally but to the care and support of fishermen generally, which is why The Fishermen’s Mission charity was founded to provide a lifeline of welfare and support to fishermen and their families (fishermensmission.org.uk). Recognised as one of the UK’s most dangerous occupations, it’s important that fishermen are supported to continue to provide fish to Cornwall’s restaurants and maintain the tradition of fishing in our coastal county.
The support of the fishing industry extends to restaurants sourcing their fish locally and you, the customer, choosing to eat local fish. Head to a local fishmongers or order your fish from companies like Fish For Thought to do your bit to support Cornwall’s fishing industry. It’s worth it for the taste alone, as well as being crucial for the future of the industry!
Catch at Mawgan Porth also comes highly recommended: a stylish beach house restaurant located next to the beach at Mawgan Porth.(catchmawganporthbeach.co.uk)
Experience more of Cornwall’s delectable foodie scene:
• Timís Place – Wadebridge
• Hooked on the Rocks – Falmouth
• Catch – Mawgan Porth
• Greens of Padstow – Padstow
• Kahuna – Newquay
• Kota – Porthleven
• Merchantís Manor – Falmouth
• Penrose Kitchen – Truro
• The Square – Porthleven
• The Hidden Hut – Portscatho
• Goldolphin Arms – Marazion