Cornwall LivingIssue #62
Proper Cornish hospitality
This month our restaurant critic heads north to The Cornish Arms, to find a traditional pub with a modern, family-friendly twist.
With so many exceptional foodie destinations in Cornwall you don’t have to travel far from where you live or where you are staying to find delicious food, served in stunning surroundings. Living in west Cornwall, we are certainly guilty of only eating out in our favourite local restaurants, so thought it high time we took ourselves out of our comfort zone and drove north in search of our dinner. We had decided to head towards Padstow, not to eat in the infamous fishing village, but to try a family-friendly pub we had heard of in the nearby village of St Merryn, of the Rick Stein group.
“The wine list is carefully chosen and there is always a recommendation from Rick on the specials board.”
For me trying somewhere new always sets the nerves jangling slightly, especially as with a young family eating out is a rare treat as opposed to the norm. On the drive there, I questioned whether we had done the right thing… will it be as good as our favourite pizza restaurant, will the children be catered for, will they like the food? I guess that’s why we chose The Cornish Arms as our family foodie foray, comforted in the knowledge that, with Rick Stein behind it, we wouldn’t be disappointed. And we weren’t. At 5pm on a wet Thursday evening we weren’t expecting an already, half-full car park. You can’t book at The Cornish Arms, hence our early arrival time, and we weren’t the only people looking for a family evening meal.
You enter through the old part of the pub that has a traditional bar area with open fire, looking like it would be very cosy on a
winter’s evening. A large bookcase and an array of board games suggested this was an area where people can while away a few
hours when the weather is inclement enjoying good beer and good company. Beyond this it was great to see a group of
locals enjoying an after work pint, proof that the Rick Stein brand is complementing rather than ostracising. We waited to be seated by our friendly host and were given a choice of table either in the old part of the pub or the new conservatory. We chose the conservatory and as we were shown to our table noted that there were already groups of families and couples with dogs (Chalky must have insisted that The Cornish Arms was dog-friendly!) tucking in to their supper.
The conservatory dining room is spacious, with beautiful, oak roof timbers created by the traditional craftspeople at Carpenter Oak. We sat by the window looking out over the expansive beer garden that must be a glorious place when the sun shines; sadly we were being treated to an evening of Cornish gales and driving rain! Being a St Austell Brewery pub, their classic ales are all available on tap, so a pint of Tribute was the order of the day for my hubby, soft drinks for the children and for me a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc. The wine list is carefully chosen and there is always a recommendation from Rick on the specials board.
The menu isn’t overwhelming – for me a perfect number of seasonal dishes to choose from. Refreshingly, although there is a dedicated children’s menu, all of the dishes are available as smaller portions so no-one’s choice is limited. I opted for one of the daily specials, a Goan fish curry served with basmati rice and a chapati. My fish was succulent and the curry fragrant and perfectly spiced. Hubby chose the steak and ale pie that came with lashings of buttery mash, broccoli and gravy and was deemed the perfect accompaniment to a pint and a wet, stormy night! The children wouldn’t be swayed from the burger and chips, but it must have been good as the table fell silent for a while and both cleared their plates.
With a young family pudding is always a highlight and again you can have small portions of anything on the dessert menu.
My daughter’s cheesecake was a hit, while a huge sticky, toffee pudding with Cornish ice cream kept my son quiet for at least another five minutes! It’s always the cheeseboard for me and it didn’t disappoint – generous portions of three local cheeses served with Rick Stein’s signature crackers and beetroot chutney finished off a lovely meal.
By the time we left, every table was full and there were people perusing menus in the bar waiting for a table. The popularity of The Cornish Arms may come in part from the Rick Stein name, but for me the great service, delicious food and family-friendly atmosphere are what will bring us back again – this time hopefully in the Cornish sunshine!
"The wine list is carefully chosen and there is always a recommendation from Rick on the specials board."