Foodie Cornwall

By | Category: Travel destinations
Padstow

Padstow

Cornwall has 300 miles of coastline with fabulous sandy white beaches, rocky cliffs, and miles of open spaces. This is the countryside that you see when watching the television series, Poldark. Being a foodie, Padstow made famous by superstar chef Rick Stein for his creative fish dishes was high on my list of places to visit.

In a narrow gulley on the western side of the River Camel estuary the town, which was built on raised reclaimed land, is sheltered from prevailing winds, with lots of sandy beaches within walking distance. The harbour is home to fishing boats bringing in their catches. Overlooking the quay as well as in the tiny, narrow back streets there are lots of little shops and cottages. From the harbour, a ferry goes across the river to Rock where the Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman is buried in the churchyard of the tiny fifteenth century St Enodoc church.

This is very much walking country where it seems that virtually everyone has a dog. As well as navigating the coastline, Padstow is also the place where the 18-mile Camel Trail starts following the route of the old railway alongside the River Camel to Bodmin, and on to Bodmin Moor. The trail is also part of the ‘Sustrans’ national cycle route, and if you haven’t brought your own, bicycles can be hired from a large warehouse near the start of the trail. Along the route, we stopped at the Camel Valley Vineyard which had a terrace overlooking their south facing slopes where we could sample their wines. Picking season, depending on the weather, is from mid-September to the end of October. Their sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé 2012 vintage won three gold medals and three trophies in 2014 in the International Wine Challenge run by the UK Vineyards Association. There are tours of the vineyard during the week at 2.30pm with tastings at 5pm Wednesdays. Open Monday to Saturday 10 – 5pm.

the Camel Valley Winery

the Camel Valley Winery

While exploring the backstreets of Padstow, we came across a beautiful Elizabethan manor house, Prideaux Place, which is still home of the Prideaux-Brune family for whom the building was originally built. The house is open in the afternoons during the summer to 8 October from Sunday to Thursday. Guided tours start at 1.30pm. The gardens are currently undergoing a major restoration programme to restore them to their original glory. As well as the manicured gardens, opposite the house is an ancient deer park with a herd of fallow deer thought to be one of the oldest park herds in the country. Visitors can watch the deer being fed. The house has been used in many of the films made from books written by author Rosemunde Pilcher

Cornwall has fifty active fishing ports all of which are involved to some extent in the shellfish industry. Crabs and lobsters are caught, and stored at sea, and sold still alive. The National Lobster Hatchery on the quay at Padstow is a charity created to raise awareness of sustainability, and to improve long term productivity. Local fishermen are able to bring in pregnant female lobsters to give them a chance to have their offspring in captivity where there are no predators. The young lobsters are then raised to a size where they are released back into the sea. A short film explains the concept. There is also a small exhibition where children can see live lobsters close up. Dogs are allowed in on a lead.

One of Rick Stein's restaurants. he is synonymous with Padstow

One of Rick Stein’s restaurants. he is synonymous with Padstow

On a hill overlooking the Camel Estuary and what must be Padstow’s tallest building, the dog- friendly Metropole Hotel is a landmark for the area. The Duke of Windsor stayed here when he played golf at Enodoc, and it is said that Wallace Simpson visited him here. We went to eat at The Seafood Restaurant, Rick Stein’s posh restaurant, conveniently located at the bottom of the steps from the hotel. To get a seat we had to book weeks in advance. The restaurant is celebrating 40 years in 2015. With its stylish décor, and high standards of cooking you could easily transpose the restaurant to London. Stein’s enterprises are everywhere – accommodation, a delicatessen, a fish shop, a bistro, a fish and chip restaurant, and a take-away. We also ate at his fish and chip café, an extension of the take-away. I had local battered haddock, cooked in beef dripping, and served with chips costing £10.15. If we had the meal as a take-away, it would have cost £8.50.

Also to be sampled, and a cheap lunch, is the local delicacy, Cornish pasty which is served warm. In the shape of a ‘D’ the original recipe is made with short crust or puff pastry filled with potato, swede, onion, and diced or minced beef, although there are also a variety of fillings on offer.

part of the Eden Project

part of the Eden Project

Another pretty town along the same coast, and benefiting from the warmth of the Gulf Stream with a mild sub-tropical climate, is the artist haven of St Ives. Made famous by artists Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, it is still a place where artists have their studios, perhaps because there are so many visitors. Even the Tate has established an outpost here.

While in the area, near St. Austell, and a definite must-see is the Eden Project, which merges horticulture with art, science and education. Built in a huge china clay crater the size of thirty-five football pitches, it is a living theatre of plants and people. The main attractions are the rainforest and Mediterranean biomes, the two biggest plant conservatories in the world, which allow visitors to experience and see flowers and vegetation from different world climates. The rainforest biome has four wild geographical areas as well as a canopy walkway. Dogs are allowed in the outdoor gardens. Family events are organised throughout the year, and for those with nerves of steel, they have England’s longest zip wire where it is possible to soar above the biomes at up to 60 mph. During June and July concerts are held with high profile artists such as Elton John who is appearing on June 16 and 17th.

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