So it has come to this, our last two days here in Cornwall and I have to say it has been fabulous. Not only are the views across Cornwall spectacular but the food is as well. When we first arrived we told ourselves that we would be good and not blow the budget on eating out as much. Since our accommodation provided us with the means to do basic cooking we agreed that we would only dine out like once a day. Well that did not last very long. Soon we were tucking into Cornish fare as often as we could coz there are just so many good things here to not try. Gastro-happiness for me begins first thing in the morning after having walked the dog on the beach, we stroll an easy 300m into town and pick up fresh pastries or bread at the local bakery, or sit down in one of the many quaint cafes that serve an array of breakfast options. Pasties only cost a couple of pounds each.
The food of Cornwall is steeped in both its history and geography. Historically, Cornwall was tin mining central all the way up until the 20th century. Workers at the mines spent long back breaking hours underground and in mine shafts in search of metal rich veins. In order to withstand such physically demanding labour, a good amount of fuel was needed, so food was dense and packed full of energy. Hardy food for the hardy tin miner. Meat pies and pasties were a good choice due to their durability ~ one could carry them around all day and they would not be any worse for wear. They could also be eaten cold and they filled you up for a long time.
It is no secret that the pasty is the regional icon of Cornwall, so when we first got here that was the first thing we ate for breakfast, on the beach while walking the dog. I am partial to pies and the pasties here did not disappoint. The pasty is like an all in one meal really, neatly wrapped up in pastry. If you haven’t had a Cornish pasty, then you really need to remedy that ASAP. Pasties usually contain chunks of beef, potatoes, swede and onions, however other varieties are available even for vegetarians with their cheese and onion pasty. Pasty prices vary a bit from between £2 – £4. These sausage rolls in the picture below I picked up from my favourite sandwich cafe in Perranporth for £1.20 each.
Apart from being an old mining region, Cornwall is also cow country. Up and down the highways of the A30 and A39 you will see vast fields with grazing herds in it … some being dairy cows and others are beef cattle. This then translates to all the wonderful things you derive from these lovely beasts ~ milk, cream, butter, ice cream, fudge, steak, meat pies and gorgeous Sunday roasts down at the pub with all the trimmings. The Cornish people are very proud and fiercely protective of their dairy products, and rightfully so. In 1998 Cornish clotted cream received Protected Designation of Origin status by the European Union. To stamp your product as being Cornish clotted cream the milk used has to be produced within the county and, the cream has to have a minimum fat content of 55%. Wow, that is one riiiiich product. I tried clotted cream on a couple of occasions and I must say that it is an acquired taste. I prefer to stick to double cream for its sweeter notes.
Inevitably, when one is down this section of the UK and you find yourself neck deep in cream products, the next obvious step is to take cream tea at one of the region’s many little cafes or tea houses. I pulled a sneaky and drove across county lines into Devon and had me some Devonshire cream tea (minus the clotted cream). We happened to be in Exeter at the time and we came across this old tea house right next to Exeter Cathedral, so in we went and were not disappointed.
Tea prices vary depending on the location (tourist trap vs not) and how posh the establishment is (local cafe vs refined B&B). In Exeter we paid about £6.50 for a plate of 2 scones, double cream and jam. Drinks are separate. Some places will do a deal with the 2 scones, cream and jam, plus a pot of tea inclusive. I always aim somewhere in the middle of the price spectrum ~ I don’t want to pay too much for tea and scones but I do want it to be of some quality. The tea we had at the tea shop in Exeter was marvellous! Good quality scones which were flakey and dense at the same time, and they had a wide variety of teas to go with. I opted for Indian Chai and it came in a pot with whole spices in it. Very satisfying indeed, but by no means the best. Seeing as which the scone is the vehicle for carrying the cream and the jam, it is very important to have a good scone to start with and the BEST scones I had on this trip has to be the ones from Pengenna Pasties in Tintagel (picture at the very top of this page). I happened to go into their bakery on a whim to just look at what they had to offer and bought a scone for a mere £0.50 to taste. After the first bite I walked right back in and bought six more to go. Even R. who is a finicky eater said they were very very good.
If you are particularly sweet of tooth, then you might also like to savour some of Cornwall’s famous fudge. I picked up a tasting pack at a sweet shop/ confectionery and they were really tasty. Depending on where you buy your fudge they can range anywhere between £2 – £15.
During our time here we did not restrict ourselves to just eating Cornish-specific meals, rather, after 5 yrs being in the Netherlands, we allowed ourselves to indulge a little in all things British. Steak and ale pies, fish & chips with lots of salt and malt vinegar, bacon & egg breakfasts and of course a good curry meal thrown in for good measure.
Speaking of good curry meals, I had Indian takeaway on my first night here, a Lamb Biryani that was pretty decent. The next week we waltzed into Truro and had a full-on Indo-Nepalese dinner at the Kathmandu Palace. From the moment we walked in the place felt authentic and I knew we were going to have an epic time satisfying our cravings. This restaurant apparently ranks in the Top 20 Best Indian Restaurant in all of the UK (heh, no surprise then that it turned out to be the most expensive dinner of our trip). The service staff were very warm and obliging, even when we ordered something that was not on the menu, they assured us that it was not a problem and had their chef make some for us from scratch (mango lassi). The starters of Lamb Momos and Tandoori Chicken were both superb. For the mains I had Jeera Chicken with Garlic Naan. R. had a lamb dish with plain naans and palau. By the end of it we were both too full to fit in any dessert, so we left it at that and waddled our way out of there.
This dinner was more expensive than we had bargained for (ouch!), but it was delicious and I suppose if you are not cash strapped it is well worth the visit. On other days we filled our bellies either with pub type meal specials or I cooked at home. One of those “home cooked meals” was a chicken and veggie soup that I kinda threw together since I had extra roast chicken from our last visit to TESCO. This is my cheat recipe for when I am travelling and have limited access to cooking facilities; you can even do this in a microwave. Sometimes cooking this way is simply needed to save some money on your budget holiday, and in this country with 24hr supermarkets, its a breeze. Food at the supermarkets are pretty cheap as well, like, this tin of creamed chicken soup cost me less than £1. And after you have added the extra veggies and things you can well feed two people.
Just sautee some garlic and onions in a pot. Then add any veggies you like. Add the roast chicken carcass, bones and all, and cover with one cup of water. Turn down the heat and let simmer for 30 mins. Take out the chicken carcass, strip if of meat. Discard the bones and return the meat to the pot. Add the condensed chicken soup from the can. Adjust seasonings or add your favourite herbs. Dish out and dinner is served.
The other thing I liked was this Sainsbury’s tinned beans and sausages. I thought it was going to be horrid but in actual fact it came out tasting quite good actually. When I cook sausages and beans at home I usually cook the sausages then add them to the beans later. But hey I was able to skip this process this time and it made clean up a breeze … no extra pots or pans to clean … and I had myself a very nice economy breakfast at home. Again the can of beans was less than £1 and I had mushrooms leftover from making soup the other night.
As the holiday progressed I began to realize I was kinda the only one trying to be good and stay economical on the food scene. R. had already discovered his favourite chippy shop and was in grave danger of eating there every night of the week. I had to step in.
The local chippy shop in our town closes by 7:30pm, so R. is usually there standing in line at the latest thirty minutes before. There are about five chippy shops in this town but all the locals eat at this one, and it is not hard to see why. Their cod pieces are BIG and fried in a vat of beef dripping before everything gets salted or splashed with malt vinegar and wrapped with brown paper. I kinda like this brown paper business coz it means all that extra steam gets sucked into the paper layers and doesn’t turn your fish soggy. But to be honest this is not my kinda food anyway. Too much grease and oil makes me feel ill, so when I am in there I order their spicy chicken fillet burger (tastes like KFC’s Zinger Burger) and probably a milkshake. All up I think I may have visited this place close to ten times but I have only eaten their food twice, while R. however is probably ready to build a shrine outside their door.
The other thing I love about being back in an English speaking country is that hey, everybody speaks English again and I can buy my favourite magazines at the newsagents. R. likes to read the paper at breakfast and if I am not suitably occupied I either get annoyed or bored coz he’s not talking to me. No problems with that here … yippie!! I go into stores and try to find ones that don’t cost an arm and a leg … or better yet, I get the free ones like this cooking catalogue.
Sometimes I surprise even myself. WHAT A FIND! I instantly fell in love with all their products and have made a point of pointing them all out individually to R., saying when I start my new job and begin earning my own wages again I am going to be online …. SHOPPING! His response was a simple, “… so long as you are not using my credit card“.
The other thing I get to read are the promotional magazines that highlight fairs, festivals and restaurants to check out. They are free of charge and you will notice them lying about pretty much anywhere you go in Cornwall. It is very informative and gives smaller establishments a better reach towards a wider audience / potential diners. It also lists posh seaside properties that are on the market for sale. I hear Mary Berry’s Devon holiday home is one of them.
I picked up this magazine (pictured above) two Sundays ago when we decided to check out what the local Sunday carvery was all about. Oh God …! I was not prepared for this.
The great big Sunday roast is a well practiced and much loved English tradition I guess, and R. was all for it. I do like a roast dinner every now and again but portions here are MASSIVE. Three joints of meat sit at the carving station and then you tell the chef which of the three you would like.
I opted for some roast beef and gammon, and this was the result…
And this was just the regular sized plate. R. opted for the extra large platter and went to town on it. No surprise there.
Again, this was a day I waddled home.
Pub meals are always good value tho. We love eating anywhere local and when we are on the road we are always on the look out for quaint little village pubs that do great sounding lunch deals. Even when we are in Germany we cruise the roads looking for any local brauhaus (beer house or tavern) coz they always seem to be the ones who make the best schnitzel and the best roast potatoes.
Anyway, one day we made plans to drive up north to visit one of R’s EVE gaming buddies who lives in Somerset. He has never met this person in real life so he makes it a point to visit if we are in town. It was a fair drive out there, about 2.5 hrs but we made the most of it and the dog came along. Somerset is beautiful country and the views are simply outstanding. Even the roads are a joy to drive on because the trees kind of hang over, creating this sort of tunnel effect. On the way we passed ancient churches and abbeys … lots of cows and sheep in fields … and a lot of roadkill too. Poor badgers. 🙁
Once we arrived R’s friend took us (and yes, the dog) for lunch down at his local. It was adorable and the inside looked very old indeed. He explained to us that at one time the pub was in real danger of being shut down and bulldozed to make way for houses (typical!) so a local man stepped up and bought the property just to keep it from being destroyed. Food there was really good too, so I am happy that it is staying a pub and staying put.
Eating round Cornwall has been great fun and all but at some point I kinda give up on eating Anglo-Saxon meals. I mean, you can take the girl out of Southeast Asia, but you can’t take Southeast Asia out of the girl … so towards the end of our trip I began to crave for a more normal meal. Something with less protein and more carbs. Less boiled peas and carrots, more garlic + ginger. Less meaty gravies and more soy sauce + sesame oil. The need to revert back to a more normal way of eating hit me like a ton of bricks and suddenly that was all I could think of.
At home we eat rice once a day, maybe 3 – 4 times a week. Even if it is not rice then it may be noodle stir-fry. But it has been three weeks and my body was beginning to rebel. I made R. drive me all the way to the 24hr TESCO at 8 pm last Sunday in search of noodles that I could then fry up, only to discover that on Sundays they close at 4 pm. Nooooo….!!! I came home feeling very dejected and sullen. We ended up just having pizza coz it was late and everywhere else had closed. It was awful pizza too.
The very next day I was on Tripadvisor in a flash looking for all the Chinese restaurants within a 30-minute driving distance from where we were staying. Some looked okay, some looked downright scary, while others only did late night takeaway. Finally we settled on this one in Truro. It looked okay, not too many disgruntled customers and the pictures had images of food that I would happily consume. We got in the car and drove down there in a hurry … lunch was only served between the hours of 12 – 2 pm. Parked the car, paid for parking, all but ran to the restaurant …. AND IT WAS CLOSED!!!! *@&*@&&^#) Sign said ‘Only open for lunch Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays‘. What the hell kinda Chinese restaurant was this? Chinese places are supposed to be open all week long … 16 hrs a day! FEEEED MEEEE!!
The boyfriend said we had already paid for 3-hrs worth of parking so we ain’t leaving until we had eaten lunch, be it Chinese or not. So once again I sulked my way along the pavement behind him until he spotted a trendy looking place claiming to be serving up Asian food. At first I was like eeewwww …. places like this only pretend to know what Asian food is, then they make shit up (as you do) and then serve some weird looking dish to their Caucasian customers who lap it all up thinking they just had the best run-in with Asian cuisine ever. Throwing some chilli, coriander and soy sauce on food does not automatically qualify it as Asian!
If you haven’t noticed, that was simply my inner monologue when I am hungry and angry at the same time. Needless to say we trudged in and took a window seat. The place looked nice and it had a good vibe to it … and then we read on the menu that their head chef was Thai who has spent many years cooking in all the top hotels in Bangkok. We are saved!!
In the end it turned out to be one of the BEST meals on this trip … even Mr. Picky Eater said so. The starters were soooo sedapppp (delicious) and it made us wait for our mains in growing anticipation. It did not disappoint. I would have licked my plate if I could. R. had a mini crisis at the beginning when his laksa turned out to be ‘not how you make it at home … *pout pout‘ but in the end he tried some and decided he liked this version just the same. My stir-fried hokkien mee with chicken hit the spot really well and I was happy in life once again. This place does a pretty decent lunch deal ~ 2 courses for £11. They do not seem to have a dessert menu, which is fine by me. There are very few Asian desserts that I like.
I have thoroughly enjoyed myself this trip and I hope to continue a joyful gastronomic experience in my next country of residence. There are so many more things I have sampled on this trip that were one offs and turned out to be surprisingly tasty. One of these experiences came on a cold and windy day when we were off to checkout the coast at Land’s End and Penzance. For lunch I ducked into a cafe for a quick lite lunch and had an amazing soup of crab and roasted red peppers, served with crusty garlic bread. The place was pricey for the portions they served up, but by God, their food was tasty. Even their personal pan pizza sized pizza … it was cut into quarters, and it cost us TEN POUNDS!! It had pepperoni and chilli oil on it … super tasty … very good crust also.
Ice creams in Cornwall is par for the course, this stuff is everywhere. In the summer time when temperatures soar, people will be buying buckets of this stuff. I have only just recently started getting into the ice cream here. Best flavour so far: Jammy Dodger. It’s like raspberry ripple with cookies stirred thru. R. has tried more flavours than I have including Apple & Custard, Maltesers, Honeycomb, Cornish Vanilla and Banana Split. Ice cream parlours are abundant in this part of the country, as are specialty ice creameries.
Some ice creameries have downright awesome names.
Another thing I keep seeing when out and about in Cornwall are signs advertising crab sandwiches. I don’t know if this is a specific local delicacy or if it is simply the season for yummy crabs. Either way I was compelled to have one.
I was going to have some when we were in Marazion visiting St. Michael’s Mount but ordered the carb and roasted pepper soup instead. So on our final day in Perranporth we took a stroll down Beach street and jumped at the last opportunity for crab sandwiches. This time I was adamant, nothing was going to sway my decision. I was going to have a crab sandwich even if there were a hundred other things on the menu that sounded better. R. did the dutiful boyfriend thing and accompanied me on my quest even though he wanted none of it himself. He had already stuffed his face with his usual bacon and poached egg brunch at the Stepping Stones cafe up the road.
Stepped into the Pavillion Boatshed Restaurant about noon, still focused, still looking for a crab sandwich … and FOUND IT! The menu announced that it would cost me £8.95 (gulp!) for a freakin sandwich! I bit my tongue and persevered, thinking that crabs must be an expensive choice of filling. Today, however, I am glad I did because this turned out to be the poshest (white bread) sandwich lunches I have ever had and in reality the price was well worth every penny.
My cappuccino came beautifully frothy with an ample dusting of cocoa, served with fruity biscotti. Off to a good start already. Then out of nowhere our waitress comes back with two serves of amuse bouche even though I am the only one ordering lunch.
It was deep-fried mussles coated in a lovely crispy crumb crust on a bed of shredded lettuce, roasted red pepper puree and caviar. Now, under normal circumstances I would not eat shellfish but this was not normal circumstances. The food was staring me in the face … not like I was going to send free food back to the kitchen and insult the chef. So I ate it and it was a fantastically beautiful mouthful. The purees really made this dish pop.
Lunch literally was nothing more than crab and cucumber stuffed onto thick-cut white bread, served with baby greens and homemade veggie chips. Buuuuutttt … here is where you know you are eating at a high quality restaurant vs a generic seaside one. This sandwich tasted AMAZING! Like, what the hell?? Who makes a sandwich this good? I have no idea what they smeared on it but it really complimented the flavours. The bread was fluffy and the filling was nice and chilled. Even the salad of baby greens was really really good … dressed ever so lightly with a kind of pesto. It was so lightly dressed that initially I did not even realize there was anything else in there. But after just one mouthful I inspected it a little closer. Funnily enough I think that salad was my favourite thing on that board. The veggie chips consisted of lightly salted sweet potato and beets.
So happy was I at this point that I was already telling R. that the £8.95 price tag was already justified … until our waitress returned with the bill accompanied by a board of petit fours. My only regret is that she did not clearly explain what each of them were… she kind of mumbled something and I only caught a rough idea as to what was on my plate.
I do not know what the cookie on the very end is, but I did catch that the middle was mini eccles cake, and the final one is a chocolate truffle dusted in cocoa. A beautiful and impressive way to end a simple lunch, which prompted me to remark to R. … “Now, why haven’t we come to eat here earlier?!?”. It is so ridiculous coz we only live a walking distance from this place and we pass it every day on our way to the beach. Well, it certainly was a nice way to end our time here in Cornwall, and if ever you find yourself in Perranporth, you know where to go for dinner … coz if they could make my lunch sandwich taste that good, imagine what dinner is going to be like. Just sayin’ …
So, it’s been big, bold and it’s been liberating. This trip symbolizes everything that I did not think possible 18-months earlier. In a couple days time I officially step into what is to become a new phase in life for me and R. Still many barriers to cross but I think we will be pretty okay from now on. In three weeks time it will be my birthday and I hope to be in a more zen-like state of mind by then. Until the next holiday then, eh. See you all in another country. <3
~ Enjoy! ~