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In an ideal world, this is how I like my foraged food to look ;) Spot the candied alexanders stem, carrageen-set panna cotta and wild fennel shortbread in this composition.
It is said to the point of cliche, but nonetheless true, that there is something about foraging for food that seems to tap into our most primitive instincts. Just the simple action of plucking a leaf from a tangled Cornish hedge and finding it tastes like wasabi or watercress or coconut – in short, something you would normally pay for – is unfailingly thrilling.
That probably says a lot about how darkly far we’ve come from the origins of our food. Still, there’s no need to go getting too primitive about these things, and that’s what I particularly like about Caroline Davey of St Buryan wild food school Fat Hen. On her courses, it’s not just about whether the plant is edible, it’s about whether it tastes good… and not just good, but Read the rest of this entry »
Here is my picturebook from a day out at Tremenheere Sculpture Garden, a wondrous garden carved out of a valley overlooking Mount’s Bay, dotted with modern art installations, tropical vegetation and artily placed viewing platforms. It pleased me that it’s not so arty as to neglect the traditional Cornish harbinger of spring: the humble daff. You can read more on the story of Tremenheere in ‘The tropic of Cornwall: How a nondescript field was turned into an unexpected sculpture park’ in the Independent.
The on-site Lime Tree is my Cornish cafe crush of the year, of which more soon.
Tremenheere Sculpture Garden, £6.50 entrance, or free for members, nr Gulval. 01736 448 089, TR20 8YL www.tremenheere.co.uk
Hurrah, the little vintage caravan on the prom lives on, this year with new owners (one of which is none other than knitted freak lady Katie Lennon of Heyday) and under a cute new name, Little Wonder.
As well as the arrival of Starry-Gazy Cupcakes on the menu, the other news is that it’s not waiting till the official ‘season’ to trundle on to the prom – it’s open weekends from now. Yes, that’s correct, it is February and there is no cover – just how I like it. A hot cup of tea and a chill in the air… makes me feel like I’m camping.
Views across Mount’s Bay, yours for £1.50 for a cuppa, £3 with cupcake. Naturally, I dream about them serving wine… We so badly need somewhere nice outdoors for a sundowner* in this town.
*amongst other things
It also sells cards by the wonderful local design & print studio Pirrip Press.
More pics here Read the rest of this entry »
Thanks go to my chief Cornish correspondent in the capital and my Cornish-by-conviction friend Chris for alerting me to the fact that Penlee House Gallery‘s walls must be looking a little bare at the moment, thanks to a major retrospective exhibition of Cornish art currently showing at Two Temple Place in London.
What with it being 308 miles away – and by First Great Western’s calculations a £110 journey – I haven’t yet been. But I can see from the reviews that it has some winners from the Newlyn School – paintings that I never get bored of. One of them is ‘A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach’, pictured above, by Stanhope A Forbes, dated 1885. This sort of industrious beachside scene might be a thing of the past but the bearded guy would not look at all out of place nipping into the Swordy for a pint of something murky of a Friday.
I have to admit that for me there is something slightly jarring, or rather confusing, about the title of the exhibition – Amongst Heroes – but this is clearly a fine slice of Cornish art in a wonderful building. Admission is free, and there is an extensive roster of Cornwall-related activities. Gedon.
‘Amongst Heroes: the artist in working Cornwall’
Two Temple Place, 26 January – 14 April 2013
2 Temple Pl London, WC2R 3BD
In partnership with the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro. Exhibition Opening Times: Monday, Thursday – Saturday: 10.00 – 16.30. Wednesday Late: 10.00 – 21.00. Sunday: 11.00 – 16.30, Closed on Thursdays
The guys at Heyday put on these vintage and handmade markets every now and again – I love them. There’s one today until 4pm downstairs at the Acorn. I came back with some knitted freaks, a pack of vintage flower cigarette cards, handmade cards, a starey-gazy cupcake (nice) and a bon bec bag by Alexandra Higlett.
On a stranger note, has anyone noticed how the Acorn sign has grown some sort of seaweedy mushrooms?!
Check out how moody and cool the Jubilee Pool is looking in its close-up in The xx new video Chained, from the album Coexist, out now. Very taken with Penzance’s handsome lido, they were apparently. The underwater shots were filmed subsequently in a water tank. Ha! Don’t blame them – tis chilly in there.
Cornish outdoor clothing brand Finisterre has opened a shop! It’s aptly located on a wind-battered Cornish headland, next to their Wheal Kitty workshops and HQ of Surfers Against Sewage. Anyway, I just bought the most expensive hat of my life there – the merino Cable Beanie pictured above. Fortunately, after the initial layout, it has turned out to be the sort of hat that manages to turbo-heat your whole body. Pure wool yet zero itch, and ample ear coverage. Good sale rail at the shop too, by the way.
Cable Beanie, Finisterre, £30. www.finisterreuk.com
Cafes don’t get a whole lot smaller than Genki in St Agnes, which is to all intents and purposes a painted hut with a few cosily packed tables, occupied on my visit by Finisterre-clad surfers. But this particular little beach hut has a few other strings to its bow: a sweet Zen-style cafe garden inspired by the owners’ time in Japan, free wifi, and a serious smoothie menu.
Smoothies are often the most expensively disappointing thing on cafe menus in this country – insubstantial and never cold enough. But something told me to try my luck on the Mavericks Mocha Smoothie (£3.50), which contains banana, cocoa, peanut butter and espresso. It was stupendous – thick, ice-cold, filling, sweet not sickly. Crap cafes of Cornwall, take note.
Quay Road, St Agnes, 01872 555 858. Follow Genki on twitter here.
I’ve been stealing SD cards again – this time from my friend and keen photographer Chris Pierre, who has been taking a séjour in Penzance this past sunny week. I was flicking through his Canon Ixus and enjoying all the unusual details he had picked out of the Cornish landscape with fresh eyes. I particularly like the railings on the Jubilee Pool, the sofa in a field, the monterey pines and the prettiest cow on earth. Thanks Chris – I will continue to apply pressure for you to start a photo blog.
Cornwall cried when the beautiful Pandora Inn on the banks of Restronguet Creek was destroyed by fire last year, and cheered when it rose again a year later. The age-old pub looks only a little different for its ordeal I discovered and the pontoon is still an eye-wateringly gorgeous place for a pint on a sunny evening.
(It also has a golden letterbox! thanks of course to a certain Mr Ainslie.)
Well, as burger fortune would have it, Blas – intent on reinventing the maligned burger van – has hit the road this summer with ‘Blas Street’, a burger van ‘for people who give a damn’. I snapped one up yesterday on the prom at Quay Fair Day and can confirm that the formula travels exceedingly well – Cornish freerange beef, seeded bun, crispy salad. Look out for the Blas ladies at festivals and beachside carparks this summer.
£5 for a classic burger, add 50p for Davidstow Cheddar. http://blasburgerworks.co.uk/
Hope’s Sticky Cinnamon & Pecan Bun. One big fresh bun topped with ultra buttered caramelised pecans – £1. The regulars were queuing up this morning, and her website says they are ‘famous’, so looks like I was the last to know.
Its only rival in the £1 local treat category as far as I can tell is a Jelbert’s ice-cream – though a flake will push you over the threshold.
Available at Read the rest of this entry »
‘Heartlands’, in case you hadn’t heard, ‘is the fruition of a long held ambition in the community to redevelop the Pool area of West Cornwall which was left largely untouched following the demise of the tin mining industry and final closure of the mines in 1998, after nearly 400 years of activity.’ And… it is finally open.
I went at the weekend but it was only a quick tour so I didn’t really have time to get to the ‘heart’ of the matter. All the same, here are some first pics from this freshly opened ‘cultural playground’ in Pool, between Redruth and Camborne.
As you can see it’s a slick-looking and multifaceted new ‘zone’ encompassing an adventure playground for kids (hundreds of delighted squeals), the Red River Cafe (sensitively designed, reasonably priced, standard cafe fare), a shop (a rather curious mix but did at least contain Hager Vor hoodies and Natalie Bonney’s lovely ceramics), workshops and an exhibition centre, plus – most importantly – the carefully restored mining remnants and buildings that form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As per, Cornwall Council couldn’t resist slapping a pay & display car park on something trumpeted as a free attraction for the community. Still, that won’t stop most locals parking for free on one of the many surrounding streets of the industrial estate instead. Baker Tom’s little oasis in the desert is also just round the corner – weekdays only, mind.
It’s Open Studios time again – an opportunity to stick your nose into the studios of Cornwall’s many hidden away artists and designers, woodworkers, needleworkers and illustrators. Just look out for the orange circles.
It is oft quoted that West Cornwall has more working artists/sole-trading “creatives” per capita than anywhere outside London (or something…). The exact statistic has been distorted by Cornish whispers, but it is clear when you look at the Open Studios map that there are a lot of them – even the village of Nancledra, population 150, is stacked with dots.
I am particularly keen on visiting the arty clusters of studios like Krowji and Trewidden. It doesn’t feel quite so much like walking into someone’s house (with the attendant feeling of obligation to chat!) and you can see lots of different work in a small space in a mellow but bustling atmosphere. Plus you can stop by the wildly eccentric Melting Pot Cafe afterwards at Krowji, which on the whole I love, though I wasn’t so keen on being charged £2.45 for a slightly watery hot chocolate in a paper cup on Sunday.
Open Studios is on for the rest of the week, and I’m not done yet, but my highlights so far are as follows:
• Steam-bent wooden lampshades – Tom Raffield, Krowji
High-design steam-sculptured wooden lampshades, flower pots and assorted furniture. www.tomraffield.com
• Logan rock chopping boards – Samuel Walsh, Krowji, from £18
Stacked up, they look like the rocks of Bodmin Moor or West Penwith’s Logan Rock – and they are very strokable. www.samwalshfurniture.co.uk
• Paul Fry – Trewidden
Uplifting simple flowers against fresh white backgrounds. www.paulfry.co.uk
• George Meyrick – Krowji
Minimalist geometric 3D shapes and flat paintings. Could be interesting installing one in a Cornish cottage, where right angles are hard to find. More info on George here.For all details on Open Studios 2012, including full list of participating artists, have a look here: http://www.creativeskills.org.uk/open-studios-cornwall-2012 Free entry throughout.
When you are in a post-industrial hinterland like this…
… you don’t expect to find a clean-lined little artisan bakery cafe like this:
And this bold randomness is exactly what I love about Baker Tom’s new canteen-chic bakery outlet. It’s located in the murky depths of the Pool Industrial Estate, one of the most unforgiving, bleak and neglected areas of Cornwall. The move is all the more intriguing when you consider that Tom Hazeldine’s other two bijou outlets are located on Truro and Falmouth’s most desirable shopping streets.
‘We’ve had our main bakery on this site for a year,’ Tom explained to me, ‘And we quickly realised there is nowhere for all the people who work in the area – from office workers to NHS midwives to truckers – to get something decent to eat or a nice coffee. It is quite a brave move as there are no tourists here and there is no view – we are on an industrial estate next to a brewery yard, a meat factory and Furniss biscuits.’
I think all Cornish residents get a bit tired of ‘lifestyle’ Cornwall, airbrushed and geared up for six weeks of tourist dough – the overpriced sandwich, the perfect view, the indifferent coffee – so for me there’s something interesting and creative about this place.
In the event that the homemade jam, fluffy fresh croissants and speciality breads should not be enough to pull you off-course to this post-mining desert, perhaps Baker Tom’s claim to the ‘nicest loo in Pool’ will? The recently opened Heartlands is just around the corner too. As, of course, is Ladds Concrete Products (a personal favourite), Low Cost Storage and TyreFinders!
The Bakery Cafe, Wilson Way, Pool Industrial Estate, Redruth, Cornwall. Open breakfast, lunch and snacks. All sandwiches £4.95, pasties £2.50, breakfasts from £2.50. www.bakertom.co.uk
Maybe, maybe not. But in more groundbreaking news, there seems to be life on Penzance prom! Not only is the Olympic Torch passing through tomorrow morning but the Little Tea Caravan, which I blogged about last summer, is also back at weekends. Get your tea and cake kicks from the vintage caravan on the prom (near bottom of Alexandra Road) – open tomorrow from 11am and weekends this summer. Love the idea and love the Victoria Sponge.
Little Tea Caravan – see here for their facebook page.
It was designer-illustrator Emily Fishpool over in St Ives who first handed me a tiny piece of a ‘raw chocolate bar’ at a barbecue. Tiny not because she’s an ungenerous sort but rather because you only really need a small amount – it’s pretty punchy stuff, and I’ve been popping away the little bars ever since, plucked from the fridge at the back of Archie Browns.
Being a stiff believer in full-fat, non-light, food-for-taste food, I initially approached the concept of ‘healthy’ chocolate with characteristic cynicism. But I have to say it is an incredibly moreish thing… and I know that because I just chain-ate all the chocolates in the picture above, one after another.
These little pieces of chocolate art are the work of a new Cornish raw chocolate company I’ve just discovered called Magic Chocolate. They are cutely hand-moulded and come in flavours such as lemon, strawberry & peppercorn, peppermint and chocolate orange.
Being naturally sweetened and free from dairy, they fill a quite different chocolate ‘need’ to your textbook 3pm sugar-low Cadbury’s binge that leads you blindly and ill-advisedly to the corner shop. It’s still satisfying but not overly sweet and it’s more, well, raw. See what you think.
Time to blog about my biggest Cornish crush in some time. There’s a newish Cornish clothes brand on the scene – not as out there yet as Cornish stars Finisterre and Seasalt, but it has been quietly growing over the past few years and collecting fans. EKO (Earth Kind Originals) is the work of Cornish maid Helen Davies, who moved back to St Just from London to start an eco-aware, coastally inspired clothes label.
Other than occasional desperate dashes to New Look’s Apricot range, the best of a truly shocking bunch on Penzance’s high street, I aspire to move away from cheapie cheap high-street crap. The prices can only belie a world of sweatshop darkness, the clothes don’t last, and the colours are never quite right.
My EKO Dusk till Dawn scarf, pictured above, has been welded to my neck since it arrived – it’s a tactile cotton-cashmere mix but the real sell is the ingenious string of buttons and buttonholes down the edges, which allows you to fasten it any way you like and however artlessly you do it, it seems to look great.
Other things I like: the models look like real people; the catalogue makes you want to Read the rest of this entry »
I went to these guys’ Christmas Mart at Chapel Street’s Trevelyan House and emerged happily with several ‘knitted freaks‘ (see second row above & pic below – they make the world a better place), silkscreen-printed wrapping paper and cards by Studio No.6, and a few fine slabs of brownie. They (that’s Heyday Presents) are holding a May Mart on Friday and Saturday in Penzance – see poster below for full detailage.
Chef Nathan Outlaw’s star continues in the ascendant with the imminent publication of his first cookery book entitled Nathan Outlaw’s British Seafood – it’s out in May but I got my mitts on a preview copy and can report that it’s a beautiful blue hard-back tome with full-colour, full-page pictures of every dish.
Refreshingly free from the lifestyle shots and smug backstory that have become part and parcel of the celebrity chef cookbook (do I need a full-size picture of your daughter/you on a boat with that turbot recipe? Without meaning to be harsh, no, I’m afraid I don’t), it focuses with precision on the food – how, when and where to source British seafood, and methods of preparation and cooking.
The recipes are divided pragmatically and usefully into fish type – flat white fish, round white fish, oily fish, smoked fish and shellfish – and are characterised by Outlaw’s trademark lightness of touch and clever simplicity. Tempting for summer are the cured brill with pistachio dressing, pink grapefruit and pickled chicory – his take on ceviche – the cured mackerel and gooseberry jam roll, and a mussel and saffron quiche with fennel and rocket salad.
The foreword by Rick Stein, who employed Outlaw in his younger cheffing days, pays tribute to the honesty and simplicity of his food, and the “utterly charming, self-effacing man who seems somewhat perplexed about the fact that he has two Michelin stars because he says it’s only simple cooking.”
Nathan really is Cornwall’s favourite adopted son.
Published 10 May by Quadrille, £25. www.nathan-outlaw.com
A speed-blogpost to alert you all to the fact that comedic Trifle Gathering Productions – surely the hottest thing in Cornish theatre – are touring again, with west Cornwall dates imminent.
I freakin love these guys, especially Kyla who barely has to raise an eyebrow to get a belly laugh. They made a name for themselves in festivals around Cornwall with the surreal, mullet-haired Zodiac gymnasts (pictured below) and then in small venues and village halls with Charity Shop Cabaret.
The new show is called A CURIOUS EVENING OF TRANCE AND RAP WITH THE OGDEN SISTERS – and I’m afraid that’s all I know about it, so I’ll give you the blurb:
“Travelling back in time to a darkened room in 1892, Cornish production company, Trifle Gathering Productions presents A CURIOUS EVENING OF TRANCE AND RAP WITH THE OGDEN SISTERS. A new play written by Nick Whitby and Kyla Goodey, this all-encompassing trip into the world of Victorian mediums is to tour the UK from 17 March to 20 May.
Lettie Ogden has a gift. Born in 1867, the youngest of four girls, Lettie begins to experience Œraps‚ from the other side following the tragic deaths of her father and her twin sister Vivienne. Desperate to escape the brutal upbringing inflicted on them by the hated housekeeper Mrs Skunt, her two older sisters Adeline and Constant take it upon themselves to take their show on the road and to share Lettie’s gift with anyone who will listen.”
So that clears up the narrative, right?
Slightly clearer are the dates:
Tonight! Wednesday 4th April; Princess Pavilions Falmouth 7.30pm; 01326 211222
Thursday 5th April; The Acorn Penzance 8pm; 01726 879500
Friday 6th April; Devoran Village Hall 7.30pm; 01872 864854
Saturday 7th April; The Burrell Theatre Truro 7.30pm; 01726 879500
More details at www.triflegatheringproductions.co.uk.
Despite being a fisherman’s daughter – there again, maybe because of that – my fish filleting skills are often a pitiful sight involving gut-spattered youtube videos and too much fresh Newlyn fish flesh in the bin. Still, the situation has improved recently – mainly thanks to a commission to write an article for coast magazine about a course at the Rick Stein Cookery School in Padstow, combined with use of Mitch Tonks’ ingenious iPhone fish app.
I attended the classic one-day Seafood Cookery course and it was the business – a highly intensive course introducing beginners/improvers to all elements of seafood preparation and cooking.
The snag is that it is pricey (£175 for the day), which might explain why there was only one other Cornish resident on my course. But should you chose to splash out, that does include about five lunches and wine throughout the afternoon, and access to the minds and tips of some of Britain’s finest dedicated seafood chefs for a whole day. And obviously – this being Stein – Read the rest of this entry »
Thought I’d post the link to an article I’ve written for the Guardian about cheap eats along the north coast of Cornwall – it’s part of a bigger interactive online Guardian guide to Cornwall, with lots of top 10 lists, from family days out (written by p&c friend Hayley Spurway) to campsites and B&Bs.
List journalism has its critics but when it comes to easy reading, no one can resist a nicely focused top 10 – if only to gripe about all the better places/things YOU would have put in instead. My brief was lunch for £10, which turned out to be a tall order along the north coast of Cornwall – somewhere that relies on the tourist pound, the sea view and the cornered market.
Still, I think I found some gooduns – from the St Kew Harvest, a sourcing-savvy farmshop cafe, to Blas, everyone’s favourite gourmet burger, via Relish, probably Cornwall’s best coffee. I had to kiss a few frogs along the way – supermarket-style bread in expensive places, limp pasties, dusty falafel – but am resisting the temptation to name and shame ;)
Read my complete top 10 here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2012/mar/14/top-10-budget-restaurants-north-cornwall
I went to the Lost Gardens of Heligan for the first time at the weekend. It was a revelation. I was so taken with the romance of it all – the story of discovery and reclamation, all the neatly hand-written plant labels, the peach house, the pineapple pit, the fanning apple trees… In fact, it was such a revelation that I am not going to post extensive photos, to allow for similar surprise in any other first-timers.
Instead I’m posting a photo binge of just one tree – the magnolia tree in the jungle. Go now for blue skies, blooms and silence before the romance is compromised by the summer crowds.
It’s an exotic life we live in west Cornwall, isn’t it? If you look around at people’s gardens, you’d think it were the Canaries – no Penwith garden or yard is complete without a few succulents making themselves at home, a banana tree, or at the very least a palm.
The reality of the Cornish climate is a more mizzly and damp affair – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But what’s crucial plant-wise is our lack of frost and the year-round mild temperatures, which allow people to grow all sorts of exotic plants with great success. I’m determined to be one of them.
With that in mind I went over to the Hardy Exotics Nursery on the A30 at the weekend, and left quite overwhelmed with inspiration. I could have spent hundreds of pounds buying into the dream of creating a mini Eden in my diminutive Penzance yard, but my affections settled in the Echeveria section. These permanently flower-like succulents are impossible to resist with their pale pinky, green shades, and intricate patterns. I bought two (£6.50 each – the two pots pictured below) and left thrilled.
It’s the owners, though, that really make the experience – both are wonderfully generous and enthusiastic with their advice in a gentle, totally non-pushy way. They also responded well to my request for plants that are ‘very difficult to kill’.
Enjoying the announcement of a micro-festival at Barefoot (the place I was rave-blogging about the other day) over the Easter weekend to celebrate the launch of their surf school and record label – uh-huh, a record label on our very own Lizard Peninsula. It’s £30 for a day ticket (£45 for the weekend) but I see BF have managed to lure some interesting folky/acoustic names to the deep south, plus it is being opened by none other than Michael Eavis (if ever there was a good festival omen…).
I’ve been checking out the artists, and here are the ones that caught my eye. The beard count is reassuringly high.
Matthew P (summery acoustic…)
Harry Fricker (guitar-as-drum)
It was a rare, surreal but ultimately life-affirming sight to behold late-middle-aged Truro types unbutton their smart Jaeger coats at Hall for Cornwall last night and party like it was 1979, belting out the lyrics to ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ like they meant it even more now than they did in 1979.
Respect to the cast of ‘Reasons to be Cheerful‘ for this achievement and numerous high-voltage standing ovations. The show – delivered by an endlessly energetic cast – is a part-gig, part-play spectacle inspired by the life and music of Ian Dury and it’s playing Hall for Cornwall tonight and tomorrow.
Click through for more pics Read the rest of this entry »
A shout-out for two interesting things happening at the Poly in Falmouth. The first is a talk by very long-time pasties & cream friend Paul Spooner, whose career as an automata maker (“making mechanical jokes for people with short attention spans”) has included pieces for the Science Museum, Louis Vuitton and, er, me aged six – a wooden box that I still have and keep my drawing pins in. Takes place tonight at 8pm at the Poly; pay a little visit here for more information and tickets.
The second thing I’m giving you a fraction more notice for. Opening on 21st February, also at the Poly, is an exhibition of the sumptuous illustrations and photography that appear in the Parabola Project‘s second book, the beautifully designed anthology I blogged about the other day. Here’s a taster, reproduced here with kind permission of Parabola.
I got a little overexcited in Falmouth’s new ‘artisan coffee‘ café Espressini on Saturday. The coffee menu covers an entire six-foot-long blackboard and there are three types of sugar (including one with dried rose petals in, another with chilli).
The styling is also very neat. Your coffee is served in retro turquoise cups and saucers, there’s a centrepiece La Marzocco coffee machine, and piles of mags and papers – all nicely accessorised by the addition of artily dressed Falmouth students. Owner Rupert said he looked at some properties in Penzance but Falmouth won out… Ouch, that was hard to hear (what I wouldn’t give for a good hangout coffee shop in PZ) but it does at least now provide further motivation, should ever it be needed, to make the pilgrimage to Trago.
39 Killigrew Street, TR11 3PW, Falmouth, Cornwall. A website is on its way but in the meanwhile, there’s a FB page for interested parties: http://www.facebook.com/Espressini