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strong adolfos

My next discovery in January was the truly fresh-thinking Strong Adolfo’s, recently opened right on the Atlantic Highway. That’s the A39 to those having a more functional day.

The idea of an American-style roadside joint is very clever for Cornwall. This is somewhere where the road-trip rules – even if it’s just from one end of Cornwall to the other, as in my case. We spend our lives fiddling about with miniature parking spaces and one-way streets, so the excess of easy parking at Strong Adolfo’s is – interestingly or boringly – a big draw.

John and Mathilda Friström Eldridge have clearly put heart and soul into opening this place, where the spanking new building and aspirational detail throughout reveal energy and commitment.

The Finisterre-jacket-and-vintage-furniture crew were occupying all available tables on the Saturday I went, so I think we can safely say that this cool cat is out of the bag.

www.strongadolfos.com

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In this most dead of seasons in the far west, it’s a struggle to find somewhere open for any sort of refreshment, let alone somewhere cosy or chic. All the more fun, then, to discover not one but two interesting new cafes in the space of a few weeks. First up, the Dog & Rabbit in St Just. As befits a cafe in this most herbal and tight-knit of towns, it’s mellow and hand-knitted, with recycled cardboard for clipboards, vintage furniture, and a table selling home-made jam and properly free-range eggs.

(Marks deducted for being about to close in February!)

18 Bank Square, St Just, TR19 7HJ Penzance, Cornwall. T 01736 449811. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cafe-Dog-and-Rabbit\

hotcrossbun

Forget the insipid buns peddled year round at Tesmorrisains (thanks go to this exiled Penwithian on twitter for that catch-all), Cornish Hen deli’s exemplar is the real deal. 75p each or three for £2. Market Place, opposite Lloyds, Penzance. 

fat hen foraging

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 »

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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

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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.

Visit the website or follow Little Wonder on FB or Twitter for opening dates & times, events etc.

More pics here Read the rest of this entry »

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.

‘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.

www.heartlandscornwall.com

Logan rocks – chopping boards by Samuel Walsh

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. 

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

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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

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Alert! Alert! I just discovered a perfect little place out on the Lizard, on a wind-beaten cliff above Gunwalloe. For the past year, word has been reaching me of Barefoot Kitchen being ‘right up my street’ and when I finally made it over to this remote area of Cornwall, so indeed it was. Right up my muddy, single-vehicle-access Cornish lane, in any case.

Occupying Helzephron House (previously home to the Helzephron Herb Farm), this cafe/shop has the kind of pared down intuitive design that makes me think a Swede MUST have been involved at some stage. The shop has a small selection of products, some their own, others carefully chosen, for example gorse-scented candles, the Ghillie kettle, retro wooden bodyboards, earring studs made of softened seaglass, seaweed design aprons… I wanted to bring it all home. The coffee was great, the fish soup fragrant.

Whenever my sister comes to stay with her array of sharp camera lenses, I demand immediate possession of the memory stick so I can use the pictures on pasties & cream, hence an artier than usual selection – and several more photography-based posts on their way.

Oh and Barefoot is opening a surf school in coming months AND does pop-up restaurants in conjunction with Lime Tree. AND there are sea views, when the rain’s not slashing against the window.

www.barefootkitchen.com

These are words that greet you on a sandwich board outside 108 Coffee in Truro. And that is exactly what the owner-barista at 108 Coffee in Truro has done: he moved on from Starbucks to launch his own house of beans a few months ago.

I’m glad he did, because my flat white was perfection yesterday, as you can see – served in a glass, which always makes things feel that bit more continental. I visited on the strength of Dave’s recommendation in the p&c Cornwall coffee shortlist the other day, and assorted word-of-twitter praise, and left rather enamoured with this nine-week-old coffeeshop.

108 Coffee, 108 Kenwyn Street, Truro.

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Today’s post comes from über-coffee-maker Dave Jones, Origin coffee’s head barista trainer, pictured in green above. I attended one of Origin’s coffee courses (newly available to the public) at their geek-chic coffee lab in Helston last week and was bowled over by the complexities of brewing coffee but most of all by Dave’s amazingly detailist approach.

There are all sorts of things to think about like brew ratios, over-extraction, under-extraction, grind size, immersion time, saturation, freshness of beans… Ah, so that’ll be why there is so much poor coffee sloshing about, often even when the cafe has superb coffee beans to start with (talking of which, try smooth-talking Finca Los Altos by Origin, my new fave).

Don’t know about you but I’ve had enough limp lattes to last a lifetime, so without further ado, here’s Dave’s good coffee guide to Cornwall: Read the rest of this entry »

origin coffee cornwall designs

Origin, Cornwall’s favourite coffee (based in Constantine but moving to Helston to accommodate big new roaster), has started producing limited-edition coffee bags for the Seasonals range, with illustrations by artists and designers from Devon and Cornwall; just a few hundred packets of each are printed.

My favourite design (and taste) is the Costa Rica Finca de Licho, one of their seasonal blends, with lemony accents – I ground and brewed one up this morning, and it was most spring-like. New designs out this week for June.

www.origincoffee.co.uk

Move over Ottolenghi, step up to the magimix Billy, the salad supremo at Archie Brown’s in Truro.

Archie Brown’s salads, originating in Penzance, are something of a cult classic in these parts. Chopping up into colourful pieces any preconceptions you might have about salads being boring and/or a side dish, these salads are strong enough to be the main event – they are packed with herbs and sprouts and nuts, as well as secret, rather thrilling ingredients such as preserved lemon and pomegranate molasses.

Long having wondered how they managed to make salad that exciting, I was stoked to see they have started doing salad masterclasses at their Truro kitchen, and immediately snapped up a couple of tickets.

Obviously I am not the only one who is obsessed with them, as all the salad classes have sold out until October – so, it’s not often I say this in Cornwall but, er, book ahead!

£12.50 including a salad and recipes to take home (www.archiebrowns.co.uk); £3.50 for a takeaway salad.

I am photo-rich (cheers, Jen) and time-poor this week, so without further ado here are a few picturarios of the reopened and tweaked Exchange gallery. I am a fan of the cafe (in particular, the strawberry in salad policy, which I hope still stands!) so I approve of the expanded space and more bar-like feel.

Ahem, not forgetting the art amid the lattes, the opening show of the season is an exploration of printmaking – check it out here.

Seeing as it’s scorchio outside and I’m feeling more deckchairy than bloggy, I’m going to be brief and post some pictures of sunset from the Porthmeor Beach Cafe at the weekend – all in all, a pretty smug-making Read the rest of this entry »

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Like any girl, I swoon at the sight of vintage crockery, bunting, wild flowers and cakes (in pretty much any combination), so imagine my excitement at this pop-up tea shop called Tea by the Sea, which pitched up in the old shipping container that is currently on Penzance prom as part of Cornwall Design Season.

Despite being the only seaside prom in Cornwall – with twinkling views – Penzance prom is quite a bare kind of place. Occasionally, and seemingly randomly, a few potted palms appear, but then they disappear as mysteriously as Read the rest of this entry »

eden project cornwalleden project cornwall

I think one way or another we all suffer from bouts of green fatigue. Does anyone else, as they toss a lone newspaper in the recycling bin, get a weary feeling of futility? Surely, I can’t help thinking, it is going to take a shitload more than this to get ourselves out of this mess.

The revolution starts at home, and don’t get me wrong Read the rest of this entry »

pop up lime tree cornwallpop up lime tree cornwall

Restaurants have been ‘popping up’ for a while in London and other metropolitan centres but I believe I attended Cornwall’s very first pop-up restaurant at the weekend – a collaboration between Gallery Latitude 50 on the Penwith moors near Cripplesease and Lime Tree catering, the people behind the much-loved Lime Tree restaurant that once occupied Trevelyan House on Chapel Street in Penzance.

In my (female) party there was a flurry of excitement on arrival: our prettily dressed table Read the rest of this entry »

Anyone else clocked how Penzance stalwarts keep getting posh Truro outposts? First herbal PZ institution Archie Browns, which is now looking very dapper on Kenwyn Street in Truro. And now Lavenders!

I am a walking advert for Lavender’s, a tiny traditional deli and cafe on Alverton St with solid, old-fashioned service (when I left my filofax – AKA my life – Read the rest of this entry »

scarlet wine cornwallscarlet wine cornwall

The good thing and the bad thing about blogs is the freedom they give you to trill on about your own little obsessions and gripes, blissfully undeterred by the eye of an objective editor.

I try and hold back from blogging repeatedly about places and venues in west Cornwall I have a crush on but… sometimes it’s just not possible. So today, newly enthused after their Spanish wine tasting last night, I’d like to reiterate how much I still love bar-resto-deli Scarlet Wines‘ wine nights in Lelant!

They really are getting everything right on the night – and how often can you say that about somewhere? Owner Jon Keast is an enthusiastic and charming host, managing to deliver high-level wine chat without a hint of pretension or dryness. There’s a well-stoked wood-burner; an amazing selection of beers; cool decor; creative tapas (standouts: baked figs with sherry and goat’s cheese, and chestnuts dipped in brandy sauce and oven-crisped serrano ham).

AND better yet, the bus from Penzance stops right outside – last one at 12.29, which I think you’ll all agree is pretty wild. The bus took such an indirect route on the way home that at one point it took a worrying turn towards Helston, and it cost £9.50 return for two (!?), but you know, you can’t have it all…

The wine tasting nights happen once a month, except in January it’s… whisky-tasting night instead for Burn’s Night. Could be messy.

Click here for my last enthusiastic blog post about Scarlet wine tastings.

Scarlet Wines –  The Old Forge, Lelant, Hayle, TR27 6JG. www.scarlet-wines.co.uk. Wine tasting nights usually £25 including six wines (non-stingy servings) and tapas.

Oh and here’s 8 seconds of uselessly dark video footage for your viewing pleasure!

sandsifter cornwall

It’s changed hands a few times in recent years, so it’s hard to know exactly when to get excited about Sandsifter. The fact the old 2009 website is still up doesn’t help. I liked what the last people were doing in terms of club nights (including the Trojan Sound System, which I was sorry to miss), gourmet burgers, serious spirits, cool design etc etc. I don’t know enough to gossip in any depth about what prompted their quick departure but the sands have shifted again and the white box in the towans at Godrevy is under newish management.

I finally got over there yesterday for a quick drink on the new sea-facing terrace at the back – and it seemed to be a triumph. People were mellowing about reading the Sunday papers, listening to the band, drinking Betty Stogs and gazing out over the dunes in the fading September sun.

So in my post-surgery survey of places in West Cornwall that I can get to with minimum walking and maximum outdoorsy effect, Sandsifter has gone straight in at number one (can’t comment on food yet, only had a hot chocolate).

Plus, the outdoor chairs have GREAT lumbar support (below)! As fellow haters of bench seating will know, this is a rare find indeed.

sandsifter cornwall

sandsifter cornwall

Unlike Matt Cardy’s image of Cape Cornwall, today’s blog post has no hidden depths (cake deliveries notwithstanding, post-operative life is uneventful).

Just to say that if you’re going to Trengwainton Garden’s cafe (NT gardens nr Penzance), make sure you order the tasty goat’s cheese, spinach and caramelised onion quiche.

That’s it. Oh and the garden has a rather fetching collection of pink ferns.

(Can’t believe that is the whole post – I do have a sick note!)

Trengwainton Garden; http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/

pink ferns trengwainton cornwall

the exchange penzance cornwall

I’ve been to the Exchange gallery café for lunch about a dozen times (it’s central, quick and all lunches are around the £5 mark – oh and I get to gaze longingly at the hand-made vases, jewellery and books). And every time I’ve been, I’ve found a strawberry part-dipped in black pepper tucked artistically in my salad.

I *love* this touch – particularly good with the Cornish yarg in my ploughman’s this week. I’ve got pretty expectant of this strawberry now – they’d better not go changing the chef.

The Exchange, Princes Street, Penzance, TR18 2NL (www.newlynartgallery.co.uk)

More photos after the hop… Read the rest of this entry »

tregothnan tolcarnetregothnantregothnantregothnan

At the weekend, under heavy grey skies, I set off with friends from Feock for Tolverne Cottage on the eastern side of the Fal, via the King Harry Ferry (free for pedestrians). It’s a serene part of  Cornwall – and you can cut through on a footpath through the woodland attached precariously to the banks.

On arrival at Smugglers’ Cottage, we found what was once one of Cornwall’s most eccentric teahouses looking considerably more dapper, having been taken over by Tregothnan of tea fame.

‘Oh,’ said one of our party, ‘It’s been Farrow and Balled’.

That pretty much summed up my unedited response to the new understated colour scheme and smart garden furniture. Gone was the endearing eccentricity of the place (though all the nautical curios that once hung from all available spaces will appear in a soon-to-open museum) and in their place was a National Trust look, silver trays and lots of beige.

I think I am probably taking out my frustrations about wider issues on this one, ultimately very pleasant spot – it’s hardly like Starbucks has just pitched up in the woods on the River Fal. There is nothing wrong, and plenty right, with tasteful aesthetics and high-quality cream teas but, like all forms of gentrification, in large quantities it starts to feel like it’s endangering the very character of a place – ie the bit people liked in the first place.

I feel that on some level this is what is happening with Cornwall. Where it was once a novelty to have a pricey cappuccino in chic surroundings by the beach, it now seems to be an essential part of the business plan of every beach, cove or garden – and I can’t help thinking that if I’d really wanted to be drip-fed lattes after every muddy walk, surf and wild view, I wouldn’t have moved to England’s most remote county!

On a similar note, Read the rest of this entry »

scarlet wines cornwall

I think Scarlet Wines & tapas bar in Lelant might just be my new favourite place in west Cornwall. I had suspected it might indeed be rather cool when I stopped by Beaten Green next door the other day, but after attending their South American wine & food tasting on Tuesday night, I am now officially Read the rest of this entry »

p&c january header: artist’s studio Newlyn

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