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I wanted to share with you a feature I wrote about a new Cornish cookery school, first published in Cornwall Today.

In which pasties & cream learns how to make, er, pasties and cream (more pictures below the fold):

You can hardly swing an artisan baguette in Cornwall without hitting upon a specialist bakery course, a filleting masterclass or a foraging walk, with everyone from chocolatiers to fishmongers to high-end restaurants now running niche cookery lessons on the side to meet our seemingly insatiable appetite for food education. The flourishing market for food skills and selectively sourced ingredients is, I like to think, part of the nation’s long journey back from the anonymity of the supermarket to the origins of our food.

If ever there were somewhere to help us reconnect with the land without forgoing modern sensibilities, it is Philleigh Way, a dedicated new cookery school on an old farm amid the pristine pastures of the Roseland Peninsula.

The business is the brainchild of brothers-in-law James, a long-time foodie who has left a 15-year career in law, and trained chef George, who earned his stripes in the kitchen at Bustophers in Truro – and their aim is to teach ‘new generation country cooking’.

It’s a back to basics approach, drawing on generations-old recipes and precision-sourced local ingredients, combined (and this is the really attractive bit) with the comforts of a state-of-the-art contemporary kitchen. Unlike the predominantly demo-based courses on the market in Cornwall, Philleigh Way stands out for its custom-created space, with workstations for up to ten people and no expense spared in the fit – marble surfaces, Neff ovens (à la Great British Bake Off), Robert Welch knives and Le Creuset cookware in the kitchen – not to mention the satisfying crunch of gravel on the approach.

No rough and ready farm experience, then, but nor is this an operation that shies away from the necessary mess, mud and blood of real food. One of the courses on its calendar is called, quite simply, ‘Pig’, Read the rest of this entry »

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PirripPress2013NewlynFishFestival04

I​ have been snapping up cards and prints by Pirrip Press for a couple of years now – everything produced by this small print studio is so perfectly clean-lined and well-spaced, with a classy wit about it. There is a stylish economy to their work that I much covet – just the right amount of white space, never too many colours or words.

The designers in question are Alexandra Higglett and Georgina Hounsome, previously based in Penzance and still maintaining strong ties with the area. Hence their annual limited-edition poster for the Newlyn Fish Festival – a two-colour silkscreen print, this year featuring circling gulls over the harbour wall. I’m not one to romanticise seagulls (if I ever did, then it stopped dead with the theft of my Callestick Farm ice-cream on Porthmeor Beach, summer 2011) but I love this image, printed on thick mushroom-coloured paper.

It’s already a bargain at £10 and they give 20% of the money to the Fishermen’s Mission. Which is why my print has been firmly checked out of their online shop before I click publish on this! They only make 100. You can buy one here.

You can also catch these guys at the Outlaw Craft Fair (tagline: ‘not your usual craft fair’) in Penzance on 14th September.

www.pirrippress.co.uk

Up-and-coming English folkies the Staves are playing a rather special gig on Sunday in Cornwall – by the sea, presumably alfresco, at the Hidden Hut on the Roseland (enjoying much foodie cachet en ce moment; Stein even recommended it last week in the Times). Seems like a pretty inspired collaboration to me – and one of their hits is even called ‘Facing West’.

As luck would have it, Read the rest of this entry »

For such a quirky, low-key film – especially one that was released almost ten years ago – Sideways had a curiously long-lasting effect on me. Snippets seem to enter my consciousness at relatively frequent intervals. The bit where he drinks his most treasured wine out of a paper coffee cup in a life-defining ‘fuck it’ moment. The romance of the road trip. The search for amazing wine. And the tragi-comic intricacies of the protagonist’s mid-life crisis, but there I digress…

My latest little Sideways moment came at Read the rest of this entry »

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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.

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.

www.heligan.co.uk, £10 entry.  Click through for yet more pink leaves. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

www.barefootkitchen.com

Neil Halstead (Mojave 3 – he’s a NQY boy)

Matthew P (summery acoustic…)

Harry Fricker (guitar-as-drum)

Bored of driftwood trinkets, Farrow & Ball shades and painted seagulls? Get a load of this luxury B&B in Fowey, which keeps its tongue firmly in cheek at all times. At Upton House, each of the four rooms are bonkersly different, featuring things like pink flamingos, block-printed skull wallpaper (see banner pic – a brilliantly subversive take on townhouse chic) and white rabbits.

I stayed there for the new Time Out Devon & Cornwall Guide the other week and it was such an uplifting jaunt – great to see a hotel nail all the key things (supreme comfort, great service, location – 5 stars from Visit Britain) without taking life too seriously. Breakfast? Heart-shaped waffles from the pink toaster of course.

So, hats off to interior design Angelique Thompson for pulling off something so fabulously nutty in a small seaside town – Cornwall could do with more of you. She has also opened a design boutique next door, soon also to feature a 1940s inspired collection of dresses (from LA) and original 1940s/50s hats and gloves.

Keep an eye on the Upton House website for the soon-to-launch twisted tea parties – think clotted cream meets wild hibiscus champagne in a teacup.

Upton House, 2 Esplanade, Fowey, Cornwall, PL23 1HY. www.upton-house.com

manuka leaf tisane tregothnan

The caffeine-free hot drink is a problem to which there seems – or seemed – to be no solution. Every time I’m at the herbal tea aisle of Archie Browns, I appear to suffer some sort of repetitive amnesia: they promise so much – smell irresistible, have pretty packaging – and deliver so little. But it turns out I just wasn’t spending enough money!

A sachet of Tregothnan Manuka Blossom Leaf Tisane, picked on the banks of the River Fal, landed on my desk this week and it has none of the processed flavours of your Twinings Raspberry & Catpee fare but rather offers the complex, earthy taste of the leaf and bark, with – and this is the limited edition bit – the delicate white blossom of the manuka bush. And Tregothnan, Cornwall, has the only manuka plantation in the UK, which – for your £7 per 25g caddy – is also kind of cool.

www.tregothnan.com and selected stockist, including sweet little Dishotay on Chapel Street in Penzance.

More pics here: Read the rest of this entry »

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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

The Cornish sardines stacked on counters in Newlyn fish shops at the moment are a spectacular bargain: five for £1. Fresh, meaty, good for you, supplies not about to expire. Pan-fried, slice of lemon, sprig of parsley – delicious.

That is all.

Bon weekend!

www.cornishsardines.org.uk

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I’ve had a bath, downloaded my photos, and strewn muddy camping kit all over the lounge. After the non-stop stimulation and good vibes of Port Eliot Festival over the weekend, Monday morning from where I’m sitting is looking a little grey and boring.

But I still have many inspirational words ringing in my ears, so I thought I’d write a blog post before they are drowned out by the pile of admin tasks. As someone tweeted last night: “Back from Port Eliot with serious festival state of mind. Do I go back to work tomorrow, or set up an organic cider press in Cornwall? Sigh”.

The journalistic shorthand for writing about Port Eliot is to say that it is incredibly posh. Well, it turns out Read the rest of this entry »

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A few ale-addled snaps from Mazey Day in Penzance last week. It was my first and I loved it – the chaotic anything everything goes atmosphere is pure Penzance. One couple had dressed up as hippies – which is akin to dressing in camouflage.

I want to get more into top-five lists on pasties & cream, so I’ll kick off with my top five Golowan festival highlights:

1) The DJ in the Arts Club garden dropping Black Box ‘Ride on Time’ at 3 in the afternoon. Not only did he get away with it – people went crazy.

2) Singer Dom Youngman at the busk-off at Zero Lounge’s alfresco bar on Mock Mayor Wednesday (incidentally, was anyone else confused by the brisk trade they were doing all week in Veuve Clicquot??! Do these people know of a secretly booming industry in Cornwall that I don’t?).

3) Pondlife ska at the Dock (listen here) – young and old dancing in the streets and things starting to get messy.

4) Mr B’s new vintage ice-cream van’s first outing.

5) Of course, Pirates on the Prom – 8,734 pirates and a real pirate ship. Rad.

Till next year…

Or rather to be born again. Thankfully, I have a gorgeous dusty pink bathroom suite all of my own so I had that particular area covered.

This ceramic installation comes care of Shiver Me Timbers reclamation yard at Long Rock, near Penzance: west Cornwall’s answer to IKEA. Good browsing. More pics.. Read the rest of this entry »

I went to see the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain at the Du Maurier Festival in Fowey last night – plucking amazing, they were.

Watching them dismember rock songs on titchily tiny ukuleles is a formula that never seems to fail (which may be why they sell out hundreds of gigs a year).

It’s a relentlessly entertaining, semi-ironic show but musically it’s no joke – these people are slick pickers. Even Ralph Read the rest of this entry »

OK, I realise that two consecutive blog posts have contained images of bunting fluttering in the Cornish breeze – you’ll have to forgive me (particularly male readers) but really you’ve got to make hay while the sun shines.

This is a clip of Porthleven Food Festival on Saturday, taken from next to the food marquee, where I sat pint of Betty in hand, enjoying Read the rest of this entry »

One of the more trying aspects of my job is having to go and sample the occasional spa for an article. And so it was that I had to accomplish this rare and terrible task the other weekend: a 90-minute ™Relax into Radiance treatment, care of Spiezia in Trelowarren‘s new spa.

But actually I was almost as excited about taking my first dip in their heated outdoor pool under the November sky. The temperature of the water was roughly 25ºC, which I thought was very fair under the wintery circs.

As my friends and family will know, I have developed a slightly strange obsession with the temperature of swimming pools around Cornwall lately, so I can actually tell you where this places it against other pools in west Cornwall… should anyone wish to know. No? Ok, so moving on.

Spa or no spa, Trelowarren was already pretty much one of my favourite places on earth – a peaceful and incredibly romantic woodland estate reaching all the way to the still banks of the Helford River.

I have been going there since I was a child so just in case I am no longer capable of objectivity, I call upon Daphne du Maurier for description: ‘a shock of surprise and delight, lying indeed like a jewel in the hollow of the hand’. She used to hang on the estate quite a bit and found inspiration here for her pulse-quickening novel Frenchman’s Creek.

Anyway, so Trelowarren has teamed up with luxury organic skincare company Spiezia to open the Walled Garden, a rather lovely new treatment room in one of the estate’s original walled gardens. (Full account in December’s Cornwall Today…).

Trelowarren, Helston, Cornwall TR12 6AF. T 01326 221224. www.trelowarren.com


penzance harbour wall & battery rocksbattery rocks

As a relatively new blogger, and not a political blogger at that, I have been tentative about wading into the shark-infested waters surrounding the proposed redevelopment of Penzance harbour on pasties & cream.

*braces self* As any Penwith resident will know, the so-called Option A, plans to redevelop large parts of the historic harbour wall and build a ferry terminal on Battery Rocks beach, has been the subject of very heated and embittered debate in Penzance over the past two years, creating the mother of all bad vibes.

At one point, shops were displaying their for or against poster in the window and in one drinking establishment, I even heard about an informal ‘don’t mention the harbour’ policy!

As you may have read, last week the Council waved through these controversial plans – despite the fact the only Penzance councillor on the committee voted against, despite the fact that English Heritage have upped the listed status of the harbour wall, despite the fact there are cheaper, less harmful alternatives on the table – and I feel I can contain my thoughts no longer.

In my humble opinion, there seem to be an array of Bloody Good Points to be made against Option A – all of which are expressed eloquently and reasonably on the Friends of Penzance Harbour website. But my instinctive objection is much simpler and less political.

For me, the aesthetic and historical value of Battery Rocks and the old harbour wall is priceless – and once it has disappeared under concrete and a noisy coach park, it will be lost forever.

Thinking about how best to go about this, my thorniest blog post yet, I decided that since so many words have already been written (even the national press and radio have got involved at various points), and since it is an exquisite blue-skied autumn day, I’d take my camera down to the area in question and photograph what is at stake. Here are the results:

battery rocks penzance - 4battery rocks penzance battery rocks penzance battery rocks penzance

I don’t know about you but I find the idea of losing these things really sad. I swim there in summer. I walk there most days. It’s got the best view in town of St Michael’s Mount.

If you also have an opinion about this either way (or even if you’re on the fence – there’s an ‘I don’t know’ option!), please vote in the online poll being run by the Cornishman this week – you don’t need to register and it takes a millisecond to click your vote.

And if you happen to feel the same way as me about it, you can also sign up for the Friends of Penzance Harbour email updates on ways to help – usually in the form of easy-to-send emails.

battery rocks penzancebattery rocks penzance

jubilee pool penzance cornwall

The 1930s deco lido in Penzance is a great source of inspiration to local photographers and artists – the cool curves, cubist steps, and triangular shapes pointing out into the sea are a pretty extraordinary sight.

To celebrate my first ever swim in the Jubilee Pool – so overdue, it was getting quite embarrassing – I thought I’d post my humble interpretation of this iconic monument. This was the view from my towel as I lay sunbathing at the weekend (before, that is, I was told to stop photographing the architecture due to ‘child protection’).

I lay there for at least an hour thinking that if I could just absorb enough rays, it would defend me against the famously cold temperature of the water. I noted with some concern that over half the people in the pool had some sort of expensive-looking swimming protection, including swimming caps made of wetsuit material.

But I have to say the water really was lovely – fresh but manageable, and considerably warmer than the sea proper (I know this because I swam off Battery Rocks on Friday evening sans suit and it was… challenging). The feeling of swimming in a pool of that size (100 metres long at its longest point!) was invigorating – and the unconventional triangular shape liberates you from boring old up-and-down lengths, and makes it feel more like a wild swim.

This year is the 75th anniversary of Jubilee Pool, and there are celebratory flags flying (below) and historic 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 »

outdoor gym cornwall

As someone who guiltily neglects to use my gym contract enough (apart from the sauna!) because I always find myself wanting to be outside instead, I was quite enthused by this new National Trust outdoor gym, which blends perfectly into Read the rest of this entry »

a shower with a view at prussia cove

p&c january header: artist’s studio Newlyn

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