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I am a huge fan of Blas Burgerworks of St Ives, as you may have gathered from gushing mentions on the blog and its place in my top 10 cheap eats on the north coast for the Guardian the other month.

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/

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magic chocolate, st ives

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.

http://magicchocolate.co.uk/ 

You can also buy Magic Chocolate bars from Halzephron in Truro and the Muju Studio and Gallery in the Sloop Craft Market, St Ives (www.mujuworld.com). £6.50 for nine chocolates.

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

What with Christmas coming, I thought this would be a good time to share the news that the TeddyPasty has landed online – it has its own spot on Etsy. Handmade in St Ives by Emily Fishpool, he has good crimpage, comes in his own brown paper bag, and looks highly cuddly… for a pasty. Costs £10.

TeddyPasty is online at http://teddypasty.tumblr.com and he even tweets: http://twitter.com/teddypasty

Any radio programme that starts with a line like that is going to hook me in straight away. Thanks go to my friend Jan Fuscoe for sending me the link to this engaging, 30-minute portrait by Anna Chen for Radio 4 of everyone’s favourite seaside town. The programme – only available online for another three days – is all about what draws people inexorably in, the light, energy, bohemian lifestyle…

There may no longer be a working potter on every corner, and the appearance of Musto and Pizza Express do rather diminish the boho credentials, but St Ives is still a very special, individual, free-thinking kind of place. It’s where I go on the train on a rainy February day to perk myself up – it’s always summer in St Ives.

Among many who have fallen under its spell, one escape artist interviewed on the programme says, ‘We were terrified of the drudgery of a conformist life – we came to St Ives to avoid having our wings clipped.’ I think there’s something of that sentiment in many an escape to Cornwall.

You can listen to the programme for the next THREE days online here. 30 mins long.

Sorry for being a slack blogger lately – I’ve been on holiday. As in an actual holiday in a different country. Cornwall really is a comfortable hole isn’t it, and it’s hard to leave – not least because it takes a day just to get to your mode of transport.

In any case, what better tonic for the post-holiday blues than a stay at Salt House last night; at the moment, I’m writing some updates for the Time Out Guide to Devon & Cornwall and this haute-design B&B in Carbis Bay was high up my list of must-check-outs (feel I must add the obligatory travel writer’s aside: ‘hard job but someone’s got…’).

Sink all thoughts of nautical themes or fishermen’s cottage chic. This is real-deal modern luxury – a stunning, wood-clad cube of a building with omg views from each guest room’s private terrace over the full golden sweep of St Ives Bay through the monterey pines. I always try and use my own pictures on pasties & cream but it’s just so horribly dark and cold and grey this week that my iphone couldn’t handle it, hence the sparkly official photos, which do it greater justice.

In the white rooms it’s all about careful editing – an Alessi bottle opener here, an Orla Kiely mug there, glossy flat-screen telly, homemade coconut-flecked cookies. It’s the work of owners Alan and Sharon, both graphic designers.

There are only two rooms, so unsurprisingly they’re a hot booking.

www.salthousestives.co.uk; £170-£190 per night, including (amazing) breakfast, mine pictured below.

Shocking-quality phone vid for you of Dartmoor dweller Seth Lakeman’s sell-out show at the St Ives September Festival last night. You know you can rely on me for plenty of distortion on the sound, and erratic framing. Still, hopefully this snippet conveys something of his electric performance of eerie, insistent ‘Kitty Jay’ – in my view his finest song.

Btw, if you missed Botallack O Clock the other night, fret not: the excellent Third Man Theatre are performing their ambulatory show ‘The One that Got Away’ this week, meeting at the Guildhall: details here. Am hearing great, often surreal things.

PS I feel duty-bound to point you to the full version of Kitty Jay with crystal-clear sound.

These pics are my favourites from a v neat exhibition in the Vintage Storeroom in St Ives until tomorrow called Instant Exposure by talented downalong-dweller Emily Fishpool – designer, illustrator and most importantly creator of the super-cute Teddy Pasty, ‘the cuddliest teddy in all Cornwall’!

All the pics are taken on the iPhone. Framed prints are £30. Why don’t mine look like that?

www.emilyfishpool.com/instant-exposure

I know this is old news now but: Happy New Year all!

I have only just emerged from the self-inflicted carnage of a St Ives New Year, which I spent dressed in some high-waisted snakeskin trousers and a blond wig – and in the company of a womble, Big Bird, two shepherds, Dr Zoidberg, a carrot, a robot and a crocodile.

We spent most of the evening in the throng outside the Sloop and then, as is traditional, Read the rest of this entry »

st ives cornwall sea front on google street view

mm, maybe i'll stop for a virtual pint at the sloop

I just took an enjoyable stroll along the front in St Ives on Google Street View, which as of today documents with freaky clarity, and 360-degree views, virtually all houses and streets in the British Isles – including Cornwall. Just whack in a postcode here, and comes up with a picture your house/street/recycling box/favourite restaurant.

The experience is as unnerving as it is thrilling  – around every corner you can’t help but wonder if you’re going to pop up on a bad hair day or with a mouth full of pasty. Needless to say, privacy campaigners are less than amused. Faces are vaguely blurred out and car registrations aren’t visible but it’s no great barrier to recognition.

(They appear to have shot Penwith on the only sunny day of last summer – everyone’s in shorts and shades and there’s not a cloud in the sky.)

blas-restaurant st ives cornwall

blas burgerworks, the st ives burger people

One of my favourite Penwith restaurants – tiny Blas Burgerworks in St Ives – has teamed up with one of my favourite Penwith singer-songwriters – Gulval’s Jenny Bishop –  for a night of gourmet burgers and emotionally charged acoustic songs to celebrate its fourth birthday on Saturday 13th March.

Being an absolutely minute space – the average size of a Cornish cottage living room (which is what it probably once was) – Blas is really just a cosy cluster of tables and a scattering of stools made from recycled materials. All have already been nabbed for the 8.45-9.30pm sitting; book now for a perch at the earlier 7.30-8.15pm session.

Blas makes a good case for specialising – they only do one dish, but they’ve nailed it. Cornish-sourced, freerange burgers with chunky chips start at £8.

The scary prospect of Pizza Express setting up in the old Woolworths premises in St Ives is enough to make me want to add extra weight to my praise. Blas represents everything that ‘new’ St Ives does well: it’s small, creative, sensitive and a one-off.

jenny bishop cornwall

singer-songwriter jenny bishop

tate st ives dalwood cornwall

dexter dalwood 'immersion' at the tate st ives

During the is-it-art-or-is-it-simply-a-red-splodge-type debates, I have been known to find myself marooned on the side of the red splodge – perhaps due to a fact-finding journalistic background.

This is why I found the Dexter Dalwood exhibition, currently showing at the Tate St Ives (until 3 May), so engaging. Working at the junction of history and art, Dalwood produces large-scale works that recreate key historical events, celebrity deaths (Sid and Nancy, Janis Joplin) and an array of imagined celebrity bedrooms (Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix). Read the rest of this entry »

p&c january header: artist’s studio Newlyn

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