Given that we enjoyed big breakfasts every morning at Warwick House and we were hiking most days straight through lunchtime, we ended up doing a lot more snacking on this trip than any actual sit-down meal-eating. In the four days we spent traveling around western Cornwall, we ate only two dinners in a proper restaurant. The majority of the rest of our meals were either eaten on the road while trying not to drip anything on the rental car seats or grabbed at a mini-grocery and eaten hurriedly while simultaneously walking and balancing cameras in front of our faces. Not exactly blog-worthy. Luckily though, a few of the foods Cornwall is most famous for are perfect for snack-time, and so this trip wasn’t a complete bust for trying out the local delicacies! Below are a few of our favorites, as well as two awesome places to dine in Penzance.
Cornish Cream Tea
Bonus points if you can enjoy your tea with a view of the sea! Even though cream teas are popular throughout most of England, I wanted to make a point to have one in Cornwall since this traditional afternoon treat is thought to have originated in Cornwall and nearby Devon. A cream tea in Cornwall consists of warm rolls or scones, Cornish clotted cream, strawberry jam, and of course, tea served with milk on the side. And before someone reprimands me about the above picture, I made a major faux pas – in Cornwall, first the jam is spread on the scone and then the cream. But old habits die hard, and I’m a cream-then-jam kind of girl. I made sure to prepare my next scone the proper way. And I even put a little milk in my tea for tradition’s sake. (I thought it was terrible, by the way. I prefer my tea straight, with not even a dash of sugar or milk.)
We had our cream tea at an outdoor cafe on top of St Michael’s Mount with a beautiful view of the water, but it didn’t last long. About ten minutes after we sat down, the wind picked up so much that our teacups were in danger of tipping over, so we moved indoors to finish the remainder of our food without playing the try-to-keep-everything-from-blowing-off-the-table game. It still counts, though – tea by the sea, check!
You’re going to want to pronounce pasties with a short “a” sound – otherwise you’ll be laughed at because pasties with a long “a” is something entirely different. (Google at your own risk.) Cornish pasties are a very popular snack/lunch in Cornwall and we were recommended to try ours at Ann’s Pasties near Lizard Point. Apparently, Ann’s are the best in the area. And this is where it gets a little awkward because, well, I didn’t really like them. We had three choices at Ann’s – meat, cheese, or vegetarian. I went with the vegetarian and Cory chose the meat, and I didn’t like either of them. I’m not sure if it was just Ann’s or all pasties that I don’t like because I never had the opportunity to try them again during our trip.
My vegetarian pasty was filled with potatoes, turnips, and onions. Cory’s was the same, with the addition of steak. I was only halfway through mine when I couldn’t eat anymore. These things are so dense! I felt like I had a brick in my stomach for the first part of our hike from the Lizard. I also found the vegetarian pasty a little bland. I tried Cory’s to see if his was any better, but it still lacked a little flavor, in my opinion. Looking back, I think what mine needed was a little cheese, so I probably should have chosen that option instead, but at the time, I was under the impression that cheese pasties were only filled with cheese. Not true. I’d give these things a second chance if we’re ever back in Cornwall, but they did not make the best first impression on me. (Cory, however, loved his and even ate the second half of mine!)
Cornish Ice Cream
Here’s one we could both agree on – Cornish ice cream is a winner! Although, if it tastes any different than ice cream in London or America or anywhere else, I couldn’t tell. Ice cream is just good everywhere, I guess! Shops selling “real Cornish ice cream” are a dime a dozen in Cornwall, and whether any of them are better than other remains to be seen. We were desperate for a snack after hiking almost six miles straight and once we reached civilization again, we stopped at the first place we saw with ice cream – nothing special, just an ice cream/gift shop. And their ice cream was amazing! It makes me wonder how much better it would be at one of the local shops where it’s made there on site. The hardest part for me was choosing a flavor – they all sounded good! But we had to eat them fast – it wasn’t even a hot day and our ice creams were melting faster than an ice cube in the Sahara!
No picture of this one, but it definitely deserves mentioning. We had been left a gift of caramel fudge in our room from the owners of our B&B when we arrived in Cornwall. I’d had really good intentions of not eating any of it at all and taking it back to Lexie as a we-really-missed-you gift. But then we ended up walking just a little bit farther at Land’s End than we intended and I could feel my hangry urges kicking in, and so I thought, okay, just one piece of fudge. Well, one turned into two turned into three and 2/3 of the bag was eaten in exactly 5.6 seconds. They were dangerously addictive! I hadn’t had fudge that good since a trip to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee as a teenager. I really meant to buy a box before we left Cornwall to take back with us to London, but every time we saw a shop we were always on our way somewhere else and I’d think, it’s okay, we’ll get a box at the next one, and then we never did. Definitely make sure you try some if you visit!
The Old Lifeboat House Bistro
The family-owned Old Lifeboat House Bistro is, just as the name suggests, a restaurant in an old lifeboat house. The oldest in Cornwall, actually, making it one of the most interesting places to eat in Penzance. I’m so glad we managed to get a table in here for dinner one night. It’s such a small place that we almost didn’t – we were, regretfully, being turned away when a couple dining at a table near the door told us to wait just a minute and we could have theirs. I was so surprised and grateful for their kindness that I’m pretty sure I thanked them no less than a dozen times before they left. We sat down at our cozy table next to the window, watching the street lights dance on the water in the harbor, and proceeded to have the best meal I’d had since Spain.
I ordered the fish pie, one of the staples on the Lifeboat menu, and was served a tiger prawn, smoked haddock, and salmon pie topped with creamed potatoes and Cornish cheese. My stomach wanted me to gobble this down, food competition style, but I forced myself to go slow, savoring all the flavors of the fresh fish mixed with the creamy potatoes and cheese. I’m rarely so sorry to see an empty plate as I was that evening. Wherever you are on the coast of Cornwall, you’re never far from a fishing port, so you absolutely must try something fishy while you’re in town!
The Assay House
Our only other sit-down dinner on this trip was at The Assay House, also in Penzance. Newly opened when we visited, The Assay House had such an appealing, well-priced menu that we decided to stick around for awhile and enjoy a full, 3-course dinner – a big indulgence for us frugal travelers. Fresh fish was a highlight on the menu here, too, but I was looking for something lighter this evening and went with the courgette pasta. I had to leave room for that lovely dessert, after all! The vibe here is very relaxed and comfortable, and just like at The Old Lifeboat House, everyone was so friendly and helpful that we felt right at home in their restaurant. (You don’t always get that in a big city like London!)
There was only one place in Penzance that I’d hoped to try before leaving, but we, sadly, never got the chance since it was always closed by the time we returned from the day’s excursions. The Honey Pot, such a darling cafe from the outside, would have been a great place to enjoy a cream tea, had we not already on St. Michael’s Mount. It’ll be on my list if we ever have the good fortune of returning to Penzance one day! If you’ve been to Cornwall, what other foods should I have tried?
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