Local food connoisseur and chef Ben Tunnicliffe gives us his top recommendations for dining in Penzance…
The once sleepy seaside town of Penzance has recently been reborn as West Cornwall’s biggest foodie hotspot, with the arrival of quirky gastropubs, grown-up restaurants and an underground food scene of street food, festivals, pop-ups and experiences including foraging and vineyard tours. Check out our insider’s pick of the bunch and start planning your trip to Penzance now – for sandy toes, crisp wine and great food that are best enjoyed outdoors…
Chef and restaurateur Ben Tunnicliffe has a string of accolades and a succession of high-profile positions under his belt, yet he hasn’t lost sight of the basics of great food and warm hospitality – qualities which have made his humble harbourside pub one of Cornwall’s most sought-after dining destinations.
As he cooked his way around Britain, between country house hotels and gaining Michelin Stars at legendary fine-dining establishment The Abbey, Ben’s technical expertise and knowledge grew and grew – but he hankered after something different.
‘I was never that keen on the fine-dining label, so I decided to look for a pub,’ he explains. ‘Great food in an unpretentious setting was what I aspired to, a place where you could exceed expectations, keep prices affordable and allow people to relax and enjoy themselves.’
Eventually he discovered The Tolcarne, a historic pub directly next to the seawall in Newlyn, which also happens to be Cornwall’s major fishing port. Winning a Michelin Bib Gourmand for its food, Ben’s chalkboard-style menu reads like an ode to the sea; mackerel, cod, brill, bream, scallops, crab, mussels, bass, john dory – all of these and more, according to seasonal abundance.
Here are Ben’s top tips for food lovers visiting his home patch…
Ben’s Pick: The Best Places to Eat in Penzance
Mexico Inn, Longrock
Run by a talented young couple, Amy Parsons and Tom Symons, this welcoming, family-friendly pub occupies an easily-overlooked location in Longrock, the outer reaches of Penzance. The food is honest, simple and just so enjoyable – everything I think good pub food should be. The Mexico Inn is our go-to choice for early evening meals with the kids in tow.
The Square, Porthleven
Cornish food legends Anna and Stew Eddy push out consistently first-class food in The Square at Porthleven, which overlooks the town’s harbour and is just 10 minutes’ drive from Penzance. The menu changes regularly, reflecting the couple’s dedicated approach to seasonality and sourcing.
The Old Coastguard, Mousehole
The Old Coastguard is a modern yet rustic seaside hotel, bar and restaurant which serves the best local produce in an always appealing menu, which is simultaneously inventive yet unpretentious. This is our summer haunt, as you can dine alfresco on the terrace, overlooking the gardens and the beautiful Mount’s Bay. (N.B. The Old Coastguard is temporarily closed due to a fire last year. It’s due to re-open later this month.)
The Shore, Penzance
If you’re looking for a proper grown-up restaurant experience in Penzance, head to Bruce Rennie’s The Shore on Alverton Street in the town centre. The small daily selection of seafood dishes, each packed with sophisticated techniques and beautifully presented, is lovingly crafted by this inventive and highly experienced chef. A visit here is a real feast for the senses.
The Victoria Inn, Perranuthnoe
This is practically our local, so a trip here is usually bookmarked by a walk in the beautiful Cornish countryside. Nik Boyle’s food is more sophisticated restaurant than simple pub grub, and consistently really good. The Victoria Inn is a no-brainer if you’re in the area.
A 10-minute drive from Penzance in Lelant, Scarlet Wines is a wine bar, deli and café. If you’re visiting West Cornwall make sure to stop here for brunch (try the baked eggs with feta and chorizo), or just to grab a bottle – Jon Keast’s selection of over 300 wines is a treat to choose from.
C&TH’s Pick: Where to Stay in Penzance
Mount Haven Hotel, Marazion
Perfectly situated opposite St. Michael’s Mount, enjoy the view of the small tidal island and silhouetted stately home from your room’s balcony. For the perfect adventure, catch the tide at the right time and take the throughway over the water to explore the Mount. Troop back to the hotel and be soothed by sea views and tastes at the Mount Haven Restaurant. Seaweed butter with bread to start and Brill, oyster fritter, mussels, cockles, celeriac, sea vegetables & smoked buttermilk taste as fresh as the air smells. After hours, why not slide open the door to the balcony from your bathroom and enjoy the sea views from the tub? Turnpike Road, Marazion, near Penzance, Cornwall TR17 0DQ. Room rates at Mount Haven Hotel are from £100 per night. This is based on double occupancy and includes breakfast, taxes and fees. Visit mounthaven.co.uk, email [email protected], or call 01736 719 937.