Cornwall has long-established itself as a destination for visitors who are serious about food. The Duchy is full of interesting places to eat but unless you’re a local, how do you tell the difference between those that are out to make fast money with inferior fare and those that apply their cooking skills for the love of the craft? Here’s a small guide featuring some of our favourite restaurants across Cornwall – eateries which could really enhance your holiday and give you a gastronomic experience to remember.
Most of us don’t need to dine formally every day, so we have also singled out quality eateries that won’t drain the wallet or purse, and that also cater well for children and welcome dogs. With high-ratings on Trip Advisor, you won’t find any High Street chains in this blog - you probably already know about those and would welcome an original list of ideas. The independent spirit runs through the veins of the Cornish people and this extends to their wonderful businesses too. Most dishes are made with locally sourced fare – meats, fish, shellfish, vegetables, fruit, ales, wines and even some of the spices are Cornish. So, let us whet your appetite in time for your next holiday to the South West of England.
Best for fine dining
A seafood master, chef Nathan Outlaw has a number of restaurants in Cornwall. We’ve chosen Restaurant Nathan Outlaw not only for its exquisite taster menu but also for its stunning location in the North Cornwall fishing village, Port Isaac. Seafood dishes consist of freshly landed fish and shellfish, and fresh veggies grown on farms in the close area. Book a table and see what the commotion is all about, you can even view the cooks at work in the Kitchen Bar. Keen to share his secrets, the chef has published several cookbooks and conjures up some enticing recipes to try out on his website. The taster menu is comprehensive and takes your pallet on a real journey.
Prices: Taster menu £140 and wine flight £75
Restaurant Nathan Outlaw recommends: The delicious Port Isaac Lobster Salad which is down to the catch, so it’s not always on the menu.
Best for kids
Finding somewhere good to eat is one thing, finding somewhere that caters for junior diners well, is another. Often a children’s menu and a break out area are important considerations that get overlooked by some restaurants. Whilst not all eateries are geared towards making growing families happy, those that try have to strike a happy balance between quality and being practical. For instance, there’s no point in a restaurant having an excellent children’s menu if there’s nowhere to park your pram, no space for high chairs and no changing facilities. Charlie’s, a former Cornwall Living – Food & Drink award-winner, in Tintagel gets everything right; most importantly, the food is amazing. Most items on the menu are available in smaller portions for the kids and the prices are very reasonable too. For lunch and breakfast, it’s definitely worth the trip to Tintagel. Charlie’s has an adjoining delicatessen where you can purchase many Cornish artisan food and drink items, a great place to stock up on tasty local fare to eat in your holiday home.
Prices: Sandwiches start at - £4.00
Stay in Cornwall recommends: The Cornish cream tea (£4.80) is a great choice. There are a few varieties and you can choose to have either tea or coffee alongside your scone! Also ask for their porridge with whisky (we’re not winding you up!)
Best for vegetarians
Vegetarian restaurants are no longer all that uncommon. To be vegetarian is a popular life-choice and the meals on offer in vegetarian restaurants reflect an ever-growing variety of fun and flavoursome meals. Gone are the days when veggies had to settle for a single choice on the menu or deal with being made to feel like a second-class diner. Pea Souk in Falmouth is a great place to try some interesting culinary diversions. With Falmouth being a student town, this place is very popular with young people and it’s also a great meeting place for a light lunch as well as something a little heftier. Pea Souk is well-worth your time if you care about healthy-eating options, care about sustainable foods and being environmentally responsible.
Prices: £5 to £10 for most menu items
Stay in Cornwall recommends: The mezze is always tasty and fragrant, also look out for their themed evenings which are bookable in advance.
Best kept secret – cheap eats
Fat Apples, deep down on the Lizard Peninsula, is the kind of small place you find every once in a while that you want to shout about. You tell all your friends, but you know they’ll never quite make the effort to seek it out, so by default you get to keep it as your special place. I wonder if everybody else I’ve seen dining outside on the green or inside on one of the couches is there by happy accident. Quite simply, if you are holidaying on the Lizard there’s absolutely no good excuse not to head over to Fat Apples. Small and sweet, there’s room for your dog to chill out on the lawn on a sunny day whilst you enjoy their wonderful sandwiches which come with one of the best and most generously presented salads I’ve ever seen. The prices are very fair, and the food so delicious you’ll feel the need to tip generously as it really does feel like a steal. Head in, before everybody else learns about it.
Prices: £6 for sandwich and salad
Fat Apples recommends: If you’re early enough for breakfast, the owner Hector, urges you to try out the full English breakfast – I’ve never gotten over early enough to try one yet, but I will make the effort on our next visit down. Do not miss out!
Best for a Sunday carvery
Associated with Sunday these days as much as church-going, hangovers, Antiques Roadshow and sporting hobbies are, a carvery is very much an important weekly fixture. Whether you’re at home or on holiday, there’s no denying that a good carvery is worth heading into the countryside for. Cornwall has many countryside pubs plying their trade, but this North Cornwall pub, The Tree Inn near Bude, boasts the best-loved carvery in the county. As soon as you walk in the door the unmistakeable aroma of delicious hot and hearty food greets you and that’s not even the best bit – you’re still yet to eat. Please book in advance.
Prices: £12 – £15 for Sunday carvery
The Tree Inn recommends: “Our Sunday carvery is a much loved and popular choice with a selection of meats, fresh seasonal vegetables with all the trimmings and lashings of delicious gravy. We also offer a fabulous vegetarian option from the carvery.”
Best burger joint
You can love eating, but can you fall in love with a type of food? An almost obscene love of burgers is possible it would seem. Life-long addicts will confirm that there’s no longing quite so bad as the yearning for a delicious burger. No other combination of foodstuffs is as terrifyingly good or as satisfying as an unabashedly bold and comfortable burger from a vendor that really sympathises with your culinary urgencies. Boo Koos are like burger love doctors and surgeons that really understand the importance of their burger-creating life gift. It’s important that, if you pray at the same burger-grilling altar as the guys at Boo Koos, you need to get to Helston for the very best in the west. There are other contenders but only one king, make no mistake. So, if you’ve got it so bad for burgers that you’re beef bonkers, here is where you can indulge all your passions. Holy cow indeed.
Prices: £9 average for a burger
Stay in Cornwall recommends: The Smokehouse Squealer is an exceptionally tasty indulgence. Don’t tell your friends at Slimming World.
World famous chefs like Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein are also well-established in the far west with flagship restaurants across the county. We talk about their restaurants in our local guides to Padstow and Newquay.
Some other superb restaurants we’d like to mention include: Cribb’s in Falmouth for excellent Caribbean food; Truro Tandoori on Lemon Street in Truro; The Budock Vean Hotel for fine dining at a reasonable price with beautiful garden views and walks down to the Helford Passage; Roskilly’s Croust House for good all-day breakfasts and lunches; and for great take-aways head to the Beach Café at Chapel Porth for French onion soup, mushroom baguettes, and in the summertime, hedgehog ice cream cones!
To get further inspiration for places to eat in Cornwall, visit our dedicated food and drink guide.
We have some lovely holiday homes close to all of these great restaurants. Be sure to visit our collection when you book your holiday to Cornwall.