Sunday, April 01, 2012

A carnival of Cornish clotted cream, culinary crustacea and cute coves

 My lovely lady is prone to using the telly-box to alleviate the mindless drudgery and endless tedium of her daily life by observing the fictional mindless tedium and endless drudgery of the daily life of others. Not something I can relate to but I was casting around for somewhere nice to take ourselves off to for a relaxing weekend and neither Coronation Enders or Emmerdale Street appealed, however I remembered the attractive location of one of her favourite programmes, Doc Martin is set in a fictional Cornish fishing village and filmed in in the real Cornish fishing village of Port Isaac. Accordingly I swung into action, a chum at the gym advised on a hotel, the Old School house which apparently appears as the School House in the series, (they're inspired these TV folk), the website was helpful, the rates ok and the deed was done.

 We set off for the West Country later than I'd planned, not that I'm blaming anyone (I am) and trundled to the west, calling in to see an old chum in Devon (twice actually as her ladyship forgot to take her handbag when we departed the first time) and turning up in Port Isaac in the late afternoon. The hotel was fine, parking ever so snug, and the room was comfortable.

The village itself was, as one descends to the harbour, delightful,well stocked with quaintness and possessed of a couple of pubs and a pleasant and very fresh looking restaurant run by a local chef, Emily Scott and fronted by a young man called Jason, one of the graduates of Jamie Oliver's Fifteen. Fifteen, now an established eatery near not too distant Newquay, was, and I believe still is, an exercise in giving cheffing and front of house opportunities to youngsters. As it was a cool evening in a quiet fishing village in March we were somewhat surprised to be asked whether we'd booked in an empty bistro.

Apparently they were  fully booked but they managed to squeeze us in and I'm glad they did, 20 minutes later the place was crammed to the gills with hungry (foresighted) diners and the food emerging from the tiny kitchen explained why, some fine cooking of very fresh fishy food, not silly, not too showy but inventive, well presented, well cooked fresh fish, served with amiable aplomb by the sole (yes that was deliberate) front of house chap. It wasn't a cheap meal but I'd commend the Harbour to anyone who happens to be in this particular tiny village in search of excellent cooking and an all round fine dining experience.

We bickered back to the hotel and fell asleep to the sound of waves, always a joy, awoke bright and early and toddled off to the old school hall for breakfast. There's a good rule of thumb for an English breakfast and that's the sausage test, you can pretty much predict the quality of the food and the cooking with one simple glance at the sausage, a well browned plump organic local sizzler or dried up, stringy catering pack warmed-through banger? Guess which we got?  Hotel breakfasts should be delightful experiences not an opportunity to play with tiny catering packs of preserves or to chase a slippery egg around a greased plate, we decided to dine out that evening.

We'd booked for lunch at Rick Stein's St Petroc in Padstow and been advised by a chum to park in Rock and catch the foot ferry across the estuary, a good call, a fun voyage, an invigorating walk to the village from the low tide landing and a lot more fun than trying to park in this horrendously popular tourist townlet.

 I must say it had never occurred to me that it would be economically viable to have three different pasty shops adjoining each other but since they were the only things in Padstow not obviously branded Rick Stein presumably they were maintained for curiosity value.

We enjoyed a pleasant lunch, Stein does very good, very fresh seafood and his current Spanish stylings (a gastronomic advert for his latest TV series and book)  worked well, the staff seemed to be enthusiastic pleasant and local.  We forewent dessert and sampled some damn fine ice cream from a harbour-front parlour, then ferried back to our side of the river.

Back in Port Isaac we conferred, having decided that the hotel didn't really get the whole idea of cooking well we checked out the Mote, a lovely old pub/restaurant on the harbour front. A glass of beer, or two, or three later and Mrs Stuffy decided to reserve a table in the fireplace, (don't ask). As a pre-prandial appetiser we headed hill-ward visiting a lovely converted chapel en route and climbed up the very steep hill overlooking the cove and the village, a breathless stroll topped by great views and a glorious view of the picture postcard village, almost too cute. Sightseeing done it was back to our reserved inglenook for supper.

 The food at the Mote was agreeable and I continued my efforts to try and enjoy foods I've long shunned, hoping that my maturing palate will let me enjoy hitherto unrelished pleasures. The crab with pickled ginger was a partial success, I enjoyed the pickled ginger but was left a little cold by the crab, the hake that followed was a real pleasure though and our shared dessert, an awesome cake of of honeycomb, meringue and a creamy semifredo was a real winner.

Back to the hotel and another fine nights sleep to a maritime sound track. The hotel breakfast, again, posed no challenge to the record of the establishment of delivering a serious lack of breakfasty goodness

What did we think of Cornwall? It's very cute, but I couldn't help noticing the yellow no-parking lines which preceded each village by a couple of miles, fun out of season but it must be hell to live there in the summer.

Nice break though...


At 8:53 pm, Blogger Bissy B said...

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