Cornwall incorporates its distinct connection with nature into its cuisine. Some of the country’s finest seafood can be found in the UK’s southernmost county, while there has been both national and international recognition for its ale and cheese.
There are few things more serene than sitting by the beach as the sun goes down with some fish and chips, or things quite as Cornish as walking down the high-street of an eclectic town with an authentic pasty in hand.
It doesn’t matter when you visit Cornwall, you will find someone celebrating the food and drink of the region, whether it is in a pub or restaurant or at a local festival.
Whatever your taste, we will give you all of the information you need to know for a food lovers’ tour of Cornwall.
Food and Drink events in Cornwall
Mix together some of the country’s finest locally sourced food and drink, some rays of sunshine and leave it to set in a picturesque seaside location and you’ll end up with these fantastic food and drink events in Cornwall.
Porthleven Food and Music Festival
Now in its ninth year, the Porthleven Food and Music Festival attracts people from across Cornwall and the UK to the town’s harbour port for a celebration of the best local and national food.
This is more than the conventional marquee in a village field. Porthleven is flooded with up to 30,000 people coming together to indulge in street food and entertainment.
This year’s theme will be ‘Under the Sea’, a reflection of the close bond that Cornwall has with the sea.
“The Festival has grown to be one of the largest of its kind in the South West,” said Mandy Feldon, Marketing Manager for Porthleven Food & Music Festival.
“We are now in our ninth year and remain true to our original ethos, to ensure the festival remains family friendly, put community at the heart of what we do and keep it local. What makes the festival so incredible is the quality of the events, the fact that it remains largely free and the enthusiasm of the volunteers and helpers. Porthleven is an extremely inclusive and friendly town and it shows.”
This event, which takes place from the 21st-23rd April, is perfect for any food lover, but caters to all tastes and interests. Live music will be playing throughout the festival, with parties, literary tents, art shows and the Chefs Theatre.
The Chefs Theatre, held on the Shipyard Stage, presents the likes of Antony Worrall Thompson and multiple talented chefs from Cornwall, the South West and the UK to give talks, shows and demonstrations.
St Ives Food and Drink festival
Considered to be the only beach food and drink festival in the UK, St Ives Food and Drink Festival takes places on the famous Porthminster Beach between the 13th- 14th May.
Showcasing the quality of Cornwall’s cuisine, visitors are able to sample and buy the most authentic tastes from the county amongst food demonstrations, musical performances and numerous stalls.
A spokeswoman for the festival had this to say:
“Michelin-starred Cornish chef Nathan Outlaw is amongst the big names announced to showcase at this year’s annual St Ives Food and Drink festival. The festival, which is held on the iconic Porthminster Beach on 13-14th May, will celebrate the very best Cornish produce, abundance of activities and entertainment, promising a fun-filled day out for all the family.”
Tickets on the gate are £3.00 for a single day pass or £5.00 for a two day pass – children under 12 go free.
Great Cornish Food Festival
Head down to Truro on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th September for the Great Cornish Food Festival.
Heaven on Earth for food lovers can be found at Lemon Quay in Truro this September as the festival sets up again after 12 successful years.
The largest festival dedicated to celebrating Cornish gastronomy, the event incorporates pop-up street-food vendors from some of the county’s finest restaurants, as well as stalls covering local butchers, bakers, breweries and chocolatiers.
Free to enter, the event which has run since 2004, is an ideal day out for anyone holidaying in one of the many beautiful Cornish coastal cottages.
Food to try in Cornwall
Food means different things to different people. Some like to stick to classic dishes, while others are more adventurous and eager to dive into the local cuisine. Whatever your taste, we’re sure you’ll find something you love in Cornwall.
Greg, manager at Philp’s Famous Pasties spoke to us about what makes a great pasty:
“We believe that what makes our pasties great is using the highest quality ingredients as locally sourced as possible. We use premium grade flour in our pastry that we believe gives the pasty a robust feel making it the perfect hand held snack as well as giving it a delicious flavour.”
Philp’s Famous Pasties is a family run business, with Greg’s father and two uncles running the business after their grandfather began the enterprise:
“Every element of our pasty production is done by hand following strict recipes created in 1958.”
Nowadays you will see high street chains selling curiously filled pasties, even with Thai and Mexican flavours and ingredients. This is a far cry from what constitutes an authentic Cornish pasty, as Greg explains:
“In 2011 the Cornish pasty was granted it’s PGI (protected geographical indication) status and became a protected food which means that unless the pasty is made in Cornwall it cannot be called a ‘Cornish pasty’ under any circumstance.”
Moving on from the traditional ingredients of beef and vegetables, variations of pasties now include beef and stilton and cheese and onion, but as Greg says, the Cornish Pasty Association has outlined the ingredients that make a genuine Cornish Pasty:
According to the Cornish Pasty Association a genuine Cornish pasty must contain the following:
* Roughly diced or minced beef
* Sliced or diced potato
* Swede (turnip)
* Seasoning to taste (mainly salt and pepper)”
Greg went on to describe the process:
“The ingredients must be uncooked when the pasty is assembled. The pastry must be savoury and can be shortcrust, puff or rough puff and must hold all ingredients through cooking and handling without cracking or breaking.”
“The pasty must be crimped into a D shape, with the crimp towards one side and glazed with egg, milk or a mixture of both.”
Greg also spoke about the historical significance of Cornwall’s most famous dish:
“The Cornish Pasty has long been the staple diet of the traditional Cornish man and woman. Originally the pasty itself dates back as far as the early 1500’s but in Cornwall it became popular amongst the working people in the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly with miners, as the story goes, because their hands were soiled they would hold the pasty by its side (the crimp of the pasty) once they had consumed the rest of it, that part would then be thrown away.”
“To this day the Cornish pasty still remains one of the most popular Cornish food products enjoyed both in and out of Cornwall.”
After trying an authentic Cornish pasty from the one of the many local bakers, you will never be able to settle for a high street alternative again.
Cornish Yarg is another intriguing Cornish staple that you must try. Wrapped in stinging nettles, this creamy pale cheese is soft beneath the natural rind, before becoming crumbly in the middle.
A tangy cheese, the Yarg dates back to the 13th century, when it is believed to have been discovered by Allan and Jenny Gray – dairy farmers from Cornwall.
Known for its deliciously mild and creamy flavour, Cornish brie melts away as you eat it and is widely regarded as one of the finest cheeses made in Britain.
At the Cornish Country Larder, added cream is incorporated into the recipes to create the St Endellion, a must-try cheese if you have some space to fill on your cheese board.
The Cornish Country Larder is indeed the place to go for the finest quality cheese. Winners of numerous national and international awards, it was awarded Gold in the International Cheese Awards 2009 for its Cornish Brie and Cornish Character Brie.
A Stargazy Pie is something that is quintessentially English and a dish you can perfectly imagine being presented to the table back in Tudor times.
Embedded in Cornish culture, the stagazy or starrey gazey pie is by no means a local delicacy. But it does hold a seat in Cornish culture and food.
A pastry crust sits atop of pilchards (or similar small, whole fish), eggs and potatoes with the heads of the fish poking out through the pastry. This strange presentation is supposed to represent the fish staring up at the stars.
Recipes for the stargazy pie date back to the 16th century, when fisherman Tom Bawcock set sail during a storm to feed his starving village of Mousehole. Bawcock returned with a bountiful supply of fish, much to the shock of his fellow villagers. A pie was cooked with the heads poking out so that no one could argue that there wasn’t any fish.
Where to eat in Cornwall
Hidden among the rolling green hills, overlooking the rugged coast and tucked away in the cobbled streets, discover Cornwall’s best eateries.
It is one of the most frustrating conversations you can have with someone, as you spend hours painfully going through all of the options for your dinner. Here we have compiled a short list covering the places you can try some of Cornwall’s most famous creations.
Fish & Chips
For many, fish and chips is the national dish. It is a firm favourite amongst holidaymakers and families particularly when visiting the seaside.
This takeaway classic is so popular it is even recognised with the National Fish and Chip Day, on the 2nd June.
There are countless numbers of fish and chip restaurants across the country and a great number in Cornwall, but we have picked a couple that you really should try.
Award winning Harbour Lights have been celebrated for their fish and chips on a national scale.
Pete Fraser, owner of Harbour Lights, spoke to us about what the restaurant offers its customers and why you should make it your first choice for fish and chips:
“A must on any visit to Falmouth. Voted the UK’s best independent Fish & Chip restaurant 2017, it’s one not to be missed.
“All fish is sustainably sourced, with Cornish fish specials daily. Amazing harbour views if you choose to eat in the restaurant, or from our takeaway you can choose your favourite place to enjoy the very best of this British Seaside tradition #wheredoyoueatyours?”
For families, the grown-ups can opt for delightfully cooked classics, while the children can be treated to their meal coming out in small buckets symbolic of Cornwall’s famous beaches and the coast that means so much to the county.
Stein’s Fish & Chips
Starting life out as the Great Western Nightclub in 1974, Rick & Jill Stein decided to change direction and created a small seafood bistro a year later. In the decades that followed they have been able to open several restaurants across the country, including four in Cornwall.
Using quality Cornish ingredients and having a heavily homemade based menu, Stein’s Fish & Chips has established itself as one of the best places to get Britain’s favourite takeaways in Cornwall.
Michelin-Starred restaurants in Cornwall
Cornwall is home to three Michelin-starred restaurants, sharing out a total of four stars between them.
These high-end restaurants are homage to the high quality of produce in the area and they really make the most of it.
The Inn can be found in the quaint Cornish town of St. Tudy where you can visit for a quiet drink or a bite of their rustic cuisine. If you’re looking for a real taste of Cornwall – the food, drink and local people – then this is the place to visit. But you’re really spoilt for choice.