Cornwall’s Fantastic Food and Where to Find It

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From clotted cream to Cornish pasties, the county of Cornwall has one of the richest culinary heritages in the UK – so much so that it’s often referred to as the nation’s food capital.

What’s its secret? Cornwall has a diverse landscape of countryside and coast plus a proud heritage that values tradition and simplicity. The land produces fresh, seasonal ingredients that, when combined with time-honoured recipes and cooking methods, create some of the finest food and drink you will find in the country.

The county is also worth a visit for its breathtaking scenery, crystal-clear seas and thriving cultural scene; it’s no wonder that 4.5 million visitors book holidays in Cornwall each year.

With so much delicious cuisine to try, it’s hard to know where to begin. Here’s our guide to the food you must eat when you visit Cornwall, and where you can find it.  

And if you’re looking for a cosy cottage or stylish apartment to come back to after you’re full and happy, visit holidaycottages.co.uk to find your perfect home-from-home in Cornwall.  

Want to discover even more of England? Check out our 7-day itinerary for the Southwest of England.

Cornish Pasties

Cornish Pasty
Cornish Pasty

If you only eat one thing in Cornwall, make it a pasty.

Originally made by the wives of Cornish tin miners for their hard-working husbands (the crust acted as a handle for grubby hands), the humble pasty has now become so synonymous with Cornish fare that it’s been awarded a Protected Geographical Indication – the same status as Champagne.

A genuine Cornish pasty should only contain beef, potato, swede, onion and seasoning, but many bakeries offer a variety of fillings – from vegan curries to a full English breakfast!

Where to find them?

The jury’s out about where to find the best pasty in Cornwall, but we can recommend some good places to start. Sarah’s Pasty Shop in Looe often has queues down the narrow street, and you can watch the pasties being made in-house every day.

Or visit Philps, which has bakeries in Hayle, Marazion and Praze-an-Beeble, to try what many locals believe to be an ‘ansom Cornish pasty.

Cream Tea

Cornwall Cream Tea
Cornwall Cream Tea

A truly West Country take on the traditional English afternoon tea, a cream tea consists of warm scones with jam and clotted cream usually served alongside a pot of tea.

While the cream tea is ubiquitous in Cornwall, its exact origin is disputed with many Devonians across the border claiming the sweet treat as theirs.

Wherever it came from, it’s important you get the etiquette correct: in Cornwall, you must split the scone and spread the jam on first, before dolloping the clotted cream on top. Do it the other way and you’ll look like a ‘grockle’, or foreigner!

→ Read more about afternoon tea in England.

Where to find them?

Any tea shop or cafe worth their salt will serve a Cornish cream tea, or you can visit a bakery to pick up some freshly made scones to create one yourself. Just make sure the clotted cream is Rodda’s – more on that later.

Saffron Buns

While saffron buns are as traditionally Cornish as a pasty, they aren’t quite as famous due to the high price of their key ingredient.

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, costing around £5,500 per kilogram. However, the saffron crocus can be found in Penzance due to its relatively warm climate, making it an ingredient that is often seen in Cornish cooking.

Saffron buns were originally baked for special occasions such as anniversary feasts and religious ceremonies – but you don’t need a reason to try one of these delicious spiced buns!

Where to find them?

The Chough Bakery in Padstow knows a thing or two about this Cornish delicacy – after all, they produce 9,000 saffron buns and 2,500 saffron cakes a year. Buy some warm from the oven and take them down to the harbour for a truly authentic experience.

Cornish Yarg

Made by Lynher Dairies near Truro to a recipe dating back to the 17th century, Cornish Yarg is a creamy and crumbly cow’s milk cheese.

The original recipe was discovered in the 1980s by Mr and Mrs Gray, who decided to give it a try. When it was successful, they named the cheese ‘Yarg’ – or ‘Gray’ spelt backwards.

Its distinctive appearance comes from the nettle leaves that the cheese is wrapped in before it is left to mature for five weeks. The nettles attract naturally occurring moulds which give the cheese a mushroomy taste as it matures.

Where to find it?

Visit the Cornish Deli in St Ives to pick up some Cornish Yarg, alongside a wide range of produce from all over the county – perfect for a picnic by the coast.

Seafood

Cornwall Crab Traps
Cornwall Crab Traps

Cornwall boasts a coastline of over 400 miles, so it’s no surprise that fishing has been one of the county’s main industries for centuries.

The land is peppered with traditional fishing towns and villages which are the best place to visit if you want to try some freshly landed fish.

Historically, pilchards were Cornwall’s speciality, but today you can expect to find hundreds of varieties of fish and seafood – and almost as many places to eat it at!

Where to find it?

Cornwall has a range of seafood restaurants to suit all budgets. At one end of the scale is the two-Michelin starred Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Port Isaac. It’s the only fish restaurant in the UK to hold a Michelin star and solely offers a set seafood tasting menu for £140 a head.

You can’t talk about Cornish fish restaurants without mentioning The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, which was opened by Rick Stein in 1975 and is still going strong. It’s slightly more affordable, with a three-course set menu for £42.95 and a la carte mains starting at £20.

For a more rustic taste of Cornish seafood, visit Pengelly’s fishmonger in Looe or Liskeard to choose from its fresh selection of day-caught fish and shellfish. Then head to the beach and fire up the bucket BBQ to grill the catch of the day to perfection as the sun goes down over the sea.

Rodda’s Clotted Cream

Clotted cream is made by separating cream from milk and gently baking it; it may sound strange but trust us, it’s delicious! There are other clotted cream producers, but Rodda’s is the most famous – and for good reason.

Rodda’s began in 1890 when the family’s great-great-grandmother made clotted cream in her farmhouse by baking Cornish cream until it was thick and crowned with a golden crust.

Today Rodda’s still makes its clotted cream with milk from Cornish farms within 30 miles of the creamery so it’s a truly local product.

Where to find it?

Rodda’s is produced at the creamery in Redruth, but it has no shop or cafe on the premises. That’s no problem, though – its clotted cream is so well-known that you can buy it at most supermarkets in the country, let alone Cornwall!

Stargazy pie

This pie could win awards for the strangest-looking Cornish dish, but it’s worth seeking out for its delicious combination of fish, eggs, potatoes and pastry.

Stargazy pie dates from around the 16th century and makes use of the traditional Cornish catch, pilchards, which protrude through the pastry top as if they’re gazing skywards – hence ‘stargazy’.

Legend says that the pie was first baked after Mousehole resident Tom Bawcock went fishing in a huge storm to try and end a famine. He succeeded and the whole catch was baked into a pie to feed the village. His heroic feat is commemorated during Tom Bawcock’s Eve, an annual festival held in Mousehole on 23rd December, where a lantern procession takes place and, of course, a huge stargazy pie is eaten.

Where to find it?

Stargazy pie is hyper-local to Mousehole, so visit local pubs and restaurants around Tom Bawcock’s Eve to try this unusual dish for yourself. Or you could always take part in the festivities of 23rd December!

CONCLUSION

As you can see, there are many tasty foods to try while visiting Cornwall. We challenge you to find and try them all, which we know will greatly enhance your trip.

Cornwall’s Fantastic Food and Where to Find It

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