Toastin’ on the coast … holidaymakers at Fistral beach, Newquay. Photograph: Graham Stone/Barcroft Media
Catching the waves in Cornwall – or just enjoying the coast – requires regular refuelling, and with Newquay’s food scene welcoming several new arrivals there’s a greater selection than ever to choose from.
Newquay is famous for its surfing beaches and laid-back attitude but food was never a strong point – not until now. A wave of new independent restaurants, cafes and takeaway have opened in recent months, including Rick Stein’s new Fistral beach takeaway, and many are also delivering new takes on Cornwall’s seafood dishes – and the area’s other great local produce.
A former head chef for Rick Stein, Paul Harwood opened Fish last year and it’s been packed ever since. The location helps: a former storeroom, decorated with salvaged timber, beach-hut ornaments and with an open kitchen. The property extends on to an elevated terrace overlooking Fistral beach. And the food (refined without being pretentious) is among the best in town. The a la carte menu is a little more expensive (£13.95 for a generous plate of fish curry with basmati, raita and papadums) but the light lunch menu is great value: tiger prawns cooked in garlic and chilli with homemade focaccia, moules frites or crispy squid with Greek salad and aioli. My daily special (two fresh, grilled mackerel fillets, cooked in a curry paste with a zingy tomato and coriander salad) was billed as a starter (from £6.50) but with a bowl of crisp, hand-cut chips (£2.50) it made an excellent lunch for just under £10. • Lunches from £6.95, mains from £11.50. Fistral beach, Headland Road, thefishhouse-fistral.com. Open midday-3pm, 6pm-10pm, closed Monday lunchtimes and from 3 January-13 February
The Breaks Bar and Kitchen
Newquay has many beaches and plenty of beach cafes, too; of note are Lewinnick Lodge on Pentire Head (for heavenly sunsets) and Lusty Glaze Beach. More central, is the Breaks at Tolcarne: a surfy diner among the beach huts and high cliffs of a privately-owned beach with a terrace and an open-air lounge area right on the sand. Popular with locals, it’s a great place to watch the waves roll in. Go for the pre-surf breakfasts (it does a hefty full Cornish) or try a “lounging lunch” and sample from a seafood board that includes smoked salmon, Cornish crab, locally smoked mackerel and Baker Tom’s bread; or baked-in-a-shell Newquay Bay crab and seafood gratin. Good value are the savoury pies by Grumpies of Cornwall – made in nearby Launceston from good-quality local ingredients: chicken and mushroom, steak, vegetarian – all at £4.75 (with crushed potatoes and peppercorn gravy for an extra £2.75). • Hot breakfasts from £5, lunches from £7, kids’ meals £5. Tolcarne Beach, Narrowcliff, thebreakstolcarnebeach.co.uk. Open daily 9.30am-11.30am (for breakfast), midday-10pm (during peak season), midday-3pm and 6pm-10pm (at other times)
Fern Pit Cafe
The easy way to get here is from East Pentire (the cafe’s car park is between bungalows on Newquay’s western headland); the long way is to cross the river Gannel via gorgeous Crantock beach: at low tide, paddle through the sandy shallows; when the water’s up, climb aboard the Fern Pit’s own ferry. Either way, you arrive at a ramshackle boathouse shop (a curious mix of beach kit, souvenirs and tanks of live of crabs and lobsters), before taking a long flight of steps that meanders through a wild cliff garden to the cafe, run by the Northey family since 1910. The food may not be the finest (think jacket potatoes and cheese and pickle) but it is well worth the climb for the views, the chickens in the garden, the rustic picnic tables and the fresh crab sandwiches (£7.25) made with crab caught and landed by the Northey family’s own fishing boat. • Cakes from £1.25, sandwiches from £4.50. 19 Riverside Crescent, Pentire Head, fernpit.co.uk. Open daily 10am-6pm May to September
Rick Stein Fistral
Rick Stein has been talking about Newquay for years and finally he’s opened a an upmarket beachside chippy … with a twist: it’s also an Indian takeaway. There are two counters; everything is served in carry-out boxes but can also be eaten inside. The idea is to be a seaside fuelling station: hop in and out between surfs, grab a bacon roll (£3.95), a nasi goreng (£7.95) or a fish chilli burger (£5.95). The space is open-plan and has canteen tables and lots of rope and steel, though it also lacks a little soul. For me, the Goan chicken curry lacked spice; ditto the padthai (ask to have the chilli ramped up if you like more heat). Favourites on the Asian menu are the rich, meaty lamb karahi and the buttery vegetable makhanwala – order both; these dishes work best when shared. From the fish menu, cod, hake or haddock and chips are classic Stein, cooked in beef dripping for a crisp batter (or vegetable oil on request). • Battered or grilled fish from £5.95, chips from £2.25, Asian mains from £6.95, family meal (fish and chips for 4) £24.95. Fistral beach, Headland Road, rickstein.com. Open daily 9am-9pm
This Newquay newbie is part of Trenance Heritage Cottages, a community-led restoration project that recently turned a row of 18th-century dwellings into a mini life-in-the-old-days museum, set among the rose beds of Trenance Gardens. With painted furniture, pretty china and a whiff of the WI, the cafe is big on hearty tearoom staples made with local, organic produce. A choice of doorstep sandwiches includes a feta and homemade pesto, and a breakfast sandwich (bacon, sausage and free-range egg), all on slabs of local Chough Bakery bread. Proper Cornish cream teas come with home-baked scones, clotted cream and Boddington Berries jam washed down with pots of Tregothnan loose leaf teas (grown in Cornwall). When I visited the chalkboard specials included creamy mushrooms on toast (£5) and a pollock fish pie with salad (£7.25). Entrance to the museum is free. • Lunches from £6.50, sandwiches from £4.75, cream tea £5. Trenance Road thegardennewquay.co.uk. Open daily 9am-5pm
Named after the fictional Amity Island in the film Jaws, Katy Davidson’s seafood takeaway bar has become a Newquay favourite within weeks of its opening in May. The set up is simple: a larder of Newquay shellfish laid out on a fish-shop counter ready for cooking or putting into sandwiches, salads and seafood pots. “It’s street food with a roof,” she says. Specialities include the Chief Brody (fresh melt-in-the-mouth lobster served in a brioche roll with homemade seafood sauce and Padstow kitchen salad leaves at £8), fresh crab sandwiches (with Amity’s own lemon mayo) and a chunky fish-finger sandwich (“the Bruce” is made with pollock coated in a light tempura batter). When available, Katy also offers baby octopus, cuttlefish and garlic prawns but oysters are her passion. Cornish Porthilly Rock oysters (farmed in the Camel Estuary) are served raw in the shell, in tempura batter (a basket for £8), or in an Amity Po Boy (deep fried oysters in a bun). • Seafood sandwiches, rolls and salad bowls from £5.50, basket of tempura baby octopus £4.50. South Quay Hill, 07813 792968, Facebook page. Open Mon, Wed-Thurs 11am-6pm, Fri-Sat 10am-8pm, Sun 10am-6pm
Gusto Deli Bar
Simon Evans worked in industrial-scale catering before ditching the suit and opening his own Cornish-Mediterranean takeaway. And it’s been a roaring success. When Simon had to move sites earlier this year, his loyal customers helped look for premises and kit out the new place. The lunch menu looks basic – just hot sandwich of the day or an “all-in salad box” – but a lot goes into a Gusto dish. In the box, there are five or six vegan salads, plus a choice of “two proteins” (pulled Cornish pork, salt beef, roast lamb, two varieties of falafel, chicken, crab or fish fritters), a drizzle of spicy dressing (mild pickled mango, chilli and garlic or Moroccan pesto, among others) and a chunk of freshly-baked bread (including a splendid wholemeal focaccia with a crisp salted crust). The hot sandwich is no mean little toastie, either. Mine was a generous flatbread wrap filled with boneless lamb rib and served with salads and a feta-and-mint fritter. Also on offer are brunches, Sunday lunches and a new evening menu of rotisserie meats with roasted vegetables. • Breakfast £5, salad boxes £6.50, hot sandwiches £5.50. 4 Beach Road, 07415 410734, Facebook page. Open daily 11.30am-3.30pm (Thurs-Sat until 10pm)
There is something to be said here about excessive food miles, but somehow kangaroo seems perfectly at home on a Newquay menu, especially when it’s cooked as it should be by a surfing Aussie chef. Chris Brookes’ Fore Street restaurant brings a taste of his native land to north Cornwall with an array of antipodean fare, from home-baked damper bread (a camp-style soda bread served with a dip of Queensland macadamia dukka) to a Bush Tucker breakfast (with Cornish bacon and ‘roo sausages) and crocodile and black pudding croquettes (which didn’t work for me). Elsewhere on the menu, there are soups, seafood, risottos and vegetarian dishes. But for me, the winning dish is the kangaroo burger: lean, tender fillets of imported ‘roo meat, cooked pink and packed into a light bun with slices of beetroot, caramelised onion and outback spice mayo (£7.95 including fries and salad). • Hot lunches from £6.70. 6 Fore Street, 01637 852530, bushpepper.co.uk. Open daily from 10am-9.30pm
A combo of tacos, cocktails and crazy golf, delivered by a young surfer with a sideline in bespoke wetsuits … this is so Newquay. Before Elsie Pinniger took over in April, this was a tired cafe-in-a-hut on a vintage mini golf course, close to Fistral but a bit off-the-beaten track. Elsie painted the hut black, renamed it (after the film, Happy Gilmore), added kitschy-California colour and drew up a budget menu of Mexican-style dishes. Now it’s a hip Newquay hangout– even the mini golf looks cool. The food’s the main thing, though. Start the day with Mexican eggs (perfectly cooked in a spiced tomato sauce with wilted spinach and a doorstep of buttered sourdough) or a huge breakfast burrito served with fresh tomato salsa and sour cream. The tacos are great: beef (slow-braised brisket), fish (Estrella beer-battered catch of the day), pulled pork or vegetarian, all served with salsa, house slaw and radish, pickle, herbs and lime. Elsie uses Cornish meat and Newquay fish. She makes her own soft-shell tacos – you get 4 of them for £9.50.
• Early-bird special (breakfast burrito and coffee) £5, tacos from £6 (mixed taco boards from £9.50, kids tacos £4.50). 11 Tower Road, Facebook page. Open Mon-Sat 8am-11pm, Sun 9am-11pm; food served daily 7.30am-9pm
The Jam Jar
Jessica Davis worked as a pastry chef in Australia (and later in the kitchens of Cornwall’s Scarlet Hotel), before opening this popular cake shop and cafe in the centre of Newquay. The place is tiny but you can also sit outside on a sunny deck (a glimpse of the sea lies beyond Sainsbury’s car park). With the exception of bagels and croissants, everything is homemade and gluten-free; the smoothies are made from a choice of four non-dairy milks – and as with the local Origin coffees and the hot chocolate, are served in recycled jam jars. Try a jar of clean green – avocado, spinach, banana, almond milk and spirulina (£4.50). And do try the cakes: chocolate brownies, fig and toasted almond frangipan, dairy-free orange and dark chocolate loaf, and a flourless hazelnut cake. • Cakes from £2, smoothies £4.50, gluten-free granolas £3.50, open toasted bagel or rye bread sandwiches £3.50. 2 Broad Street, Facebook page. Open daily 8am-4pm
Accommodation was provided by Tolcarne Beach, which offers apartments, surf shacks and doubles in deluxe beach cabins from £75. For more information on Newquay, see visitnewquay.org