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Thursday 19 May 2016

Penzance - A Cornish Staycation (Continued)

For my first post on Penzance, and other hotel and restaurant recommendations, please read it here.

Three hundred miles southwest of London, and a 5-hour drive away, the town of Penzance is the western-most city in England, and an excellent spot from which to explore this part of Britain.

A historic port, once affluent and known for tin-mining and industrial-scale fishing, these days Penzance is mostly visited for its excellent fish and seafood restaurants, for the surrounding fine sandy beaches and for the spectacular cliff top walks scattered throughout the county of Cornwall.

Penzance is a charming, although not chocolate-box pretty town, with a buzzing high street, plenty of shops and some fine Georgian architecture.

Just ten miles from Land’s End, Penzance is surrounded by an area of Celtic culture and outstanding natural beauty. Majestic cliffs, rocky coves and crystal clear seas vie with the heather and gorse of the moors and early Christian and Bronze Age sites to form a landscape that supports a proud Cornish culture, and has long been a source of inspiration for artists and writers.

Where to Stay in Penzance

The Artist’s Residence is part of a collection of small boutique hotels with properties in Pimlico, Brighton, and Penzance.

Situated in a historic Georgian house in Penzance, The Artist’s Residence has 13 bedrooms and 4 apartments, each one quirkily decorated in a different, artistic style. The hotel has its own all-day restaurant & bar, The Cornish Barn on the ground floor, open also to members of the public.

There are different categories of double rooms at the hotel, we stayed in a "small arty double". This had a quirky, artistic décor, a comfortable double bed, wooden floors, as well as a writing desk with a selection of complimentary teas, coffee, biscuits and bottled water.

With plenty of natural light, the room was beautifully kitted out with modern pieces of furniture, a Roberts radio, funky prints on the wall and other vintage accessories. The en-suite bathroom was cleverly designed with open glass panels and a sliding door to maximize both space and natural light.

The Artist's Residence is ideally situated to explore Penzance, being on the most charming street in town, surrounded by historic pubs, restaurants and antique stores, and only a five-minute walk from the seafront. Free road parking is available about 100 metres away from the hotel, near the church and on the sea promenade.

Breakfast is served in The Cornish Barn, and all dishes are cooked to order, including a full English at £7.50. If you book directly via the website, breakfast is included in the room rate. We opted for the spinach and Cornish Blue cheese scrambled eggs on sourdough toast (£6.50), which was a very comforting breakfast dish.

The American style pancakes were light and fluffy, served with crispy smoked back bacon and maple syrup (£6), and I would love to have these again.

Our stay at The Artist’s Residence was short but sweet. The location is excellent, the rooms are quite well priced and the atmosphere is casual and convivial. I liked the light and airy rooms with quirky décor. I highly recommend The Artist’s Residence and The Cornish Barn as great places to stay and eat in Penzance. 

Where to Eat in Penzance

The Cornish Barn

The Cornish Barn is an informal bar & restaurant that was packed with a young and friendly crowd on the evening we visited.

Dinner is served as a series of small eats, with 6 dishes per couple being recommended. The menu is divided into sea, farm, field and sides, at prices ranging from £3 to £13.50. The restaurant’s sliders are among their most popular dishes, both for the fish and meat options.

The kitchen is headed by British Chef Gareth Spencer, who was at The Bake House (a modern British restaurant a little further up the road) until 2015.

We started our dinner with three fish options – the seared Middle Eastern hand-dived scallops (£9) were plump and beautifully spiced. They were served with a delicious tarator sauce (made of ground walnuts, garlic and tahini) and a lime relish.

The octopus (£9.50) was superbly tender, served with smoked chorizo, capers, and black wild rice. I loved the combination of seafood and pork, and the rice also added a creamy texture. The dish as a whole was bursting with flavour and very well seasoned.

Pan-fried hake, with parsley sauce and tempura mussels (£8.50) was also very good. I had not tried tempura mussels before, but they worked well, adding another layer of texture and flavour to the dish.

Moving on to meat dishes, we ordered the pressed pork belly (£11). Served with pickled cabbage and a sweet and spicy sauce, the pork was rich and unctuous.

Our waiter advised us that at least one slider was compulsory at The Cornish Barn. I did not need too much encouragement, and ordered the slider of barn burger, BBQ pulled pork, and chicken and avocado with crispy bacon and mayo (£11.50).

I was surprised by how generously sized the sliders were, nearly full-sized burgers. The beef patty was served medium rare, just right and as requested. The BBQ pulled pork had a rich sauce with a real kick of chilli heat, while the chicken, avocado and crispy bacon had crunchy and creamy textures.

To accompany our dishes, we ordered sides of cheesy chips (£3.50) and Mac 'n' Cheese (£5), The latter was well flavoured, although to my palate the pasta was a little overcooked.

For dessert, we shared a rum-infused crème brûlée with peanut brittle and banana ice cream (£6.50). This was very good – creamy, nutty, and I loved the banana ice cream. The Boozy affogato (£6.50), a mixture of ice cream and Kahlua liqueur, was a nice little number.

We shared a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet, Domain des Lauriers 2014, from Languedoc (£20), which was attractively steely and mineral-driven, and good value.

The Shore Restaurant

Just a 5 minute walk from The Artist’s Residence, The Shore Restaurant, run by chef-owner Bruce Rennie, offers a small menu based on the locally available fish of the day. He trained at a number of Michelin starred UK restaurants including Rick Stein's, as well as Martin Wishart's restaurant in Edinburgh.

He credits his wife (a vet in a local practice) with shaping his sensitivity to ethical sourcing and animal welfare, and serves fish from a number of local sustainable suppliers including the Wild Harbour Fish Company and Mousehole Fish. He bakes his own bread, churns the restaurant's butter, and even makes his own chocolates. 

We chose the ceviche of the day's catch (turbot and gurnard) (£7), served with yellow, green and red heirloom tomatoes and avocado, a little jug of delicately flavoured tomato water, and coriander cress.  This was delicious with very well textured, ultra-fresh fish, although I would have enjoyed a little more acidity.

The second starter featured turbot lightly cured in sugar and salt, served raw and thinly sliced with ginger, spring onions, garlic chips, wild garlic flowers and wasabi (£8). Served with little dots of leek chlorophyll, and ponzu sauce, this was delicate but full of freshness.

For mains, we had monkfish (£19), served with a Japanese nitsuke sauce, made from soy sauce, sake, mirin, sugar, and kombu dashi. Served with udon noodles, kale, shimeji mushrooms and shredded daikon, the monkfish had been wrapped in nori seawood, poached then cut into chunky medallions. This was an ambitious dish, using ingredients not often seen on Western restaurant menus.

Pan-fried hake was served with beetroots (red, candied and golden), and a beetroot risotto, garnished with shallots, tarragon oil, lemon zest oil and wild garlic (£16.50). The hake was beautifully golden and fresh, contrasting with the creamy, slightly sweet beetroot risotto.

To finish, we shared a Valrhona Dulcey chocolate cremeux of dark chocolate sorbet and peanut (£7). This was beautifully made and presented, and was a refreshing end to the meal.

We chose a bottle of Greco 'Giano' from Campania, Taburno Sannio 2014 (£29), with restrained green fruit and minerality. 

Travel Essentials

How to Get There

We drove from London, it was a 5 hour drive door to door. If you are taking the train, the nearest station is Penzance, which is a 10 minute walk away. The train to Penzance from Paddington takes around 5 hours. Newquay Airport is a 1 hour drive away. 

The Artist’s Residence & The Cornish Barn
20 Chapel Street
TR18 4AW

Double rooms cost from £85 per room per day. Please check the hotel’s website for current offers. The room rate also includes breakfast if booked directly with the hotel.

The Shore Restaurant
13-14 Alverton Street
TR18 2QP

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