Friday, 19 July 2013

Flo's Weekender: To The Lighthouse

A couple of weeks ago I booked a last minute break in St Ives. It is a long way from London but I was able to do the bulk of the travelling early enough on Friday to have a nice evening wander and meal before the weekend began. We actually stayed a five minute train ride away from St Ives, in Carbis Bay where the beaches are beautiful and good degree emptier than those in St Ives. Our hotel was comfortable enough but not one I would really recommend, since there were few options by the time we booked and we saw much more picturesque accommodation on our way.

St Ives was as charming and twee as ever but a lot more crowded than when I last visited many years ago for a New Year's Eve party. The sea gulls have also developed an aggressive appetite for ice cream and regularly swoop down to opportunely swipe the whole thing, cone and all from unsuspecting tourists. That aside the sea, sand, cliffs and wildlife were wonderful!

After I returned from my trip I realised that big sister Elle had also been to St Ives and reviewed it here. I knew she had been to the Cornish Coast but I hadn't realised quite how much our trips had overlapped. I wrote my review without having looked at hers and it is funny how we reach exactly the same conclusions, especially with regard to Porthmeor Beach Cafe, which was the best meal we had too.

Over the two days our food was pretty hit and miss, we started off well at Blas Burger. Not your typical seaside meal, this new burger joint serves absolutely scrumptious burgers with exciting toppings such as truffle mayonnaise, mushroom and spinach. Their chips and aioli were also perfection with just the right degree of outside crisp and inside fluffiness, and with a good level of heat retention too.

The next day we went to their sister restaurant, the Halsetown Inn, which is a lovely half hour countryside walk away  from St Ives. It grieves me to say that the food was pretty ill-conceived at times, although the owner was so friendly that it almost didn't matter. The crab salad however was nicely meaty and rich with a good measure of brown meat in it (though obviously not as good as yours truly's, recipe here). There was also a good selection of ciders and ales, so it is still worth taking a nice walk there, passing through enchanted looking fields of white horses and a cosy little village.

Luckily before we left for the Inn we had already eaten well. We wanted to sample the infamous Beck's fish and chips right by our hotel in Carbis bay so shared what can only be described as a massive 'small' portion of fish and chips. We went for the haddock and it was gloriously fresh out of the ocean with succulent flakes of soft white meat.

For dinner we went to Sea Food Cafe which was booked out until 9pm  and had been recommended to us. We had the skate wing in caper and burnt butter sauce, a favourite of mine but it turned out pretty badly. I would definitely give this place the benefit of the doubt and say they had a momentary slip since the service was excellent and it is clearly very popular. We topped off the day with cream tea at The Tea Room which was really, really good and served Tregothnan tea grown in Cornwall. So delicious I had to buy some tea and scones to take home! 

The Tea room is on the harbour, 100 metres down from the Sloop, a legendary smuggler's pub which despite its tourism credentials continues to host a crowd of what sounded like locals and sell good cheap Cornish brew! We finished the evening there, watching the sun set.

The day was spent walking along the coast and in the Barbara Hepworth sculpture garden (free entry with Tate members card, ka-ching!) It is a really lovely place to visit and see a lot of her work together. I particularly love the smoothed wooden sculptures she makes, full of holes at perpendicular angles like hag stones.

This was complemented the next day at the Tate in St Ives where there is a currently a Barbara Hepworth and room with a panoramic sea view behind it. 

After that we ventured up the cliffs and played mini golf for the bargain price of £2.50 each (straight along the coast, left out of the Tate.) Despite my embarrassing lack of finesse it was a good laugh and had such an incredible view that neither of us cared if the other spent ages trying to find their ball again in a ditch!

We finished off our time with a celebratory meal at the Porthmeor Beach Cafe where we had the best food yet, namely a spectacularly well thought out battered monk fish fillet with a caramel, minty pineapple salad. This was one of those dishes where you just have to eat it to understand its glory. Other than that we had a fish burger - a lightly battered fish fillet in a burger with delicious homemade tartare sauce, an aubergine, pomegranate, basil and saffron yoghurt salad, Harissa mackerel and chips. Lots of deep frying but all delicious. The restaurant itself has the ideal view and lovely cool alcoves where you can escape from the heat. 

I never actually made it to the lighthouse, despite my love of Woolf!