Fishing is Cornwall’s second biggest industry after tourism, so why not support both during your visit by tasting the very best locally caught and produced food from the sea. You’ll even discover a fascinating social history, one that has helped shape the people and places around our diverse coastline – and is still leading huge change in the 21st century.
Padstein and Prawn
Padstow is one of the county’s undisputed seafood centres, thanks in large part to Rick Stein who has been operating in the town since 1975. Currently running an empire including four restaurants, a fishmongers, a cooking school and several shops, the town is sometimes nicknamed Padstein.
One alternative to Stein’s fishy monopoly is Prawn on the Lawn (POTL) – currently running as ‘Prawn on the Farm’ to create more space outside for customers until October 2nd. The menu is packed full of local shellfish dishes cooked to perfection on a charcoal grill by owner Rick Toogood. POTL’s sister restaurant in London is well worth a visit too if you’re visiting the capitol, but the original catch-of-the-day experience is to be found here in Padstow.
No seafood lover should leave Padstow without trying its locally produced and grown lobster. One of the most delicious catches found in our waters, lobster is a valuable natural asset – but it’s also one of the most at risk.
Scandinavian and Mediterranean stocks have been farmed to collapse so the Cornish fishing industry has recognised the importance of farming lobsters sustainably. With this in mind, the National Lobster Hatchery at Padstow works with the fishing industry, rearing baby lobsters before releasing them into Cornish waters.
You can find out more about this important work at their fascinating visitors centre, where you can even adopt and track your own Padstow lobster.
Look out over the Camel estuary towards Rock and you can spot Porthilly oysters. For 30 years they have reared oysters from 7mm ‘seeds’ in cages secured to the seabed. The only grower in UK waters, they produce one million purified oysters each year, with much of their excellent produce (also including mussels and clams) sold in Padstow restaurants.
In these uncertain times for the UK fishing industry, the town of Newlyn in south-west Cornwall stands as a beacon of hope; a fine example of the county’s fishing legacy and its sustainable future. Newlyn has been a working harbour town since the 15th century when cries of ‘hevva, hevva’ could be heard echoing around the cliffs as the local huer (or crier) alerted fishermen to shoals of pilchard. In the 19th century the railway arrived allowing the town to export its wares across England, turning it into one of the most prosperous fishing economies in the UK.
The famous harbour remains at the heart of Cornwall’s fishing industry and continues to innovate. A new fish market serves the town’s 600 active fishing vessels, and award-winning seafood is served up at The Tolcarne Inn by chef, Ben Tunnicliffe. Visit during the annual Newlyn Fish Festival at the end of August to really get a sense of the importance and vibrancy of the town’s maritime culture.
Catch your own
To complete your ocean odyssey why not try and catch your own fish supper? You’ll find several crews offering fishing trips in our waters. In Padstow head to the harbour and look for the Emma Kate and moored on the pontoon in Rock you’ll find the Optimus Prime. You’ll almost certainly land some fine Cornish mackerel, and if you book a longer trip there’s pollack, cod, bream to be caught.