When the boat comes in. A Taste Of The New(lyn) Cornish Food Scene.

In and around Newlyn, restaurants are cool, creative and it’s now a food destination that has to be tasted to be believed. I take a trip to taste for myself.

Just past Penzance on the south coast of Cornwall, and about as far west as you can get before falling into the sea, sits pocket-sized Newlyn  home to one of the largest fishing fleets in the UK.

Small winding lanes, many impassable for cars, conceal the cutest cottages often still lived in by the fishermen and their families. Up the hill, larger houses enjoy panoramic views of the ever changing coastal comings and goings.


Once Newlyn was only food- famous for its Cornish Pasties, which are still delicious and home made at Aunty May’s, the place to score a proper steak pasty.

These are best eaten straight out of the bag, while sitting on the harbour wall swinging your legs, but the food scene has all changed recently with new and exciting restaurants popping up all the time.


‘It’s different down here,’ says Rich Adams who styles himself owner/sous chef, ‘but these days mostly fish sourcer!’ of Argoe, a restaurant that’s a stylish hut located on the harbourside, cosily nestled among the fishing boats.

‘Not so long ago all the amazing fish and seafood caught here went straight out in lorries to London and beyond, which was such a shame.’ Rich points out. ‘Now there are new restaurants here in the port and all around all doing great things with our local produce. After all, the best place to eat fish is always by the sea!’

Argoe is definitely one of those places. As the afternoon February sun beams down on Rich and his team as they make more simple restaurant tables and chairs (he once trained to be a cabinet maker), go behind the pass to see the most important part of this kitchen, the charcoal grill.

Here they cook very simply, ‘fish, salt, olive oil, top quality charcoal,’ says Rich. It’s cooking in the style of the Basque country, such as you’ll find at places like Elkano near San Sebastian whose grilled turbot ‘rodaballo’  is legendary. At Argoe they use instead Megrim Sole, an ugly local fish underappreciated by most as it’s so cheap. It is, however, very tasty.

That night in Argoe I find the sole is soled out, so instead I have superb locally caught hake three ways, griddled on the coals and served with Kokotxas, the hake’s throat, a gelatinous delicacy in Spain that’s often discarded here. 

Rich’s father runs a big fish wholesaler over the road from Argoe, and Rich tells me he goes over to his father’s place to take the unwanted Kokotxas for the restaurant, often trimming them out himself.

Kokotxas also feature as starters at Argoe, served with chilli and garlic, but we had Braised Cuttlefish and Fried Potatoes, the cuttlefish sweet and meltingly tender in a rich inky sauce.

Wines are natural, chosen by another new Newlyn place, Lovetts,  a tiny wine and coffee bar on Newlyn front ‘The Coombe’, serving a range of superb wines, and, as we found out, some rather good charcuterie as well. It’s a great place to make friends, as you’re so close together it’s impossible not to fall into conversation with other couples.

On ‘The Boat’

We had a couple’s retreat par excellence in Newlyn, The Blue Place, rented via Aspects Holidays, a marvellous converted old workshop a little way up the hill and a few minutes walk from the harbour.


Wooden, and so blue on the outside we could see it from the harbour, this quirky cosy place is cleverly ‘upside down’ so that the lounge and kitchen get the great views, as does the outside deck.

We took to calling it our ‘little boat’, as it felt so much like one, a cosy place to end the day’s exploring with snug underfloor heating and tight insulation. Fast wi-fi, and a TV that was internet enabled, took care of entertainment but really watching the harbour comings and goings was entertainment enough.

Downstairs was a comfortable bedroom with high quality linens, as well as a very smart bathroom with large walk in shower and lots of fluffy towels. Outside a pretty courtyard was just big enough to accomodate an average sized car, a very useful thing as parking in Newlyn is scarce. All in all, it was perfect.

The Blue Place also came with a wonderful welcome hamper of remarkable Cornish produce, including sea salt that we put to good use one night on brilliant takeaway haddock and chips bought from the legendary Lewis’s on the Coombe.

We’d heard from friends in Cornwall of another special place in Newlyn, the Mackerel Sky Cafe. “The queues are enormous, whenever we drive past’ said our friends.’ We don’t know what they’re selling, crack cocaine perhaps?, they joked.

‘The queues do get a  bit long,’ laughs chef Paul when I mention it to him when we meet before the day’s opening,’ we don’t do reservations and, as you can see, it’s a small place’.

It certainly is, although there are outside seats which, as I’d seen the night before, people seem happy to use even on a chilly February evening, the food is that good.

Mackerel Sky was opened in May 2015 by Nina and Jamie MacLean who’d previously wowed locals and tourists alike in Penzance. Like Argoe it keeps it simple, letting the fish do the talking.

‘We don’t have any freezers, only fridges,’ says Paul ‘the boats text us with what they’re coming in with and every day we prep fresh fish for our service 12 am until 9pm. We can also call up fresh fish anytime of day if we’re running low, after all the sheds are just across the road.’

‘If people are waiting too long,  and the queue is down the road, we send them to Lovetts to have a drink or recommend other restaurants in Newlyn, we all help each other out, we’re not rivals.’


‘Our dishes are small plates and the whole experience is not geared to lingering; get in and order a load of dishes, enjoy and move on. We also do takeaway, if you’re staying in Newlyn.’

That night we timed it right to get a seat and soon found ourselves oohing and aahing over plates  of Salt & pepper squid with aioli; tender perfectly fried squid seasoned just right, then some Grilled mackerel, pickled cucumber, horseradish – something of a signature dish – was redolent of the sea.

Finally grilled local white fish, samphire and capers. The fish also turned out to be hake that night, but we weren’t complaining. Hake is such a great fish that for some reason the British fail to appreciate fully. We washed it all down with St Ives Meor, a crisp IPA perfect for fish.

Good news is that Mackerel Sky will be expanding in time for the summer, taking over a small space next to Newlyn Cheese and Charcuterie, a wonderfully compact and aromatic artisan cheese shop with cheeses from all over the west county and France.

We ran out of time and couldn’t eat at The Tolcarne, which at ten years old is one of the more venerable ‘new’ restaurants in Newlyn, and one the most-respected, but I did get to speak to co-chef and owner Ben.

“We had been looking for a pub for some time,” he tells me. “It was a bit of a gamble at the time as Newlyn wasn’t on a ‘food map’ so to speak, but it had this raw appeal and I just thought – that’s where I want to be, I can make it work.”

“Simple dishes, which highlight excellent ingredients – that’s how Matt and I both like to cook. We spend more time removing components from dishes than adding them!”

At The Tolcarne you might find Spiced monkfish, hummus, fine beans, pomegranate molasses, dukkha on the lunch menu, and Hake, pancetta and fagioli bean stew, broad beans, salsa verde, pangrattato on at evening time. Hearty food that flits across borders, but is solidly built on Newlyn produce.

The boats keep coming in. The fish gets served. Newlyn is a food paradise, at the Land’s End.

Of course Newlyn is just the start, check out its antiques scene, the prestigious Newlyn Art Gallery, the remarkable fresh fish and shellfish at Trelawney Fish and Stevensons Fish, and  try the baked potato and crab at the timeless Ship Inn in beautiful, bijou, Mousehole just ten minutes away.

Top tip, take the bus because Mousehole has limited parking and is unsuitable for larger cars. You will lose at least one door mirror. Ask me how I know.

And further afield, and nothing is very far in this part of Cornwall, is Lands End itself, the rugged beauty of Zennor, the sands of Sennen and the remarkable grandeur of St Michael’s Mount clearly visible from Newlyn.


Oh and we have to mention the cafe at The Lizard, the southernmost point of the UK – lovely home made fruit cake, a dollop of clotted cream and a view of the rocks and waves to die for, if you don’t watch your step.

We stayed in one of Aspects Holidays Cottages, a Cornish company which began as a family business in 1989 and still feels like one. Their selection of quirky yet luxurious cottages is one of the best in Cornwall.

Barshu Soho, London. Review

Still hot, numbing and exploding with flavour. Barshu has not thrown the baby out with the bathwater with this new makeover.

One pm in Soho, Friday, on the corner of Frith Street. ‘Where is everybody?’ says H peeking out through the slats at Barshu and out into the road.

Where indeed?  Back in the day, pre-Covid, on a Friday lunchtime there would have been people everywhere in Soho – standing outside the pubs, packed into the restaurants or just moving purposefully about.

‘It’s not the same,’ she sighs, tweezering up a crispy piece of salt & pepper squid and popping it ruminatively into her mouth. ‘Nothing is the same’.

It’s true, even Barshu, where I’ve been eating on and off for over ten years, has had a makeover. It still feels the same though and the staff behind those fatuous paper masks still have the same cheerfulness of old. It’s just brighter and better now

And the food is still as good as ever, but now with extra dishes, and they’re still serving the kind of authentic Sichuan meat dishes that scare most non-Chinese half to death, including me.


Dishes such as  ‘Assorted meats in fiery sauce (duck blood, honeycomb beef tripe, beef tripe, pig’s intestine, luncheon pork, etc)” for example. I wish I had the bottle to try it.

The menu is new,big and glossy, clearly fresh from the printers, and full of high-quality photographs. It goes on for pages and pages and you can easily find yourself going back and forth forever. Just what to have?

Well a mix of old and new suited us for starters, that classic salt and pepper squid for example. Colourful, crispy and fresh,  all the dish lacked, for me, was more salt. Perhaps I was wrong about that, because I did end up drinking almost a gallon of Barshu’s excellent jasmine tea over the course of lunch.

Classic too was the sweetcorn soup, perhaps the first Chinese dish I ever ate when Chinese restaurants were still a novelty in the South London suburb where I grew up.

Back then I loved the strange glutinous texture of the soup and the egginess. I still do and Barshu, with the benefit of no doubt plenty of chicken bones for the stock, does an excellent version. Comforting and familiar, deeply flavoured

Unfamiliar can be good too though, and Sichuan pea jelly with chopped salted chillies was just that. Translucent green ‘logs slippery with fiery sauce. Handling them was like trying to pick up dropped shower soap with chopsticks, I finally resorted to fingers.

We liked the cool refreshing tones of the pea jelly against the chili, this would make a good vegan main with rice, depending on what’s used to solidify the jelly of course.

Sea bass has long been a Barshu staple, I had to have it but this time instead of the usual oven-roasted we had it in ‘soup’, Barshu calls it ‘boiled’ which rather undersells it.

We had Boiled Sea Bass fillet with chilis and Sichuan peppercorn, which was superb.

In the broth, semi submerged, was lots and lots of pure white seabass fillet lurking under environmental-disaster-sized slicks of fragrant oil. Slippery mushrooms and sweetly sour tomatoes evaded the spoon like playful dolphins, and everywhere bobbed the Sichuan peppercorn that makes this food so different from the largely Cantonese cooking of nearby Chinatown.

We ladled it over plain steamed Jasmine rice, because that broth was born to be absorbed and raved over our fish even as the peppercorn did its business on our lips. Why do we love the numbness and the citric shock of Sichuan? What alchemy makes it so addictive?


We didn’t need the Ma Po tofu, here given its less attractive name of ‘Pock-marked old woman’s beancurd’, but it was loaded with peppercorns and chili and was hard to resist, so we didn’t.

Barshu is not cheap, although you can always find plenty of well-priced dishes that deliver plenty of taste. Splashing out one of the sea bass dishes, which are easily shared is well worth it though. Go as a crowd and you can really dive into the menu.

Hopefully Soho will return to life and when it does Barshu will once again be one of its premier places to eat.

barshurestaurant.co.uk

28 Frith St, London W1D 5LF

When is a cow not a cow? When it’s a Txuleton

Before I begin, I assume none of you lovely readers are vegans or vegetarians? If so, you might want to stop reading now.

I myself eat meat, but not a lot. So, when I do eat it, I want something special.

Txuleton is that something special.Txuleton, or rib, steak usually comes from the Rubia Gallega cow.

It’s a cow from North West Spain that can be as old as 18 years before being turned into steaks.In the Basque country old dairy cows are used.

That is pretty old. I mean in the UK beef is usually slaughtered before the cow gets to three years.

Normally dairy cows past their milking prime are disposed of, but in the Basque country they are fattened up for eating.

So why are old cows so good?‘

Well’, says Sagardi Shoreditch’s meat selector Imanol Jaca, ‘it’s because mature muscle and fat tastes better and myoglobin in the muscles means a redder meat’.

Continue reading

Come for the food, stay for the footy

‘Who ate all the pies?’ Actually, it’s more a case of who ate the crab pannacotta and then the sea bass with salsify?  Nick finds his first football match to be a surprisingly tasty experience.

I have a confession to make; although I am an old geezer I have never been to a football match in my life. Until last Saturday.

My father was not remotely interested in football and my school played rugby. Ok, yah?  So, I was never going to be a football fan.

Plus, back in my teenage years, football was at its lowest point; mindless violence, both in and out of the stadiums, standing up in the cold for the whole ninety minutes and food that was barely worthy of the name. It really never appealed to me.

But, Watford FC’s, Hornets Hospitality, has  recently been awarded the highest accolade in Premier League hospitality. Continue reading

Fancy Crab Restaurant Review

92 Wigmore St, London W1U 3RD fancycrab.co.uk

It looks like a Doctor Who style monster in the wild, but once caught and cooked the Red King Crab is one of the finest eating crustaceans there is. Trouble is, it’s not cheap.

Once in Paris I was taken, fatally hungover and feeling like death, to a very expensive and traditional seafood restaurant.

I managed the Lobster Bisque okay, albeit with some heavy pauses, then things took a turn for the worst

The waiters began laying out enough tools around my plate to service a Formula One car, and then came the crab. A whole one, which I was expected to dismantle myself using the tools provided.

Ten seconds after cracking the shell, overcome by nausea I had torn my bib off and was out in the street disgracing myself into a hole dug by the electric company.

The point of this story is to point out, for those people that seem to have been a bit confused, that a King Crab is not the same as a crab and King Crab is the focus of what they serve here.

With a King Crab, you don’t fossick around in the body with surgical tools, carefully avoiding the ‘dead man’s’ fingers, looking for the brown meat. You don’t go near a King Crab’s body at all.

You’re just after the legs, which are enormous, and claws, which aren’t exactly small either. The meat is white and rich and close to lobster in both looks, taste and texture

So, basically don’t expect a Cromer crab shack experience at Fancy Crab, one where you emerge all smelly with crab juice. This is a far more refined experience, as befits the rather opulent and attractive interior.

And it is all about the Red King Crab which comes frozen from the frozen north, but don’t panic. It’s cooked in sea water and then frozen on the boats, so it’s as fresh as can be.

We approached the mains sideways via some shared appetisers. First guacamole served in a large stone mortar with a bowl of tortilla chips and a bottle of Tabasco on the side.

The guaca was made well; a mixture of smooth and chunky just as it should be. It may possibly have been actually made in the mortar, and not with a blender. I do hope so, I’m a romantic.

Popcorn Calamari with homemade tartar sauce had good squid squares, I always find rings a bit naff, as if they had come from a factory, and they are usually rubbery.

These squares were butter soft with a crispy coat, but the tartare sauce was not as gherkiny, capery or indeed as vinegary as it needed to be for contrast and cut through.  Still, not bad by any means.

And so we scuttled onward to mains pausing only to drink very good Broken Dream Stout,  from the Siren Craft Brewery. Absolutely delicious beer and perfect with seafood.

There are various ways to eat Red King Crab here, the purist way is King Crab Legs & Claws on ice or baked over charcoal. It’s priced by weight. It is very expensive.

Millennials though can enjoy king crab in a bun, because they do like things in buns. King Crab Burger made from king crab meat with Belkovich (??) sauce comes in a buttery brioche bun with a crab leg stuck where the cocktail stick should be, making it look very jaunty and, of course, prepped for Instagram.

Or there’s King Crab Leg Gratin – crab meat with béchamel sauce and cheese crust, or Red King Crab Pappardelle using squid ink pasta with a lobster bisque sauce.

We decided to share some pure leg and claw prepped over charcoal, as well as a dish of Singapore Chili Crab with rice.

The pure meat dish was not a lot of crab for the cash, but then again King Crab isn’t exactly scampi so you can’t expect to get a lot.

It was as good as I remember it from eating it in Norway ten years when I had fierce monsters dragged fresh from the Bering Sea.

As I say, it has the texture and some of the appearance of lobster, although it doesn’t get caught in your teeth as much, and is sublimely sweet. The smokiness of the charcoal was a big plus here

A tangle of pickled cabbage served with it was all that was needed; no fries please, this isn’t street food, and we politely offered each other equal shares of leg and claw.

The Singapore Chili Crab was loaded with fresh red chillies, but they turned out to be less Rottweiler and more Poodle in their aggression.

Normally this would have disappointed me, but in fact it was just as well as the crab meat was delicately flavoured and didn’t need to be savaged by chili. Overall it was actually a little too sweet for my taste, and while it didn’t need chili, a bit of salt might have been welcome.

Garlic and lime flavours came through smoothly and spring onions added a bit of fresh crunch. Talking of which, we didn’t come across any crab shell, something that all too often irritates me in crab dishes.

The rice was rather like Japanese sushi rice, round and not long, I would have preferred Thai Jasmine or simple Basmati.

Desserts are fairly standard, but come out looking very pretty. Mine was too sugary but apart from that it was okay. Nothing to crab about.

There aren’t that many places that do King Crab in London and that’s a shame because it is a very special crustacean which for me, and many others, knocks the claws off of lobster.

Here they have got servicing it down to a fine art, and you don’t have to be rich. Set menus and brunches give everyone the chance to get their pincers on some royalty at a decent price.

This review appears on www.foodepedia.co.uk

Romulo Cafe Restaurant Review

343 Kensington High Street London, W8 6NW www.romulocafe.co.uk

How often have you heard someone say, ‘I know, let’s go out for a Filipino? Probably about as often as you’ve heard someone say ‘I fancy a bit of German food tonight.’

Filipino food is, let’s be honest, not a cuisine that has had much exposure. You’re more likely to find a chef from the Ukraine on Saturday Kitchen than one from the Philippines.

So Romulo Cafe is intriguing.  It’s a branch of a small group, there’s also a Romulo Café in Quezon City, Makati and Alabang in the Philippines.

Located in a rather unprepossessing part of West Ken, next to one of those all-night grocers that has everything anyone from any culture could ever want, it’s actually a lot nicer inside than you might expect. Cosy, even. Continue reading

Going On An Extraordinary Odyssey

Out of my postcode, I go out of this world with The Grand Expedition by the Gingerliners. 

The text message came through at 4pm, as promised, with instructions to go by 7pm to a certain station on the Victoria line with directions to a nearby venue.

Three hours later we are somewhat apprehensively emerging out of an unfamiliar station into an unfamiliar postcode. Here be dragons?

The directions are simple enough. With other travellers, clearly on the same adventure as us, we form up as a squad and chat and compare Google maps to make sure we are on the right track.

Shortly after we are outside the venue, which is not very impressive but rather thrilling. Dark and dingy it seems more a place for a dodgy deal, or to meet a Russian secret agent for a Novichok cocktail. Continue reading

Farzi Cafe London

8 Haymarket, London SW1Y 4BP www.farzilondon.com

They apparently spent £4 million doing this place up, but Nick feels they really needn’t have bothered as the food sells itself

Four million quid?  It’s easy to see where £250,000 of it might have gone – the fancy bar, the metal room dividers, the tables and chairs – but £4 million?

It’s like when the Met police say it cost them XX million to police a small demonstration, you’d think someone in charge really should ask to see the receipts.

Still, whatever, it’s definitely an opulent space at Farzi Cafe which is in that stretch of Haymarket where both high and low restaurants vie for their share of theatre-goers’ dinner money.

It’s part of the empire of Indian MasterChef judge Zorowar Kalra, who began in India in 2014 and now has around ten Farzi locations there, as well as one in Dubai. Continue reading

Restaurant Interlude, Leonardslee Gardens, Horsham

Nick leaves the protective embrace of the M25 to find fine and fun dining alive and well far from the madding crowd.

Reading the London-centric restaurant reviews in the big papers you’d think there was nothing much going on outside Zone Five.

Apart from, of course, on those occasions when the writers have been on holiday, at their second homes or visiting relations, and so have reviewed any half decent local place so as to get their travel costs back on expenses.

You might also think fine dining/tasting menus had all but disappeared in favour of things bunged in a fire or pickled in a jar.

Londoners, well at least the younger ones at least, can be a bit snotty about tasting menus. I think it’s a subliminal fear of cutlery and napkins, as well the potential horror of eating just as a couple with no sharing plates or long tables to distract you, only the ‘phone. Continue reading

Doing Breakfast At Market Halls Victoria

Looking for somewhere to grab a breakfast in Victoria, Market Halls now has plenty to tempt you. I got out of bed and got in.

The last time I went to the building that is now Market Halls Victoria, it must have been around 2004 it was the club Pacha.It was a place to be seen back then, a classy club so close to the bus stands at Victoria that the smell of diesel fumes vied with the Paco Rabanne.

Well look at it now, it’s a fancy food hall and part of the Market Halls group. Daylight, which never dared intrude at Pacha, floods onto the first floor from a massive glass roof. Up there are more food outlets not open until lunch. Continue reading