Beaching and Eating Our Way Around Cornwall
"What are your hobbies" was one of my least favourite graduate job application questions to answer. Having spent the preceding 3 years as a student, the truthful answer was: bellowing along to Britney/S Club 7/Steps whilst dancing on sofas in the union bar, discovering that when you mix Baileys and Sambuca in a shot it creates a drink akin to vomit suspended in petrol and speculating with my mates about which of our law lecturers might have the biggest dick. None of the above are obviously application form appropriate, so the extracurricular activities I listed instead were: President and Founder of the University Parachute Society (this was true although we never made it out of the union let alone out of a plane) and long distance running (I did the 5 mile Junior Great North Run twice and my unusual running style caused a spectator to comment that "the poor lass looks like she needs a poo."). Now in my thirties with 3 kids, I don't tend to get asked this question in interviews anymore. Probably because people assume (correctly) that my pastimes would mainly include wiping bums, trying to stop the baby ingesting lego and/or poo from the toilet brush and/or the cat's food (3 of his favourite snacks) and researching ways to remove smeared banana from my crotch so that it doesn't constantly look like I have an aggressive case of thrush. However, on the rare occasion when I don't have a wet wipe in my hand, one of my favourite things to do is head to the beach. A beach with a nice cafe nearby is pretty much my idea of heaven. Our recent trip to Cornwall offered several opportunities to develop this hobby further. Here were a few of my favourite finds for any fellow beach/cafe/beach+cafe enthusiasts.
Tintagel and the English Heritage Beach Cafe
75% of our holiday arguments are caused by my husband trying to park at least 5 miles away from the place we are actually trying to visit. If we were visiting Paris he would want to park in Cannes. So when we drove into Tintagel and he attempted to prematurely spunk his parking load on a patch of hard standing near some fields, a tense stand off ensued. Gallingly for me, it turned out that for once we were actually at the closest car park so I had to spit out an apology on our way down to the castle, beach and cafe. However, it is hard to hold on to petty parking gripes for long when you are looking at this kind of scenery.
There is a beach at Tintagel but, in truth, it is not really the star of the show. Nobody puts a 12th Century Castle where King Arthur was allegedly conceived in the corner. Exploring the ruins of that castle and trying to work out where the royal romping happened affords you stunning views of the windswept coastline. When you are done with the jaw dropping scenery with a side helping of history, it would seem that someone at English Heritage got the modern rustic memo when it came to refurbishing the cafe. It is like stepping inside a crofters cottage if Tom Ford had taken up crofting. It is a stylish mix of white washed walls, flagstone floors, ercol chairs, on trend distressed wood cladding, copper lighting and black and white photography. On a cold windy day you can warm up with a tea and scone inside and on a gloriously sunny day like the one when we visited, grab an icecream and soak up the sun and the views on a picnic table outside.
Watergate Bay and The Beach Hut, Zacry's and Fifteen
Watergate Bay was about 15 minutes around the coast from where we were staying at The Sheepshed and is both a mecca for surfers and well heeled holiday makers called Rufus. I can't claim it is an undiscovered spot by any stretch of the imagination but for a DFL like myself, the expansive beach and contemporary coastal stylings of the Watergate Bay Hotel were manna from heaven. When we last visited this part of Cornwall, the owners of the hotel had only just started to redevelop it from its previous incarnation as a slightly tired old family hotel.
The hotel has also taken over and revamped the old Beach Cafe which is now called the Beach Hut and boasts stylish interiors that I would describe as Coastal Industrial Rustic Luxe! There are cosy corners with banquettes, long wooden tables and a menu they describe as "contemporary British Seaside" which in practice means a mix of burgers, seafood and pasta.
There is lots to like about the hotel itself, it is smart without being stuffy and the interiors are coastal without feeling at all nautical cliche. You can eat either in the bar bit (called the Living Space) which has the show stopping views over the sea, or, in the slightly more upscale Zacry's. If you have kids I would say go with the Living Space as we ate in Zacry's and it doesn't have a kids menu which meant a lot of time scouring the menu for something that wouldn't have butternut squash or spinach or similar incendiary ingredients in it (hats off to you if your kids eat those things without resembling John McEnroe when a line call hasn't gone his way). The benefit of eating in Zacrys is, however, that it has a very cool chevron floor that makes great #Ihavethisthingwithfloors fodder. I didn't manage to get a very decent pic of it though as my 1 year old had caught sight of a nice big staircase in the lobby on the way in and spent the entire meal trying to escape the table to make an attempt at scaling Stair Everest.
I would love to come back and stay here some day as it is really well set up for families with an infinity swimming pool, kids club and plenty of other activities on offer. To be honest I was kind of wishing I could trade places with Max (age 8) who was there on an all expenses paid free trip with his mum and dad. Whilst I was supervising baby Ranulph Fiennes I overheard Max being told off for not being" a good friend" to his dad by refusing to go to bed thus impinging on the time that Dad could spend in the bar drinking free Champagne. Not cool Max, not cool. Unfortunately, in the absence of someone offering me an all expenses paid trip, I had to settle for a buying a couple of nice cups and this Cornwall guide from the mini shop in the Hotel lobby. Luckily the stunning views on the drive home were free.
Porthcothan and the Portcothan Stores
Porthcothan beach was the closest to the Sheepshed where we were staying and is much more low-key than some of the bigger ritzier beaches like Watergate Bay. I would like to say it is my undiscovered gem, but I think, in truth, the weather on the days we visited was just a bit shit and therefore most sane people were probably just somewhere indoors with a hot chocolate rather than freezing their tits off playing cricket and cops and robbers on the beach like us. It is a lovely little beach backed by sand dunes in a small hamlet of houses that is not at all touristy. The only shop is the Porthcothan Bay Store which is also a cafe and was taken over in 2016 by a young, bouncy and enthusiastic couple called Barney and Emma. It has a good mix of things you need (like deodrant and calpol) along with a very tempting things that your waistline really doesn't need but which you can wear elasticated pants on holiday and eat anyway. So we had very un-Deliciously Ella lunches of Chough Bakery Sausage Rolls and Monster Munch crisps washed down with decent coffee and Cornish tea before embarking on chasers of Roskillys icecream. There is also a little annex that sells everything that we land locked Londoners always forget to bring to the beach like windbreaks, buckets, spades, balls, beach mats and the like.
Godrevy and The Hut
Godrevy beach is located at the bottom of the North Cornwall Coast around the corner from St Ives. I have never been to Cape Cod but something about Godrevy made me think of massechutes (if you are looking for a new drinking game, try and get someone to spell Masscetchutes and makes them take a shot everytime they get it wrong. I tried 11 different combinations before I gave up and spell checked it!). It has huge sweeping wide flat beaches which are then bordered by rocky outreaches beyond which there is a lighthouse. Our kids loved going exploring across the rocks and looking for creatures in the many rockpools. There is also a really great cafe for when you are done with your Martha's Vineyard fantasy. It is a bit like I suspect the Hidden Hut on Rosevine beach was 7 years ago. Before, that is, it became a siren call for all middle class people on holiday in Cornwall meaning you now have to queue up for at least 45 mins to get your fix of artisan bread. Although obvs come August I will be up there with my Observer Reading elbows at the ready ready to fight for the last falafel, Godrevy offers same great food with a bit less fanfare. I would love to go back and go to one of their feast evenings this Summer.
So there you have it, my favourite places to inhale clotted cream and look out to sea. Will be heading back to Cornwall this week with my elasticated waist trousers ready to bring you more coastal cafe classics.