Malmo and Moss Eats: Cornish Coastal Cafe Guide

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.

I chose the Cafe & Haven over Church and the Coastal Path (sorry God)

I chose the Cafe & Haven over Church and the Coastal Path (sorry God)

Gorgeously brooding coastline

Gorgeously brooding coastline

Don't look down!

Don't look down!

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. 

Can just imagine Tom in a cable knit jumper looking all brooding in this doorway

Can just imagine Tom in a cable knit jumper looking all brooding in this doorway

I loved the flag stone floors, whitewashed walls and ercol style chairs.

I loved the flag stone floors, whitewashed walls and ercol style chairs.

A coachload of pensioners had cleared out the plain scones before we arrived

A coachload of pensioners had cleared out the plain scones before we arrived

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.

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I loved the use of mustard tones to bring the coastal decor bang up to date.

I loved the use of mustard tones to bring the coastal decor bang up to date.

Apologies for the pic of a random man. I was willing him to go to the loo so I could take better pic but he seemed to have an iron bladder.

Apologies for the pic of a random man. I was willing him to go to the loo so I could take better pic but he seemed to have an iron bladder.

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.

Rather more stylish than the average Lonely Planet!

Rather more stylish than the average Lonely Planet!

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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.

Malmo & Moss Diary: Camel Toe on the Camel Trail

Camel Toe on the Camel Trail

When I was 18, I cycled the Camel Trail with my ex boyfriend who liked mountain biking, bodybuilding, pimping his Fiat Punto and listening to hard house dance music.  As somebody who enjoyed none of those pursuits, it was fair to say that we were fairly ill matched as a couple.  The kind of bike I enjoyed riding had a basket and I didn’t really like going round corners on it, let alone down bumpy hills.  My abiding memory of the excursion was not the stunning scenery but of riding along thinking “fuck off cocklord” as he shouted at me to cycle faster.  I was not, therefore, in any particular hurry to revisit the Camel Trail.  Given I am married to a man who is about as enthusiastic about cycling as most men are about catching chlamydia, I thought it was a pretty safe bet that I would not have to.  However, we have a six-year-old son who loves his bike and can now read pretty darn well. So when we went to Padstow for fish and chips and he spotted a leaflet about hiring bikes to cycle down the Camel Trail, I knew the jig was up.

These pretty aquamarine numbers were sadly not our bikes, which of the more "practical" variety

These pretty aquamarine numbers were sadly not our bikes, which of the more "practical" variety

The first challenge was working out the permeation of bikes that would enable one cycle mad six year old, two not especially competent adult cyclists, one not yet cycling four year old and a baby to make it from Padstow to Wadebridge and back.  The answer was one kids' bike, one adult bike with a baby seat and one adult bike with a ride on attachment for the four year old that made it look like a cross between a penny farthing and a tandem. Sleek streamlined peleton we were not.  The second challenge was finding a cycle helmet that would fit my abnormally large head.  It doesn’t look that big to the naked eye, but when you start trying to put a helmet on it quickly turns out to be the size of an enormous pumpkin.

Exhibit A: Cycle Helmet perched atop my Mahooosive Head!

Exhibit A: Cycle Helmet perched atop my Mahooosive Head!

Having finally found something to accommodate Pumpkin Head, we popped the baby on the back of my bike to which he reacted about as calmly as a death row prisoner being invited to take a seat in an electric chair.  Hoping he would like it more once we got moving, we set off down the trail. Within 200m, it became quickly apparent that my ears were not the only thing that were going to be aching by the end of the ride. The Berlin Wall was still standing the last time I wore a pair of cycling shorts so when getting dressed that morning I had gone with the next best thing: a pair of denim dungarees.  However, it turns out that the reason Laura Trott does not wear dungarees for a lap of the velodrome is that they give you an acute case of camel toe on a bike.  

Cheer up darling, it could be worse; you could have flange ache like Mummy

Cheer up darling, it could be worse; you could have flange ache like Mummy

Camel Trail
Camel Trail

With a bad case of flange ache developing and the baby still howling like a hyena, my six year old very sweetly rode alongside us to try and distract his baby brother from his two-wheeled misery.  Unfortunately, he tried to do so by holding his hand which caused his front wheel to get caught in our back wheel and him to go flying over his handle bars. Only 10 minutes into the ride and with three out of five of us now howling in agony, we decided to stop for a break.  Luckily this being Cornwall you are never more than 50m away from some kind of product containing clotted cream, so we were able to refuel and regain our equilibrium with a quick artery clogging snack of fudge from a beside the road bicycle snack stall.  

Clotted Cream Ahoy!

Clotted Cream Ahoy!

Can't imagine why Team GB are not whizzing round the Velodrome in this get up which Mr Malmo described as CND Protestor meets Mike and the Mechanics

Can't imagine why Team GB are not whizzing round the Velodrome in this get up which Mr Malmo described as CND Protestor meets Mike and the Mechanics

With the baby having downgraded his protests from completely furious to just occasionally grumpy and the injection of clotted cream having taken my mind off my front wedgie, I started to actually enjoy the ride.  The trail is an old railway track that runs alongside the river so there is no need to worry about bumping into cars and the scenery is genuinely lovely with lots of little boats bobbing in the estuary and plenty of lush greenery shading the path.  Our four year old loved being on the tag-a-long on the back of his dad's bike and before we knew it we had made it to Wadebridge, our halfway point.  It is definitely not your picture postcard Cornish village but it has lots of quirky shops and an independent feel to it that makes it a bit like a Cornish Camden!   

Camel Trail
Camel Trail
Camel Trail
Padstow

Bradley Wiggins could probably have cycled from Lands End to John O Groats in the time it took us to get back to Padstow but then again Bradley doesn't have to keep hopping off his bike every 3 minutes to retrieve a dummy.  But we made it in the end and would definitely recommend it for a fun family day out.  Just make sure you pack clothing that has a higher lycra than denim content.

Want to try it too?

We hired our bikes from Padstow Cycle Hire and it worked out at about £55 for a half day.  Obviously will be cheaper as a family day out if you have a more sensible number of children than us.  We were able to just turn up and hire them on the day although in height of summer may be sensible to book in advance.  There are also several cycle hire places in Wadebridge such as Bridge Bike Hire should you want to do the trail the other way round.

Malmo & Moss Sleeps: The Sheepshed, North Cornwall

Our week in the Sheepshed on the North Cornwall Coast

When our Easter holiday plans fell through just a week before we were due to set off, I didn't have very high hopes of finding a replacement or at least not one that wasn't a condemned caravan in Rhyll.  But just as I was punching North Wales into the Sat Nav and setting off to buy some Calor Gas, a desperate last ditch phone call to the holiday company Forever Cornwall paid off.  They had a property available and a pretty amazing one at that: an eco friendly conversion of an old farm building set in a small hamlet located just inland from the stunning coastline of Bedruthan Steps. Judith Chalmers clearly had my back. We arrived on a gloriously sunny evening after a journey that had involved listening to a Basketful of Kipper more times than is advisable for anyone wishing to hold onto to their sanity and stepped out of a sweaty Audi estate and into the Cornish holiday home of my dreams.  In that fantasy I can wear a wetsuit without looking like a garden slug, have hair that doesn't look like I borrowed it from Adam Ant in coastal conditions and can swim in the sea without my unusual breaststroke style causing the RNLI to launch a lifeboat. 

Significant upgrade on that condemned caravan.

Significant upgrade on that condemned caravan.

The Sheepshed

About the house

The Sheepshed has been converted from old agricultural barns by the TV architect Charlie Luxton (think a more surfy version of Kevin McCloud) and his simple design superbly maximises its location in an area of outstanding natural beauty.  A series of huge picture windows make the most of stunning views of the garden and the fields beyond. We got a bit competitive about who could take the best sunset pic (we have 3 kids, this is how we get our kicks these days...). The kids were naturally more captivated by the massive internet enabled TV that allowed access to Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Mr Malmo's sunset picture efforts

Mr Malmo's sunset picture efforts

Think we can agree mine takes the prize right?!

Think we can agree mine takes the prize right?!

The interiors

Inside there is not an anchor, seashell or nautical stripe in sight, The muted interiors draw heavily on natural materials and the palette of inky blues, mint greens and soft greys have a calming Nordic edge to them.  I was going to describe the style as a Nordic Pine but realise that sounds a bit too much like a fragrance of toilet duck or a car air freshener.  Everything has been kept deliberately simple to avoid taking away from the views and it works to great effect. 

The Sheepshed
The Sheepshed
The Sheepshed

If I had any criticism at all (without sounding like the person on trip advisor who claims that a chipped toilet roll holder ruined their £10,000 holiday) it would be that the lighting in the living room is perhaps a little bit on the stark side. Even my husband (who can usually be relied upon to mock my penchant for "soft lighting") agreed that the two lighting modes on offer were basically "interrogation room" or "dentists chair".  But that is a very minor quibble and to be honest I could quite happily have just turned all the lights off and just watched the sunset most nights.

The ombre curtains had me wondering whether I could dip dye mine when I got home.

The ombre curtains had me wondering whether I could dip dye mine when I got home.

The Sheepshed
The Sheepshed

The Local Area

Within 15 minutes drive of the Sheepshed are the beaches at Bedruthan Steps and Porthcothan.  We loved both for different reasons.  Bedruthan Steps is a big, dramatic beach that could easily be mistaken for a slice of coastline on the Great Ocean Road in Australia.  If, like mine, your kids are the type that enjoy testing the robustness of your pelvic floor by scaling big rocks this is the beach for them as there are both lots of rocks (big and small) to climb and caves to explore.  There is a National Trust Cafe at the top of the cliff that looks and smells a bit like Dot Cotton's front room but which serves up great bacon baps and cream teas with an option for eating outside.

Bedruthan Steps beach.

Bedruthan Steps beach.

Rocks galore

Rocks galore

Mr Malmo loves a good spray shot.

Mr Malmo loves a good spray shot.

Porthcothan is an altogether different type of a beach and, although it lacks the intial wow factor of Bedruthan, was our favourite.  The first plus point in its favour is that you can walk straight onto it whereas Bedruthan requires you to navigate down 100+ steps.  With a buggy in tow, this can feel like you are unwittingly taking part in the type of physical challenge Royal Marines undertake to earn their green beret.

Porthcothan Bay

Despite the easier access, most days we practically had it to ourselves and it's large flat expanse of sand was perfect for playing football and cricket on.

Porthcothan Beach
Porthcothan Beach

It also has lots of great nooks and crannies carved from the cliffs to explore. 

Porthcothan Beach

Although the thing the boys enjoyed the most was playing cops and robbers in the sand dunes fronting on to the beach.  

Porthcothan Beach

Fresh from pretending to abduct the kids and lock them in "jail", we would pile into the beach cafe, Porthcothan Bay Stores, which is tucked just behind the dunes and stocks all sorts of lovely Cornish treats (like sausages rolls from the Chough Bakery and Roskillys Icecream) with interiors that are a lot less like Dot Cotton's front room.  You can even order a flat white without someone laughing at you.

Porthcothan Bay Stores

How do I book?

We came home with grand (and completely unfunded plans) to buy the near derelict old chapel just across the road, renovate it and move down there lock, stock and barrel. The slightly more affordable way to get back to this slice of heaven more quickly is to book it through  Forever Cornwall.  It is available to rent on its own or with the neighbouring, larger Sheepfold. Race you down there?