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Savouring St Ives: The best places to eat and drink in the picturesque Cornwall seaside town

·5-min read
Until now, the culinary scene has catered mostly to the school holiday crowd (Getty/iStock)
Until now, the culinary scene has catered mostly to the school holiday crowd (Getty/iStock)

Characterised by its multitude of paradisiacal beaches, quaint fisherman’s houses that seem stacked atop each other, and fiercely audacious seagulls, St Ives has long drawn the thronging masses to its golden shores. Popular with the school holiday crowd, its culinary scene, up until recently, has catered to this – awash with old-school fish and chippies, harbourfront Italian joints and classic beachside restaurants that serve seafood and capitalise off their exquisite views.

In the past few years, however, there has been change afoot. The town still attracts families juggling candy-striped umbrellas and garish windbreaks, but there has been a number of hospitality venues quietly establishing their presence, catering to those for whom a holiday is just as much about eating and drinking well as it is spending hours laying on one of the town’s many beaches. Now, a visit to St Ives could rival many of Cornwall’s famed gastronomic destinations, validating itself as a foodie stronghold. Here, we round up our pick of the town’s best spots to eat, drink and be merry.

West

West occupies one of the most jaw-dropping spots in town (Molly Codyre)
West occupies one of the most jaw-dropping spots in town (Molly Codyre)

Found at the far end of Porthmeor Beach in a former changing block, West occupies one of the most jaw-dropping spots in town (and, arguably, the country). Not content to simply capitalise off its unbelievable views, the restaurant and pizzeria (and cafe, until recently) also serves up incredible food.

Upstairs at the Fish Pods, you’ll dine on an ever-changing menu of seafood-oriented small plates that can feature anything from smoked seafood tacos drizzled with a jungle curry mayo, to miso tempura aubergine with a kimchi dressing.

Downstairs, things are a little more laid back, with a pizza-focused menu that lets you dine in or takeaway to make the most of your time on the sand.

Harbour View House

If visiting on a Friday, book a supper club for a dinner of dreams (Molly Codyre)
If visiting on a Friday, book a supper club for a dinner of dreams (Molly Codyre)

If you’re looking for somewhere to sleep, Harbour View House is your place. Never fear, though, if they’re booked out or you’re opting to stay elsewhere, the hotel also does a cracking breakfast and evening tapas menu. The former is simple yet inventive, offering either eat-in or takeaway through their coffee hatch. The latter makes for a memorable dinner.

Chef Coco Fruzza has curated a seafood-heavy menu of snacks and small plates that is accompanied by a short but sweet drinks list and joyous service courtesy of owners Ant and Georgia.

In town on a Friday? Book in for one of their supper clubs for a set menu dinner of dreams.

Little Palais

Little Palais is the kind of place you’d be rapt to stumble upon by chance. Hidden in the cobbled back streets of St Ives, far from the maddening crowds on the harbour front, the 10-cover watering hole epitomises everything you could want from a wine bar.

Everything you could want from a wine bar (Molly Codyre)
Everything you could want from a wine bar (Molly Codyre)

Owners Rich and Jess are infectiously passionate about what they do, and a stop-off for a glass could end with you staying for hours, dining on their delicious snack menu and soaking up their inimitable knowledge of both the wines they stock and their menu inventions – for example, Rich had the genius idea to infuse gin with beeswax, while Jess created a fig leaf infusion that resulted in one of the best ice creams I’ve eaten in a long time.

If the tables are full, grab a bottle to takeaway and head down to the beachfront.

The Searoom

Operated by the team behind St Ives Gin, my partner and I have nicknamed this spot “The Gin Bar”, as no trip is complete without one of their blood orange gin and tonics.

The label is well earned – the range of gin drinks are reason alone to visit. However, the accompanying food menu offers up Mediterranean-inspired plates that perfectly complement the harbourside setting.

If you manage to nab one of their outside tables, you’re in for a treat.

Balcony Bar

The ideal place to retire after a long day at the beach (Molly Codyre)
The ideal place to retire after a long day at the beach (Molly Codyre)

Set above the harbourfront, Balcony Bar is the ideal place to retire with a crisp pint after a big day at the beach. With a few great brews on tap, the bar offers a food menu that is laidback yet perfect for its locale.

The tacos were so good we went back multiple times for more (two fish, one prawn for me, please!) and the burgers are juicy and sauce laden – everything you could want to punctuate a holiday evening. Best of all, they only take walk-ins.

The Mermaid Seafood Restaurant

This St Ives classic has been a stalwart for many years and more than holds its own among the new crop of eateries opening up around the town. The menu is rustic yet sophisticated and timeless in a way that only very specific places can achieve. The kind of restaurant I imagine diners have been frequenting for decades, it makes for a truly joyous evening.

A rustic yet sophisticated menu (Molly Codyre)
A rustic yet sophisticated menu (Molly Codyre)

If you can’t get a reservation, don’t stress, their £10 takeaway paella and beer deal may prove to be one of the best meals of your holiday regardless – I recommend eating it on the seawall at Porthgwidden Beach.

St Ives Bakery

You only need to consult a menu at any restaurant or cafe in town to know that St Ives Bakery produces the best sourdough this side of Greater London. Pop by to grab a loaf and leave with a couple of treats for the road as well.

The pastel de natas and cronuts make for an indulgent start to the day, while there can be no more quintessentially Cornish lunch than a classic pasty – theirs are some of the best in the area.

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