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Newlyn Gem: The Tolcarne Inn

Sample some amazing local seafood at Ben Tunnicliffe's laidback Cornish pub (and one-time smuggler's haunt).

One of the things I love about Cornwall’s famous food scene is finding gems in unexpected places. The Tolcarne Inn is not exactly a local secret, regularly popping up in national and regional press and winning coveted foodie awards but I was still surprised today by how good the seafood is, being served up in this down-to-earth pub.

The kitchen is headed up by renowned Cornish chef Ben Tunnicliffe (who took over the Newlyn local with his family in 2012) and the menu makes the most of the amazing nearby fish market. Ben was awarded a Michelin star at his former Penzance eaterie, The Abbey Restaurant, which he held until moving on in 2008 and as well as The Tolcarne, he now runs a popular, seaside restaurant, over-looking beautiful Sennen Cove.

On the chalkboard today was a small and uncompromisingly fishy menu: four fish starters, four fish mains and a trio of amazing sounding desserts. Hake, salmon, ling, ray, mackerel and monkfish all starred but our highlight was the gurnard — with squid ink risotto, sprouting kale, fennel and pine nut dressing. The fish was crispy skinned and the risotto, packed with flavour.

We also tried the uniquely flavoured, juniper and vanilla cured salmon, tasty breaded monkfish with chilli jam and guacamole and a pan-roasted ray wing, with mussels, purple sprouting, new potatoes and pesto. We couldn’t squeeze in pudding but check out the picture below – needless to say I’ll be back to complete my research!

As a recent convert to Lushingtons Sunshine pale ale, I was excited to find this Skinners beer on draft, alongside St Austell’s Tribute and other local tipples, such as Polgoon ciders and Tarquin’s gin and pastis. Landlady Anne clearly chooses the wine carefully too, with a mix of tempting options on offer from Europe and the New World.

A firm fixture in Newlyn for generations, The Tolcarne was built in 1717 and to celebrate the Inn’s 300th birthday this year, the Tunnicliffes are collecting tales from its past. Once patronised by smugglers and painted by one of Cornwall’s most famous artists, Dod Proctor, an intriguing history is unravelling with the help of local residents and institutions. So if you have any stories to share, do pop in and let the family know or if you know nothing, just go and enjoy the great Newlyn seafood and a nice pint of Lushingtons.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: If you’re at home in a traditional pub and love fresh fish and seafood, you can’t go wrong at this cosy and welcoming, foodie local.

Not for: Anyone who’s not keen on fish – you get the theme here right? Veggie options are available on request but there were no meat dishes on offer when we visited. And if you like sea views with your seafood, Ben’s Sennen Cove restaurant might be better suited — at The Tolcarne you are right beside the sea but tucked behind the harbour wall.

££: Prices are about average for good quality pub food – starters from £6, mains from £11.50.

The Tolcarne Inn, Newlyn, Penzance, Cornwall TR18 5PR. Tel:01736 363074. Tolcarneinn.co.uk

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Cornwall