What to eat and drink when you’re in Cornwall

What to eat and drink when you’re in Cornwall

by Great British Chefs 7 December 2015

England’s most westerly county is famous for its food, from hearty Cornish pasties to creamy, mature cheddar. Learn what specialities you should be seeking out when you’re in this beautiful part of the world so you can stock up on supplies to take back home.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

Cornwall has always been fiercely proud of its identity. It almost feels like a different country to the rest of England, with its breathtaking landscapes, sleepy market towns and historic harbours. But if there’s one thing Cornwall has become known for, it’s food. The freshest fish landed daily, the creamiest milk from the county’s herds and delicious traditional bakes that’ve stood the test of time are all Cornish specialities that are enjoyed daily across the UK. If you find yourself in Cornwall and at a loss at what to eat or drink, seek out these specialities for a true taste of what this fantastic area can produce.

Cornish pasties

These baked beauties need no introduction – from the iconic crimping on the pastry to their irresistible smell, Cornish pasties are a British institution. The simple combination of beef, swede, potato andonion is somehow transformed into one of the most comforting foods known to man. But did you know that every single Cornish pasty has to be made in the county, ever since they were granted PGI-protection in 2011? Naturally, the people of Cornwall are going to keep the best ones for themselves instead of shipping them out – pop into one of the many local, artisan bakeries and try a Cornish pasty the way it’s meant to taste.

Cornwall is world-famous for its cheddar
Saffron has been used in Cornwall since at least 400BC


If fish-cooking heavyweights like Nathan Outlaw and Rick Stein champion a place for its seafood, you know it must be somewhere special. Cornwall is one of the few places left in the UK where it’s normal for small boats to go out for the day and return with what they’ve caught, instead of giant trawlers spending weeks at sea and freezing their catch there and then. This access to world-class crab, lobster, sole, Cornish sardines (formerly known as pilchards) and more means you can either pick up something to cook yourself from the many fishmongers lining the coast, or book a table at one of the county’s many seafood restaurants. If you want to really splash out then there are plenty of amazing fish-focused Michelin-starred eateries, but for something a little more low-key try one of the many simple shacks along the shore. You can quite easily end up eating something that was caught literally metres away and just hours beforehand.


Cornwall is home to fields upon fields of cattle producing rich, full-flavoured milk, so it makes sense that there are dozens of dairies turning it into cheese. Cornish cheddar is one of the world’s best, with household names like Davidstow still sourcing all their milk within a fifty mile radius and winning all sorts of awards. Other specialities include Cornish Yarg, a young cheese wrapped in nettle leaves made to a recipe thought to date back to the thirteenth century, and Cornish Blue, a sweet, mild and creamy blue cheese.

Clotted cream

Just one of the few Cornish delicacies to receive PDO-protected status, Cornish clotted cream is another brilliant by-product of the county’s dairy industry. Large, shallow dishes of cream are heated until thickened and a rich, yellow crust forms on the surface, which has a naturally sweet and nutty flavour. It’s a vital part of a Cornish cream tea, which includes jam, scones and a pot of freshly brewed tea. Just make sure you spread the jam on your scone with the cream dolloped on top – adding the cream first is the Devonshire way!

Saffron cake

Saffron tends to conjure up images of exotic Persian dishes and perfumed paellas rather than the craggy coast of Cornwall. So why is one of the county’s oldest and most traditional cakes full of it? It’s generally thought that Phoenician sailors landed there as far back as 400BC and started trading the spice with local miners for precious tin. Wherever the source of saffron came from, Cornish bakers certainly made the most of it – using the incredibly expensive spice to produce a bright yellow loaf-shaped cake full of dried fruit. Liberally spread some clotted cream on top of a thick slice for a perfect teatime treat.

Wine, beer and cider

All this food’s great for keeping hunger at bay, but you need something to help wash it all down. Fear not – Cornwall is home to some of the best breweries, vineyards and cider producers in the country. From Sharp’s Doom Bar ale to Camel Valley’s award-winning wines and Healey’s crisp, refreshing cider, you’ll be spoilt for choice in the welcoming country pubs dotted throughout the Cornish landscape.