FOOD, glorious food — and there’s no shortage of up-market places to indulge yourself in fine dining in Cornwall these days.
It’s become such a ‘foodie’ destination, with what seems like at least one celebrity chef restaurant in every coastal village, as well as a good few inland, that you could be hard pressed to find a ‘normal’ eatery for lunch or dinner, without it costing you a small fortune.
Trouble is, many pubs are also trying to get on the bandwagon, with trendy menus and prices to match, without the expertise to match the promise.
Even finding a proper pasty can be a problem sometimes, unless you want to spend your mealtimes eating out of a paper bag outside a local bakery, and even the best fish and chips (Morrish’s at Redruth, or the popular chippie in Prospect Place, Porthleven!) can prove too much of a good thing after the second or third visit in a week.
So what do you do? Best to do what the locals do — and in the Helston area, that means heading up the road to the garden centre.
Not just any garden centre, mind, but Travena Cross Nurseries at Breage, heading out towards Penzance. Started in what was a cabbage field a good few years ago, the business now has an impressive reputation that goes far beyond its spectacular range of exotic and domestic flowers, fruits and veg, with a cracking café that makes sure the car park gets pretty full, pretty early.
You can just call in for a coffee or a cup of tea, but “The Garden Kitchen Cafe”:http://www.trevenacross.co.uk/content/about-us/garden-kitchen-cafe/ Garden Kitchen Café also has a surprisingly wide menu of classic, simple, unpretentious food, with manager Derek and his team using as many local ingredients as possible, often including surplus produce that’s grown on site, with zero food miles — and all at a very reasonable price.
It’s a good start to be sitting down in a clean, airy and tranquil setting surrounded by plants, with a wood-burning stove in a new, size-doubling extension in case it turns a bit nippy. Service is from 9.00am to 4.30pm Monday to Saturday (9.30 to 4.00 on Sundays) with a highlight for me of an all-day brekkie — if you feel the need for a ‘full English’ of egg, two rashers of bacon, sausage, sautéd mushrooms, tomato, beans and toast at any time of day you like, you can tuck in for the princely sum of just £7.20, with a mega version adding another egg, sausage and more bacon for £8.50.
Aside from a comprehensive breakfast range, there’s a wide choice of other traditional staples to go for, including soups, salads, baguettes, jacket potatoes, main meals with all the trimmings, and daily specials; with a Sunday roast lunch (with a choice of two meats along with Yorkshires and veg) a distinct bargain at £7.90 for a regular size, or £9.90 for a large!
Vegetarians and vegans are not forgotten, either, with homemade nut roast and veggie chili and Mediterranean pasta among the choices.
Being deep in Cornwall, there has to be, of course, a splendid cream teas well, but you might be torn between that and a very tempting range of hot puddings and desserts, along with a display of homemade sponge cakes that make any thoughts of a diet seem like heresy.
The mouth-watering cakes can be enjoyed by the slice (regular or large!), or you can take a whole one home, with the only dispute being which one to go for.
You could also opt for a selection of gateaux, cheesecakes or lemon meringues, all made on site or by a local patisserie, served with a drizzle of coulis and a generous dollop of clotted cream and fruit, with the smiling girls serving them up taking care to ‘dress’ the plates as competently as any TV chef.
A bonus if you’re not driving is that the cafe has a drinks licence, so you can happily celebrate an occasion there, or help your lunch along with a spot of locally-bottled beer or cider.