By Anthony Fletcher, contributing editor
Published on 19 March, 2013
The county of Cornwall, situated on the tip of England’s southwest peninsula, is a beautiful rugged stretch of land that retains a distinctive Celtic identity. In recent years, there has been a concerted attempt to revive the Cornish language, which is closely related to Welsh. This sense of difference is heightened by the region’s relative isolation from the United Kingdom’s main centers of population.
Spectacular scenery, miles of empty coastline and an interesting culture have been drawing tourists to Cornwall for years. More recently, the county has developed a deserved reputation of culinary excellence, a laid-back foodie destination where fantastic dishes can be enjoyed in an unpretentious and friendly setting.
“Cornwall is a great place to live and work if you are a chef,” says Nigel Tabb, chef patron of Tabb’s in the Cornish town of Truro. “There is now a real chef community here. There is no animosity or anything like that; it’s the sort of place where the Michelin-star guys rub shoulders with chefs at the waterside cafés. We have a laugh, we organize food festivals … ultimately, we all want people to enjoy themselves.”
There is an impressive number of quality seafood restaurants in the region, some of which have been awarded Michelin stars, such as Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in the town of Rock and Driftwood. Chef Rick Stein, who has appeared on numerous British food programs, has opened four seafood restaurants in the region, and has done as much as anyone to raise the profile of Cornish cuisine.
The county’s burgeoning restaurant scene has created a mini industry of foodie tours, organized trips that combine coastal walking or cycling with high-end dining. Many of these tours trace the South West Coast Path National Trail, which offers 630 miles of idyllic coastline. In a region where tourism represents about a quarter of the local economy — Cornwall is one of the U.K.’s poorest regions — the culinary revolution has been most welcome.