Worthy stops between London and Cornwall?

Hubby and I decided last minute to get out of London. We’ve booked a car and will drive southwest from SE London this Sat.

From reviewing the boards, I am thinking
Sat dinner at Paul Ainsworth in St. Ives (Can we just show up or do we need to reserve?
Bin Two -looks interesting for a glass of wine

However, I am overwhelmed and stuck on the other dining options:

Where to stop for lunch on Sat? I’m envisioning a small place, excellent cooking skills, organic or locally sourced ingredients, prides themselves on service and quality. I could also do a beach shack that does amazing fresh seafood or a forest campsite that does succulent roast pig or truffles over eggs, if you know of any…

Breakfast and/or Lunch for Sun? Neither of us like Sunday Roast so we want something different. Not different as in Indian or Chinese but something that is different from the standard Sunday Roast menu…Anything come to mind?

Also, having read the discussions here about Cornish scones + jam and or cream. Where should I go to try the best scones in the region?

Any other food producers, handcraft ateliers or local designers who will be open on the weekend for a visit?

Thank you in advance for your advice!

As far as I knew, Paul Ainsworth’s main restaurant is in Padstow, not St Ives. There’s no mention of a St Ives place on his website. As its presumably popular due to its Michelin star, I would have thought reservation would be pretty much essential. It’s out of the main holiday season so I suppose it may be possible to get a table at such short notice.

London to Padstow is about a five hour journey. Where were you thinking of stopping for lunch? Taunton would be roughly halfway. It’s a small town which I haven’t visited in over 20 years so have no recommendations - the Good Food Guide offers Augustus, Castle Bow, Willow Tree and Brazz, although none of them really seem to fit your “small place” criteria

Yep Ainsworth is definitely in Padstein, and booking would normally be essential. Never tried a walk in though so if you’re in town no harm trying in the off season but phone ahead if you want to avoid any disappointment, you may have already left it too late.

He has another place in town, Rojanos. It’s more of a casual family restaurant serving Italian; not really worth going out of your way for as a destination but perfectly good at what it’s trying to be.

St Ives is equally worth visiting though, just a lot further west

Sunday lunch, not a roast, could be at Stein’s Seafood Restaurant or his cheaper Bistro (or the chippy).

Breakfast at his caff?

Definitely factor at least 5 hours for the journey, the last couple of times have been more like 6 from SE16 to Bodmin, getting out of the southeast being the painful bit.

Can’t be of much help in breaking it up as we tend to do it in the evening along the motorway.

It’s very variable though so it’s definitely doable in under 5, I don’t mean to put anyone off! Or maybe I do, then it won’t take as long.

It’s a shame, the train isn’t much better, particularly when the track gets washed into the sea.

Which route are you taking please? M4/M5, A303 etc. or M3/A31? The last option takes you pretty close to the River Cottage Canteen in Axminster, which I can thoroughly reccomend for a lunch break.

Arrgghh…This is what I meant about being overwhelmed-Two days to plan and I feel like I’m searching in the dark for something that I can’t identify.

RobinJoy-Thanks! I have no idea which road is best to take. Someone recommended the A308 as being a lovely drive. But when I look on google maps, I can’t find A308 that takes me to London towards Devon…Any suggestions on a nice drive?

Harters-Thanks! You’re right. it’s in Padstow not St. Ives.

Lex-Thanks for the tip on Rojanos as casual Italian. Casual Italian in Italy is okay, but casual Italian outside Italy, I’m not too keen on.

Okay, since this morning’s post, I am thinking that maybe Cornwall is too big a destination to plan on such short notice. Maybe Devon is closer and better? Having been to neither, I don’t have any idea.

Has anyone been to Gidleigh Park or 22 Mill St in Chagford? Maybe that could be a lunch stop? Can you tell that I am utterly lost as to where to go?

Honestly, neither of us are set on Cornwall or Devon. We just wanted to get away for a quiet weekend drive with great food, beautiful scenery, no screaming kids, people or madmen, to see the REAL England instead of what we see day to day in London.

Maybe the better question I should have asked is "You have a car, which you normally don’t, for a weekend. You want to escape London and head southwest to experience the real UK. Where do you drive to to experience great food that makes you want more , beautiful scenery that takes your breathe away and charm that makes you want to settle down in a quaint, cute little town by the sea or mountain?

Maybe go somewhere way nearer to London, and save the south west for when you have a bit more time.

You can’t really go wrong for a weekend, just pick a county close by! I’ve had nice late notice trips from London to the New Forest, Essex and Sussex in the last couple of years. Sometimes to get some focus we’ll find a high rated pub or place to eat to plan s around, otherwise the scope of where to go is too large. I keep wanting to go to Kent and eat at The Sportsman in Whitstable, although after the recent accolades it’s probably an order of magnitude more difficult to get into.

I’d agree with Lex - for weekends away, we choose nearby counties.

The New Forest area could be perfect for you. Nicely and differently rural yet also coastal.

For weeks away for us, we’ve been drawn to Sussex & Kent, whioch would be a good weekend for you. Rye would be a good base (there’s been a recent thread about the food in town).

Or for probably the best food blast, go northwest to the Cotswolds. A lovely part of the world

We’re in Surrey, so Cornwall usually takes us at least 5-6 hours. I think you’re smart to drive closer to home, and there are so many good destinations.

We were in Devon about 3 weeks ago, and as Harters will agree, there’s fantastic seafood at The Seahorse in Dartmouth. It’s not such a short ride either, but the area is beautiful and maybe not so crowded this time of year.

The Cotswolds is a lot closer - visiting Blenheim Palace is worth the trip, and last year we stayed overnight in Woodstock and found there were some good local spots for dinner - didn’t even have a reservation but we were just lucky and not there on a weekend.

The hotel chain, Handpicked Hotels, often has good deals, and most of their hotels are extremely nice with good food. Our favorite one is in Bath, and the one near Stratford Upon Avon is also
pretty.

Have fun wherever you end up!

I had a great day out to Dartmouth.

I was staying in Paignton for a few days on my own. Got the heritage steam train from there to the little village on the other side of the Dart to Dartmouth, then got the ferry across the river. Walk round town, great lunch at ther Seahorse, train back. I hardly missed Mrs H!

Sounds like you may have changed plans. But next time you think about it (and its really good to do) a great place to stop on the journey is The Fish Shop at Dart Farm just off the M5 (junction 30 at Exeter). Its a very fine fish and chip shop plus there is a farm shop and a few other options.

Thank you all for your wonderful trips!

In the end, we just started driving Saturday morning. Although we had hoped to start out at 6:00 am, we were delayed getting out because I overshot my one-drink only with friends on Friday evening, which turned into one-bottle only…Fortunately, the hubby wasn’t too annoyed and all went well.

Here are the places we managed to visit between London and Cornwall:

After what felt like FOREVER getting out of London proper, we took A303, past Amesbury and the unexpected parking lot of cars, slowing down to crane their necks at those big stones in the middle of the field. :slight_smile: Admittedly we did the same. It hadn’t been part of our plan but it was a nice surprise to ‘stumble’ upon them.

We first stopped in Bruton at Bean Shot Coffee. I was feeling guilty about our late start and I hope that I could appease my husband with a bit of Java. By then, I was also needing some coffee for my pounding headache and hoped the Java was distract my husband from my condition. Bean Shot Coffee is a bit of a hole in the wall, but a good hole. After coffee, we walked next door to sample some cheese and other local goodies from a very friendly man who, upon hearing from my husband that I was not sampling because I was a bit ‘hung over’, asked me if I wanted to sample a bloody good mary. How could I say no to that?

He was right; It was a smooth taste of fresh tomatoes, not too acidic and not too salty. If I had been feeling better, I would have probably purchased a bottle but all I wanted to do was lay down on his floor so I couldn’t really concentrate on anything else. My husband ended up purchasing some delicious Godminster Organic Cheddar and Brie with some crackers or digestives and some Blackcurrent spirit to wash it all down. I was just eyeing the floor space lovingly. From there we walked to At the Chapel, where we hoped to score a table for lunch. Unfortunately, we weren’t alone in our plans; there was a 3-hour wait for a table for two. We opted not to wait or else we would never reach Cornwall. As we were walking out, we thought maybe we should grab a pastry or something from their bakery, in case we couldn’t find another lunch spot. They had a few baked products (breads, croissants, pasties, etc.) for take away so we purchased a delicious onion quiche and a cheese panini, thinking we would eat it as we drove on. But after we had paid, the server said that we could eat it on the high counter separating the bakery from the pizza preparation area so we grabbed a high chair and settled down to enjoy our quick lunches.

Fairly soon we started chatting with the pizza maker who was really busy putting more wood into the big oven or making pizzas none stop. When my husband told him that I was a bit hung over and not feeling too well, he suggested that I needed something greasy to soak up all the alcohol. I must have given him a half-hearted smile because he added: “Trust me. You’ll feel better after eating it.” How could I say no?

And he was right. By the time I was taking my last bite of the pizza, I felt 100% better than I had when I had entered the bakery and wanted to just crawl onto the floor and die.

After lunch we got back on the A303 and continued towards Polperro, where we hoped we could stop for the night. But as we neared the eastern borders of Dartmoor National Park on A38, I remembered that I had noted Bovey Tracey as a place to stop. Given our delayed start, I was hesitant to stop, but at the last minute, my husband decided we needed a break and break we did. My distraction took longer than planned so we didn’t have time to visit the The Devon Guild of Craftsmen but if I were to visit the town again, I would. As I distracted myself, my husband used his phone to search for possible accommodations for the evening. He found a converted convent that he liked in Truro and announced that that would be our bed for the evening. I was just happy that I was starting to feel much better.

In Truro, we wanted to dine at Taabs, but then found out that the restaurant was closed and on vacation. Arghh. None of the other places appealed to us, so we decided to try something different and went to Kathmandu Palace. We got there around 6:30 and it was packed but we managed to grab the last empty table and was told that we had to be out by 8:00, which was no problem for us. The food was okay, nothing amazing. But the service was extremely friendly, accommodating and attentive. And the bottle of wine we ordered- so cheap and decent, compared to London. And of course, after dinner, the husband needed to see if the town had a gelateria or a special ice cream shop, which they did: Angelato Italian Ice Cream Bar. As we walked from Kathmandu to the ice cream place, we passed a small group of German speakers. No matter where we travel to, Germans are always there. At Angelato’s my hubby had the Pistachio and Hazelnut, two of his favorites. If I hadn’t eaten so much Nepalese food, I probably would have tried their dark chocolate, which was almost pure black in color and their peanut butter, which looked interesting as well.

As the next day was Sunday, most places in Truro were shut so we drove to St. Ives for breakfast at Porthminster Beach Cafe. We parked up at the top near the Leisure Center and walked down into the town, which only took about 8 minutes. It was before 9am so the beach was still relatively quiet and we were the first guests at the cafe. But by the time we had eaten and were leaving, the cafe was quickly filling up. The breakfast was better than expected. If you like your breakfast sweet, try their french toast with banana and nutella. I didn’t try it, but my husband said it was good. I ordered the British breakfast with eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, tomatos, but substituting spinach for the baked beans. The food was nothing to write home about, but the view of the beach with the dogs playing in the water, the beautiful blue skies above, the morning shadows all made it worth the steep climb back up to our car afterwards. And who should be parked next to our car, unloading their children in their wellies and rain gear: Germans with a Germany-plated car. My hubby and I just looked at each other and smiled.

For lunch we tried to get a reservation at The Masons Arms in South Moulton but they were booked, as was Jack in the Green in Exeter. We called The Seahorse in Dartmouth but no one answered. We decided to drove through Dartmoor National Park and see if we could stop for Afternoon Tea at Gidleigh Park Hotel. In the worst case, we figured we had enough cheese and digestives to snack on if we had to carry on to London without a stop.

Driving through Dartmoor National Park was my favorite part of the short weekend. The beautiful landscape, the sheep everywhere, the rich colors of the area, etc. Simply gorgeous. Unfortunately, I had expected the Gidleigh to be an easy to reach spot within the park. Boy was I sadly mistaken. A harrowing journey through a two-meter + high thicket of brambles, trees, etc. in a space that barely allows the side mirrors to miss being scraped by the rocks on either side, I was so relieved when we reached the end of the road and the Hotel. I told my husband that if they couldn’t accommodate us for lunch after that journey, I would just have to throw a temper tantrum in their sitting area. Luckily, it didn’t come to that. The host with the thick Parisian accent happily informed us that we could join them for lunch. Indeed, after the stressful journey to their hotel, we opted to do their 7 course menu rather than just an afternoon tea. Here’s a snapshot of the menu and the sea bass (the yuzu and shiso with finger lime added a wonderful tang to the Sea Bass :

Thank you again for all your suggestions, especially on such short notice!

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Your post was fun to read - thanks for sharing your adventure. It brought back a really nice memory. Years ago, I knew the owner of Gidleigh Park, but I was living in the States, still, and never got to that part of England till I moved here, and the owner had sold his hotel. We did drive by it once to have a look. That man knew so many people and got us a lovely table at La Chiusa in Montefollonico one year.
It sounds like you had a great time!

London to Truro, overnight, breakfast in St. Ives, and then back to London! That’s a load of car time. I’m very impressed.

Wasn’t this a movie with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon? I seem to recall Sean Connery being in it too…

Love to travel for food! The miles we put in for the Cornwall/Devon trip was less than what we just did exploring the northern CA and a smidgen of NV. Over 1,500 miles and lots of surprisingly good eats along the way. The only disturbing thing was the portion sizes in the U.S; they’ve grown even bigger than before.

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Or too small, depending on who you’re talking to.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold