Around the ragged

rocks to Rick

Stein’s place…

 

By Elaine Hunter

 

“SO what’s so special about these fish suppers?” our five year old asks as we open the hot steaming cartons of food. Decorated with sprigs of parsley, we feast our eyes on celebrity chef Rick Stein’s fish and chip shop’s world-renowned offerings.

Our oldest son has been listening to our ‘oos’ and ‘ahs’ all the way back from the shop to our holiday chalet just outside Padstow in Cornwall. I’ve sneaked a peak at the famous fish; and the delicious smells that waft all around the car have our mouths watering. We can’t wait to get the famous suppers home.

As soon as we’re sitting around the kitchen table, our children get tucked in; ramming the fluffy white fish into their little mouths. They nod in agreement when we ask them if they are good as silence reigns for a few minutes. We’ve opted for lemon sole goujons in breadcrumbs for them and cod suppers for us. And yes they are delicious but anyone who’s ever had a fish supper from a Scottish East coast chip shop will not be that overcome with excitement. Rick Stein’s suppers are a couple more pounds than the five quid in the rest of the UK but the anticipation of trying them is actually worth it. Plus we didn’t have to queue for long. (Apparently in peak season, tourists can queue for up to an hour).

We’re staying just outside the famous chef’s home town – having decided to opt for Cornwall as an inexpensive destination for a family holiday. And with an amazing array of beaches to choose from; we are spoiled for choice for which one to visit every day. As long as the weather holds; the Cornish coast line is stunning and the beaches are uncrowded havens of paradise.

On a meltingly hot day we find a little cove; resplendent with cavernous caves and jaggy rocks to climb. The white sand is not too hot but warm; the crystal blue water is tepid and the waves are frothy and frequent. It’s idyllic here. And perfect for our four children who can’t decide whether to explore the caves, climb the rocks or go for a dip in the waves first. Who needs the sunny shores of the continent when you can have this kind of day on the beach in this country? There are no people selling you ices; no kids’ clubs, no jostling for room to place your towel and parasol. Just a few families sprinkled sparingly over this wide expanse of beach.

Reminiscent of Daphne Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn; the scenery is stunning and it’s not hard to see where Du Maurier got her inspiration for the world best-seller. The craggy cliff-tops have little outposts and seats made out of stone all over the place as visitors and locals pitch up to soak in the glorious views. We spot an elderly couple; flasks in hand; settling down for a day’s watching. Us, the sea, the wildlife; their binoculars at the ready.

You can just imagine the evil Inn keeper from Jamaica Inn and his rebels shining lanterns to the ships; wrecking them on the rocks and the handsome hero, the weather-beaten Jem meandering around the cliffs. These bays are for lovers; hopeless romantics and families; filled with great experiences and memories of fun-packed blue-sky happy days.

It’s such a very quaint setting; it has to be experienced at some point in your life. Just think, an English coastal holiday with no kiss-me-quick tat or hordes of revellers in sight is something most of us love to indulge in. It’s a ‘cheap-ish’ flight away for those north of the border and takes little more than one hour to get there. And for the rest of you, it’s less than a day’s drive away.

We take a day trip to Newquay and kind of wish we hadn’t. It’s not that it’s a dreadful place; it just struggles to compare with the other little villages we’ve delighted in along the way. It’s more of a tourist hotspot and while there are many things to do here, if you’re looking for the peaceful side of Cornwall, stick to places just outside the town like Watergate Bay and Porth – two stunning beaches which are popular with surfers.

And if you’re into surfing the Cornish waves; you will have a host of choice of places to go and learn. It’s big business down this neck of the woods – and a big activity. Even the school children take lessons after classes as the sun goes down. We watch as a ‘surf school’ class joins us on our beach and marvel at the amazing way to spend the twilight of the day. Beats sitting in front of the telly with a snack?

What we do find in the middle of Newquay is an amazing little restaurant Cullens that’s been recommended to us by the owner of a nearby toyshop. This classy; chic and yet friendly little bistro-cum-café welcomes us – four children under eight with new toys and a slightly higher noise level than their usual customers – with open arms. The owners bend over backwards to find books and crayons for the children; suggesting we split an adult-portioned home-made burger for the wee ones; yet only charging half the price. I am brought a hearty bowl of steaming hot potato and leek soup and everyone gets a delicious lunch. This place is actually worth the visit to the slightly run-down town. So if you do decide to check Newquay out – make sure you stop here for a snack. And if they give you their card; you’ll see that they won Newquay Bar and Restaurant Awards in 2007 and 2008.

Back in the land of the romantics; we just love the beaches like Trevone Bay and Treyarnon Bay – and wile away our days scouring rock pools with fishing nets and jumping over waves in the sunshine.

A trip to the South of England’s gem is a must as it’s a perfect destination for a reasonably-priced family holiday. And as the credit crunches more and more; it’s the ideal place to keep a reign on your budget while enjoying the ‘stay-cation’ of a lifetime.

Flights: Scottish heathers – check out airsouthwest.com to Newquay from Glasgow (high season);  English roses – it’s a day’s drive, more or less, for most of you. Places to stay; check out www.visitcornwall.com – there’s a host of self-catering accommodation, quaint cottages and bed & breakfasts and hotels.

Cullens Bar and Restaurant, 42 East, Newquay, Cornwall, TR7 1BE; 01637 851515; info@cullensandrestaurant.co.uk

First published in The Herald