Let’s get something clear, before we even start: it’s pronounced Mowzel, not Mouse Hole. Jus’ sayin’. This is important to people down here. OK, so the thing about The Old Coastguard is that it’s set within grounds overlooking Hockney blue seas. St. Michael’s Mount disrupts the curve of classic Cornish cottages, which stretch across the landscape. Inside a giant sleeps. Further the curve of The Lizard peninsula hides Falmouth, and scattered secrets within its skirts.
In a word
Food that tells the story of Cornwall; its stunning surrounds of West Penwith.
With one of the best views we’ve seen, close to those at Mount Haven but from a different angle, this hotel and restaurant is a great spot for families. Set within the old fishing village of Mousehole, famous from the children’s storybook The Mousehole Cat, there is something to please all ages at The Old Coastguard.
The menu, rather like its sister hotel of The Gurnard’s Head, places value on food origin and provenance. On my forage and feast excursion a while back I had walked and chatted with chef Wilf from The Old Coastguard. He is an adventurous chef, interested in getting to grips with everything, and with a passion for travel. We learnt about various hedgerow herbs, and particularly became interested in black mustard, which surrounds The Old Coastguard. I think I tasted it in a green sauce on my plate.
It’s rare that I am lost for words, particularly when they are about food, and yet this was so beautifully stunning, that I did falter. The pictures show some of the presentation, care and precision that Matt and his team take over their food.
They don’t, however, tell you about the proximity of Newlyn, and how the crab was freshly landed that morning. It was combined with tarragon mayonnaise, which added sweetness, and was just the right amount of tarragon not to be overbearing. Fennel, fenugreek and a hint of pepperyness that came from a rocket or black mustard pesto brought different combinations to the sweet and succulent crab.
The pictures don’t show the exact right amount of ‘nduja added to the mussels to bring a smoky piquancy of pepper, and the sweetness brought by sherry and tarragon. They don’t demonstrate the crunch and indescribable umami lobstery/garlickytruffleness of the fresh pepper dulse seaweed added to heritage tomatoes grown just ’round the headland.
They don’t begin to speak about the earthy, nutty hazel and cauliflower combination that worked so beautifully with my Blond Ray, and how the coriander seeds added – yes crunch – but also a citrus crisp to cut through earthier purée.
Or how the briny caper and pancetta zinged up the ‘tache’s Megrim into an umami explosion, tempered by the Jerusalem artichokes. How the seaweed and samphire gave the snap of summer branches and echoed the seascapes from outside.
As meals go, this is in my top 5 ever. Probably top 3.
Rhubarb paired with wood sorrel and white chocolate was inspired, intelligent and incredibly good dessert-ing. I had previously thought white chocolate too cloying, but being cut through by intense, lip curlingly sour rhubarb with the delicate hint of orange rounded it. Textures of playing by the sea shore, all ice cream and summer, sand and tender chips made this a summery dish, and one I’ll not forget.
Conversely, the tart ‘tache had was as tart as it was sweet. Bitter orange played with creamy ice cream, and a crunchy top mimicked crème brûlée. The purée on this was incredibly sharp, like picking an orange in the summer, when they’re actually out of season! Serious wow food, in a totally unpretentious setting.
Charles and Edmund Inkin, founders of Eat. Drink. Sleep. are firm supporters of localism; from the food that graces the tables and bar, to the selection of ales, wines and spirits sold behind the bar. Representing north Cornwall on the menu, Harbour Brewing and Black Flag ales were in the company of Rebel Brewing Co‘s Sail Ale, and ciders from super local Skreach to Cornish Orchards were represented, as well as soft drinks made as locally as possible.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the hotel, but with those views, we imagine it makes for a great place to stay. The small chain Eat. Drink. Sleep. focus on providing locally sourced food and drink and comfortable sleeps in stunning locations, and The Old Coastguard is certainly that!
Since I had met Wilf on the Forage and Feast trip, I popped into the kitchen to say hi, and thanks. I love chefs; the banter and pisstaking that happens. So I asked them to pose for me, and they did. But not before telling me to get on with it first!
The food at The Old Coastguard surpassed expectations, and it was even more incredible when meeting such a young team of chefs. Cornwall is full of incredible places to eat, and chefs are getting more and more intimate with seasonal produce. What The Old Coastguard and The Gurnard’s Head have been doing for years, is suddenly a shift in what chefs all around the county are doing.
They do simple ingredients and excellent combinations really well.
The Old Coastguard is open throughout the year every night.