Is it worth the trip?

Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 in PadstowI'm staying with our friends in Poundstock, eight miles from Bude on Cornwall's Atlantic Coast. Mid March is not the ideal time to venture west. What with storm Gareth's wind and rain we only managed one full day out on Wednesday when we visited the "Cathedral of the Moors" St Nonna's Church at Altarnun. The delightful village with a medieval bridge and lots of lovely houses is completely ruined by cars. The church is a jewel with  a Celtic Cross in the graveyard, sculptured pew ends and a Norman font. The river under the bridge was flowing fast but clearly can be a bit of renegade since many of the houses have piles of sandbags by their front gates.

We moved on to St Clederus Church in the village St Clether to visit his chapel and holy well a short walk from the church which together are "one of the most beautifully situated historic sites in Cornwall". When we arrived at the chapel there was an attractive middle aged woman doing her Tai chi exercises. She was quite exotically dressed and I wondered if she might be the local guardian of the holy site. No such luck. She was an interloper from Devon visiting old haunts and the beautiful setting had inspired her to unblock her chakras.

I was fascinated when driving on the main road we found ourselves going through what could be mistaken for toll gates and entering the abandoned RAF Davidstow Moor airfield - still with its runways and outbuilding even though it ceased as an airfield at the end of WWII and was a motor racing circuit until the early 1950's. It seemed reluctant to hand itself over to nature as its runways were still visible. It just seemed strange driving across them - ghostly bombers taking off and landing in those far off days. But that's Cornwall for you - the past and present very much co-mingle with little or no trouble.

Cornwall is gluten free. That's what we found when we stopped for lunch at The Rising Sun Inn just outside Altarnun. Lovely food although as the beer wasn't gluten free - the one pint has repeated on me. Thursday was horizontal rain and grey sky from horizon to horizon but the evening beckoned and a meal at Paul Ainsworth's in Padstow.

Padstow's the Belsize Park or Hampstead of Cornwall - it oozes money. Even in bleakest March its many restaurants are doing great business. We booked for 7:15 and arrived half an hour early, but we were shown to our table: to be presented with the cocktail drinks list. All rather quaint, just like a Paul Temple radio play of the 1950's "cocktails before dinner". This being 2019 we did without the Vodka Martini and ploughed into the a la carte menu as well as ordering an Argentinian Malbec and tap water. Not like our neighbouring diners who had a bottle of expensive Cote Du Rhone decanted and left to breathe!

The food and service was very good. The gluten free bread perfect as was the caramelised butter. We could only afford one bottle of wine as I hadn't been paid this month's pension. As well as the a la carte, we were offered  vegetarian and vegan menus. Our starters were pig's head fritter, raw sea bream and a lush celeriac salad with mushrooms and parsley oil. For main we had Shallot tart tatin, monk fish with white crab and jack shell gravy and, aged soy glaze duck with Peking tea and a side salad. 

Leaving enough room for dessert we were finished off by a trifle "Cornish" circa 1596; custard turnover - brandied plums, apple and a side ginger yogurt sorbet and, petits fours  accompanied by a small glass of Hungarian tokaji - shades of "His Dark Materials". Oh, I forgot. Before we ordered we were given, as a freebie to get our taste buds singing, a fried oyster and a gorgeous mayo served in a shell which sat on half of Cornwall's coast line.

The atmosphere was very relaxed and friendly, the staff all young and keen to please. Combined with the delicious food it was a super meal out. 

The restaurant is next to Rick Stein's cafe! and Paul is certainly empire building a la Stein accumulating a new eatery this year. We went to Rick Stein's fish restaurant in 2018 - whilst the food was good, the atmosphere and service were quite intimidating  nowhere as cosy at Paul's.

If you're going all that way a good meal is not to be missed. 

Next week it's beans on toast and boiled egg. Haute cuisine is not something we go in for in Walthamstow.


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