Mousehole is one my favourite places purely because of the name. A bit like Clitheroe – and a tiny village in Wiltshire, called Tiddlywink. I amused myself by insisting on pronouncing it as Mouse Hole, even though Cowie kept correcting me with “Mauzall”. The more she intervened the more childish I became and the more fond I am now of this spot that’s nestled in the Carribean waters of South West Cornwall.
Mousehole was 45 miles into our Land’s End cycle circuit, that had started at Penzance and climbed up through St. Just, so we decided to treat ourselves to a very well deserved lunch. Cowie used the lure of lunch at The Old Coastguard to keep me going – which had the result of us arriving there over an hour ahead of schedule. If I was ever to enter the Tour de France, you’d just have to dangle lunch at Pierre Gagnaire in front of me and Contador would be chasing my Lycra clad shadow.
We had been tipped off by the team at the Gurnard’s Head (their sister restaurant) that they were in a launch phase and were just warming up. So we arrived with an open mind, some very weary legs and an appetite of Chris Hoy proportions. We loved the setting, the large garden and spectacular view out to sea and settled in on the terrace for a very memorable lunch. If you’d told us that we’d just cycled to Trinidad I’d have believed you after a few more pints of Doombar.
It seemed rude not to have a couple of oysters which slipped down elegantly. I can recommend the shear sensuality of eating oysters whilst wearing nothing but Lycra: it seems to heighten the oystery pleasure.
A sympathetically dressed goat’s cheese and fennel salad was fresher than a student in the first energetic thrusts of university.
And a tomato and shallot salad with basil and balsamic vinegar was about as good as it can be in the UK, without access to intense Mediterranean sunshine. We loved the Hula Hoops of shallot whose intensity had been mellowed by the vinegar.
My crispy skinned hake with mustard béarnaise and fennel was just what my weary legs needed and is a dish that I’ll be attempting at home. The anise flavour of the tarragon in the béarnaise held hands with the fennel to create a dish that shows that the kitchen is going to be an exciting prospect when it is firing on all cylinders.
Things got even better when I asked whether there happened to be a good fishmonger nearby the waitress – with a straight face – asked whether I knew that Newlyn was the next door village, which she, helpfully, pointed out is home to one of the UK’s main fishing fleets. Whoops.
Whilst The Old Coastguard doesn’t yet have the same cosy warmth and charm as the Gurnard’s Head and Felin Fach Griffin in terms of pubby atmosphere, its setting and the well heeled locals mark this out as one to watch for the future. I can’t wait to return next summer – except maybe next time for dinner and not wearing anything quite so figure hugging.
We still love to go on trips around the UK, staying in BnBs or camping in search of a good meal or two - hence, Around Britain with a Paunch. Quite often the trips have been prompted by Diana Henry's Gastro Pub Cookbook. Here's where we've been to: