Bilby Bites - the food blog from Bilby Marketing

The Bakehouse, Penzance

Once I’ve decided I’m going on a trip, the next few hours is spent diligently and very pleasurably, searching for accommodation, things to do and most importantly (almost), places to eat. With a busy season at work upon me, I wanted a quick long weekend in Cornwall to set me up for the next few months and I chose Penzance. JC, having spent years listening to my travel plans, just nods loose agreement and lets me get on with the arrangements. I booked incredibly cheap advance train tickets and looked forward to our Cornish adventure.

Having found a lovely new hotel called the Artists Residence boasting individually decorated rooms by local artists, I then set about scouring the internet for decent cafés and restaurants. Whilst the options weren’t abundant – Penzance isn’t a huge city afterall, The Bakehouse stood out, as did Ricardo’s Pizza, which was unfortunately closing during the weekend we were visiting. The Bakehouse offers a 2 course £13 menu Monday to Friday before 7.15pm so I booked us a table for 6.30pm on the Friday as I imagined the last weekend in September would probably be a busy one. With hindsight, I’m glad I’d thought ahead, as they were fully booked with a couple of large parties. The Bakehouse has a good reputation it seems.

After quickly checking in and chatting to our hostess at the hotel, we set out to look around the town before dinner. We had been told that The Bakehouse was one of the best eateries in Penzance, with other notables being Sophia Bs and The Honey Pot. Our 3 hour train journey had left me needing a decent coffee so it wasn’t long before we hit The Honey Pot, a cute, welcoming café with scrumptious looking cakes and ‘cool’ staff – for ‘cool’, read unwilling to interact beyond what was absolutely necessary to take your order. Our first contact with the chap behind the counter wasn’t ideal as he curtly informed us we could either ‘order now if we knew what we wanted’ or ‘sit down and look at a menu’. He didn’t seem too bothered either way and not even the slightest smile was cracked during this instruction. However, we sat in the lovely window seat in the blazing late summer sunshine, read the menu and ordered our coffees and cake soon after, by which time our host had softened slightly. The few patrons around us were a good mix of well-heeled ladies and arty/muso types – not too cool, not to fusty. Our cakes, mine an espresso chocolate and JC’s a coffee & walnut, were both very good. The usual latte and Americano coffees were ordered alongside the cakes and it all went down a treat.

The headline establishment was up next after a 45 minute walk along the seafront and back through the town, via a myriad of tiny, hilly roads – just what you need after a coffee & cake session. I’d had pudding before my dinner and needed to make a dent in the inevitable calorie build up. The staff at The Bakehouse were two very genuine and friendly ladies who we later found out had been unintentionally abandoned by a third member who had been struck down by a bug. This certainly didn’t dampen their spirits and they moved quickly and efficiently around the packed restaurant without bother, for the entire time we were there. After scanning the main menu which contained a very good choice of steaks, rubs and sauces (Blue Cheese, Roasted Onion, Rosemary & Garlic to name a few), we turned to the Early Bird specials as the selection was wide and we both found something we were very happy with. At £13 for 2 courses, it was too good to ignore.

JC ordered Meatballs & Penne Pasta for his main, followed by a Toasted Oatmeal and Hazelnut Meringue served with Red Berries and clotted cream. My prior cake consumption had, unusually, put me off desserts for the evening so I opted for the Thai Monkfish with Coconut & Mango sauce to start, followed by the risotto of the day, Beetroot & Fennel. To drink, I was taken by the local Polgoon Vineyard offering, Cornish Pink – a sparkling cider with raspberry – and very tasty it was too. It was more dry than sweet, drier than I would normally pick, but ideal with the sweet and creamy starter and main I had chosen and a nice change from a glass of wine. I had no idea that a vineyard sat just outside Penzance and only 10-15 minutes walk away. We didn’t get a chance to take a closer look on this weekend, as the heaven’s opened the following day, but it’s worth knowing for our next trip down (cue much eyeball rolling from JC).

Owners of The Bakehouse, Andy and Rachel Carr, use as much local produce as possible and when I asked where the plump and juicy monkfish came from, I was told it was frozen, but came from a local fishmonger. The fish was battered, which I didn’t spot mentioned on the menu, but the batter was nice and light and the mango and coconut sauce was spicy, citrussy and tangy. The sauce slightly overtook the taste of the monkfish, but I enjoyed the meal overall – there could be no negative comments about a lack of flavour. The beetroot and fennel risotto was quite ‘wet’ with little pools of olive oil towards the bottom of the dish, but the fennel seeds added good spice and texture and the parmesan provided the savoury kick needed to combat the sweet, soft beetroot flavour. I confess I wasn’t feeling terribly hungry after the starter as it was a good sized portion. Thinking back, my chocolate cake endeavour may have interferred with my appetite. Years ago, I had made a beetroot, horseradish and dill risotto that I’d enjoyed, but not loved, so I was keen to give beetroot risotto another chance. Spice and zest are so important, to balance out the risotto’s natural creaminess and soft texture – I would have loved a little more fennel in my risotto, but it was an enjoyable dish.

JC enjoyed his meatballs and penne pasta, but we were both more impressed with his dessert which surprisingly (or not perhaps!) was the highlight of the night for me. I should have known, as the combination of meringue, hazelnut and red berries is always a heavenly one for my personal tastebuds. The meringue was not as soft in the centre as I prefer, but the hazelnut cream was gorgeous and the perfectly sweet and tart berry sauce brought it all together. If I had ordered the monkfish followed by the meringue dessert I would have had a lovely meal. As it stood I had a very nice night, with good food and great service.

The Bakehouse is in a quiet spot off Chapel Street, in a hidden courtyard lit with magical, coloured lights, so our exit after dark was into a pretty Cornish scene and reinforced a feeling of contentment at simply being in Penzance. For £13 plus drinks, the value was exceptional. On top of this I found the service to be friendly, consistent and way beyond the norm. I would like to try again some day, choosing from the main menu – maybe one of those tempting steaks I’d heard good things about from our friendly hostess at the hotel. The Bakehouse definitely stands out in Penzance as a modern restaurant that is firmly rooted in it’s Cornish seaside surroundings. If you are that far South West you must try it for yourself.