Lee Trewhela reviews Truro seafood eatery
AS A Truro boy, people often ask me for my top dining spots in the city. I reel them off and then realise, far too late, I forgot to mention Falmouth Bay Seafood Café.
It's probably because, until recently, the restaurant was out on a limb, tucked away in too small premises in Castle Street.
It was the epitome of compact and bijou – and the food was always spot on.
Now owner and chef Valerie Thompson has relaunched the restaurant and moved across the road to much more fitting premises at grade two listed Castle Lodge (the former posh kitchen showroom), which has been completely renovated.
Buy one get one free on main course and specials excludes fillet steaks and beef Wellington
Must book to qualify 01209 860332 and present voucher on arrival
Mon- Thur 6-9pm
Contact: 01209 700617
Valid until: Saturday, December 21 2013
It's swish – minimal with some nice touches including retro wallpaper featuring beach holidays from the early 20th century.
This return to basics is reflected in the menu – unfussy, allowing the finest of Cornish seafood to sing.
For instance, my starter of freshly caught langoustine was accompanied by a simple but effective garlic and wine sauce; all that was needed to lift the sweet, fresh fruit de mer.
Valerie and her staff (including fellow chef Garrie Lawrence, a well-known face on the Cornish food scene) work closely with suppliers and fishermen to make sure the fish they serve is caught in the least wasteful way, which can mean line-caught fish, pot-caught seafood or fish caught in gill nets; the bigger holes ensure the larger fish are caught and the tackers swim free.
They try to serve fish and seafood only when it is actually in season. That's why there's no lobster and crab on the menu in the winter.
You will never see tuna or shark on the menu because they don't believe you should import fish from other countries when we have perfectly good alternatives here. They also avoid using species which are being over-fished.
This eye for running an environmentally friendly and Cornish-centric business may explain why the dishes are on the pricey side.
Evening mains run from £9/£12 for classic moules mariniere and £16 for crab risotto, rising to £22 for grilled half lobster and £23 for grilled Dover sole meuniere.
If you really want to push the boat out, no pun intended, how about the fisherman's platter, with everything you can think of, for £26 or £48 for two.
If you want to push the ship out, how about the ultimate seafood platter, with everything you can think of and some you can't, at £70 for two or more to share.
All right I'll tell you (anyone with an allergy, stop reading now) – it features oysters, crab claws, dressed crab, langoustine, clams, crevettes, shrimps, scallops, mussels, squid, cockles, baby octopus, smoked salmon and mackerel.
Yes, on the more expensive side, but you know what? If the duet of lobster and crab linguini I was served is anything to go by, money isn't an option. Poached in a light Sauvignon sauce and finished with basil and parmesan, it was heavenly and worth every penny of £17.
Throw in a very good cinnamon and blood orange pannacotta with shortbread (£6), aided by a fine wine list, and you have the sort of meal that should ensure the café is no longer the hidden gem of Truro.
The business is quick to shout about its Trip Advisor position (No 2 out of 129 restaurants in the area), but I take that site's ratings and reviews with a pinch of salt.
The last time I looked to Trip Advisor for tips about a restaurant I was due to visit in the St Ives area, the top review was glowing. All well and good, until I realised it had been written by the public relations bod hired by said eatery. The vast majority wouldn't have known he had a vested interest. Like I said, pinch of salt.
However, if I was to add my two penn'orth to the website about Falmouth Bay Seafood Café it would be non-PR favourable – great food, laid back surrounds, bit too pricey.
I haven't even mentioned the entrées, starters and tapas.
For all menus and further details: www.falmouthbayseafoodcafe.com