Part of the delightful Llawnroc hotel in the pretty hamlet of Gorran Haven, South Cornwall, The Gwineas Bar & Bistro makes the most of the light, space and restfulness afforded by its wall of floor-to-ceiling windows and glorious sea view beyond.
The interior is simple and quite sparse – although hotel owner Jess tells me some new touches are to be added for the next season to bring winter warmth – but this does let the food sing for itself. And it’s singing a bloody great sea shanty of wonderfulness with a menu offering daily rotating fish and seafood dishes from local fishermen as well as local farm-sourced meats and poultry, and right now excellent game.
The specials menu changes daily and Friday – when we had our first of two dinners in the restaurant – is Steak and Fish night, where you can choose any three dishes from the menu for £19.95. The menu is decidedly British, but with an occasional European surprise enhancing the Cornish produce, such as chilli and white crab meat linguine or hazelnut gnocchi with Cornish blue leek gratin.
We opted for Fowey mussels in St Austell clowdy yellow beer. Pleasantly ale-y well-seasoned sauce, meaty mussels and a generous hunk of rich, sourdough bread. I had smoked pork belly rissoles. The pork belly filling of the rissoles was rich and the breading super crunchy – my only fault was that as a starter it was huge, I felt full when my main arrived. A refreshing apple and celeriac salad on the side gave bite and crispness to contrast the pork.
A Mevagissey brill, delicately flakey and just cooked so the flesh retained lots of moisture came with a scent-heavy rosemary and orange butter. The quality of M’s steak was very high, although a medium-rare steak came a tad on the cooked side.
Our dinner of Sunday began with the most moreish and indulgently fatty pork crackling ever, then was dominated by the pure joy of a dish of whopping scallops, booming with garlic butter, sweet fennel and zesty lemon – grilled to bubbly perfection. As starters I had picked Cornish fish stew, which lacked the sucker punch of an equivalent French bouillabaisse but still reflected a robust, lobstery flavour and had a lusciously soft texture.
The stew was followed by a proper lobster thermidor, sweet, not over-cheesed, served with a light salad which was the perfect accompaniment where often many places add a heavy vegetable side-side. A duck breast cooked pink and served with bitter cherries was full of flavour.
Dessert nearly killed us. In that “dear-god-knock-me-sideways-with-goo-puddingy-heaven-and-watch-me-depart-to-lala-land” kind of way. A gargantuan amalgamation of puffy cinnamon doughnuts, salted caramel ice cream and a pistachio mousse. Sublime!