I must confess I have never been to St Ives in the height of the summer season so I really can’t compare and contrast with visiting in December, but I do know that I would rather visit this wonderful town when it’s quiet.
I appreciate that a little bit of summer sun whilst basking on one of the beautiful golden sandy beaches might be rather nice but not with all those crowds. I will take my sandy beaches with a hint of winter sun and soak up the beautiful grey/blue of the slate and stone-clad buildings that nestle from the harbourside up the hill.
Steve and I arrived just in time for lunch on Friday afternoon and had booked Porthminster Cafe. It’s virtually next door to the station so if you choose to arrive by train like us it’s good and easy. I have been to St Ives three times and each time I have taken a lunch here. I had booked a table but it was pretty quiet with about 4 or 5 other tables full of diners.
The Porthminster Cafe is more than a cafe so don’t let the name put you off. The menu is more bistro in my opinion and they offer an extensive wine and drinks list. We sat at one of the windows overlooking Porthminster beach. I have to say that it really is a stunning spot so even if you weren’t hungry it’s worth popping in for a hot chocolate or mulled cider to warm your bones after a blustery walk on the beach.
Our lunch was delicious. I opted for the Porthminster chowder; a special of the day. It was served with garlic bread and for a starter was very substantial. I couldn’t have managed anything more. Steve had fish and chips with homemade tartare sauce. The batter was so light and a very good introduction to our weekend by the sea.
I had been hoping for a glass of Cornish wine to go with my lunch but unfortunately, they had stopped serving Cornish wine by the glass. Such a shame as Cornish wines are so light and delicious and perfect for a lunchtime tipple. I guess what with covid and things being quieter generally in hospitality they have taken it off the menu by the glass. You can still buy it by the bottle though so all is not lost.
After lunch, we found our Air B&B dropped off our luggage and headed out to explore the town and see what was new since our last visit in December 2018. It also gave us an opportunity to walk off our lunch as we stomped up a fair few hills that create the beautiful coastline around St Ives.
After digesting what was new in the town as well as our lunch we stopped off for a drink at Bier Huis on St Andrew’s Street. A Belgian style bar specialising in all manner of beers. I have never seen such a comprehensive menu of Belgian beers outside of the country itself. It’s well worth a visit if you like to try new things. It’s pretty cosy in places with soft seating in the windows as well as more functional larger tables at the back. The staff were super friendly as well as knowledgeable which is something I always look for in a business.
After our visit to Bier Huis, we mooched back through the town to our apartment to get ourselves ready for our first night in this lovely Cornish town.
We decided to check out a couple of new places that had been recommended by the waitress at the Porthminster Cafe. The first was St Eia which happened to be about a two-minute walk from where we were staying.
St Eia is a natural and organic wine shop come wine bar serving small plates to go alongside a beautifully curated wine list. For non-wine drinkers, they have a selection of beers and ciders too. They also serve coffee and tea for those wanting a warm-up during the day and mulled wine as a nod to the festive.
I ordered a glass of their skin contact orange wine and Steve a beer. We opted for the anchovies with sourdough and some fried broad beans to go alongside. After our substantial lunch at Porthminster Cafe, we thought nibbles with drinks would be a good option.
I really enjoyed the soft lighting and laid back atmosphere of St Eia. The staff were friendly and would have definitely returned if I had been staying longer in the town.
From St Eia we walked across the town centre to Little Palais. Little Palais is similar to St Eia in that it’s a wine bar with bottle shop attached but it had more of an atmosphere despite being quiet when we got there. It’s a lot smaller than St Eia with only a handful of tables which gives it a really intimate feel.
The wine list was mostly organic and natural and if that didn’t float your boat they had some really exciting sounding cocktails and a small selection of beer. The nibbles were in the form of small plates with tinned fish and local sourdough, cheeses and charcuterie being the stand-outs. I really liked Little Palais. So much so we visited twice and I managed to work my way through many of the wines available by the glass.
The decor is simple, the music is good and the guy that owns the place was chatty and helpful. I would highly recommend Little Palais and can’t wait to be able to return. I have seen on Instagram that they are hosting a New Years Eve Party that is going to spill out onto the street. That sounds like something I might like to do if in St Ives during the festivities.
From our drinks and nibbles in Little Palais, I walked Steve to The Pilchard Press via the harbour to look at the retro Christmas decorations. The Pilchard Press is a favourite spot of ours. Full of locals and is hidden away just off Wharf Road. I didn’t stay as I was flagging but Steve said they were singing sea shanties. I wouldn’t expect anything else.
After breakfasting in our Air B&B we hit the town. Our plan was to do a spot of shopping for Christmas presents. St Ives has some really great shops in my opinion. Many of them are on Fore Street but do check out the side streets too for some hidden gems. I love Allotment Deli for interesting fresh and pantry items. They have such a great selection on their deli counter and I promise you will always be tempted. Either for a picnic lunch, pre-dinner nibbles or just to get some Cornish treats to take home. I always visit when in St Ives. In my opinion, it’s a must.
If you like a really good, well-stocked off licence then you have to visit Johns. It’s amazing. Beers a-plenty, spirits and so many Cornish and non-Cornish wines. They have recently opened a provisions shop just around the corner on Wharf Road too. I picked up quite a few stocking fillers in here.
If you fancy a coffee stop whilst shopping and you are already at Johns then go to Yallah. I had an amazing chai latte and Steve their filter coffee. This place is laid back cool. They also do breakfasts, brunches and sweet treats.
I found Magpie & London on St Andrew’s Street and loved it. It stocks high-end clothing, accessories and jewellery. If you want to treat yourself you must stop by. I got chatting to the owner Charlotte and it turned out we had a mutual friend. It’s such a small world. I left with a few treats. It’s not all expensive so don’t be put off popping your head in. I got some lovely hair clips that were £12 and a bag for £15. The dress was more around the £100+ price point. They cater for all wallets.
Just around the corner from Magpie & London is The Makers of Fine Foods. This small bakery specialises in home-baked sweet and savouries. The cakes, gateau’s and savouries are all baked on the premises and what we sampled we really enjoyed. The Christmas cake was the right side of boozy and the pasties were well filled. I recommend The Makers for a lunch stop off. Get yourself a pasty and enjoy it down by the waterside.
After shopping, we walked up to the very top of town to a place called Hatch Cafe at Harbour View House. If you fancy a coffee or something a little stronger in a beautiful surrounding with what might be THE best view in St Ives you have to add this cafe/bar to your list. We sat gazing out of the large windows and got lost in our own thoughts. A great find indeed and I shall definitely return.
Saturday night supper was at One Fish Street. After numerous recommendations, we had to book ourselves in for their tasting menu.
We spent the evening sampling ten courses all prepared with local ingredients by chef Bradley. There was an Asian theme throughout the evening with courses inspired by Japan and Thailand. I really enjoyed the whole experience and the service was efficient and friendly. With the soft cosy lighting, I couldn’t get great pictures of the dishes but if you love a good fish restaurant then this place is top-notch.
Our train was booked for noon so it just gave us time to have coffee just around the corner from our apartment at Porthmeor Cafe before a slow walk to the train station revisiting some of my favourite shops found the previous day.
I picked up mince pies from Allotment Deli and a pasty from The Makers Of Fine Foods for train snacks.
I hope you found my insight into St Ives in December helpful. This town is more than just a summer destination. Steve and I are already looking at booking our next trip this time next year.