Monday, 21 February 2011

St Ives Porthminster Cafe : gluten-free heaven

I had a four day holiday to St Ives in early February.  I have never been to St Ives in the winter before, and was surprised at how hard it was to find anything to eat.  I had two 'Greek' salads, one made up of limp pizza toppings, the other fresher; both gave me some gluten symptoms. However, I also found a superb cafe that I would be happy to eat at every day of a holiday.

Porthminster Cafe, St Ives

The  Porthminster Cafe is on the beach directly below the train station.  I walked down the very steep road from Tregenna Castle Hotel, where I had an off-season bargain self-catering apartment.  I wished I had skis as the little road went straight down the hill.  From the train station just walk away from the town along the beach.

This is the view from the cafe back towards the town.

St Ives town and harbour

The Porthminster Cafe has a fresh seaside air in its decor, it uses local produce and vegetables and herbs from their own garden.  They may have driftwood furniture and children's plastic buckets for wine coolers but they take their food and the satisfaction of the customer very seriously indeed.

I asked what I might be able to eat.  I find that a waiter's response to that question generally tells me everything I need to know about a restaurant and is a good predictor as well as to how likely cross- contamination of even a simple salad is likely to be.  I didn't get the equivalent of the 'can you eat bananas' response.  Instead, after saying that most things could be adapted, the waiter checked with the chef and came back with the two page savory menu covered in ticks and crosses (very few crosses).  Items were either fine as they were, perhaps with just leaving off a component like croutons, or could be adapted.

The menu in the winter is largely fish and shellfish 'from the ocean just outside our windows', but in the summer they have a full vegetarian menu as well.  I don't know how gluten free that will be, but I look forward to the opportunity to check it out.

I ate Cornish Hake Fillet with white bean cassoulet, chirizo, preserved lemon and saffron.  I chose this as I was curious to find out how the preserved lemon was used.  The food was served simply but with flair, and, apart from being too salty for my palate, was delicious.

For desert I had a caramelised banana and cinnamon meringue desert.  I know meringue is the usual fall-back of people avoiding gluten, but this was a superb meringue, and the little banana pudding that appeared on Tolerant Taster's plate really wasn't needed.  The pistachio ice cream was delicious, although it didn't really enhance the cinnamon and banana theme of the rest of the plate.

I enjoyed every minute of this lunch, and didn't get even a smidgen of gluten from any of the items.  I completely recommend this restaurant for anything from morning coffee to dinner.  If they had been doing breakfast I would have tried that out, but it was a cold dark February.  Perhaps in the summer one could live in the cafe from dawn to dusk.

1 comment:

  1. Don't you just hate it when the reaction to that question is a blank stare or something equally as telling! I love it when I find a restaurant who understands what gluten free means and they don't treat you like you're from another planet.


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