The Old Coastguard, Mousehole
Want an authentic Cornish getaway with killer views and a home-from-home vibe? The Old Coastguard in Mousehole is a unique look-out to pin to your watch list.
Bijou fishing villages don’t come more easy to fall in love with than Mousehole in West Cornwall. This little harbour where wooden boats bob about in the harbour is, by anyone’s standards, a bit special – the Cornish idyll at its finest. We found ourselves here at the end of the balmy summer, sandwiched in between lockdowns and as you wind your way down to the harbour through cottage-lined lanes it’s clear why Dylan Thomas proclaimed Mousehole ‘the ‘loveliest village in England’. Expect colour-washed walls, granite cottages and dawn-till-dusk swooping seagulls (you have to seriously watch your pasty).
Perched above this postcard-scene on a hillside is The Old Coastguard and it was top of my list for a visit. Sister inn to the highly rated Gurnard’s Head in Zennor and the Brecon Beacons’ Felin Fach Griffin, when we visited it had only recently reopened after a massive refurb, having been shut for over a year due to a fire.
From the outside The Coastguard nails that breezy blue and white coastal chic, a nod to its quirky heritage as a one-time lookout for the coastguard on this blissful outpost of western Cornwall.
Step inside and there are staggering views over to St Clement’s Island and St Michael’s Mount. You could stay all day and just gaze, it’s just extraordinary. A wall of glass frames one of the hands-down best vistas I’ve seen in a restaurant. And there’s no grey-scale moodboard here, instead a cheery riot of yellow and blue decor with oak tables, stripey wingback chairs, and rotated local artist’s work.
The owners are siblings Charles and Edmund Inkin, I met Charles who was dining with his own family in the restaurant (always a good sign), and it’s clear he’s super-passionate about the refurb, saying they strive to make the place a really relaxed (it feels mega chilled) and welcoming place. We liked that the beer and drinks prices set were reasonable too, set deliberately for its regular local customers, not just incoming tourists.
The feel is instantly warm, with a happy balance of tourists and locals and mainly families and couples, with a general noise setting of ‘happy hubbub’. We’d rocked up with the dog, and found it to be super pooch-friendly, even getting some specially cooked extra titbits from the lovely staff (honestly, he’s so spoilt).
It was also good to see Covid-secure distanced tables, track and trace on view, and hand sanitiser stations dotted all around.
Outside there’s a dreamy raised sundeck, which snakes down to a tropical-looking, well-manicured garden to the sea. An ideal spot for a sundowner.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The menu in the restaurant is short and sweet, but that means a real emphasis on quality over quantity and – refreshingly for a tourist hotspot – it’s priced for locals. And, rather than the standard starters and mains, you can pimp your meal however you like, getting bigger or smaller versions of anything.
The fish is from Newlyn down the road and the meat sourced from farms across Cornwall, which gets a big thumbs up. And head Chef, Jamie Porter, joined in June 2020 from Rick Stein’s The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow so I had great expectations.
To begin with we went for Steamed Newlyn Crab Claws with Aioli, Lemon and Soda Bread (£9) which were incredibly fresh and delicious, and Cornish Sardines with Heritage Tomatoes and Gremolata (£7), a dish which was beautifully light and flavoursome.
For mains we went for the Fowey Mussels (£15) with Garlic, White Wine, Shallots and Focaccia to begin with, afterall how could you not perched on the sea’s edge. They were absolutely divine and actually enormous with a cool, rustic wooden box-style presentation.
I had the Crab Linguine with Chilli, Garlic, Lime and Coriander (£14) as a main. I’ll be honest it’s one of my favourite dishes so the bar is high, and one I always order if it’s available, and this was right up there as the best I’ve ever had, on a par with The Ivy. I’m still dreaming about it months later!
For dessert the menu is equally refined, and extremely tempting. We went for the Chocolate Tart with Pistachio Ice Cream (£7) which was as good as it sounds, and went in about three mouthfuls.
And we also had the exotic sounding Tunisian Orange Cake with Vanilla Yoghurt and Mango Sorbet (£7), otherwise known as the dessert of dreams. The fluffiest sponge offset by a sharp sorbet – just incredible. In all, it was just a good job we had the seafront seconds away to walk it all off.
We didn’t stay overnight at The Old Coastguard but Charles did give me a tour of the rooms. The walls still with that fresh paint smell from the recent refurb, there are 14 bedrooms in total, situated above the restaurant on different floors, and nearly all of which look out over the glistening bay.
The rooms looked beautifully simple and stylish with a nod to the coastal theme, and were kitted out with all the home comforts you need, from tea and coffee to books and bathrobes.
And apparently, if you’re lucky, you might even catch dolphins leaping in the spray whilst you sip your morning coffee on the balcony. I’ve vowed to come back if only for this.
OUT & ABOUT
An all round stand-out location. The Old Coastguard is minutes from the beaches and gardens of West Kernow, including the paradisiacal Pedn Vounder beach and the famed Minack Theatre with its alfresco theatre set above the crashing waves of Porthcurno Beach. It’s an ideal base for West Penwith, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You can explore St Michael’s Mount too which is just 20 minutes drive away, but make sure to pre-book your visit if you want to visit the Causeway and Castle.
A mainline rail link can be found a 15-minute drive away in Penzance (also great to explore with its jumble of shops and the new Jubilee Pool – the UK’s first geothermal saltwater lido).
THE MUDDY VERDICT
THE DAMAGE: Super-reasonable for a platinum location, a three-course meal for two without wine came in at just under £60. A pint of Cornish Crown lager is £4.40.
GOOD FOR: Simple comforts and seriously good grub. Couples and families will love its super-chilled vibe. Panorama lovers will fall in love with its stunning setting by one of Cornwall’s prettiest harbours. Great in any season, head here in summer to sip a cocktail under the palm trees and curl up with a hot chocolate in winter and listen to the waves pounding the rocks.
NOT FOR: Non-reservers – this place gets busy, so you’ll need to pre-book, especially with currently restrictions in place. Non-walkers – it’s far easier to park in the harbour (pay and display) and walk up as spaces are very limited and you won’t be able to park on adjoining residential streets.
The Old Coastguard, The Parade, Mousehole, Penzance TR19 6PR. Tel: 01736 731222