Fans of Daphne du Maurier will be well versed in Jamaica Inn’s murky past, the grey stone Cornish pub come restaurant once being the weather-beaten home to smugglers and trawlers pestering the coast of the wild Cornish moors, grabbing some much needed refreshment between lifting loads of goods. Although now the location is more famed for its ghost walks than pirate locale, I couldn’t wait to investigate the character of the place as I headed there for an evening meal with my in-laws on the last night of our stay in Cornwall.
The interior is typical of many of the older buildings we had come across during our stay in Cornwall; dark and chunky wooden beams lay coarsely across low white-washed ceiling, the beams encircling the walls and mirroring the dark wood of the bottle clustered bar as well as the polished tables and stools that sat around the relaxed eating area in the pub. A crackling log fire blistered within a large stone hearth, adding a unique homely feel and a hint of times gone by. Paper thin coloured notes of money, I couldn’t tell which, were stapled to some of the ceiling beams, adding an intriguing splash of colour and character that seemed almost a clue to the well-travelled visitors of the past. Odds and ends seemed to be everywhere you looked, creating quite a hodge-podge collection; however every item looked at home in its spot, as if it were meant to be sitting there. I could almost envision the trade ships and pirates who must have gathered in this quaint and quirky place.
A group of six, we were shown to a rectangular table next to the fire, three of us seated on a wooden bench made comfy by a matching deep red cushion, the rest of us perched on wooden chairs that had a stool like feel. The light from a tiny window adjacent to the table cast a nice natural glow on our table, while the fire the other side protected us from the rather draughty breeze that whistled past our feet.
Sipping a refreshing chilled glass of sauvignon blanc, I perused the classic British menu. The choice wasn’t massive, but it featured your classic grills, burgers, pizzas and pies – solid comfort food with something for everyone in the family, making it suitable for all ages. Feeling decidedly British, I opted for the steak and ale pie. Made with shortcrust pastry, it was a circular individual pie that emitted a delightful puff of steam when I cut into the crunchy, golden crust. Tumbling chunks of tender beef rolled out over my unwelcome portion of green garden peas, the rich inner gravy also sluicing over my rolled round of creamy mashed potato. A separate portion of gravy was presented in a tidy plain white jug.
The pastry was buttery and nicely seasoned, with the perfect level of crunch, even after being sodden in the rich, flavourful gravy. The beef was soft and the ale flavour added that little something extra to the flavour, deepening it somewhat. The mash was smooth and lump-free, soft and creamy – it even managed to disguise the taste of the peas that blighted my plate. The main course was very much an unfussy meal; it was plain, simple, homemade cooking, like Sunday dinners prepared by your mum. No frills it was honest food that tasted good, so it gets a simplistic thumbs up from me in response. It didn’t blow me out of the park, but I enjoyed the meal a great deal.
I continued my British food theme with dessert, choosing a particular favourite of my granddad’s; spotted dick. Asking for extra custard, I ended up with two small jugs filled to the brim with the yellow vanilla loveliness, drowning my unfortunate pud! (Note: this is a good thing in Katie terminology). The pudding itself was taste yet again nothing to write home about. A bit lacklustre in appearance, it was nice and squidgy, dotted with plump sultanas and raisins, presented in a neat circle. It was a good size for a dessert so that made me a happy bunny!
Jamaica Inn couldn’t really be described as gourmet, but it is somewhere I would go back. Its atmosphere is strangely different, with that unique echo of traditional Cornwall and times gone by where pirates ruled the roost of the coast. Homely and comfortable, it is suitable for adults and little ones alike, with a menu that even the fussiest of eaters couldn’t complain about, so that also presents a win-win. It made for a very nice, uncomplicated evening with the family that didn’t burst the bank balance either.