I love any excuse to indulge in seafood so during my trip to Cornwall I made sure to feast on the tastes of the ocean at any given opportunity. After our day exploring some of the West and South’s must-see sights, Dad and I ended up in St Ives, a beautiful town that has been voted one of the UK’s top beach destinations for many years.
With tired feet and growling bellies we headed over to St Ives’ top restaurant Alba, a sea-facing bar and restaurant in the refurbished Old Lifeboat House.
Since 2002, Head Chef Grant Nethercott has served natural eclectic dishes using fresh, seasonal produce to a fine dining standard, even using herbs from his own garden. Taking influence from French cuisine, Grant classes Alba as modern British style, his favourite dish to cook being fresh sea bass.
The restaurant on the second floor sits above the classic A Bar which offers small plates and a range of creative cocktails from day till night. Back upstairs is where you’ll need to book for a window side table looking out across St Ives Bay.
We arrived for our 6pm booking, close enough to the windows to get a good view of the now darkening sky. I had thought the ‘panoramic’ views would be enjoyed from a considerably larger wall so I strongly advise reserving a window table far in advance if you come here for the scenery!
Nevertheless the food was what Dad and I were interested in. As we oooed over the recently changed menu, a basket of walnut and rosemary bread was brought to the table with a small dish of olive oil. I normally prefer my bread warm but the herb and nut flavours made up for the lack of fresh heat!
I decided on a glass of Camel Valley Cornish sparkling wine to accompany my meal, a beautiful glass full of fruity depth. As we ordered our first two courses (deciding to indulge because, why not!) the day’s amuse bouche was served, a tiny pot of creamed apple and celeriac topped with walnut pesto. It was silky and warming, perfect for the start of the frosty season.
It seems more and more often these days that I’m completely torn between the choices of starters, as I was at Alba. Yet with my heart set on scallops, I made my selection and awaited their arrival. Dad had the same trouble deciding yet finally chose the creamed feta, served with a huge selection of veggies including roasted red pepper, mint, lentil du pay, semi-dried baby plum tomatoes, baby rocket, peashoot and pepper gel. The vote came back positive, a lovely fresh first dish.
My scallops came with a stunning Indian influenced combination of lentil dhal, tomato and coriandar sambal and cumin spinach, complete with a crisp yet non-oily onion bhaji, a mix of flavours that intrigued and delighted me. The scallops were cooked to perfection and the rest of the dish tasted as fresh and flavoursome as it looked.
My stomach had also been craving some delicious fresh mussels and I couldn’t face going home without trying some of Cornwall’s best offerings. My main came in a confit of preserved lemon, garlic, onion and coriander with a side of hand cut chips. The mussels themselves were beautifully cooked, never chewy or gritty. Unfortunately I was less keen on the sauce which felt slightly too acidic for my liking.
The chips were beautifully fluffy and seasoned and I managed to scoff only half of the bowl after my huge portion of shellfish!
Dad thankfully ordered a dish that I’d had my eye on and so I got to sample the rosti served with wild mushroom ragout, spinach, truffled celeraic remoulade and bitter leaves. It was topped with a silky poached egg and ‘ye olde smokey sauce’. It also came with a small side salad and coleslaw which Dad raved about.
The portion was absolutely huge and despite it tasting beautiful, it was even too much for Dad with more mushrooms than I’ve ever seen on a dish. For a fine dining restaurant I was astonished by the amount of food on each plate.
Despite feeling almost full to the brim, I couldn’t leave Alba without ordering from their incredible dessert menu. Dad had chosen his dishes from the set dinner menu with 2 courses for £21.95 or 3 for £25.95 (which is amazingly available until 7pm on weekends too) so he also couldn’t resist finishing on a sweet note!
I enthusiastically put my order in for the chocolate nemesis, served with a salted caramel pannacotta, popcorn ice cream, chocolate soil, chantilly cream and popcorn dust. Once again the dish was HUGE and honestly it should have been served as a sharing dessert. The chocolate slice was divine, not too bitter yet not too sweet and was beautifully complimented by the chantilly cream.
Dad had chosen the autumn berries with red wine infusion, fromage frais sorbet and vanilla creme brulee. In our tastings we combined flavours of each desert, concluding that the berries and wine infusion would have done well being served with the chocolate nemesis!
Of course there was no way possible I could have finished that beastly dessert and I definitely left feeling a little sickly. We mooched around the now dark harbour taking in the sights before making our way back to Marazion.
All in all the value of the food at Alba is fantastic, despite a couple of ‘meh’ flavours, I thoroughly enjoyed our meal with the scallops standing out by a mile. There are plenty of dishes left on their new menu I’d love to have tried and wouldn’t hesitate to return… I’d just make sure to wear loose fitted clothing and miss lunch to make room.