Penzance has a thriving food scene that combines the seafood traditions of the Cornish coast with a diversity of culinary influences from all over the world. Whether it’s fresh fish from Newlyn Harbour or international delights from Poland or Thailand, you will find somewhere here to suit your taste. During repeat visits to our favourite Cornwall seaside town, we have had the pleasure of trying Penzance restaurants, gastropubs and cafés of all shapes and sizes. We’ve compiled our favourites here in this quick guide to the best places to eat in Penzance.
In this article:
Seafood restaurants in Penzance
Mackerel Sky Seafood Bar
With neighbouring Newlyn home to one of the largest and busiest fishing harbours in the UK, it’s no surprise that Penzance is awash with seafood restaurants. Our pick in the area is Mackerel Sky Seafood Bar, situated in Newlyn close to the harbour.
You can reach this little gem from Penzance via a 20-minute scenic walk along the promenade. It operates on a no-bookings basis and, due to its popularity, it’s not unusual to see long queues outside. With daily hours of 12–9pm, try and come around mid-afternoon or early evening if you’d rather not hang about.
‘Bar’ is a good descriptor for this place, as the interior is suitably cosy with its high tables and long wooden benches. It’s one of those intimate eateries where the kitchen is integrated into the layout, and you can see chefs busy at work cooking your food just a few feet away. Add some atmospheric soul and rock n’ roll music into the mix, and you’ve got yourself the perfect setting for a funky date night.
The menu is styled as ‘fresh fish tapas’, featuring delicacies such as scallops with Cornish dukkah and crab nachos with sour cream. The portion sizes are somewhere between a typical starter and main; I ordered two with some chips, which was more than enough!
The crispy sole with katsu curry sauce is full of flavour, and you can taste the ocean freshness in the grilled mackerel with pickled cucumber and horseradish. If you’re in for dessert too, the raspberry fool with pistachio dukkah is fabulously original and neatly presented in a rustic mug. Oh, and it’s absolutely delicious.
Penzance restaurants for international cuisine
The Singing Rooster
I don’t usually pick favourite restaurants, but I’m not gonna lie… the Singing Rooster is our number one go-to among a crowded field of amazing places to eat in Penzance. We’ve been to this place more than any other restaurant in Penzance; in fact, we usually pay a visit here whenever we’re in town.
You wouldn’t guess it from the name, but the Singing Rooster is actually a Polish café. My mum (who lives in Penzance) is a regular here too, and she has gotten to know the Polish couple who run it. Tomasz is a wonderful chef; Dagmara makes the most incredible cakes and has also masterminded the hand-decorated interior design. They’ve become well known around the town, and for good reason.
The café is located at the top end of Causewayhead, which, incidentally, is one of the coolest backstreets in Penzance for independent shops and galleries. Stepping inside the Rooster you will be instantly charmed by the artistic composition, from the intricately painted tables to the white piano in the corner.
But the main reason we keep coming back here is the food. Delicious Polish cuisine, simply presented, with generous portion sizes. The Polish charcuterie board makes for an appetising starter-sharer for two people. For mains, try the pierogi, schnitzel or bigos for a true taste of Poland – it’s the best Polish food I’ve tasted outside of Krakow! Wash it down with a bottle of Żywiec to complete the experience.
If you’d prefer something that reminds you more of British cuisine, there are alternatives on the menu such as roast chicken or fish of the day. But take our word for it, you’ll be missing out! Whatever you do, try one of Dagmara’s cakes of the day (you can ask to take some away if you’re too full). Warning: it comes in huge slices…
Thai Moon is a lovely little place that simultaneously feels like a homely living room and a Thai museum. One of Penzance’s best international restaurants, it would fit just as neatly into the section below on ‘restaurants with a view’. Set just back from the promenade, you can gaze out onto the blue sea of Mount’s Bay through the giant first-floor windows.
The restaurant is run by Irvine and Aoy, a husband-and-wife team from nearby Long Rock and Pang Khone in Thailand respectively. Aoy is the lead chef and a master of Thai cuisine, while Irvine looks after hospitality with an archetypal Cornish charm. When I called to reserve a table, we ended up chatting for a good half hour about Thailand, Penzance and putting the world to rights.
It’s hard not to love the ambience at Thai Moon. The decorations somehow seem intricate and simple at the same time. An underlying blue colour scheme is complemented with colourful Thai artefacts, paintings and memorabilia sprinkled across the walls.
We’ve been spoiled in the past when it comes to Thai food, having travelled extensively in Thailand. Thai food outside the country never seems to live up to the same standards. This place, however, is one of the rare gems that really does.
The menu at Thai Moon offers quite a bit more diversity than most Thai restaurants we’ve tried. Of course there are the classics like green and red curry and pad Thai, but you will also find some more obscure options. Personally I love the chicken labb, an irresistible dish made with herbs, chilli, onion and lemon juice. The bursting flavours left me pleased with my decision to try something a little different.
Penzance restaurants with a view
Tremenheere Kitchen is another of our regular hit-ups when we visit Penzance. My mum adores places with a good view, and this has the best of anywhere around, so it’s a no-brainer really. There is a breathtaking sculpture gardens on site, which you can enter and explore for £9, and there’s also a plant nursery and shop next to the restaurant. Lisa has a vision to eventually fill our home with the amazing succulents from here!
The site is positioned on the sloping hills behind Long Rock, just to the east of Penzance beyond Gulval. From the outdoor seating you can enjoy an incredible view of the ocean and St Michael’s Mount in its full glory. (Outdoor tables are in high demand, so book in advance if you can.)
Tremenheere Kitchen has an imaginative menu with a lot of seafood on offer, and an array of international influences in the trimmings. Take the Cornish shellfish bouillabaisse for example, or the tempura local vegetables with satay sauce and Asian slaw. The staff are very friendly and helpful; on our last visit, my mum hadn’t realised that tempura isn’t gluten-free, and they brought her an alternative right away. They even offered not to charge for the tempura, but mum insisted on paying!
Sometimes the simplest dishes are the best. The beer-battered hake goujons with triple-cooked chips and salsa dip are a winner. The menu is kept fresh with frequent changes, so you can expect variations on this.
The Old Coastguard
The fishing village of Mousehole, three miles around the Mount’s Bay coast from Penzance, has always held a special place in my heart. My grandfather was born in the village and I spent many long summer holidays there as a child. For as long as I can remember, the Old Coastguard has been a popular fixture in Mousehole and regarded as one of the best restaurants in the area.
As you enter Mousehole on the coastal road, the Old Coastguard is literally the first building you reach on the left-hand side, a brilliant-white building looking conspicuously out onto the sea.
Inside it has the feel of a gastropub with high ceilings, polished wooden floors and spaced-out tables. When the weather cooperates, the gardens outside provide further seating against a glorious ocean backdrop.
The Old Coastguard has evolved a lot over the years through changes of ownership and the occasional acts of God. A couple of years ago a fire broke out in the premises, forcing it to close for nearly in year. In March 2020 it was finally ready to reopen – only to be closed down again immediately because of you-know-what.
Since reopening, the restaurant has been reimagined once again with a gourmet brasserie-style menu, underpinned by fresh local ingredients. It isn’t cheap, but the food is of the highest quality.
The dressed Cornish crab is the pick of the starters. We usually wouldn’t stray from ordering fish dishes for mains around these parts – and the cod at the Coastguard is extremely good – but the lamb breast and rump is simply a cut above.
For dessert, try the rhubarb mousse garnished with rhubarb jelly and gingerbread crumble. I’m a bit biased because I love fruit-based desserts, but this one is a real treasure.
Penzance gastropubs and bar-restaurants
The Mexico Inn
On a pre-pandemic visit to Penzance, Lisa and I stayed at an Airbnb next door to the Mexico Inn in Long Rock. When we couldn’t find where we were supposed to be staying, our genius solution was to pop into the pub and ask if they had any ideas (and maybe stop for a pint too).
We were instantly struck by the homeliness emanating from the open fire. The pub has an effortless welcoming nature about it. Naturally, the bar staff were happy to help, and more than willing to pour a pint.
It was a fleeting visit, so we didn’t get a chance to come in for a full meal. But fast-forward to the post-pandemic summer, and I finally got round to eating at the Mexico Inn. My mum and I dined in on the last night of my summer 2021 solo trip to Cornwall.
The distinguishing feature of the Mexico Inn is an outdoor wood-fired oven, the instrument of choice for cooking its market seafood and creative selection of pizzas. Following the always-order-seafood-in-Cornwall rule, I couldn’t resist the Newlyn crab and mussel seafood pizza, and it didn’t disappoint. Mum preferred to go for the simple fresh fish of the day, dressed in herbs, olive oil, lemon juice and local cider vinegar.
Sometimes it’s the little touches that make a restaurant experience. While we were in between courses, the staff brought over some complementary breadsticks with baba ganoush dip. Mum liked it so much that she ordered some more baba ganoush!
I must also mention the dessert I ordered: dark chocolate mousse with malt cream, boozy cherries and pistachios. Rich with flavour and oozing indulgence. Just yum.
Artist Residence on Chapel Street, featured in our guide to hotels in Penzance, is one of the town’s most characterful places to stay, blending quirky artwork and upcycled furniture with the ambiance of an old Georgian inn. It is also home to a rustic, ambient restaurant and garden bar.
The menu has quite a hispter gastropub feel to it, featuring American-style diner staples such as sticky chicken wings and double burgers with monterey jack cheese, contrasted by more bourgeoisie options such as grilled lobster and charred sea bream.
My favourite dish on the menu lies somewhere between these: sweet n’ spicy prawn tacos with salsa, herb yoghurt and slaw. This is the kind of dish that reflects the creative spirit of Artist Residence, both in its composition and colourful presentation. Most importantly, it tastes great. (If you have a big appetite like me, then a side of skin-on chips is a good shout to accompany it.)
For dessert, the white chocolate cheesecake with berry compote and a mint garnish is to die for. We haven’t tried the Artist Residence cocktails yet, but they come with high repute. Seeing that there is a ‘Cornish caipirinha’ on the menu, I’m sure we’ll hang around next time for one of those to wash down our meal.
Places to eat in Penzance for lunch
Rowe’s Cornish Bakers
As we point out in our guide to things to do in Penzance, you have to try a proper Cornish pasty at least once while you’re in town. Rowe’s Cornish Bakers is one of the best places to do this.
Rowe’s originated in Falmouth and has been making Cornish pasties for over 70 years. Their Penzance bakery is on Causewayhead, close to many of the town’s funky independent shops and galleries.
A Cornish pasty from Rowe’s is perfect for a quick lunch on the go while you’re out shopping or to take down to the promenade with a sea view. You can also eat in, but you’ll be lucky to get a table at peak lunch hours. Drop by in mid-afternoon for the best chance of grabbing a seat.
Rowe’s Cornish pasties are so good that one has even been launched into space!
Places to eat in Penzance: map
The map below shows the locations of the Penzance restaurants we have highlighted in this article:
Have you travelled to this charming seaside town before? Let us know about your favourite places to eat in Penzance in the comments below.
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