on August 29, 2012
The Navy Inn was one of two restaurants recommended to us by the owner of the Dunedin Guest House where we stayed in Penzance. We wanted to eat at a place that served local food, and we had been told that the Navy Inn served fresh fish from Newlyn. It was the nearer of the two recommendations, so I suggested we go there first and have a look at the menu. It was interesting enough to entice us in. This was quite early on a Friday evening, and we were extremely lucky to get the last free table.The inn is actually a pub serving food that is beautifully cooked and presented. It’s an old building with oak beams and is full of prints of ships and navy memorabilia. We were seated at a table near the rear of the pub at the end of bar. The seats were upholstered so it was comfortable. My son and his partner ordered beer - one had a pint of Doombar, but I forget the other name - and I ordered an apple juice. The waitress brought menus for us and there were also specials listed on a board near the entrance to the inn.We asked for a platter of olives and bread (£4.75) and then had a look at the main dishes. These range from chargrilled courgette and pearl barley risotto topped with Parmesan cheese (£9.95, one of two vegetarian mains) through poached fillets of local lemon sole with celeriac puree and a Seville dressing (£14.95) to pan fried local fillet steak served with shallot and red wine sauce and horseradish beignets (£19.95). Any of the starters can also be served as main dishes, and they include tower of Newlyn crab and roasted goat’s cheese with olive tapenade and membrillo. There is also a fish pie (£11.50), sausage, mash and onion gravy (£9.50) and a pie or casserole of the day, which was venison pie when we visited. The menu tells you that you can ask for something simple, such as "fish plainly grilled or steak with mushrooms and tomatoes." We were, however, interested in one or two of the dishes on the specials board. The menu states that the Navy Inn buys sustainable, line caught fish daily from Newlyn market, and we decided that fish was the thing to have. While my son and his partner were at the bar, people at a nearby table recommended the monkfish with scallops and risotto (£16.95) so they both decided to try it. I didn’t know if I liked monkfish and it seemed a lot to pay for something I was unsure of, so I decided on roasted cod with purple sprouting broccoli and a lemon hollandaise sauce (£12.95), billed as a wonderful Cornish dish. It sounded healthy too. Side orders of salads, risotto, mash and chips are available, but we didn’t think we needed to order any.The Navy Inn also has hot and cold sandwiches and three versions of a ploughman’s lunch on their menu, and it doesn’t say that they are only available at lunchtime. The children’s menu lists cheese and tomato ciabatta pizza and chicken bites in crispy crumb coating with chips as the main dishes, but some dishes from the main menu are marked H which means that they can be served as half portions at half price for children under ten.Food is cooked to order but we didn’t have to wait too long and we had the olives in the meantime. When our mains came they certainly looked good, and as it turned out they tasted even better. My son and his partner both said that theirs was the best fish they had ever tasted. My cod and broccoli may have looked a little more modest, but the fish was wonderful. I couldn’t remember what the sauce was, but it had a beautiful taste of lemon without being too sharp or sour. I checked afterwards with the waitress who confirmed that it was a lemon hollandaise sauce. It was perfect. I have to say that none of us had expected food of such a high quality in a pub.Having enjoyed our main courses so much we decided we wanted to sample the desserts as well. I didn’t have a huge amount of room left and I hadn’t yet had a Cornish ice cream, so I picked the brandy snap basket filled with ice cream or sorbet (£5.95). I chose two scoops of mixed berry ice cream and one of vanilla. My son and his partner both decided on Victoria sponge with homemade jam, fresh local berries and vanilla ice cream (£5.95). There are two other desserts on the menu as well as a West Country cheese board. While we were waiting my son ordered a whisky, his partner another pint of Doombar, and I asked for green tea. My tea came with a marshmallow and a small biscuit, which made me feel I would only just about have room for dessert. When the desserts appeared, we were very impressed by the presentation. The Victoria sponges even had a coil of sugar balanced on top. Once again, the food tasted as good as it looked. I loved the berry ice cream in particular, and the fruit complemented it perfectly. I had to finish the ice cream first and then pick the brandy snap up in my fingers as it was impossible to cut through it with a spoon, but it was crisp rather than tough. Needless to say, the Victoria sponge was very much appreciated too.The bill for our food came to £69.45 to which we added a tip. We were able to pay by card. We had already paid for our drinks in cash at the bar, but we could have added them to our food bill. The service from our waitress was very polite, friendly and efficient; we couldn’t have asked for more and realised how lucky we were to have got a table without a reservation.The toilets are the one thing that let the place down a little. The ladies’ could seriously do with a facelift, and my son said the gents’ didn’t have a very good hand-dryer. But I think the food was so impressive that we were all ready to overlook a bit of a shortcoming.We were leaving Penzance the following day, but I think if we had been staying longer I would have been tempted to go to the Navy Inn again and tried one of their cheaper mains or a roasted mackerel sandwich. We all said that we were surprised that in Portsmouth we didn’t have a restaurant serving fish that is anything like as good as what we had tasted at the Navy Inn. According to their website, they have been awarded an AA rosette five years running, and I can easily understand why. It is the ideal place to have excellent food in an informal atmosphere, and it is in their favour that they are using local products, local butchers and a neighbouring fish market.The Navy Inn is situated just off the promenade in Penzance, and it is also close to the town centre. I can only hope that I will have the chance to go back one day.
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