The Harbour Restaurant, Port Isaac

Taking the entire family out to a grown up restaurant is a calculated risk. At best the children won’t whine. At worst we will be asked to leave for causing such a rumpus and spoiling the other dinners’ intimate soirées. However, there comes a time, when the ‘little darlings’ have to be initiated, or no family would ever enjoy a bit of civilized dining out. I enquired cautiously on booking, “We’d like to bring our kids, would that be alright?”

“We do mostly fish,” came the warning. Fresh Port Isaac crab cakes, scallops, sardines, mackerel, lemon sole and sea trout: it makes perfect sense.  From the front door, the view is direct onto the Platt where fishermen still land their daily catch. “That’s Ok, they all like fish,” my fingers firmly crossed. My youngest has an expensive predilection for lobster. It’s just important to keep greenery off his plate. Luckily, owner and chef Emily Scott has children too so accommodating kids doesn’t faze her in the least.

Arriving early, during a tranquil summer evening, we had an hour to explore an area that’s full of activity. Port Gaverne’s pub, a short walk via the cliff path, was filling with revellers. We watched a group of youngsters playing in the sea’s swell and two gig teams set out for a practise session. We even stumbled across a bit of ‘Doc Martin’ filming in fictional Port Wenn.

Port Isaac is incredibly pretty and with its diminutive cottages and sweeping view across its little bay. The Harbour restaurant, a unique 15th century building, is in the oldest in the village. Step inside and you suddenly feel like a Lilliputian in a cover shot for Country Living. The tiny interior has something of Kirstie Allsopp’s homemade rustic charm with shell lights, painted furniture and bunting, in pale tones, simple flowers, and unfussy tableware. Everything is small but perfectly formed. My boys squeezed themselves between pastel cushions on a window seat and, in response to their surroundings, drew in elbows and assumed angelic behaviour from then on in.

Small, can be misconstrued as mean. It was not. Tables were arranged to give plenty of space. Nobody felt crowded and the friendly welcome from ‘front of house, Jason, made us feel more like guests than customers. The perfect compliment to Emily’s delicious cooking, he was always helpful but never obtrusive.

On Thursdays, St. Breward’s Brass Band plays on the Platt, and the additional enjoyment of live music so close by made the evening perfect. “On Friday, The ‘Fisherman’s Friends’ perform,” said Jason, “but then you can’t move for the crowds.”

Emily’s dishes have a lightness of feminine touch in their execution and flavour and it is not unusual for her to garnish her food prettily with edible flowers. My offspring surprised me by decisively choosing starters and mains. While waiting, we scoffed, with olive oil for dipping, a selection of three types of homemade breads. For starter, I ate a delicious sweet-salty salad of Deli Farm coppa ham with soft figs, chilli, rocket and feta while my husband and boys chose scallops or the sardines. We all adored the subtle and delicious shore caught cod with tiger prawns with cream and Parmesan for mains.  Served with rustic chips brought to the table in little white milk jugs. We were not overstuffed so there was no hesitation over whether to indulge in puddings too. Emily’s perfect panacotta was so smooth it left me in relaxed and mellow mood.

The following morning, my ten year old thanked me, saying: “It was the best food, the best restaurant, the best evening he’d ever had.” That’s a genuine endorsement when the young are moved to praise.

No.1 Middle Street, Port Isaac, Cornwall, PL29 3RH

Tel: 01208 880 237

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