At the western end of Porthmeor Beach in St Ives, you’ll find West Beach, a smart little bar and café, with crisp white paintwork, scrubbed bare wood, and a heavenly view.
We’ve enjoyed Woodfired Canteen’s food before (including their regular Taco Tuesday pop-ups, and an evening at The Lost Gardens of Heligan) so jumped at the chance to visit them at their latest venture.
Woodfired Canteen’s founder and head chef, Ben Quinn, was manning the grills as we arrived.
After a warm welcome, he handed us chunks of burnt red onion (soft, sweet and juicy) stuffed with smoked chicken livers. What a brilliant combination, really moreish, and one I’ll be trying to replicate at home.
This seemingly natural act of serving food (from fingers, rather than on a plate) does, apparently, startle some guests; however this was a classic example of Ben’s ethos. He explained to us his love of cooking and sharing food, with a strong maternal instinct borne from his Italian heritage.
This is all about people, friends and community, enjoying good times and good food together. This comes across in Ben’s cooking – food is prepared with a big heart, not a big ego, and tastes all the better for it.
Trying not to hog the entire tray of nibbles, we moved inside to our table, where we were presented with warm Australian style bread and a really unusual, yet delicious, dip.
Yogurt-based, with pomegranate seeds, nuts, lemon and herbs, it was sharp and sweet, packed full of flavour, and an indication of the style of the dishes to come.
The wine list was small but perfectly formed; we went for a crisp, dry Italian white. Cocktails, beers and soft drinks were also available.
The main course was served on dishes in the centre of the table, perfect for sharing with friends.
The crispy-skinned, spiced chicken thighs were succulent and perfectly cooked. They were served with sweet potatoes, charred and crisp on the outside, soft and melting within, and the dish was scattered with herbs and spices, spring onions, seeds and Bombay mix.
A fresh and zingy salad complemented the chicken and sweet potatoes, providing contrast in texture, taste and temperature.
This dish really got the taste buds going, bursting with many flavours, which built with each mouthful.
Throughout the meal I loved the attention to detail. Kilner jars, scrunched up paper, and enamel plates were effortlessly stylish, and perfectly suited to the pared back surroundings of the beach café. It was all “just right”.
All too soon, dessert was upon us. A lovely idea, we were presented with a takeaway pud so that we could wander the cobbled streets of St Ives, on to the next bar.
Within the scrunchy brown paper bag was an utterly gorgeous, gooey chocolate brownie, speckled with pistachios and with a warm hint of orange.
I’d highly recommend Woodfired at West and am already planning another visit, taking in the newly re-opened Tate St Ives beforehand.
Woodfired at West will be popping up regularly throughout the summer, with sittings at 6pm and 8pm each Tuesday and Thursday.
Tickets are priced at £25 per person, with vegetarian options available, and can be purchased online in advance. You can also turn up on the day and cross your fingers that they can fit you in. Drinks are available to buy from the bar.
For more information about Woodfired Canteen’s catering and events, visit canteencornwall.com.
Thank you to Sam for inviting us along to the event, and to Ben and his team for looking after us so well. Disclaimer: Woodfired Canteen kindly comped us our food, and we paid for our drinks.