The best places to eat, stay, shop and visit in the South West

The Old Mill House, near Padstow

If you’re looking for the wow-factor of fine dining with all the low-key charm of a cosy bistro, the Old Mill Bistro is likely to become your smug little secret, writes Rosanna Rothery

Already a firm favourite with foodies-in-the-know, the family-run bistro, headed up by Adam Tomlinson, recently added Jamie Porter to its ranks: a Cornish chef who earned his stripes in the kitchens of Rick Stein and Alain Roux.

VISIT for utter reliability. It’s not always easy trying to pick something scrumptious from a menu when you’re ravenous as a wolf, a little tiddly post aperitif and trying to engage in witty repartee with a dining partner. ‘Am I going to end up coveting my companion’s dinner?’ is every foodie’s fear. Thankfully, whether you prefer to play it safe or throw caution to the wind, you won’t be infected by green-eyed muncher syndrome at this bistro housed within The Old Mill House B&B.

Those opting for a classic surf-and-turf, for instance, will feel rather pleased with themselves for choosing a dish that pairs the briny freshness of panfried hake with chorizo. As if hankering after the sea, the pearlescent fish laps up the saltiness of the cured meat while the accompanying mussels smell as heady as a wave crashing on a rock.

For those pushing out the culinary boat, the delicate flavours of dover sole are complemented by chicken, cep and truffle in a creamy overcoat of agnolotti (ravioli’s smaller, squarer cousin).

As this is Cornwall, it’s only natural to find the menu spilling over with seafood, although meat eaters will find options like wood pigeon, steak and duck. And it’s gratifying that absolutely everything (from the crusty tomato and thyme mini loaves to the decadently gooey chocolate brownie and petit four) has been handcrafted with the clear aim of perfection.

DON’T VISIT for showy dining in lofty surrounds. The beauty of this 24-cover eatery (where the table is yours for the evening) is its intimate charm and the friendly personal service.

WE LIKED the old-world feel of the 16th century corn mill, complete with working water wheel, which is lent picture-book charm by its proximity to an ancient bridge and babbling creek.

Insider's tip

You can give in to the temptations of the gin menu as cottage-style bedrooms with original features beckon.

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