In the fourteen months since chef Ben Tunnicliffe took over as custodian of The Tolcarne Inn in Newlyn, crowds of food enthusiasts have been beating a path to his door. Each day a fresh menu reads like an ode to the sea; a force which makes its presence felt just metres from the pub. Now Ben’s masterful take on Cornish seafood has won him national acclaim, with the announcement of ‘Bib Gourmand’ Status last week.
The Michelin Guides have been the most respected and comprehensive measure of culinary excellence for over a hundred years. Bib Gourmand awards receive a smaller share of media hype than big brothers the Michelin Stars themselves, but as they recognise good food at affordable prices they represent a more attainable dining experience for most of us.
Ben, who has been a champion of Cornwall’s food and drink since he settled here in 2001, took over the historic pub in the fishing port of Newlyn in July 2012. The talented chef had previously made a name for himself as Head Chef at The Abbey in Penzance, where he gained a Michelin Star in 2003. After that he was at the helm of the kitchen team for the launch of The Scarlet Hotel, Cornwall’s premier eco hotel and spa retreat. “The Scarlet was a great experience – the kitchen was fantastic and the ethos provided plenty of scope for great food. However after a while I wanted a new project” said Ben, “something on a small and intimate scale.”
After looking for some time, he discovered The Tolcarne for sale, a local pub which needed someone with passion and energy to bring it back to life. “The pub is in an amazing position, right by the sea wall in the heart of one of the UKs most important fishing ports,” said Ben. “It felt right straight away.” The determined chef saw the potential for serving supremely fresh seafood in a relaxed atmosphere, with a daily-changing menu reflecting the catch of the day.
This is exactly what The Tolcarne now offers, and is the key to its on-going success. “My fish supplier rings me up every day and tells me what has been landed. I build my menu around that. The fish and produce overall in Cornwall is second to none, and people seem to like the robust flavours of my cooking.” The Tolcarne also serves a popular Sunday lunch, accompanied by a local jazz group and offers a warm and friendly welcome to those who simply want to prop up the bar.
Ben has been encouraged by the Bib Gourmand, after an extremely long and busy summer. “It’s great to hear we have been recognised for the quality food we offer at a reasonable price. However the greatest praise for me is when local people keep coming back. I’ve worked in fine dining restaurants and large boutique hotels and I think a pub, if you get it right, can beat both hands down for food and atmosphere.”
The Tolcarne Inn is open all year, with the kitchen closed for Ben’s annual holiday in January.