Published in Cornwall Today, September 2016
An inconspicuous location – in Longrock on the edge of Penzance – may be why The Mexico Inn has flown under the radar of the many national newspapers who have featured Penzance as the latest ‘cool Cornish destination’; more fool them.
The pub’s exotic name derives from a mine engineer – Bill Trewratha – who travelled to Mexico to lend his expertise during the silver mining boom. He returned to Cornwall in 1794 and set up a mine called Long Rock with a cottage for the workers – which naturally began to sell liquor too…
Today, this authentic and humble local pub is one of the most enjoyable places to eat in West Cornwall thanks to Tom Symons and Amy Parsons, who took over 18 months ago. The couple have injected their passion for proper food and a relaxed, family-friendly approach to hospitality into the 200 year-old mining establishment, creating a destination for dedicated food hounds, casual drinkers and family get-togethers.
Tom and Amy, who have two young children and live above the pub, met in 2007 when they both worked at The Abbey Restaurant in Penzance. They continued to cut their culinary teeth together at The Scarlet Hotel in Mawgan Porth under the guidance of chef Ben Tunnicliffe, learning skills and presentation techniques from the top echelons of Cornwall’s dining scene.
A move to another acclaimed local food destination, The Gurnard’s Head, helped solidify their love of ingredient-driven menus. “At The Gurnard’s Head, we both loved the fresh game and lobsters brought to the back door,” explained Tom. Amy adds; “We enjoyed picking sorrel and other wild herbs from the back lane. Cows also walk pass the door twice a day, which gives the place a nice rural rhythm.”
From The Gurnard’s, Tom went on to a position as Head Chef at The Old Coastguard in Mousehole, before the pair decided it was time to embrace a new challenge. Amy grew up in Longrock and The Mexico Inn had been her local for many years, so the couple jumped at the opportunity to put their own distinctive stamp on the building and the menu.
The interior is a welcoming assortment of bright, contrasting colours, well-worn floor boards, shelves filled with eclectic recipe books, and cupboards packed with games and toys for little ones. It’s an easy and enjoyable walk from both Penzance and Marazion, and there is a sunny beer garden to enjoy when you get there, making it a popular choice with families.
The bar is decked out with hand-picked local ales and ciders, a growing collection of artisan spirits, and a well-priced wine selection. This is also where you might find one of the three Parson sisters pulling pints, or Front of House Manager Shanice Kessel, who came with Tom and Amy from The Old Coastguard.
Perched on a bar stool is a good place to start your food experience at The Mexico Inn. The tempting selection of bar snacks includes whitebait with harissa mayonnaise, anchovies on garlic buttered toast, and mushroom and parmesan arancini; perfect pre-starters whilst you browse the menu, or accompaniment to a quick mid-week drink (bar snacks are four for £11.50).
The menu, which changes gradually with the seasons, is small but perfectly formed and focuses on satisfying, unpretentious dishes. Tom and Amy are advocates of proper, modern pub food; their dishes combine hearty flavours with skilful cooking and perfect presentation. They have great relationships with local suppliers and as a result their food is informed by the best seasonal ingredients rather than the latest food trends.
Starters (from £6) might include marinated tomato and basil salad with Vulscombe goat’s cheese and spiced breadcrumbs, or mussels steamed in Vermouth and garlic butter. Mains (from £10.50) could range from a seafood chowder featuring Pollack, mussels, tomatoes, saffron and peas, to roast pork belly and Trelawney sausage with smoked bacon sauerkraut, potatoes, broad beans and apple sauce. Desserts (from £5.50) follow the unpretentious theme and are utterly irresistible.
With a young family in residence, and an extended clan of Parsons and Symons’ helping out in front and behind the scenes, The Mexico Inn has a genuine warmth and community feel. Introductions such as acoustic evenings, Sunday Roasts (usually a sell-out), take-away fish and chips (available every lunch and dinner), and Saturday Morning Breakfasts are helping broaden the appeal – encouraging more and more people to rediscover the joys of this Longrock pub.