Try and think back to a time before the internet took over our lives. A time when arguments in the pub over the year that Return of The Jedi was released remained unanswered until you could dig out your VHS copy at home and check. A time where recipes came from recipe books, music came from your hi-fi, photos sat in an album and your decision about which restaurant to eat at came more often than not as a result of the mythical ‘word of mouth.’
So yeah, balls to the internet. Those where the days right? Well to be honest I don’t know, as I certainly can’t remember a time where any of the previously mentioned reminisces actually happened. Certainly not to me.
What I did have the pleasure of doing recently, for quite possibly the first time in my 6 years of living in Falmouth (well Penryn, but lets not split hairs) is visiting a restaurant that I was actually genuinely excited about eating at. This child-like excitement was not thanks to 5 stars on trip advisor, or a glowing write up on the Guardian website, but was actually due to a torrent of almost unbelievably positive reviews and ‘word of mouth’ recommendations from practically every person I have met south of the Tamar. This restaurant is The Wheelhouse.
So let me set the scene. Or waffle on a bit more. Let see where it goes…
This was not to be a solo culinary adventure and for this mission behind enemy lines (the Falmouth/Penryn boundary – its somewhere near Lidl) I was accompanied by the radiant Miss C (who you may remember from my last review) and a crack team of shellfish enthusiasts. Shellfish enthusiasts and this man…
…who was disappointed to discover that the Wheelhouse did not serve meat. This disappointment was luckily doused in rum, which was then met by chips and resulted in smiles. Thankfully the rest of the hungryincornwall squadron were hungry for some delicious local shellfish and were not to be let down.
Now before I get onto the unadulterated praise of what has certainly taken a prominent position on the ‘best food I have ever eaten in Cornwall’ list, I feel duty bound to point out some very minor criticisms of my first visit to the Wheelhouse. Firstly, we were booked in for 9 o’clock and upon arriving at said time, we were greeted by the very friendly proprietor Tina, who informed us that the table would not be ready for another half an hour. No biggy really but for the fact that I had eaten two slices for pizza for lunch at 12:30 and had nothing since, so my stomach was in the early stages of digesting its own lining. The second, very slight criticism, being that they had run out of the ‘skinny fries’ that they usually serve. Instead they served a thicker cut chip, which although bearable was not (I am informed by a member of the squadron who has visited the Wheelhouse previously) up to their usual high standards of chipped potato.
So with that out the way I can begin to gush…
There are two things that The Wheelhouse possesses that in my experience is lacking from any other eating establishment in Falmouth – style and atmosphere.
In terms of style the Wheelhouse is impeccable. From its eclectic selection of seating and beautiful farmhouse tables to the vintage crockery and the clam-esque metal dishes your food is served in, each decision in terms of decor has been perfectly executed without appearing contrived. I was sitting at a singer sewing machine table, which says a lot.
It is the atmosphere in the Wheelhouse that (other than the food) impressed me most, an atmosphere that is created by a combination of the friendliest of staff and the ‘boho living room’ feel of a restaurant that is no bigger than the bar area of most Falmouth restaurants. As we arrived at 9:30 to a service bursting at the seams, you really felt like you were entering a restaurant that was exciting and alive, it’s compact space rammed full of happy customers enjoying food and enjoying life. A place where you literally feel at home – no sterilised decor or pretentious waiting staff to make you feel out of place.
So did you actually eat? Oh yes…Sorry…the food. It was delicious.
The Wheelhouse’s simple menu is easy to negotiate but so very difficult to choose from. With no physical menu (the shellfish on offer is dictated by what is fresh and available) our waiter sat down with us at the table and in what can only be described as a very enthusiastic and charismatic rendition of shellfish, let us know what was good today, which crab is sweeter, what sauces he would recommend – to be honest I was impressed, by both him and the menu – and I plumped for scallops, shell off prawns, a portion of chips and a bottle of the house white.
As the food arrived we all scrapped for precious table space and then with a short pause for effect began an entry into our own personal shellfish utopia. The prawns were plump and juicy, with a lime, chilli and garlic sauce that worked perfectly – providing just enough tangy and delicately spiced flavour without overpowering the beautiful taste of the prawns. The scallops were some of the best I had ever tasted, sitting invitingly in their shells, with a simple dressing of ginger, soy sauce and garlic (if my memory serves me correctly – it was probably half ten by this point and I had made a decent indent into my Sauvignon) which again was a marriage of flavours made in heaven. I have had scallops before where they have been either badly cooked, or for me, poorly combined with other flavours. This was not the case at the Wheelhouse where the scallops were allowed to bask relatively untainted in all their meaty delicious glory.
I paid a round thirty pounds for my meal, including the lovely bottle of wine (hic), which I was more than happy to pay (look how happy I am above – that is pure happiness right there). Considering I had 6 scallops, which many of the ‘high end’ restaurants in Falmouth would have required either the sale of a lesser needed body part or some sort of finance package for me to afford, I was thoroughly impressed. I could not recommend the Wheelhouse more, one of the best meals I have had in Falmouth, in easily the nicest setting with undoubtedly the best atmosphere – it is one not to be missed.
The Wheel House – Upton Slip, Falmouth TR11 3DQ 01326 318050