Drinking

The Halsetown Inn

In 1831 a certain Mr James Halse who lived in the environs of St Ives in Cornwall, developed an ambition to be elected as the area’s MP at Westminster. Problem was, in the 1800’s only men with land were allowed to vote. 

Real pub, thoughtful food.

The Halsetown Inn

Astonishing mix of choices from pasta, line-caught fish and mussels, to curries and schnitzel.

  • Cornwall’s finest food and drink
  • Stop by for great views and morning coffee
  • Their salad is about as fresh as it gets

And so clever Mr Halse set about building one of the first planned villages in the country – including houses for his 80 or so miners, each with about half an acre of land as standard. He didn’t stop with the houses either, and Halsetown also boasted a brand new school with master’s house, a chapel and cemetery, several wells – and a pub, The Halsetown Inn.

On polling day on 11 December 1832, his new landowners duly elected James Halse to parliament. One can only imagine the celebrations that took place in The Halsetown Inn that evening.

Fast forward 200 years to May 2012 and the ladies who own the very successful Blas Burgerworks in St Ives are looking for a new venture. Two of them had grown up in pubs and they knew The Halsetown Inn was on its knees. And so they elected to move in and turn around the fortunes of this historic pub with a thousand stories hidden in its walls.

Marie, Sally and Lisa from Blas joined forces with Ange Baxter, former head chef at the Porthmeor Café, to launch themselves and The Halsetown into the next phase of their lives. By the time I visit in 2013 the place has been rejuvenated from the dingy, four-roomed inn of the past, but – and this is key to the whole atmosphere and my love of the place – it has not been transformed beyond recognition. Millions have not been spent on plastering and whitewashing out the character from the pub and, in fact, Marie tells me they have worked hard to not change too much about this wonderful ivy-clad building on the outskirts of St Ives. Certainly from the outside you’d have a job to know anything has changed, until you look more closely and see the tidiness of non-peeling paint and the new beer garden/ patio at the rear.

The Halsetown Inn

“We’ve opened up areas and made subtle changes, added our signature quirky, irreverent touches and that’s about it,” Marie tells me, introducing me to the table with a horseshoe that’s been made from the old door to one of the bars (dating back to the pub’s birth in 1832 – thank God that was rescued from the skip) and another crafted from an old Newlyn pilchard press.

I admire other quirky touches too – the cardboard deer heads, the rather ornate candelabra, the abstract and traditional paintings by local artists and the wonderful mural (featuring the spotty Appalachian horses found in the nearby fields). These new additions exist side-by-side with old photos of cricket team lineups, framed newspaper clippings and a pub quiz team trophy in the shape of a mounted handpump – each of which adds wonderful echoes of the place’s history and begins to allow some of those stories of the past to seep out into the present.

“We are very aware of the difference between here and Blas,” Marie explains. “This is a pub and as such it is very much a hub in the community of Halsetown and has a role to play in the life of the village. We take that responsibility very seriously.” Marie grew up in a similar pub in a similar village in East Anglia and Sally also lived in a pub. The team is clearly passionate about maintaining the balance between eatery and local hostelry and they were delighted when local residents popped in to thank them for increasing their house prices by bringing a thriving pub to the village once more. Band nights have recently featured South West sensations The Dowling Thing and the recent addition of the established bohemian Groove Lounge night on the first Friday of the month brings a further element of music and revelry into the mix. Everyone’s welcome during the daytime, including dogs – and there’s a £5 little ones menu to make this a very family-friendly eatery to boot.

I admire other quirky touches too – the cardboard deer heads, the rather ornate candelabra, the abstract and traditional paintings by local artists and the wonderful mural

The food reminds you that you’re in a pub too – the menu an astonishing mix of choices from pasta, line-caught fish and mussels, to curries and schnitzel. Remember these guys made their name running a very successful gourmet burger business too – and ignore the burger option at your peril. My Dad, who has eaten some burgers in his time, including in Canada and the US declares this one the best he has ever tasted. Praise indeed. The meat is so good (100% Cornish beef) that the burger is cooked pink and then stacked with local cheddar, tomato and salad in a scrumptious bun. The menu changes with the seasons and what’s available locally. The team is committed to analyzing their supply chains and making sure they buy as locally as is feasible. Their goats curd is from Somerset – it’s the nearest they could manage – and the fish is all caught by Saul Astrinsky at the Wild Harbour Fish Company, with the exception of the crabs which come from Sally’s son Mark.

My linguine is fabulous – served with broccoli and red onion that lift it beyond one of those creamy pasta dishes that can end up being boring by the time you reach the end and instead offering different, subtle flavours in every mouthful. It’s dishes like this that earned the Halsetown a coveted Good Food Guide visitor’s recommendation entry and a Gold Taste of the West Flavours Award, all within four months of opening. Their Sunday roast is well worth a look too and Marie tells me that Sundays frequently see their tables filled with local restaurateurs. Now that’s a good sign.

You can wash your meal down with a selection of Cornish real ales, lager and cider, a bottle of local sparkler Camel Valley or a tea from nearby Tregothnan, the UK’s only tea estate. Supplying local is central to the ethos at The Halsetown and it’s why people flock here. And the wonderful thing is it’s genuine – they’re not doing it to be trendy or in with the in crowd, they’re doing it because they genuinely believe in being careful with resources and supporting local producers. Their salad is about as fresh as it gets – grown about a mile up the road in Hellesveor and delivered daily.

Sustainability is important too. “Whenever a choice is made, we will look at the sustainability issue,” Marie tells me. They use green energy and recycle or compost as much of their waste as humanly possible. Blas’s sustainable ethos earned the girls the accolade of being the first eating establishment in Cornwall to be awarded 3 stars by the Sustainable Restaurant Association. That was last February, and everything’s in place to achieve the same accolade with The Halsetown Inn very soon too.

The desserts are traditional too and I’m delighted to learn my apple roly poly comes with custard, ice cream and clotted cream, whilst my partner is thrilled to find a Moomaid and Origin-coffee Affogato smiling at him from the menu.

If you want to sample Cornwall’s finest food and drink in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere then make a beeline for The Halsetown Inn. And when you’re full of plumptiousness it’s a pleasant 30-minute walk downhill to your Boutique home away from home in St Ives. Or there are plenty of buses. Idyllic.

 

Website | The Old Mushroom Farm, Hasletown, St Ives, TR26 3NA | 01736 795 583

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