Cornwall

Sams

I’d been to Sam’s on the Beach once before. One glorious August day when about 12 of us had rocked up for lunch and hit the beach afterwards – paddling around in the sea.

Sam's on the Beach

Sam’s on the Beach is not just a name, you see – the restaurant is located in the old lifeboat building at Polkerris, opening directly out onto the golden sands.

  • They make it up as they go along really
  • There’s an Italian influence for fans of a proper, stone-baked pizza
  • A little bit indie, a little bit retro, laid back and groovy baby.

It’s easy to do that at Sam’s on the Beach. It’s not just a name, you see – the restaurant is located in the old lifeboat building at Polkerris, opening directly out onto the golden sands. My overriding memory was of a very special place – somewhere I wanted to return to.

Cue my honeymoon around the Fowey area – I knew Sam’s on the Beach would be the perfect place to take my food-loving new husband, Chris, for a laid back, romantic meal. The scenario couldn’t have been more different from last time, as the two of us made our way down to the beach dressed in waterproofs to ward off the Cornish mizzle, brandishing torches to light our way through a pitch black autumn evening. Winding down country lanes and a spooky pedestrian-only pathway through the woods, we emerged as adventurers in the centre of Polkerris beach, halfway between the harbour wall at one end and the welcome glow of the lights from Sam’s on the Beach – and the next door Rashleigh Inn (a great stop off for a pre, or post dinner drink) – beckoning to us at the other. It’s a tricky path to navigate in the dark, but it appealed to my sense of exploration and would make a beautiful walk in daylight.

Last time the beach had been packed with sun loungers and visitors, and the sea with the many watersports activities that run from this small but beautiful beach. This time all was quiet and black. The sea lapped against the sand and a lone group of anglers headed towards the pier to try their hand at casting some evening lines.

The Polkerris RNLI lifeboat station was active from 1859-1922 and was at the heart of the community for over 60 years . This fact is celebrated in the restaurant where the old roll calls of rescued boats and sepia images of lifeboat crews adorn the walls. The seaside theme is picked up in the décor and there’s even a cheeky hint at the retro 1950’s and 60’s styling of trendy sister restaurant Sam’s Bistro in Fowey, with a giant movie poster featuring a creature from the deep and a huge bikini-clad beauty dominating one wall.

Local boy Sam Sixton set up the original Sam’s in Fowey in 1988 when he was just 17 years old. The business is a true Cornish family affair, Sam worked originally with his Dad, Bill. Sam’s wife and business partner, Emma, and partners Scott and Sam T (manager of Sam’s on the Beach) have been with him since the early days. They now offer a series of dining options across Cornwall and Sam says: “We make it up as we go along really, we have a go and do our best. It’s about making sure we’re all supported and make a living and we do that by looking after people and making sure they enjoy their food and their visit to us, whichever restaurant they visit.”

They’ve tried a host of restaurant ideas over the years – from fancy fish and chips to touring cocktails and BBQ pop-ups out of the back of vintage VW camper vans. They recently opened Sam’s in the City in Truro. Some restaurants have been sold, others retained, and they are all based on the ethos of good staff, good ambience and good food. Sam tells me it often starts with a building for him – and that was certainly the case with Sam’s on the Beach. “I had been looking at the building for years. It was a beach toyshop with a chippy and pasty takeaway at one end for years. When we got it we totally renovated it – and when we took off the end wall and put the window in, it literally transformed the whole place.”

That window is one of the things I recall from my previous visit. By day it is a glorious connection to the beach outside and by night it is transformed into a sort of mirror, reflecting the ambience and the diners back on themselves and adding to a sense of space and otherworldliness. It’s a truly memorable feature of the restaurant and something of a masterstroke of design.

They’ve tried a host of restaurant ideas over the years – from fancy fish and chips to touring cocktails and BBQ pop-ups out of the back of vintage VW camper vans.

We’re immediately struck too by the size of the menu – not one, not two, but three await and that’s before you even start on the wine list. We have to send the waitress away the first time while we contemplate. “It’s one of the things we concentrate on,” explains Sam, “We want to offer something for everyone whatever your age and budget – and whatever you fancy to eat.”

As you’d expect, there’s a seafood bent at Sam’s on the Beach, and the scallops with black pudding and anchovy catch Chris’s eye and turn up plump and full of flavour. There’s also an Italian influence and, always a fan of a proper, stone-baked pizza, I choose the Parwaiian. Sam’s pizzas are hand rolled using fresh dough and baked in the on-site traditional wood fired oven. Amazing. The menus also include moules, shellfish, meat, fish and salad options as well as an impressive-sounding bouillabaisse special. They do a selection of sandwiches at lunchtime and there’s also a kid’s menu offering smaller pizzas and dishes for around £5.

For dessert, Chris enjoyed a fresh and zingy take on a classic with lemon meringue Eton Mess, while I opted for a proper seaside treat and enjoyed a Bocca Beach Sundae – complete with signature Sam’s wafer. Both desserts were sweet, impressive and fitted the vibe of this relaxed and funky eatery.

A little bit indie, a little bit retro, laid back and groovy baby. Get more of a sense of the special Sam’s vibe before you visit by kicking back with a glass of something long and cool and listening to their Spotify playlist.

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