The city of Plymouth often gets a bad rap for not being very pretty. A tad unfair, perhaps, given that bombs destroyed much of it during WW2 and it was rapidly reconstructed afterwards. Also, looks can be deceiving. Plymouth is a city brimming with maritime history, from Sir Francis Drake setting off to defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588 to the Pilgrim Fathers boarding the Mayflower in 1620, not to mention the historic naval base and dockyard. It’s this rich background that attracts people from far and wide, and has led to a diverse and burgeoning food scene. Armed with nothing more than an empty belly, notepad and pen, we ventured boldly to the self-styled ‘Ocean City’ to see what it has to offer.
BEST FOR LUNCH
We love a good rummage around a market, and Plymouth City Market, open Monday to Saturday from 8am-5pm, doesn’t disappoint. If you like Asian food, try the calamari and summer rolls with peanut dip at @Kitchen. The noodle soup also makes for a warming, but not too heavy, lunch option. If sliders are more your cup of tea, head to Tilt, for a beef patty with onion jam, Tallegio cheese and tortilla chips, or a tempura seitan with vegan miso mayo and tempura aubergine. Sliders are a snip at £3 each or £7.50 for three. Pizza lovers should head to Knead Pizza – handmade sourdough pizzas and a very cool, rustic vibe. Away from the market, we dig Supha’s Street Food Emporium on Sutton Harbour, a family-run business that specialises in street food-inspired dishes from Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Asia. Bestsellers include whole steamed fish stuffed with lemongrass, lime leaf and garlic and served in seafood sauce, and the pad pong ga-ree with squid.
BEST FOR COCKTAILS
Steer clear of the chain bars and head to Tigermilk, a speakeasy-style cocktail bar tucked under Plymouth’s historic Duke of Cornwall Hotel. Open Wednesdays to Sundays until late, they specialise in ‘golden age’ classic cocktails: Old Fashioneds, Sazeracs, Gin Martinis and Sours being the most popular. Top tip: try the award-winning Sacrilege, a twist on an Old Fashioned using Scotch and bourbon. Another popular haunt is the Refectory Bar, situated on The Barbican in England’s oldest working gin distillery, Plymouth Gin. Take a tour of the distillery and then head to the Refectory Bar for a classic gin cocktail afterwards.
BEST FOR DINNER
Like most cities, Plymouth offers a range of restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets. If you want to make the most of being by the sea, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Rockfish Plymouth, which serves up the day’s freshest local catch. Try the sea bass with Korean-style sauce or the chargrilled prawns. For more great food without pretention, visit the chic bistro Rock Salt. Signature dishes include poached monkfish in Chiang Mai spices with pork belly, papaya, lime and peanuts, and black miso cod and spring lamb rump with asparagus, peas and broad beans. Also worth a look is Le Monde on The Barbican. Relatively new to the Plymouth food scene, it’s earning rave reviews for its cosy interior and unique spin on world cuisine.
If fine dining is more your style, you can’t go wrong with Barbican Kitchen, run by brothers James and Chris Tanner and, like Refectory Bar, housed in Plymouth Gin Distillery. This brasserie is a favourite among locals, who enjoy the fresh seafood. Popular dishes include the South Devon crab salad and the yellow fin tuna tataki. For mains, the West Country lamb rump, served with wild garlic and purple sprouting broccoli, is a popular choice. The Greedy Goose in Plymouth’s oldest building, Prysten House, offers a grand setting and food to match. Opt for the seven-course tasting menu, priced at a very reasonable £60. If you like your food with a view, head to Artillery Tower – a 15th century military tower overlooking the sea – just beside Royal William Yard. Feast on classic cuisine using the finest local produce.
BEST FOR BRUNCH
Kick off a day in the city with scrambled eggs and bacon on toast at The Mad Merchant Coffee House on The Barbican, a laid-back independent coffee house with plenty of books to browse and buy. For a traditional English breakfast or bacon butty, head to Jolly Jacks on the Mayflower Marina. Or, more health-conscious foodies should check out Bonne Sante, where the mantra is ‘skip the diet, and just eat healthy’. Try the peanut butter, apple and crushed nuts served on sweet potato toast, washed down with a super green smoothie.
BEST FOR SUNDAY LUNCH
Round off your foodie excursion to Plymouth with a proper Sunday lunch. Our picks include The Lord High Admiral, a recently refurbished pub that does a mean Sunday roast with all the trimmings; The Fisherman’s Arms near The Barbican, which has bags of historic character and a great wine list; and The Clovelly Bay Inn, situated by the sea in the nearby village of Turnchapel. And, for something a little different, head to The Fig Tree @36. Less traditional pub, more bistro, they do a cracking fish stew served with warm bread and aioli. Note: all of the aforementioned establishments get super busy on Sundays, so do book ahead. You’ve been warned!