Hugging the undulating Cornish coastline, the small village of Kingsand is picturesque and quiet in the winter chill. Buildings run right down to the shore, their pale faces dotted with bright-painted windows and doors standing only yards from the pebbly beach. Amid the colours, royal blue paintwork and a sign depicting the clustered masts of a thriving harbour mark the Devonport Inn.
“Kingsand was where the Navy ships would dock so there used to be more than 20 public houses, but nowadays we’re down to four,” says the inn’s owner, Jerome Leopold. He and wife Dawn have been in charge here since 2010, after deciding to look for a new pub to run together.
“We saw this place advertised, came down to see it and haven’t looked back. Cornwall is a beautiful place and we fell in love with it,” explains Jerome. “It was the middle of winter, raining and very windy, but the situation of the pub and the feeling it gave us meant we knew straight away we wanted it. Then, it was smoky, old, but we loved it. We applied, had an interview and were lucky enough to get the job.” Their arrival from Berkshire coincided with a refurbishment for the pub, which they went on to buy in 2015.
In the winter months, the Devonport’s position allows customers to savour the outdoors at a comfortable remove. “From the pub you can see the sea. We have an open fire that’s always burning and it’s quite cosy. People come in when it’s raining or windy, and are soon nice and warm. You can look down towards Plymouth harbour and see Navy and pleasure ships passing by. There’s always something to see, and people do like to watch the world going by outside.”
Complementing the pub’s cosy feel is a menu packed with the best of the season, all sourced from the surrounding area. Lunchtime Cornish pasties come from a bakery in Torpoint, three miles due north. Scallops are from Looe, approximately 12 miles to the west, served with locally-gathered seaweed.
“Everything has to be seasonal because it comes from as close as possible. In winter we get as much game as we can, we do sausages and pie with venison from Mount Edgcumbe Park, and serve pheasant from St Germans,” says Jerome. “I love to cook stews and things like braised ox cheeks, rabbit pie and fish dishes. We do stargazy pie, which is a classic Cornish fish pie and very popular. It’s nice to keep things traditional.”
His love of tradition extends to embracing the village’s fishing heritage. “The money here used to come from pilchard and herring fishing. We have one fisherman still, Malcolm Baker, who is now 72. He was born here and has been fishing here all his life, although now it’s more for pleasure.”
Despite never having fished before, Jerome wanted to get involved. “People thought we were newcomers and would change everything, and having grown up in a small village I knew we had to make an effort. I started to go out fishing with Malcolm and now I go as much as I can because I love it.”
Using old cotton nets, the pair fish from a rowing boat in the bay. “We go out early morning and catch herring, pilchards, mackerel, sometimes cuttlefish, and crab and lobsters when I can. I bring them to the pub and cook them straight away.
“It’s pretty amazing, and it’s nice for people to see us coming in with the fresh fish. We can talk about the provenance of the food, because I catch it myself.”
Jerome is clear on what he loves most about his new Cornish life. “I’m privileged to live by the sea, to be able to go out in the morning and learn new skills from a fisherman. Then I can come back to the kitchen and use what I’ve just caught to serve as fresh as can be. As a chef, that’s all you want.”
The local speciality
Looe scallops with seaweed and lemon butter - serves 2
12 cleaned scallops in their bottom shells
4 tbsp mixed fresh seaweed, or 5 seaweed sheets
180g unsalted butter, at room temperature
sea salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. If using seaweed sheets, dry them out and blitz them in a mixer until roughly chopped. Mix the seaweed, butter, the zest of 1 lemon and the salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Stir until all the ingredients are evenly mixed.
Rinse the scallops and place, in their shells, on a baking tray. Spoon the seaweed butter over the top of each. Place in the oven on the top shelf. The oven must be well up to temperature, as a hot oven is essential. Bake for 6-7 mins, until the butter is melted and starting to brown.
Cut the remaining lemon into generous wedges. Remove the scallops from the oven and divide between two plates. Serve with salad dressed with extra virgin olive oil and juice from the zested lemon, buttered new potatoes and the lemon wedges.
The Devonport Inn, The Cleave, Kingsand, Cornwall PL10 1NF.
Tel 01752 822869, www.devonportinn.com