Fern Pit Cafe
The Fern Pit Café offers more than just your usual cuppa. With spectacular views and welcoming staff, I sat with Dawn, large and in charge for the last fourteen years, to discuss loyal customers, backpacking pooches, and being part of the family.
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The freshest crab, little lobsters and beachside bliss
19 Riverside Crescent, Newquay, Cornwall
It’s a full on day for the staff, preparing shellfish from 7am, and feeding guests from 10am to 6pm, but Dawn states that the café is “the best place to work in Newquay”, citing the customers, both local visitors and holiday-ers, and the peaceful views when serving alfresco diners to be the best elements. Bag yourself an outdoor table and the only sound you’ll hear from the beach on its busiest days is the laughter of the children playing. “What could be nicer than that?” When asked how the café got its name, no one is quite sure. It seems though, that renovating the gardens has uncovered the ferns that surely gave the building its namesake.
Three generations of the Northey family, and we all know it takes three to qualify as “proper” Cornish, have been running the Fern Pit Café since 1910, and they intend to keep it this way. One member of the next generation can already be found in the kitchen. The current owners, siblings Gill and Gerald, welcome dogs to the café, (the beach is also dog friendly). You’ll often see their own spaniels, one of which used to be seen plodding up and down the steps to the sea, fetching and delivering whatever Gill’s partner Mark required when manning the ferry, be it warm clothes or bottles of milk, carried in his own little backpack. Equally impressive is the source of their speciality – fresh white crab. Sandwiches, salads and jacket potatoes are topped with crab meat caught by the family from their own fishing boat, picked by the ladies and prepared the very morning you order it. It doesn’t get any fresher than that.
Make your way down through the gardens to the beach and you find the ferry, optimistically named Sunshine, which runs over the Gannel to Crantock beach when the entire expanse of the estuary becomes awash with water. Also at sea level is the boathouse and shop, where you can not only purchase a bucket and spade should you have forgotten your own, but you can see the live preview of your lunch. Live lobsters and crabs bob about, and above sits a tank of newly hatched baby lobsters. I didn’t think crustaceans could be so cute.
With a heatwave on the horizon, now is the perfect time to pay a visit. Dawn remembers most faces that have visited over the years. Go and make yours known.