The Wheelhouse, Falmouth

SPENDING two hours in the company of the Wheelhouse team and its quirky surrounds is akin to attending the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

Apparently Lewis Carroll never actually coined that phrase and in this instance, referencing the gathering only serves to create an image of what lies within.

Make no mistake, this restaurant is stunning in every way.

It has a bold identity and if it’s ever-so-slightly-stuffy fine dining that you’re after, don’t go.

This is beautifully cooked seafood done beautifully simply, backed up by breezy, smiley service and off-beat décor.

Book yourself a seat next to Alice, the March Hare et al - although be prepared to be patient - there is usually a waiting list of around one month.

Its proximity to the sea (around ten yards) in the centre of Falmouth evokes thoughts of yesteryear, when food from our waters could be caught in the morning and delivered to a kitchen in the afternoon.

The heavy front door clunking shut and its paucity of windows make you feel as if you’re part of a dimly-lit Dickensian novel.

There’s a smug contentedness etched on the other 30 or so diners’ faces – and when the first course arrived, it was not difficult to see why.

Scallops in a lemon and chive butter, bolstered by thick crusty bread and a delicate oil and balsamic fusion.

It’s all rather freestyle, so we chose to have scallops to start, in order to maximise our small table space.

Once cleared, we were presented with Thai prawns (garlic, ginger and chilli) and “Sailor’s mussels” – cooked with the classic combination of white wine, cream, garlic and thyme.

You need dunking tools, so the bread stocks were augmented by a shared portion of fries (you get loads), which acted as the ideal soaker-upper.

We also shared a salad, which comprised flavoursome cous-cous and herb leaves.

Everything we ate complemented the other effortlessly. Our intermittent groans were not quite When Harry Met Sally, but not far short.

Looking around in wonder (it's impossible not to), I spotted a big cushion sporting a dog’s head; a line drawing of a puffin (at least I think it was) on the wall; an array of hats which some of the more “wacky” customers wore; and some luxurious drapes which had a healthy whiff of boudoir about them.

This place is an utter delight. The bustling staff are busy but not rushed and every dish delivers. Lobster, crab and oysters (seasonal) are also available, but in truth, it doesn't really matter what you pick.

And best of all - there is a total absence of pretence. The tables are supplied with kitchen roll, not napkins, for heaven’s sake. Joyous and very necessary.

Our cost (two people, including bottle of wine, but no dessert): £59

Address: Upton Slip, Falmouth TR11 3DQ

Hours: 6pm Wednesday to Saturday (not open at lunchtime)

Phone: 01326 318050


Atmosphere: 5/5

Décor: 5/5

Food: 5/5

Service: 5/5

Overall: 5/5

Food Standards Agency Food Hygiene Rating: 5/5

In order to ensure objective reviews, the Mystery Diner is carried out on an independent basis without the prior knowledge of the establishment.