This clifftop Cornish brasserie is the epitome of dining in the Duchy, surrounding its company with the sounds of the sea below whilst enjoying some of the finest food on the south coast.
Words by Rebecca Hawkey
Swanpool beach is the last stop before the urban streets of Falmouth town give way to the wild trails of the South West Coast Path. Here, nestled on the headland, lies Hooked on the Rocks, a bustling shoreline haven that provides respite and refreshment for all. Perhaps you have embarked on a lengthy coastal walk, or are seeking a romantic setting for you and your loved one, or a relaxed meal with friends and family. Hooked on the Rocks is more than happy to accommodate you, whatever the occasion may be.
When stepping through the doors of this establishment you are instantly greeted with a warmth that radiates throughout. The team at Hooked on the Rocks have a wealth of knowledge which, combined with their experience and innate ‘service with a smile’ approach, you are guaranteed to have an impeccable dining experience. Life in hospitality, especially in Cornwall, can see record numbers of visitors descend across the Duchy come the warmer months. Remaining calm, collected and joyous under such pressures can be tough, especially when you are rushed off your feet, but not for the team here; their ability to thrive off this energy is admirable, be it a busy summer’s day or a full house come evening. Combined with their passion for the job, this means your experience here will be fun filled and unforgettable. It should come as no surprise then that this team were runners up for ‘Best Front of House Team’, at the Trencherman’s Awards 2023 – an outstanding recognition of their hard work.
This unique location, overlooking the ocean beyond, has unsurprisingly inspired their menu, focussing heavily on the abundant local seafood right on their doorstep. Thanks to their relationship with smaller, more independent catchers, growers and makers across Cornwall, they fill their larder with fresh, in-season produce, working closely with suppliers to source only the best of the day’s fish straight off the boat – evident thanks to their elegant but simple seafood menu that showcases seasonality and sustainability.
Their approach to using in-season produce allows them the freedom and flexibility to truly make the most of what each season brings, amending their menu according to available ingredients. Providing a change of dish alongside the change in weather that suits the energy of every month keeps their menu eclectic and exciting for diners. They understandably have an emphasis on seafood and shellfish all year round, given the delectable catch that’s so readily available, with a selection of dishes that are meant to be shared. Sitting down with loved ones and making time to spend together, without distraction, is a tradition swiftly going out of style. At Hooked on the Rocks, the team believe in sprinkling this time with exceptional food that is made for such moments, passing around platters of Falmouth Bay scallops, wild prawns or West Country mussels. Whole grilled Cornish lemon sole with citrus and roast chicken butter, mussels and braised chicory tempts the tastebuds, as does the rosemary and Cornish seaweed focaccia, or Porthilly oysters, with their crab and lobsters having been caught just nine miles off the coast from the restaurant. Whilst there are fresh and fabulous flavours to be explored here, let’s not forget the classic Cornish fish and chips, a celebrated staple on the menu.
Staying local rings true for their wine, too. Wanderlust Wine is the team’s sole provider, who specialise in wines from around the world, and are committed to supplying organic, bio-dynamic, sustainable wine sourced from smaller, family-run vineyards. This ethos pairs well with that of Hooked on the Rocks, who believe in supporting independent businesses who make an extra effort to care for our planet by using minimal machinery, nature-safe chemicals, and taking into consideration our ecosystem when growing produce.
Their dedication to supporting local businesses runs deep here, not just with the food and the wine, but with the extras of soft drinks, spirits and coffee, all of which use a range of Cornish ingredients. From Camel Valley, Olfactory Coffee and Wildflower Botanicals to Knightor and Tarquins, they seek out the best that Cornwall has to offer, proudly serving locals and visitors alike.
General Manager Emma Bastian has been working with Head Chef Jack Frame to bring alive his twist to what they create here. Jack started at Hooked on the Rocks in 2018, and is not afraid to push the team to come up with new ideas for the menu, showcasing their talents through the ever-changing specials and consistently bringing a new energy to the restaurant. His ethos and drive to craft unique, sustainable, delicious meals aligns perfectly with what the rest of the team at Hooked on the Rocks are trying to achieve.
Working under their captaincy guarantees a warm welcome to the family, as Emma believes that a strong team can only be achieved if every member is happy, content and supported. From the first interaction, all the way through to the end of your experience, this family works hard to deliver only the best service year-round, beautifully facilitated by Restaurant Manager, Katie Hemmings. It’s what makes dining here so enjoyable, with customers returning time after time and sharing their experience with others.
As we come into the warmer months, with days getting longer and brighter, we can also embrace some much-needed time outdoors, after wintering for what has seemed like an age. From Easter 2023, Hooked on the Rocks are excited to be opening their Seahorse Bar for another season. This converted horsebox resides on the periphery of the site and will once again be serving delicious cocktails, beer, cider, wine, soft drinks and snacks for all to enjoy as the sun goes down. If this wasn’t enough, a local DJ will be providing all the summer vibes every Friday and Saturday evening, a perfect accompaniment for those hazy beach days we shall all be revelling in soon enough. Whilst their main restaurant has a cosy, contemporary atmosphere, they also have a terraced al-fresco dining area, so you can enjoy your meal in the fresh sea air and sunshine, all the while being surrounded by notes of the sea as it laps the shoreline less than a stone’s throw away at Swanpool beach. This location really is second to none.
Hooked on the Rocks is a beloved Cornish establishment that values local community, connection and celebrating good food. Thanks to its noteworthy menu, it has been a feature in the Michelin Guide for two years running. This is a massive achievement that Jack, Emma and the team are immensely proud of. Whether you are a local looking for a bite to eat at your favourite spot, or a visitor that wishes to revel in all that Cornwall has to offer, then you needn’t look far. Hooked on the Rocks is ready to welcome you to this haven on the headland.