-- The Bean Inn, St. Ives, Cornwall, England
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Coast, St. Ives Road
Carbis Bay
St. Ives, Cornwall   England
Phone: 01736 795918

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"St Ives in Cornwall still brands itself as an artists' colony, famed for a peculiar quality of light which attracted a community of painters, potters and sculptors who made their homes in the pretty stone cottages around the harbour and the beach between the 1930s and the 1960s. Though the hilly backstreets are still charming, anybody visiting today in the hope of discovering a bohemian village with a clutch of interesting vegetarian cafes is likely to be pretty disappointed. The harbourfront is crammed with tacky take-outs offering pizzas and chips, and in high season the slow-moving crowds of tourists are sitting ducks for scarily predatory seagulls that don't hesitate to snatch a sandwich or an icecream cone from an unwary hand. Overall, the standard of the eateries in the town centre is awful. The best approach is probably to buy a warm vegetarian Cornish Pasty from one of the more traditional-looking bakeries, and be careful where you attempt to eat it. Or head over to the cafe at the Tate St Ives art gallery where things are crowded and pricey, and vegetarian options thin on the ground even in a place that you might think would attract thoughtful people.

If you want a proper vegetarian or vegan meal in pleasant and calm surroundings your best bet is to get on the road that runs along the coast towards Carbis Bay, and scan the row of small hotels and big guesthouses to find Coast, a completely vegetarian bed and breakfast establishment, which is also home to The Bean Inn, a completely vegetarian eatery. Initially launched as a day-time cafe, it has since become a destination restaurant for vegetarians desperate to find somewhere at the far end of Cornwall that treats vegetarians as intelligent diners and not just annoying picky people who have to be appeased with a vegetarian lasagne or a bean burger stuck at the bottom of the menu.

Listed by The Times as one of Britain's ten best vegetarian restaurants in 2008, The Bean Inn offers a three-course menu with a range of home-cooked dishes featuring local seasonal produce. This is good, restaurant standard food, not over-fancy or wildly inventive but prepared with love and care. The dining area is split between several rooms in the large house, with a cool and calm ambience (dark wood, gentle modern music, candles, local art) that is very welcome after the white light of St Ives beaches. 

The menu changes regularly - starters might include roast tomato, basil and lima bean soup with spiced Cornish cheese, olive and onion scones, or a salad of puy lentils, stilton and walnuts. You're likely to have around six options for each course, with plenty on offer for vegans. The whole enterprise is run by a team of go-getting veggie women wearing 'Beans Don't Scream' T-shirts. Tidy plates of food for your main course might include a Thai green curry, Mexican chile and beans with spicy potato wedges, or a portion of nut loaf served with a rich tomato and black olive tapenade. Desserts are built around fresh seasonal fruit and Cornish icecream. Snap up a copy of their cookbook before you go on your way - this is probably the closest thing to 'classic Cornish vegetarian style' food that exists. The recipe for Blue cheese, white grape and red onion tart, a 'red, white and blue' dish invented in a moment of patriotism during the football World Cup, and which later won a prize on a TV programme called 'The People's Cookbook', is well worth having in your collection. "

Manchester England

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