The Pandora has the sort of location most pubs would crave. A smart pontoon stretches out into the waters of Restronguet Creek, close by the Carrick Roads north of Falmouth. Even in midwinter, hardy (foolhardy?) diners sit out, mittened hands clasping pints of rich, ruby-hued St Austell HSD, and watch the waiters nimbly negotiating the ramp to ferry out plates of steaming food. Swans and boats bob alongside and the sun turns the water into a shimmering net.
It would be easy for the Pandora to rely on its views alone to haul in the punters, but it also serves pretty good food and drink. Most sensible people choose to enjoy it inside, come the cold weather. Not that inside proves any great hardship. The Pandora (named after HMS Pandora, the ship sent out to bring back the Bounty's mutinous crew from Tahiti) is ancient (some parts are 13th-century) and almost unbearably atmospheric – pure Daphne du Maurier romance.
A low-slung assemblage of old cob walls with a mop of thatch slumps along the quay. Watch your head in the jumble of slate-floored rooms – old-time smugglers were shorter than today and some of the ceilings are incredibly low.
Roaring fires keep the place cosy and fish and seafood from nearby Newlyn form a major part of the menu. Pollock goujons (£8.95) and pan-fried gurnard (£12.25) were just two choices from the special board, but we plumped for beer-batter cod and chips (£10.50) and a splendidly messy whole crab, claws and all (£7.95). Children are welcome and can have half portions of several main course dishes (alongside the usual "safe" choices).
In summer, the pub is overwhelmingly popular and packed with tourists (many of whom paddle in by canoe or glide over by ferry). But in winter you can enjoy a more relaxed ambience as hardy surfer types mingle with locals and tougher out-of-season tourists. It's the ideal place for a festive retreat. What's more, you can still manage to find room in the perilous car park. Just take off your mittens before you go, as one wrong slip into reverse could land you in the drink.
- The Pandora Inn, Restronguet Creek, near Falmouth, Cornwall (01326 372678)
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