Now, Cornwall cannot claim to have invented mead, as this honey-based alcohol, often dubbed the 'honeymoon drink', has graced many a table the world over since before Ancient Greek times. In the British Isles, cloistered monks have famously kept bees to produce mead, and the addition of different herbs, spices and fruits has created a plethora of varieties from Wales to Ethiopia.
However, for the last half a century, mead and fortified fruit wines have become strongly associated with the Duchy of Cornwall and have given rise to a series of mock-medieval eating houses known as Meaderies. The Cornish Mead Company started production in the late 1950s and offers not only mead wine, but also a stronger liqueur mead and a range of fruit wines, from blackberry to elderberry via several other fruits.
A Meadery is not simply a restaurant, but an experience. No Michelin stars here, but atmosphere by the bucket full and very child-friendly. Not a hint of fine china, or even knives and forks: it is wooden platters and fingers at the ready to attack the simple but hearty fare. The décor harks back to an imaginary past, with lots of dark wood and olde worlde style. Imagine a banquet with sloshing tankards, bones tossed on the floor and a room bursting with well-fed and watered cheer, and a decent meadery isn't far off the mark. The food is even served by traditionally clad 'wenches'!
Newlyn Meadery in West Cornwall is often a favourite, and gets remarkably busy in summer months, though Meaderies sate hungry pirates all over the county. In Budock Water, near Falmouth, the theme is King Arthur and in Branwell's Mill, in Penzance, the views across the bay add to the pirate theme. Others include the Waterside Meadery on Penzance's harbour front, the Trewellard Meadery on West Cornwall's windswept north coast, St Agnes and Redruth too.
All offer a different version of the meadery experience, but all do it well and, lest we forget, all serve the full range of meads and wines to drink with your meal or take home with you.