You might not have heard of Harbourtown Hospitality, but you will certainly know some of its restaurants, centred around Charlestown but radiating out into wider Cornwall. Its flagship venue is The Longstore in Charlestown, but if you’ve ever dined at the The Sharksfin in Mevagissey, or 12 Beach Road in Newquay, you have also enjoyed a Harbourtown Hospitality experience. There are nine outlets in total, employing 170 staff across the sites.
The company was born in 2013 when husband-and-wife duo John and Melissa Marquis went into business, and were soon joined by John’s brother-in-law, Tom Gaze. John began his working life in the pot wash at 16, before working his way up to becoming a head chef; American Mel is passionate about front of house, while Tom’s experience is bar focused. With the addition of finance director Ed Glyn in 2018, they form a hospitality force to be reckoned with.
First, they took over the ownership of the St Austell Brewery tenancy of The Sharksfin; three years later, The Longstore appeared, to great success, growing with offshoots including a café, a wine store and al fresco pop-ups, and expanded into Truro five years later.
While each restaurant has its own personality and charm, all are underpinned by menus delivering bold, tasty flavours using the best locally sourced, sustainable and seasonal ingredients. “Our aim is to create places where people can come together, to enjoy time with family and friends while tucking into brilliant food and drink that offers something a bit special,” says Melissa. “We’re huge foodies ourselves, so we’re always scheming new ideas, innovating and planning how we can make things better – we want to bring a sense of fun and joy for our customers.”
They now dominate culinary Charlestown. Having launched in 2016, The Longstore is now their flagship restaurant. A steak and seafood restaurant overlooking the UNESCO world heritage harbour and its resident tall ships, it offers the very best Cornish produce, locally sourced from land and sea. Repurposed from a tin-roofed mast shed, the design reflects a rustic industrial finish, with wide Cornish oak floorboards and hand-cast ceramic oyster shell chandeliers designed by local artist Sarah Hunkin.
Underneath it, you’ll find Short & Strong, a café inspired by travels in Australia. It marries single origin coffee from Origin Coffee Roasters with accompanying dishes including smashed avo on toast with feta, baked eggs or the ultimate Cornish brunch served alongside a range of delicious cake slices and pastries baked on site.
The cellar door for The Longstore leads to The Winestore. The perfect space for a pre- or post-dinner drink, it stocks an eclectic selection of wines made from more unusual grape varieties, lovingly crafted by small, family-owned producers with big stories to tell.
And next door is the latest permanent addition to the stable. Springtide opened on March 23, and offers a tasty menu of straight-from-the-boat Cornish seafood with a Mediterranean twist. With its fun and friendly atmosphere, outside dining and harbour views, this is a perfect spot for lunch or dinner with the whole family.
Outside of the Charlestown hub, you’ll find a number of Harbourtown Hospitality satellites. The second Longstore restaurant opened in Truro’s Lemon Street in May 2021, bringing its signature buzzy dining experience and ‘locally sourced, big on flavour’ philosophy to a charismatic Georgian townhouse in Cornwall’s capital. This younger sibling also specialises in dry-aged steaks & flavoursome fish dishes, as well as an extensive cocktail offering from the bar; Saturday brunch and Sunday roasts are especially popular.
Then there’s 12 Beach Road, Newquay: the perfect trilogy of tacos, melon margaritas and beach views! This relaxed dining destination overlooks Towan Beach, and serves artisan flat whites made with Cornish roastery Yallah coffee beans, an extensive cocktail menu and fresh, flavoursome food. Enjoy sea views from the outside deck or upstairs balcony.
And of course, The Sharksfin on Mevagissey harbour is still going strong. Inspired by New England seafood shacks, this bright and airy former pilchard press now serves fish tacos, moules mariniere and specials of whole Cornish fish straight off the boats.
A restaurant is nothing without its kitchen team, which is led by two executive chefs. Will Spurgeon started out as a commis chef at The Sharksfin when he was just 16, little knowing he would return 24 years later. Will worked with local fruit growers and fishermen as a young man, and this sparked his interest and respect for food, its sources and seasons. He loves Korean cooking, and is experimenting with nose-to-tail cuisine and fermentation to extend the seasonal use of vegetables – check out his favourite dish on the Longstore menu, Apricot Harissa Lamb Rump.
Fellow Executive Chef Matthew Liddicoat was inspired to become a chef by being in the kitchen environment from a young boy, working with his father at a Cornish hotel. His passions include provenance, preserving and smoking meats; he is currently in the process of developing charcuterie to be made in house at The Longstore for all restaurants, as well as developing new and exciting ways to cook with cheese.
Both are keen to bring on the next generation of chefs. Will has worked with Cornwall College to do food demonstrations and Longstore takeovers at St Austell College, while Matt wants to retire knowing he can eat out with great chefs at the pass.
As it was for so many in hospitality, the pandemic was challenging for the group, on a personal and professional level. “The uncertainty and changing restrictions certainly kept us on our toes!” says Melissa. “We worked really hard to keep our customers safe, without losing the buzzy, up-beat atmosphere of our restaurants. Our team was absolutely amazing and got on board with all the new ways of working. We loved being able to support our customers through those tough months.
“As a company we always try to keep a glass-half-full outlook, and we’re feeling hugely excited and optimistic about what comes next.”
This certainly promises to be a busy year. Everything is sparkly and new; Short & Strong and 12 Beach Road were renovated over the winter, and the kitchen team has experimented with new menus and even more amazing cocktails.
In Charlestown, new arrival Springtide will be joined by two delectable summer-season eateries opening in early April in the historic harbour. HarbourQ returns for its fourth season in the inner harbour, offering melt-in-your-mouth barbecue flavours including slow-cooked meat, fish and veggie daily specials and mixed meat platters, all freshly cooked in a purpose-built smoker and grill. Sunny days call for a frozen margarita or fruit daquiri. And new for 2022, Dough Buoys will bring a taste of the Italian Med to the outside deck in front of the Shipwreck Centre – expect artisan pizzas, salads and sharing bites, plus a full Italian wine list.
“One thing’s for sure – we’ve got lots going on!” laughs Melissa.
Find out more about the Harbourtown Hospitality stable of restaurants at www.thelongstore.co.uk