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The view from the Bay, Penzance, on Saturday – a perch worth noting in a town so curiously short of alfresco eating and drinking options, and yet so very well-furnished with views. Afternoon tea wasn’t bad, if lacking in leaf tea (boring old Twinings was served).

www.thebaypenzance.co.uk

If you live in these parts, and are into such things, you will probably have heard about a little seafood restaurant down an alleyway in Falmouth called the Wheelhouse. Despite actively shunning publicity, it is booked for months in advance and seems to get choice mentions regularly in the media as a den of great awesomeness. Last week, finally, a table had my name on it*.

When restaurants become this desirable, a whiff of pretension can creep in – a subtle revelling in the lack of available tables, or complacent service, contributing to a feeling that we should be so lucky. But despite my tentacles being out, I found the mellow, candlelit scene to be a down-to-earth pleasure. Don’t get me wrong, the Wheelhouse is certainly confident – waitresses take a seat and chat assuredly about the merits of spider crab, the size of mussels and seasonality – but thankfully it is still eager to please.

So, you might ask, what’s the biggie? Well, the story is this: Read the rest of this entry »

nathan outlaw book

Chef Nathan Outlaw’s star continues in the ascendant with the imminent publication of his first cookery book entitled Nathan Outlaw’s British Seafood – it’s out in May but I got my mitts on a preview copy and can report that it’s a beautiful blue hard-back tome with full-colour, full-page pictures of every dish.

Refreshingly free from the lifestyle shots and smug backstory that have become part and parcel of the celebrity chef cookbook (do I need a full-size picture of your daughter/you on a boat with that turbot recipe? Without meaning to be harsh, no, I’m afraid I don’t), it focuses with precision on the food – how, when and where to source British seafood, and methods of preparation and cooking.

The recipes are divided pragmatically and usefully into fish type – flat white fish, round white fish, oily fish, smoked fish and shellfish – and are characterised by Outlaw’s trademark lightness of touch and clever simplicity. Tempting for summer are the cured brill with pistachio dressing, pink grapefruit and pickled chicory – his take on ceviche – the cured mackerel and gooseberry jam roll, and a mussel and saffron quiche with fennel and rocket salad.

The foreword by Rick Stein, who employed Outlaw in his younger cheffing days, pays tribute to the honesty and simplicity of his food, and the “utterly charming, self-effacing man who seems somewhat perplexed about the fact that he has two Michelin stars because he says it’s only simple cooking.”

Nathan really is Cornwall’s favourite adopted son.

Published 10 May by Quadrille, £25. www.nathan-outlaw.com

On a good week, I get paid to criticise restaurants so it’s rare for me to find nothing to fault in a place. That unnerving occurrence did, however, come about last Saturday at Hugh F-W’s new River Cottage Canteen in Royal William Yard in Plymouth. The enclave of bold, forbidding waterside former naval buildings – once a symbol of British military might – has been made into a subtly chic (it’s Grade I listed) ensemble of apartments, boutique bakeries and restaurants facing Mount Edgcumbe over the Tamar in Cornwall. Frankly, it was all a blessed relief after the relentless bleakness of Plymouth city centre in the sheeting rain – it really takes no prisoners.

Service was quick and bend-over-backwards-forwards-any-way-you-like friendly, decor upcycled chic and food just as you might expect from the man of Fish Fight and farm life fame – wholesome but not boring. Splitting hairs, there is the small matter of the smug gilets-and-spotty-Cath-Kidston-bag brigade to be coped with but I can handle that just fine as long as it’s served with a perfectly cooked piece of pollack on a bed of subtly spiced lentils for a tenner (pictured below).

River Cottage Canteen & Deli Plymouth, Royal William Yard, Plymouth PL1 3QQ. http://www.rivercottage.net/canteens/plymouth/

Click through for pics of the food.. Read the rest of this entry »

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Alert! Alert! I just discovered a perfect little place out on the Lizard, on a wind-beaten cliff above Gunwalloe. For the past year, word has been reaching me of Barefoot Kitchen being ‘right up my street’ and when I finally made it over to this remote area of Cornwall, so indeed it was. Right up my muddy, single-vehicle-access Cornish lane, in any case.

Occupying Helzephron House (previously home to the Helzephron Herb Farm), this cafe/shop has the kind of pared down intuitive design that makes me think a Swede MUST have been involved at some stage. The shop has a small selection of products, some their own, others carefully chosen, for example gorse-scented candles, the Ghillie kettle, retro wooden bodyboards, earring studs made of softened seaglass, seaweed design aprons… I wanted to bring it all home. The coffee was great, the fish soup fragrant.

Whenever my sister comes to stay with her array of sharp camera lenses, I demand immediate possession of the memory stick so I can use the pictures on pasties & cream, hence an artier than usual selection – and several more photography-based posts on their way.

Oh and Barefoot is opening a surf school in coming months AND does pop-up restaurants in conjunction with Lime Tree. AND there are sea views, when the rain’s not slashing against the window.

www.barefootkitchen.com

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Today’s post comes from über-coffee-maker Dave Jones, Origin coffee’s head barista trainer, pictured in green above. I attended one of Origin’s coffee courses (newly available to the public) at their geek-chic coffee lab in Helston last week and was bowled over by the complexities of brewing coffee but most of all by Dave’s amazingly detailist approach.

There are all sorts of things to think about like brew ratios, over-extraction, under-extraction, grind size, immersion time, saturation, freshness of beans… Ah, so that’ll be why there is so much poor coffee sloshing about, often even when the cafe has superb coffee beans to start with (talking of which, try smooth-talking Finca Los Altos by Origin, my new fave).

Don’t know about you but I’ve had enough limp lattes to last a lifetime, so without further ado, here’s Dave’s good coffee guide to Cornwall: Read the rest of this entry »

Move over Ottolenghi, step up to the magimix Billy, the salad supremo at Archie Brown’s in Truro.

Archie Brown’s salads, originating in Penzance, are something of a cult classic in these parts. Chopping up into colourful pieces any preconceptions you might have about salads being boring and/or a side dish, these salads are strong enough to be the main event – they are packed with herbs and sprouts and nuts, as well as secret, rather thrilling ingredients such as preserved lemon and pomegranate molasses.

Long having wondered how they managed to make salad that exciting, I was stoked to see they have started doing salad masterclasses at their Truro kitchen, and immediately snapped up a couple of tickets.

Obviously I am not the only one who is obsessed with them, as all the salad classes have sold out until October – so, it’s not often I say this in Cornwall but, er, book ahead!

£12.50 including a salad and recipes to take home (www.archiebrowns.co.uk); £3.50 for a takeaway salad.

porthminster beach cafe, st ives, cornwall

This piece of culinary art, my friends, is a morsel of almond-battered cod cheek with salted grapes, darjeeling tea gel and wild sorrel. I loved it so much that I ended up dreaming about it.

We are in the midst of Cornwall Spring Feast, a county-wide foodie shindig celebrating the joys of the local larder. The main shtuck is the one-price-fits-all special menus (£14 for two courses) in all participating restaurants – even the Outlaw’s Grill. But the county’s headlining chefs are also hosting a few special events – opportunities to perform culinary cartwheels outside the parameters of the daily menu.

When the opportunity arises to see young Australian chef Mick Smith of the Porthminster Beach Cafe perform culinary cartwheels, it’s one you Read the rest of this entry »

….new bar-restaurant Untitled – the work of chef Robert Wright of Gurnard’s Head fame – is surely the most exciting thing that has opened in west Cornwall for ages.

In the interests of hype limitation, I hadn’t dared to get too excited about it beforehand but I went last night and it was all pretty fabulous. Saloon-bar chic downstairs (the sort of low-lit ambiance that makes you involuntarily order a Disaronno on the rocks – ok maybe that was just me). Terry Frosts and fresh white linen upstairs. Prices feasible. Steak gorgeous. Full of locals. The stuff of PZ dreams!

More, and better, pics here.

www.untitledbyrobertwright.com

pop up lime tree cornwallpop up lime tree cornwall

Restaurants have been ‘popping up’ for a while in London and other metropolitan centres but I believe I attended Cornwall’s very first pop-up restaurant at the weekend – a collaboration between Gallery Latitude 50 on the Penwith moors near Cripplesease and Lime Tree catering, the people behind the much-loved Lime Tree restaurant that once occupied Trevelyan House on Chapel Street in Penzance.

In my (female) party there was a flurry of excitement on arrival: our prettily dressed table Read the rest of this entry »

bens cornish kitchen -bens cornish kitchen

… make it the twice-baked cheese soufflé with fig, chicory and caramelised pecan salad at Ben’s Cornish Kitchen in Marazion. OMG it was nice.

It was my first visit, but I’d been hearing good things (from some stringent sources) about Ben Prior’s newish restaurant for a while. As with most things in life, attention to detail is a good predictor of quality – so I settled in for a comfortable ride when the perfectly spongy homemade bread came out with a dipping dish of super-smooth olive oil and balsamic. The menu could be described as creative modern British.

Talking of new restaurants, I’m looking forward to the opening of the unusually named “untitled by Robert Wright“, which will occupy the premises of the old Abbey Restaurant, previously decorated with a Michelin star. It’s opening in Feb with a tapas-y bar downstairs (and carafes of wine – joy!) and more formal dining upstairs.

seafood restaurant stein

Writing about incredible food you’ve eaten is a difficult thing to do without sounding insufferably smug. ‘The organic, free-to-roam, hand-reared, home-matured beef with foam of expensive stuff and sprinkled with more expensive stuff, was quite simply divine!’. But with that caveat out of the way, I’m going to do it anyway.

I got an invite to last night’s Magnificent Seven, the opening night of the Cornwall Food & Drink Festival – a many-coursed meal prepared and presented by Cornwall’s seven top chefs. Was I free to attend? Oh, I think so.

There were endless courses and canapes so I’ll just do highlights (pics above):

• In at number one, seabass caught that morning served with delicate vanilla butter prepared by Breton chef Stephane Delourme, head chef at Stein’s Seafood Restaurant
Nathan Outlaw‘s tender circles of sirloin – gorgeous
• Chris Eden of the Driftwood‘s posh mini doughnuts dipped in cinnamon sugar with creme caramel

I chatted to he-of-superb-surname Nathan Outlaw afterwards and he seemed every bit as laid-back as he comes across on telly, despite awaiting January 2011 with baited breath to find out if he has managed to secure two Michelin stars for his new restaurant in Rock. He told me the restaurant has had five anonymous Michelin visits in the last few months, and knew there were more to come any day. God, pressure! Oh and he’s working on his first cookery book for next season – you heard it at p&c first :-)

And finally a video of Paul Ripley and Nathan Outlaw bantering about food in Cornwall. OK, in the cold light of day it turns out this is very out of focus – sorry about that, it was shot during the port course.

When you review restaurants, as I have done on and off for ten years for Time Out in London and recently Cornwall, it is always slightly scary to sing high praises about a place or dish out a damning report on the basis of one trip.

So, even though a chef is only as good as his last meal and all that, I was pleased to see that Observer restaurant critic Jay Rayner had made it all the way to “a gnarly old building at the skinniest end of Cornwall” to write about Kota in Porthleven, as a year ago I stuck a red star on it in the Time Out Guide to Devon & Cornwall.

“I’d be happy to declare this the best Asian food in Cornwall but the distinct lack of competitors renders it a rather hollow statement; instead, I’ll just say that Kota is quietly superb,” is what I wrote. So what did Mr Rayner make of it?

Despite expecting “the fishing-village shtick: food that went from surf to plate with little interference” (fair), Rayner found that: “There is an awful lot happening on the plates here. Ingredients from a lot more than 810 miles away are chucked at the dishes, culinary traditions co-opted with enthusiasm. There is a kitchen here which has yet to meet an ingredient it doesn’t like, and for the most part it works.”

Now I want to go again, you know, just to double-check that review. Read Rayner’s full review of Kota here.

Kota restaurant, Harbour Head, Porthleven, Helston Cornwall TR13 9JA. 01326 562 407. www.kotarestaurant.co.uk

sandsifter cornwall

It’s changed hands a few times in recent years, so it’s hard to know exactly when to get excited about Sandsifter. The fact the old 2009 website is still up doesn’t help. I liked what the last people were doing in terms of club nights (including the Trojan Sound System, which I was sorry to miss), gourmet burgers, serious spirits, cool design etc etc. I don’t know enough to gossip in any depth about what prompted their quick departure but the sands have shifted again and the white box in the towans at Godrevy is under newish management.

I finally got over there yesterday for a quick drink on the new sea-facing terrace at the back – and it seemed to be a triumph. People were mellowing about reading the Sunday papers, listening to the band, drinking Betty Stogs and gazing out over the dunes in the fading September sun.

So in my post-surgery survey of places in West Cornwall that I can get to with minimum walking and maximum outdoorsy effect, Sandsifter has gone straight in at number one (can’t comment on food yet, only had a hot chocolate).

Plus, the outdoor chairs have GREAT lumbar support (below)! As fellow haters of bench seating will know, this is a rare find indeed.

sandsifter cornwall

sandsifter cornwall

penzance arts club cornwall

Where oh where would we be without the Penzance Arts Club?

A little while back, the lovely Emily Evans and Harry Gordon-Smith took over the Club (after rumours of a boutique hotel) – located in the instantly memorable old mansion, once the Portuguese embassy, at the bottom of Chapel Street.

I say instantly memorable because, although I only visited Penzance maybe once as a child (for a Kneehigh Theatre production at the Acorn – we have to save it!), the extravagant seaside mansion and its intriguing side entrance etched themselves on my memory.

Let’s be honest, the restaurant situation in Penzance is pretty dire at the moment – I really love a chilli and chorizo pizza and a pint of Otter in the Crown, occasionally get a Curry Corner or Sukothai takeout (both good & friendly) and I stop for a Corona and some tapas at Mackerel Sky now and again but there’s really not much else cooking.

Or at least there wasn’t until the Dining Room at the Penzance Arts Club opened a few weeks back. I made it over last weekend to try it out and it’s brilliant – and *very big cheer* it’s priced with locals in mind. The room is pure shabby chic, with sweet French perfume bottles as mini vases, simple rustic furniture and white tablecloths, and Breon O’Casey paintings on the walls.

Check out the colours in the food – it looks like an abstract art canvas! The chef makes extensive use of Dan the Potager’s salad boxes, which are stuffed with bright, wild greens, and lots of edible flowers.

Bruschetta, giant prawns with aoili and fishcakes were all fantastic – oh, and we met a nicely sticky end with limoncello cake and cream topped with roasted almonds. There are worse ways to go.

Penzance Arts Club, Chapel Street, 01736 363 761/www.penzanceartsclub.co.uk

penzance arts club cornwall

A bit like the paladares of Cuba or the puertas cerradas (meaning literally ‘closed door’) of Buenos Aires, ‘home-restaurants’ are taking off in the UK, particularly in London. I was holidaying in the distant capital at the weekend and I had the good fortune to be invited to Secret Kitchen, a monthly restaurant run by North London mega-foodie (and author of Eat Slow Britain) Anna Colquhoun.

It was all flawlessly prepared and presented, and endlessly creative and surprising. There was pecorino cheese with unforgettable truffle honey, wild garlic pesto lasagne, home-cured salami, zesty homemade limoncello…

In short, it was all the things you always hope a meal at a fancy restaurant will be, but so very rarely is – because the chef’s got 100 other covers to deal with, the waitress has a hangover, the sous-chef only started yesterday…

As with almost everything Read the rest of this entry »

The name doesn’t lie – the Cabin Café, by the beach at Perranuthnoe, is indeed just a cabin. It’s not, as is fairly common in Cornwall, a case of a restaurant trying to inject some laid-back beach vibes into its name (The Beach Hut at Watergate Bay, say, or the Porthminster Beach Café in St Ives…). This is a common or garden wooden shed with a hatch, and a handful of picnic tables and garden chairs alongside – no pretension, no silly prices, no rain cover.

But against the odds, it just happens to be serving some of Cornwall’s best beach food – and, after years of Read the rest of this entry »

stein fish & chips

gold standard - stein's fish & chips in falmouth

The Guardian made a splash in G2 on the launch day, and the Falmouth Packet also got pretty excited, but it’s been three weeks since it opened and I don’t think anyone’s actually reviewed Rick Stein’s first foray into the Falmouth dining scene. The venue in question is a high-flying fish & chip shop, judiciously placed Read the rest of this entry »

blas-restaurant st ives cornwall

blas burgerworks, the st ives burger people

One of my favourite Penwith restaurants – tiny Blas Burgerworks in St Ives – has teamed up with one of my favourite Penwith singer-songwriters – Gulval’s Jenny Bishop –  for a night of gourmet burgers and emotionally charged acoustic songs to celebrate its fourth birthday on Saturday 13th March.

Being an absolutely minute space – the average size of a Cornish cottage living room (which is what it probably once was) – Blas is really just a cosy cluster of tables and a scattering of stools made from recycled materials. All have already been nabbed for the 8.45-9.30pm sitting; book now for a perch at the earlier 7.30-8.15pm session.

Blas makes a good case for specialising – they only do one dish, but they’ve nailed it. Cornish-sourced, freerange burgers with chunky chips start at £8.

The scary prospect of Pizza Express setting up in the old Woolworths premises in St Ives is enough to make me want to add extra weight to my praise. Blas represents everything that ‘new’ St Ives does well: it’s small, creative, sensitive and a one-off.

jenny bishop cornwall

singer-songwriter jenny bishop

p&c january header: artist’s studio Newlyn

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