Zacry’s, Watergate Bay

 

Wind back to the late 1970s, and I remember Watergate Bay in autumns and winters as this extraordinary and enormous, empty stretch of flat firm sand and ever roaring surf.  The wind would whip through my duffel coat toggles and I’d have to force the lapels together with mitten-clad hands. I remember groups of camper vans parked overlooking the beach and cold, shivering men peeling off wetsuits.  A gathering of mates drawn from the sedate south Cornish coast for their thrill fix had become rugged guys with an assumed air of ‘cool’, and me, that an awkward teenage girl, more self-conscious by a family walk, would surreptitiously gawk at.

The only building near the sea was the hotel, imposing but of a bygone age, seemingly locked until the summer season returned.

How things have changed, except the beach that it. Surfing is de rigueur at The Extreme Academy Watergate, along with learning to kitesurf, waveski and paddlesurf. So that tramping in with wet sandy feet into what is now a splendid hotel for all seasons is perfectly acceptable.

An autumn night and the Other Half and I were recently invited to dine at Zacry’s, the Watergate Hotel’s new restaurant. Zacry’s is a somewhat metropolitan looking brassiere of zig-zag angles. It was a sliding doors moment (indeed even the doors slide from terrace) to step from a blustery dark night and the sea’s roar and into the calm and the light.

063-zacrys-restaurant-3146983387-O 027-zacrys-restaurant-3146979982-OYes, it’s true we felt middle-aged but determined to still get with it and I was pleased with myself for not over-dressing. For though this is ‘posh food’ for local standards, the ambience is relaxed and people-friendly. Bring your children, eat with just your fork, it won’t lessen the absolutely exemplary standard of attentive service you’ll be treated to and the maître d’ isn’t going to make you feel awkward if both elbows rest on the table. Continue reading

My Shop Local Dilemma

Rodda’s, and I’ve no shame in saying it, is my favourite ‘local brand’.

This was last Christmas’ surprise  present from Rodda’s. It was as if they knew!

My Christmas pudding would have choices; local butter for the brandy butter, clotted cream which is in my opinion the perfect complement to its  sweet, rich stickyness or, Rodda’s newest product, custard.

photo[4] Rodda’s is not my favourite brand just because it is local (because its Cornish)  it’s my favourite because it is sooooo good!

I go out of my way to only buy Rodda’s milk – a by-product of their cream – which is premium because to make premium clotted cream Rodda’s choose their West Cornwall farms carefully. Right down to the quality of soil, the amount of rainfall, the richness of pasture, the husbandry of cows….

However, my favourite product is their crème fraîche.  I use it in much of cooking and prefer it to cream on many desserts. Or, I confess, I often have a  sneaky spoonful just on it own. If I get fat on it, well so be it, because I’ll get fat happy.

But in all the waxing happy about milk and cream and Cornishness there is on thing that makes me angrier than a wasp caught in a glass….

Every time I see the infuriating, and let’s face it,  fairly patronising message to “Shop Local, Support Local” I see red.

It hints at superiority and it insults the shopper who been valiantly trying to do those very things…

It’s an empty command, just like, “Have a Nice Day” with no real instruction. I’ve no idea how to go about a nice day especially when I’m frustrated by how  to “Shop Local”.

Would I be wrong if I thought it means buying things that have been produced locally, cutting down my food miles and supporting the local economy by buying from and supporting local businesses?

The Choose Cornish campaign was an excellent and really pro-active drive to Shop Local because it explains how it could be done and the difference it would make to the Cornish Economy.   Ruth Huxley, of Cornwall Food & Drink, and her husband’s Supermarket-free challenge was inspiring and I’d like nothing more that to be able to do there same…

However…..and this is like the big BUT that makes me furious…where I live it’s a vacuum of most things that are good and enrich the local area. For heaven’s sake, we live in area which is probably more abundant than any other park of the UK for the diversity and quality of fresh local food but in my town there is precious little local choice.

I want to be able to buy fresh fish caught in St. Austell Bay (St Austell mussels are fat, succulent and worthy of a mention) but I’m offered Iceland and 99p store instead :_( or make a special trip to Fowey or Mevagissey for a fishmonger.

I used to dream of opening a ‘local food’ shop as the ‘Farm Shop in town’ that would supply fresh locally produced and locally sourced. It works in Truro, it works in other towns and surely, since it can work in places that are way off the main routes, such as Padstow Farm Shop or  Trevaskis Farm Shop, near Hayle, because they become ‘destinations’ it could work in my town too?

But first there has to be sincerity to back those kind of ideas.  I doubt that St. Austell residents are any less keen to ‘Shop Locally’ in this town than they are to shop locally anywhere else.   There’s an appetite for it but no culture of enthusiasm to make it happen in the town centre.

In the meantime, thank goodness for the online shopping from Cornish Food Market and Cornish Food Box. I can sort of  ‘shop local’.  Just not how I want to be able to do it. Face to face with a shop keepers where I can select for myself the cut of local beef I like, where I can be told its breed and the farm it came from such as  the butchers, Philip Warren in Launceston.

But don’t get me wrong, St. Austell still has three pasty shops (I think there were seven not that long ago), we’ve an OK butcher and the two green grocers now long gone have been replaced by just one veg stall… It’s disappointingly little to draw me in to shop and support all the other shops  in a town centre that is meant to serve the biggest population in the whole of Cornwall!

We once had a Tesco in town, and although it was competition at the same time  it supported the independent shops by growing the footfall and flow around the town, but now if I want to buy the Cornish basics:  Rodda’s milk  or Davidstow Cheese,  I have to drive to Tesco, two miles from the Town Centre where I live.

There’s absolutely nothing more I’d rather do that shop in and support the place and the people where I live.

Nothing feels better than the money I spend going back into the local economy.

I’ve sat since Christmas with this post in my drafts file while I deliberated for a long time if it was right to post. Just because I feel very strongly about shopping locally doesn’t give me the right to shove it down people’s throats. In the end, shopper’s make their own choices and like to be incentivized to ‘choose’ not ‘preached to’ into feeling bad.

Please, don’t tell me to shop locally, I already do what I can, but if the ‘Local offer is not provided’ through local food shops, cafes and restaurants or it’s like being told to drink fresh spring water, because it’s good for you, in a pub.

Once there are local shops to visit regularly  for my daily needs, I’ll naturally start using the other local traders too for those less frequent purchases.

I just happen to think that facilitating that effort should not be placed on the shoulders of the customer. Shops have to provide the ‘local’ that ‘locals’ want to buy.

ChooseCornish from Cornwall Food & Drink on Vimeo.

 

The Rattler Run

Cornish endurance event launched by Healeys Cyder

From Barefoot MediaA-range-of-Rattler-bottles The-Cornish-Bite-on-the-beach I occasionally get these ‘nudges’. “Off-road endurance runners can test their mettle in a new Cornish mud run and music festival this summer.”

Yes, Jessica, food and drink cannot be the only motivation in life, sometimes a kick in the pants to run off some of those Cornish applied calories is also something to aim for!

The Healeys story began in 1980 when David and Kay Healey made their first cyder (“cyder” is the Cornish way of spelling “cider”). In 1986 they bought a 150-year old Penhallow Farm  and began to resurrect the largely forgotten art of cyder-making in Cornwall.

Today, the family-owned business near Truro is the longest-standing cyder maker in Cornwall, producing award-winning cyders and juices every year – including the popular Rattler Cyder created by Healeys second generation, Sam and Joe.

Healeys Cyder Farm is one of Cornwall’s most popular visitor attractions with over 400,000 visitors a year. Visitors can see apples being pressed, sample cyders, jams and juices in the farm shop, and take a guided tour by tractor through the orchards.

The site also includes Cornwall’s only distillery, handcrafting superb vintage brandies, and a limited edition Hicks & Healey Cornish Single Malt 8 Year-old Whiskey which was named European Whisky of the Year 2013 by Jim Murray.

The Rattler Run , organised by Healeys, and  in partnership with Fully Sussed, the will take place over the August bank holiday weekend (Friday 22 to Monday 25) at Tregoninny Farm, near Truro.
Joe Healey, Commercial Director at Healeys, is a keen endurance athlete and has helped design the natural course through trees, tracks and rivers.

Joe said: “The Rattler Run is designed to test your physical and mental strength. The course is approximately 8km and includes plenty of hills. We’ve used the natural environment and terrain to create a series of obstacles. Competitors can enter solo or in teams completing five laps of the course, which is the equivalent distance to a marathon.

“I’m really excited to be taking part and have been looking for a new challenge to train for. What better place to push yourself to the max before relaxing with a few well-earned Rattlers than on our beautiful farm at Tregoninny.”

The Healey family bought 193 acre Tregoninny Farm at the beginning of 2013 with plans to plant 8,000 apple trees. This will see them triple their apple production.

Sam Healey, Operations Director at Healeys, said: “We like to be innovative and creative in our approach, and this was how our Rattler range was born, and more recently Cornish Bite, our apple based energy drink.

“The Rattler Run is a great way of combining some of the things we love – endurance events, the Cornish countryside and our delicious Rattler cyder.”

Alongside the main event, there will be an after-party with live music and a bar serving the full range of Rattler cyder. On Sunday 24 August a series of shorter running races including a Cani-x with dogs, and a children’s under 12 race will also take place.

Early bird tickets are currently on sale, with entry for a team of five costing £150 including three days camping, music and the marathon mud run. Children under 12 are free and there are various options for those looking to camp and attend the music or simply to enter races.

For more details or to enter the Rattler Run visit: thecornishcyderfarm.co.uk/rattler-run.

Extreme Food (Fifteen Cornwall)

Cornwall has extremes. Often so beautiful, on clement days and in sunshine, that she steals all words that might adequately describe her as a welcoming marvel, leaving the spectator speechless and in awe.

In contrast, this southwestern extremity, with craggy toe posturing towards the Atlantic, can turn overnight into a salty wet, ill-tempered, moody bitch especially on exposed coasts. Bleak and blustering, she screams at low-grown thorny trees who bend cowering under the banshee’s onslaught. Grabbing loose hair, she tosses it into bird’s nest mangles, whips up a foam of green-grey scum off the ocean and throws buckets of sea mixed with rain relentlessly upon us. There is not much to do. Either dress for it and face the weather and be exhilarated by it,  or stay indoors, batten down the hatches, and comfort eat.IMG_1292

Pondering both options, wet or dry, there’s few better locations, than a mid-week lunch on Watergate Bay at Fifteen Cornwall, to enjoy both. I chose comfort over thrill, but with a great ringside view to see the kite-surfers zip up and down the shoreline, sometimes taken airborne above the waves, most of my food bites were accompanied by gasps of wonder.

Personally, I find it impossible not to love the food at Fifteen Cornwall, and a three course mid-week lunch for £21 makes the off-season experience well worth while. Currently running Monday to Friday until 20th December, this makes it a local’s special treat and,  the Autumn into Winter menus feature richer, earthier food that’s full of flavour.IMG_0776

Not every plate of food is as pretty or refined as each other, but it doesn’t matter one jot unless you only measure taste through your eyes! The thick Tuscan soup – resembling something I might have concocted from everything I found in my cupboard in fridge in my University days – was actually a flavour marvel. Rich, warming and spicy. Perfect comfort food on the cold, windswept November day I chose it. Mullet with its fine flavour and flakey texture, I have to declare is now my favourite fish.

Where my partner chose the opposite dishes, starting light and building towards his Sticky toffee apple pudding; I worked in reverse and finished with a light creamy panna cotta with spicy plums. Delicious!

I only have one teeny-weeny gripe, that on that day the service was slow and we were itching for a beach blast that would give our  dog a good  run before the tide came in. On the upside, slow is a good if you want to stay unhurried, watch the surf action and savour every Fifteen moment warm in doors.

Try the delicious Lemongrass and Ginger or Fifteen’s home-made Cola for a non-alcoholic treat.

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Mozzarella di bufala, dressed beets and almonds

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Ribollita (a thick Tuscan soup)

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Crispy fillet of mullet with herby potatoes, cavolo nero and aioli

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Pappardelle of slow cooked balsamic pork ragu and crispy herbs

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Sticky toffee apple pudding and clotted cream

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Panna cotta, spiced plums and shortbread

Love St. Austell or loath it, why does Coyte Farm divide so much opinion?

What do people really think about the Coyte Farm development? Are greater number for it or against it?

Depending on which side of the fence you sit, Coyte Farm has been put forward as  the best opportunity for St. Austell for a generation  and the very worse threat on the other? It’s both the saviour of this town and our damnation? So evangelical the nature of the debate that the ‘Love St. Austell, Stop Coyte Farm’ supporters would have it implied that you can’t do both. 

I’d really like to be able to leave this topic alone, but it has become like an itching sore and the more entrenched, polarised and blinkered the views become, the more I’m inclined to want to scratch it.

I’ve been well and truly been given the cold shoulder by the Anti Coyte Farm protestors who used to try to engage with me. Probably after I managed to summon up the courage – alone and without my bringing along  supporters – to speak up at the 2nd Cornwall Council public meeting on the subject on 30th October. I was number 25 on a long list of 63 people who signed up to speak.

Why does Coyte Farm represents many different things to different people?  In a nutshell these are the sum of all the views:

  • It’s the opportunity to have a better class or bigger retailers closer to St. Austell. We’re fed up of having to go to Truro for such shops.
  • Significant investment in a town that has the largest population in Cornwall and has suffered continuous decline in the past 30 years. Around a million pounds a week of potential spend in St. Austell is being lost to Truro.
  • It’s a catastrophic, out of scale retail park that will kill St. Austell’s town centre, destroy small businesses and the social heart of our town.
  • It’s unsustainable: the population of Cornwall and the amount of money to spend cannot support additional retail of such scale. Shops in St. Austell and other towns, Liskeard, Wadebridge, Bodmin, Lostwithiel etc.  will lose their own trade as a result.
  • The loss valuable farmland that should be kept to grow food in the future as the population grows and we have less to eat; it’s a flooding risk to Polgooth and the Pentewan stream; and a danger to pedestrians, especially those walking to school.
  • It’s outside the planning boundaries, contravenes the town plan and there are brownfield sites that should be used instead.
  • It’s a threat to Truro as it will draw back some of the millions that this catchment area spends in Truro, and it will have an impact on Truro’s own development plans for further retail. 

I stayed for three hours and heard them all. It was a very civilised debate. Nobody heckled. Everyone was heard. For sure there were more who spoke up against Coyte than for it, and compared to the public meeting in January, the quality of arguments on either side were generally much more thought through, considered and intelligent. Where I’d swung more towards Coyte after the ridiculous arguments made at the last meeting… this time, listening to the alternatives for larger shopping retail closer to town, I was back on the fence again.Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 17.02.10

Here are the arguments put against Coyte Farm and the deliberation I put forward.

1.   “It will kill St. Austell.”

We cannot blame Coyte, which is still only a planning application…I’ve known St. Austell for my whole life (almost half a century) and Coyte will most definitely not kill St. Austell.

To be absolutely clear, I mean the whole of St. Austell – the area and it’s population – not merely White River Place and the old town centre.

The thing this town needs is investment and every offer of such has to be very carefully considered on how it will improve the economic and social welfare of St. Austell.

The trouble is with all the laying blame in the past is that it blinds us from facing the present situation and diverts our energy from preparing for an increasingly changing future.

Why are the big supermarkets so successful? Because they have to be mindful of their rivals and responsive to social change and the demands of us: their customers. These grocery stores now have cafés, sell us wine, clothing and household wares, have online shops and provide banking, travel money, insurance services.  Everything that town centres once were, but made vastly more convenient. Supermarkets also predict future growth and where it is likely to come from.  The growing population size and the attractiveness of Cornwall to bring in more people to live, develop or relocate business, and the potential of an area to become more affluent.

If it were possible to make St. Austell operate like a supermarket.  The council with St. Austell’s landlords and retailers would have to pull together and follow this example, seek to have a competitive edge and operate with a common purpose St. Austell would win back shoppers as a viable alternative.  Added to which the town would be a more enjoyable experience, than our soulless supermarkets.  What is killing the town centre is negativity: poor image, parking charges, lack of imagination. If Sainsbury’s and M&S want to come to St. Austell it’s because they know that the right demographic currently live in the area and more of the same will come to live here.

The strongest argument against Coyte Farm say that as an out-of-town shopping centre it will kill St. Austell’s town centre. They forget the fact that St. Austell already has an out-of-town shopping centre that is killing us: it’s called Truro where the majority of the town’s more affluent population chose to shop and they haven’t set foot in town for ages.

St. Austell is currently a plastic bucket full of holes. It appears to have nothing of offer of value and lets opportunity seep away to shop elsewhere. The few pennies not lost through the holes get spent in Poundland and the 99p store.  In the absence of significant serious retail opportunities, we fail to keep the majority of our local population local, and  St. Austell’s shopping centre will continue to be vulnerable. Turn our back on Coyte for the sake of nostalgia or in the belief that local businesses can be saved without it is not a good move. All signs of improvement over the next 12mths, 5 years and into the future will continue to wax and wane and other future investment opportunities that we need to grasp in an attempt to put St. Austell back on the map will be fewer and further between.

2.    “It will destroy valuable farmland and green fields.”

Coyte Farm amounts to 98 acres.  Agricultural land split by the A390 and, sadly, is not large enough nowadays for a farmer to make a viable living. It has been said that the Coyte development is massive, I can only assume this is because calculations were made on the total area of the farm. Perhaps that’s how the conclusion was reached that it would be the third largest retail space in Cornwall and a bigger shopping area than the existing St Austell town centre.

The retail park including the new road improvements that will make access to St. Mewan School safer and easier, and landscaping to reduce the environmental impact is actually about 24 acres in all. I know this because I bothered to work it out using a Google map calculation tool. This amounts to about three fields mostly hidden from the approach view just as the Recycling centre on Tregongeeves Lane is hidden from view. I’ve been amazed and horrified how easily people accept what they are told rather than checking these things for themselves.

I’m also of the belief that nothing is for ever. We just can’t imagine the future. When the world changes to the extent where land to grow food is more necessary to our existence than cars and supermarkets we humans are clever enough to grown food in other ways we may not imagine, or will have removed the concrete and tarmac and sought the earth again.

3.    “The shops that want to come to Coyte can be accommodated in White River Place and on brownfields sites within the town.”

It is a big pity that White River Place doesn’t have M&S or Primark etc. I’m fairly certain that if it made good commercial sense to be in St. Austell they would have taken the opportunity to be in town already.

In all the so-called independent reports I’ve read, I’ve had to unpick statements given as empirical evidence that Coyte will have a negative effect on the town.  The scary part is that the quality of these ‘expensively produced’ reports is, in my own view crammed with ambiguous quantitive statistics presented as definitive evidence to tell us how much other retail is likely to lose out on. They are all deeply lacking in qualative data. None really prove anything, as they are not balanced by how much St. Austell already looses to Truro and so forth and how much spend Coyte could bring back to the town as a whole.

They’ve used examples to suggest Coyte will have an adverse effect on St. Austell that are irrelevant to Cornwall (I think it’s more important to reference Hayle – has that out-of-town retail park had an adverse or positive effect on Hayle?). I’ve looked at Margate. Google it yourselves. It’s really not comparable as a real example – scale and context – by any stretch of the imagination. Balance has to show cases where out-of-town shopping has improved the quality of an area as well as those that don’t so that the the likely impact, positive and negative, can be properly predicted in this case and plans adjusted accordingly.

They also ignore the topography of the town completely. The town centre is wrapped around the side of a hill. White River Place has helped to increase the amount of level shopping area, however in these reports some of the possible sites are absurd. People won’t walk uphill between retail areas, especially if the route is not lined with other shops they are likely to visit on the way.

No report examines if Coyte might improve the overall economy of the whole of St. Austell? The fact is that turning our backs on Coyte will have a much more damaging effect on St. Austell’s regeneration and reputation which is, frankly, pretty poor. Without a retail magnet, people won’t come back to shop and people won’t want to come here to live which means that the value of our homes is also suppressed.

I’m not saying that St. Austell should say ‘yes’ without asking lots questions. Potential flooding, busier roads, the environmental impact and the effect on the town centre are all negatives that have to be offset as much as possible. And it is important that the developers’ offered investment of ½ million to the town centre is used to the best possible effect. Ultimately, this is a one of a kind opportunity to bring credibility back to the area.

I said back in January that Coyte shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. I was advocating an open-minded view but I was accused of not knowing what I was talking about. So I’ve been very careful to read the reports and listen to all the arguments and do my own research. I have no agenda – so I have nothing to personally gain. I don’t run a business – but I am sympathetic to those who do and are struggling; I’m not being paid to voice my opinion. I just live here and I choose to live here is because I love St. Austell and wish to invest my livelihood in my local area.

Ultimately it cemented my view that a decision has to be made. On balance I would much prefer to see Coyte get its approval, with stringent conditions attached. For the sake of the whole of  St.  Austell  I believe this plan is better than the alternative without it.

However, after the meeting I have to add a post script. An alternative proposal  to Coyte is a possibility. It’s not without great merit but is it ultimately better in the immediate and the long-term?

To be honest, I’m not sure.

Next, we were told, could be interested in the Halfords Store near B&Q; M&S Food might come into White River Place; the  Restormel Offices could be pulled down to create another supermarket or Higher Trewhiddle Farm – where Westcountry Land have a similar scheme for housing and would like to include a petrol station and supermarket…. The proximity to the centre of the town is closer and some use brownfield sites.  I have to remain uncertain as the arguments to suggest these were better were put forward by the very developers and owners of these schemes. Plus, we’ve had Master Plans made for St. Austell before that resulted in nothing other than the same situation of stagnation that we had before.

More debate.

Super Slow #Superfast Cornwall

Superfast-vanNormally, I can be unbelievably patient and reasonable if I know what’s going on. I have a child with a Global Developmental Delay so I’ve grown accustomed to not having my expectations met. He won’t catch up and be ‘normal’ I understand that. However, in the last year an iPad has become his best friend as it allows him to join in with the rest of the world  for a bit, and technology is moving at such a pace there are communication programmes that will help him, eventually, to speak to us.

So please don’t get me wrong,  I’m not some hot-headed Mrs. Angry who spits her dummy out if not placed at the top of the queue.  But, every so often I have spat with my internet connection which drops out from time to time and grinds my pace of work (I’m self-employed) to nothing.  It has been an ongoing ‘promise’ for some time now. Superfast Cornwall shout about themselves all over billboards for us to get connected and I’ve been screaming “yes, yes” and registering my interest of “keep me in loop” for three years now. But even though I’m keen….I’m apparently shouting from a black hole right in the centre of St. Austell that keeps missing getting connected.

The whole sorry tale is best told here by my other half:

In terms of superfast communications time travels ever faster.

The summer of 2011 is so far behind us in technical history that it ranks on the timeline alongside Noah and the building of the Pyramids.

Back in June of 2011, about the time Noah was fitting the rudder, we were offered, as part of the pioneering surge for Cornwall spearhead the nation into BT infinity and beyond, to have the fibre optic link brought to us at the speed of light.

Our driveway was dug up and a conduit laid, with impressive efficiency but with nothing in it, just a short wait for the superfast cable to be pulled through.

We’re still waiting.

A few phone calls, with words like, ‘soon’, ‘shortly’ and ‘imminent’ were uttered with reassuring tones, but we’re still waiting.

Snow fell and melted away, the ark was probably afloat on the melt-water by now. The imminent time scale similarly drifted by, and we carried on – waiting.

Our house was demolished, and its replacement was built with a conduit to the site for the proposed junction box, the piece of blue rope inside waiting to pull through the superfast link. But we’re still waiting.

Then burst of activity, a brand new telegraph pole was erected, next to the proposed site of the proposed junction box, the piece of blue rope was nailed to it along with nothing else. It too is waiting for a continental drift to tip the axis of orbit. The Olympics came and went with numerous world records being broken … but we’re still waiting.

A BT Open Reach manager, a Mr Smith, took it upon himself to ‘Personally take possession of the case’ and to drive things through. Vans turned up, the drivers all got out, looked at our proud new telegraph pole, shook their heads and drove off; three in one day. ‘It’s only got to come across South Street’ – Were still waiting. And Mr Smith retired, the manager who replaced him gave all the same platitudes with justified embarrassment of his organisation’s impotence.

There wasn’t any snow in the following winter, it forgot to come along with the speed of light Superfast fibre optic cable.

Then in summer 2013, a burst of activity in South Street, traffic lights, digging the road three nights in succession till 2am, outside a block of flats, such was the urgency to progress the job with utmost efficiency. The noise was horrific, perhaps the ark was running aground. Then with great anticipation – nothing. We’re still waiting.

Time moves on, the new manager has been transferred to the Isles of Scilly, perhaps it’s part of the continuing hex spreading to those who dare to try to help us, one retires and another is exiled to far off-shore archipelagoes.

So we’re ending the third year since we were invited to grasp the dangling super fast carrot….. but silence has once again fallen on our ‘case’ that had been given an escalated status by Mr. Smith this time last year.

I suspect a lot of money has already been invested on not quite getting us connected. An underground conduit dug to drive the fibre optic cable through and straight into our house; a brand new telegraph pole to also connect us overhead as well; three nights of road works interruptions on South street to bring the cabling across the road and under the pavement….

Alas, we’re still waiting.  The wait might not be as bad if we knew we weren’t forgotten, or a date (however distant) was on the horizon,  but my emails about my issue don’t escape the black hole void we dwell in and get connected to superfastcornwall.org either now it seems!

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Boscundle Manor – Restaurant Review

If I said that Boscundle was an entirely new discovery wouldn’t be the truth. Locals have quietly considered this small, chic hotel – possibly too quietly – as having one of the best restaurants within St. Austell. However, best-kept secrets can sometime be skewed.

I’d not though about eating at Boscundle for years. I like my food experience to stimulate my imagination and not just my taste buds and my assumption was, based on its country manor location, that the offering would be very formal, conventional and a tad expensive. But I love those terrific moments of epiphany when you can happily say, ‘I was wrong. I’ve now seen the light’.photo[4]

The experience for me has just blown my tongue’s nerve endings out of hibernation. I love food experiences when they are so good that you go on dining on the memory of it for weeks, maybe even years, afterwards and this was most definitely one of those. The other half and I will still be asking each other ‘what magic had been performed in a seemingly simple yet velvety smooth Pea veloute to make it taste better and fresher than fresh peas straight from the pod?’ for years to come.  This is not toe-curling over-enthusiasm being expressed here. I’m too British for that. Quite simply this was a beautiful introduction to six amazing courses of a superb tasting menu at an amazingly reasonable price of £49 per head. Added to which we were treated to a glass of Prosecco and a plate of delicious canapés while we read the menu.  It will now go down as one of the best stand out meals I’ve possible ever had.

My mother once worked as a cook and she effortlessly produced thousands of family meals all through her lifetime. I too, cook meals from scratch almost everyday. It means that a meal that’s been cooked for me is always a treat. I like to think I’m not a boring cook but I am a bored cook and I most want eat food that’s genuinely delicious. Luckily in Cornwall, we’re completely spoiled for fresh produce, and have a swelling gastronomic reputation enhanced by celebrity restaurants and a healthy collection of Michelin stars. I can rattle off the names of a good dozen male chefs who have very notable reputations, but only knew of two women in Cornwall who ran restaurants worth making a beeline for. How does that imbalance occur? Scores of women like my mother and I, effortlessly bang out good meals all their lives and we remain ordinary. It’s as if men are in possession of some superior ‘chef gene’ that transcends decent cooking into culinary brilliance. This thought had surfaced in my brain and grew with certainty with each exquisite course. It shames me that I assumed that just because the food was so carefully constructed it could only be man-made.

photoThe smooth pea soup served in a witty black, with white spots, coffee cup had three whole peas to be discovered like sweet bursts of summer in my childhood’s kitchen garden.

photo[5]The second course that followed was a flavourful and densely meaty ham hock terrine with celeriac, a hint of mustard and apple and caramel dots.

photo[3]The third course caught me by surprise. Incredulous that the placing of a mackerel fillet on spidery fennel and orange segments with a cider and caper dressing should work was extraordinary. Not to be deconstructed and examined but best taken as a mouthful of all the flavours combined. Naturally it seemed wrong to have fish with orange and yet together it tasted… bizarre… but right.

photoThe only course that seemed more ordinary, but no less delicious, was the main: Breast of Cornish duck, confit leg, fondant potato, cherry sauce. Saying that just proves how much I was being spoilt.

Finally, in rapturous awe, although we did our best to slow our dining experience to snail’s pace, we drew into the pudding zone.

photo[2]I wonder have you ever had a chocolate crème brulée? A piece of heaven that I can’t help wondering why something so obvious isn’t everywhere. My husband has a thing about chocolate and one tiny spoonful and he was summoning the waitress. “The thing is,” he says, “this is too good to have now. Would you mind taking it away now and bringing it back so I can enjoy it with my coffee?” I gave an apologetic smile on his behalf but she was very obliging and perfectly happy to humour him. Perhaps she should have mentioned that there was to be petite fours with the coffee and spared his later blushes.

photoPudding didn’t end there; the final delight was out of this world: Strawberry and champagne jelly, honeycomb and elderflower sorbet. Not only a thing of beauty that held an assortment of delicious blue and red berries in suspended flotation, but full of surprising sparkling tingles on the tongue. It was fresh, light and a perfect end that I did my best to finish slowly.  Clever, clever chef I thought, turning food into divine. Boscundle’s head chef and hidden talent is one to watch. Remember the name: Jenny Reed, a girl, hurrah!

Boscundle, St Austell, PL25 3RL UK

01726 813557, e-mail, reservations@boscundlemanor.co.uk

www.boscundlemanor.co.uk

This review featured in Cornwall Today Magazine September 2013

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The Scarlet Restaurant

Last week the sun was out. The surf was up and the wind blew the spray on breaking waves into high peaks of glistening white horses.  My OH and I, chatting a little, but mostly quietly staring out of the Scarlet Restaurant, were in a zen-like heaven, mesmerised by this long animated view of sand and sea and Cornwall.

I had – lucky me – been invited to try the new Scarlet  ‘Eat-a-Little or Eat-a-Lot Lunch Menu’ and while we ate and sampled each other’s plates of food we truly enjoyed a few hours peaceful escapism and much-needed togetherness. The Scarlet really is the ‘adult-only’ zen-like tranquility they say it is. 

But what a difference a week makes?  My husband’s leave is over and now he’s back is Denmark. Today, with no other comfort but toast… and stuck peering out in the grey gloom of  a rain-soaked cloud… I find myself  contemplating seduction.

Maybe if I show you what we enjoyed together you won’t blame me.

Scarlet chef Tom Hunter’s new lunch menu – as much or as little gorgeous food as you desire, served in a beautiful chilled out setting accompanied by an amazing best sea view.

Choose some of  best new dishes as either a starter or a main course or as a three-course lunch for just £22.50.

Even though I’ve said that I can’t personally photograph food and make it look good… my phone is pretty damn good at it 🙂

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Tempura of Cornish fish with saffron aioli and fennel

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Terrine of confit duck with orange, balsamic and toasted brioche

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Roast cod with herb potato gnocchi, beetroots, confit tomatoes, leeks and tomato salsa

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Sirloin of Cornish beef with duck fat chips, grill garnish and béarnaise sauce

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Kea plum parfait with Cornish rhubarb and honey madeleines

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Muscavado panna cotta with Cornish strawberries, ginger and biscotti

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The New West Country Cook Book

wccb-nathan-outlaw-rarebit wccb-saffron-mayo wccb-nathan-outlaw-red-mullet wccb-michael-caines-cider-jelly Whether because the region’s food scene has, on occasion, been dismissed as provincial, pasties or simply Padstow, or because of its geographical isolation, there’s a special camaraderie amongst the community of cooks in the South West.

The New West Country Cook Book  is a testament to this collective spirit.

The book is a showcase: not of the top names in the business, although it has them; not of expensive or extraordinary ingredients – as the South West can grow, rear or catch them all; but, more, a celebration of the simple beauty and fantastic taste of the best ingredients artfully combined.

The New West Country Cook Book  is the brainchild of Cornwall based photographer David Griffen, who built a career working with Michelin starred chefs across the country. His new project draws together a culinary collective, who despite their stellar status, let their food and its origins do the talking.

The 320 page book, focusing on key ingredients that can be found or foraged locally,  aims to showcase the region’s culinary talent and high quality produce through beautiful photography and home-cooked recipes.

It’s all about clever and simple cooking.  The best of the region’s chefs have come up with some lovely recipes which emphasise, rather than manipulate, the flavours of food in a uniquely West Country style.

Some of the recipes include:

  • Cornish Rarebit with Doom Bar Beer
  • Dexter Rump of Beef with Cornish Blue Cheese Butter
  • Sticky Cornish Fudge Pudding with Clotted Cream
  • Sparkling Cider Jelly with Blackberries and Apple Cider Ice Cream

Tasty stuff indeed!

Food and lifestyle photographer David Griffen loves food almost as much as he loves photography. He relocated from Australia to Cornwall eight years ago and now lives and works here with his young family. David says: “I have been shooting food in the South West for almost a decade, and have witnessed first hand a swell of excitement surrounding the region’s culinary development.

“The idea for the book came from watching the chefs working together at festivals and demonstrations; in quiet moments backstage they were talking as a group and to each other and sharing ideas and experiences – there was a real sense of mutual support.”

The book features over 75 delicious recipes from 17 chefs including Nathan Outlaw, James Tanner and his brother Chris, Paul Ainsworth, Michael Caines, Mitch Tonks, Mark Hix, Tom Kerridge and Chris Eden.

Nathan Outlaw, who has won two Michelin stars for his restaurant in Rock, Cornwall, said: “Over the last ten years the camaraderie amongst the chefs of the South West has increased. I enjoy being in the kitchen and cooking with other chefs, and I think it is good for the chefs who work with me to see other styles. It’s great to have these extra influences in the kitchen.”

The simple and clever recipes in The New West Country Cookbook feature produce sourced from the region, and the recipes are aimed at the home cook.

David continues: “The brief given to each chef was the same – no fancy techniques, just honest home cooking, with a focus on the region’s produce.”

David regularly shoots for the top echelon of chefs in the region and further afield, including Nathan Outlaw, Rick Stein, Paul Ainsworth, Tom Aikens and has just finished shooting Michael Caines first cook book. David actively engages with a steadily growing audience through various social media channels, and is a leading expert in the fields of ‘photography for food blogs’ and ‘food photography for social media promotion’.

Tom Kerridge, who grew up in Gloucestershire and runs the two Michelin starred Hand & Flowers in Marlow said: “The standard of cooking in the South West over the last few years has risen dramatically, with the increase of a number of home grown South Western chefs opening their own places or becoming head chefs in their own right in some fantastic venues.”

For more information, or to pre-order the book (available in shops from November) please visit: www.westcountrycookbook.co.uk, and follow the book on Twitter @thenewcookbook.

Westcountry Cookbook
Hard cover * 320 Pages * £20 RRP *Independently Published * ISBN 978-0-9576238-0-4


Empty Cornish Beaches in Summertime

August in Cornwall is full to bursting isn’t it?

The following pictures were taken during the past fortnight right in the middle of the mad 6 weeks of school summer holidays. This is the time when Cornwall’s capacity is stretched to the seams. When the county’s towns and coastal villages are crowded out with holiday visitors moving along pavements in slow, semi slumbering state as if they need to be herded or rounded up and corralled for they own safety. When our main roads slow to a crawl with long tail-backs of traffic, or we end up in car-to-car stand-offs with anxious holiday-makers in 4×4 cars caught in narrow lanes. They become incapable of engaging in reverse gear or are petrified of manoeuvring  in tight to Cornish hedges.

Most years I narrow my travelling circle during this time to just a few miles from home and confine journeys a network of back lanes to avoid the inevitable traffic congestion. In wet weather it’s worse as more drive in aimless desperation for entertainment, but with this summer’s fine weather it’s become a very different story…

On Monday, August 19 it was World Photography Day and here’s the picture I took at about 12.30pm. photo[3]Not a single human anywhere on this beach in South Cornwall, a mere 10 minute walk from the noise and bustle of families with small children playing on the beach at Polkerris. Unfortunately I’d not brought my swimming costume and had there been a big rock to hide behind or it not been so visible from the coast path and passing kids in sailing dinghies, I’d have been tempted to take a quick and risqué skinny dip.

It’s as if all our summer visitors have been sheep-herded into certain hotspots or are drawn like wasps to the most obvious places. Yesterday evening I drove through Polzeath where at high tide there was barely a non-occuppied space in the sea, on the beach in the car-parks or cafés. On Sunday, I jostled with the crowds in Mevagissey in search of the shortest queue for ice creams and on our walk back along the cost path, stopped here for a swim. photo[4] It’s really odd to find so many empty spaces at this time of year, believe me.  It’s as if the locals, who know of these places, have all gone to ground. For in the off-season – even in mid winter – I’d expect to see other humans out walking their dogs here.

This summer will go down in my memory as one that was extraordinarily quiet and peaceful summer in Cornwall. Empty beaches  and amazing wide clear views on cliff walks, blue skies, fluffy white clouds and azure seas and, apart from my kids and few friends and a dog, very few other souls encountered 🙂

The key thing is you just have to leave the car and get out a walk a bit to find these secret and glorious spots.

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