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

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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

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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Cornish bratwurst sausage? Wir scherzen nicht mit den Deutschen.

It was a tweet that first caught my eye, when Kernow Sausages teamed up with Skinner’s Brewery to make a special Betty Stogs sausage.  

From that first bite, having tracked this curious sounding sausage down, I found myself a fan of the Kernow Sausage and their many flavours. Gavin Roberts is the most enthusiastic sausage maker I have ever met.

Here is their latest news via Barefoot Media:

An award-winning meat producer has collaborated with a top chef to create the first Cornish bratwurst sausage for events catering.

The special sausage was created by pork connoisseur Gavin Roberts of The Kernow Sausage Company, specialist producers of sausages and other pork products, based on the Roseland Peninsula in Cornwall.

The collaboration came about after a request from Neil Haydock, executive chef at Watergate Bay Hotel, who was looking for a special occasion sausage to serve at large events.

Bratwurst sausages originate from Germany and are known for their size and lightness of texture. Traditionally they are served in a bread roll with sauerkraut and mustard, and typically washed down with beer. They lend themselves well to events where people are eating and drinking on the go.

Gavin Roberts, owner of Kernow Sausage Company said: “Neil is one of those chefs who is always looking for something a bit different, something that isn’t generally available off the shelf.

“We got talking about sausages and in particular bratwurst, and basically I’m not one to be beaten by a challenge so I thought right, I’m going to offer you the best bratwurst that you can get hold of.”

The Watergate Bay bratwurst made its debut at the Electric Beach Festival in July. The festival saw over 3,000 revellers take to the golden sands of this famous surfing beach to enjoy music from hip hop stars De La Soul and support act The Nextmen.

The sausage received rave reviews and was recently served again at the Veuve Clicquot Polo on the Beach event in September.

Neil Haydock, the executive chef from Watergate Bay Hotel said: “We really like working with Gavin because he provides fantastic sausages and bacon and at the same time is innovative and creative in his approach.

“I wanted to create something special for events here. I’ve always remembered bratwurst sausages from my childhood as being oversized and really tasty so I decided Watergate should have their own version. Luckily Gavin got it right first time and it went down really well.”

Gavin began the process with some thorough research into the production techniques and ingredients that make the definitive bratwurst.

Gavin said: “As comical as the sausage is to some people, we’re very serious about what we do. Much like traditional British sausages there are many different types of bratwurst and so I simply let myself be led by common influences.

“I think one of the things that makes The Kernow Sausgage Company unique is our ability to be able to develop products to specification. It’s a good example of what sets us apart from your regular meat wholesaler.”

Gavin has run the family-owned Kernow Sausage Company for the last five years and has worked closely with other chefs on numerous collaborations including a hog’s pudding recipe with Chris Eden from the Michelin-starred Driftwood Hotel near Portscatho.

The Kernow Sausage Company pride themselves on using the finest pork from happy pigs  with recipes that have been passed down through the generations from Gavin’s grandmother.

The specially created bratwurst last week picked up a Silver award at the South West British Pig Executive (BPEX) regional awards. BPEX holds the awards each year to recognise pork manufacturers who meet specific quality criteria in various areas of the product including taste, innovation and visual appearance.

The recommended retail price for a pack of four bratwurst sausages (454g) is £3.19. For more information on trade pricing email: sales@kernowsausages.com or phone 01872 531 888.

PRESTAT Hand Made Chocolates and Truffles

Mmm…tomorrow is my birthday.

I’ll have to work out what age I’ll be by calculating the year I was born and taking away from the year it is. The answer isn’t automatic. In my head I’m ten years younger but hot flushes, failing eye-sight and wrinkly hands confirm I’m actually slipping deeper into middle age. It’s not that I’m trying to forget how old I’ll be, ’cause I actually do.

However, even as an old bird,  I’d hate my birthday to slip by unnoticed. I’d like to stick at 39 until I’m 49 but have the spoiling as if I’d just turned 30.

This year, my birthday just happens to be the day after Mother’s Day. So, I reckon I ought to be due a double-helping of niceness from the kiddy-winks – even if comes after the event.

I’ve also come to a decision that, at my age, I either need deny myself all joy and diet like crazy if I’m not to add the ‘middle-aged spread’ to my list of body-age giveaways… or  can just hang loose for a while as consolation for the ‘getting old’.

So what would like for my birthday? Why, to give into a chocolate  free-love binge, that’s what!

Jewel Box - 120g

And I’m waving these rather cheerful looking boxes as a big hint.

The older I get the more brightly clothed, less subtle in my demands but the discerning about my chocolates I’m determined to become. A bit like Prestat, really 😉 And they’re  really good at it!

Continue reading

Hovis Wholemeal Challenge – Part II

Potato chips

Image via Wikipedia

Research suggests that the average British woman will devour 1,092 unhealthy snacks this year, from crisps, sweets and biscuits to cakes and chocolate, according to research released today by Hovis Wholemeal.  This of course is good news to snack producers!

The study, involving 2,000 British women, said that an average of over 129 packets of crisps, more than 127 chocolate bars, over 77 cakes and more than 133 biscuits will be consumed by every female in 2011 alone.

But I won’t be one of them.

I’m not a ‘holier-than-thou’ slim lettuce eater, don’t get me wrong, my halo isn’t without a little tarnish as crisps, chocolate, cakes and biscuits do pass my lips occasionally, but very rarely mid morning.

I reserve crisp eating for social evenings with a drink but mostly I’m home alone babysitting the kids. I have secret stash of chilli chocolate in my desk to nibble as the mid morning boost. But the kick is a warning in itself. Cake? Well I bake for birthdays and biscuits I rarely buy…so, somewhere, some poor woman is snacking more than the average just because I’m not! Continue reading

Hovis Wholemeal Challenge – Part 1

Just before Christmas I took part in the Hovis Wholemeal Challenge.

Hovis launched their Wholemeal Campaign in a bid to change consumer perception of Hovis Wholemeal from diet hindrance to diet help this January. The aim is challenge misconceptions around carbohydrates, which are often seen as the enemy for many dieters. The premise is that Hovis Wholemeal is rich in fibre and it keeps you fuller for longer and therefore help stop unhealthy snacking.

As part of the campaign, Hovis enlisted 50 (mostly female, I think) bloggers were to swap their usual breakfast for two slices of Hovis Wholemeal, trialling a range of healthy, quick and tasty recipes which are no more than 300 calories.

I agreed to give it a go because I’m actually a bit of a glutton and have never been known to refuse the offer of any kind of food.

But, I wish I’d known a little a bit more about what the challenge would entail beforehand so that I could have got my head round the task properly and put myself in genuine ‘guinea-pig’ mode.

I’d assumed I’d be trying lots of different Hovis products and I was really looking forward to seeing what tasty offering they have. Continue reading

‘Cornish’ food and drink for the Christmas table.

For Christmas this year, I set myself a little challenge: If I had to buy all my Christmas food and drink from Cornish producers, what would I end up putting on the Christmas table?

My Christmas shopping list looks something like this:

Oh! And then there’s the alcohol? Sparkling wine/champagne is Camel Valley every time. Even if it wasn’t Cornish it would easily be my favourite. But can Cornwall do the spirits?

This might sound like taking the ‘buy local’ to extremes, if may have sounded impossible…but ultimately the outcome had my salivating in anticipation of a Christmas Feast like no other…Find out what I came up with here…

What did I miss? What would you put on your Christmas food shopping list from your local area?

This is personal. My mid-riff in crisis

As a freelancer, I take the work when I can.

I write about food producers for my local glossy magazine quite regularly but I’d like to do more.

It doesn’t involve any free dining (although that would be nice), but the Chef’s Special’s look tasty at least.

But when there’s so much to tasty stuff around to sample at food festivals and through interviewing food producers it is easy to get a little carried away…and quite naturally, as an outpouring of an almost obsessive new food enthusiasm,  I’ve taken to blogging about it as well.

However, there are two disadvantages to writing about food all day.

One is that writing requires thinking, and thinking requires sustenance, and writing about Cornish food makes eating obligatory.

The second disadvantage is that I’m sitting on my arse all day.

In less than two weeks time I have to squeeze this belly bulge into a glamorous frock for the Mother & Baby awards. I’m not looking forward to it among all those young, svelte, glamorous  media types.

You need to understand that I’m also going through a bit of a mid-life crisis too.

Read the rest of the entry on my new Beyond the Pasty food blog…