Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Cheese and Biscuits Restaurant of the Year 2015 - The Newman Arms

The traditional way to start an end-of-year post, based on Cheese & Biscuits past (he says scanning the few previous years' posts in an effort not to repeat himself), is to praise the dynamism and ingenuity of the London restaurant scene, pick out a few notable new entries alongside reliable old stalwarts, and repeat once again that there isn’t another city on earth that can match it for diversity, energy and innovation.

And certainly all these things are still true, and yet in 2015 it all - impossibly - seems to have stepped up another gear again. The old stalwarts are still there, of course; at least, most of them. I’ve had yet more excellent dinners at Bob Bob Ricard, Tayyabs, Silk Road etc. etc and however proud of the pace of change in London we should never become so obsessed with the new and improved that we take for granted the enormous achievement of brilliant consistency. They may make it look easy; don’t be fooled.

But she sheer number and quality of new openings just can’t be ignored. I could list at least 20 restaurants that are not just enjoyable and good value but in some way unique or groundbreaking, and have all opened in the space of the last twelve months. And these just the ones I’ve managed to visit; from what I hear about The Hour Glass, Oldroyd, Shuang Shuang, The Ninth and god knows how many others listed on the Hot Dinners New Openings, this number could be a lot higher.

Perhaps it’s not sustainable. Maybe we’re living in some hyper-inflated, self-obsessed bubble that’s on the verge of bursting, and we’ll look back on these crazy times and wonder how we ever thought it would last. Or maybe - and this is just as likely - we’re still only just getting started. What a thought. Anyway, however impossible a task this is, I’m going to pick out a few highlights amongst highlights and do my best to come up with a favorite...

The “Believe the Hype” award - Kitty Fisher’s

In a Venn diagram of “restaurants serving world-class food” and “celebrity hangouts”, the intersection would not contain very many options. Filter that yet again with “restaurants you won’t need to remortgage your house to be able to pay the bill” and you’re really left with just one. This charming little spot in Shepherd’s Market built up a loyal following in that most old fashioned of ways - no PR, no grand launch party, just serve good food (expertly sourced grilled meat & fish, and the occasional stroke of genius like Burnt Onion Butter), treat each customer like family, and hope it works. And if you’ve been, you’ll know - it really does work.

The “Best outside of London” award - The Black Swan, Oldstead

Quite a few candidates for this category, but I’ve settled on this idyllic spot in the North York Moors because it feels to me like it encapsulates everything a regional restaurant should be. Experimental where it matters, though never at the expense of enjoyment, with a maturity and confidence that comes with this amount of time running a Michelin-starred restaurant, the kitchen team at the Black Swan would I’m sure be a hit wherever in the country they happened to settle. But here, surrounded by the most extraordinary natural larder, they construct a seasonal symphony of the very finest British (or rather Yorkshire) dishes.

The “Fusion Fever” award - Chick’N’Sours

It wasn’t long ago that “fusion” ranked just below “carvery” in the list of restaurant description warning signs. But this isn’t some shallow PR stunt, mashing together wildly inappropriate cooking styles for the sake of a few headlines. It could have been that, quite easily. But in the hands of Carl Clarke we have probably London’s finest fried chicken served alongside a variety of SE Asian salads and sauces that soothe the soul, lift the spirits and make you wonder why nobody’s done this kind of thing before. Oh, and try the wedge salad with crispy chicken skin, it's a knockout.

The “Where Have You Been All My Life” award - Hoppers

Yeah yeah, I know, you’ve probably read a million words on this place already, and know all about the bone marrow varuval with roti like the finest French patisserie, the black pork kari with its dense sticky spicing, the egg hoppers themselves with their gently tangy casings and soft egg base. But beneath the hype and the queues there is no con-trick here; Hoppers is talk of the town because it deserves to be. Sri Lankan food given a Soho makeover from the team that brought you Gymkhana, Trishna, Bao, Lyle’s... and basically every other memorable meal you’ve had in 2015.

The “Will Someone Please Give Her A Restaurant” award - Darjeeling Express

Asma Khan’s popup at the Sun and 13 Cantons in Soho is, at time of writing, still going, and therefore there is still time to get yourself down to enjoy the finest homestyle Indian food ever served in London outside someone’s actual home. The terrifying thought that once her residency is over she may decide to do something else is therefore reason for my plea to her now - please find a way of making this work long term. Because this food is too good to lose even for a day.

The “No Choice, No Problem” award - Pidgin

The relationship of absolute trust between a restaurant serving a no-choice, four course menu and a public willing to pay for it must be profound and unbreakable. But if there’s one chef capable of such unshakable faith it’s Elizabeth Allen, whose flair for modern British food and magical lightness of touch across a multitude of disciplines (fish, game, desserts, you name it) has turned weeny restaurant Pidgin into a destination almost from day one. You go to Pidgin, you put yourself in their hands, and you have the time of your life. It’s that simple.

The Runner Up - Galvin @ Windows

As ever with these kind of things, there’s very little to choose between the winner and runner up, and very little to choose between the runner up and any others in the list above, for that matter. But after having chosen a largely cutting-edge shortlist, and sung the praises from the rooftops of our Modern British talent, the contrarian in me feels duty bound to say that my two meals at Galvin this year, one with the parents in September and one for a friends birthday a couple of weeks ago, were as memorable and accomplished as almost any other meal I’ve had in the last twelve months.

Sure, the Galvin tradition is solidly french, but head chef Joo Won has kept the spirit of the menu that won them the accolades while injecting the odd enticing bit of Asian seasoning, ending up with a menu full of excitement and intrigue. Service, overseen by Fred Sirieix of First Dates fame, is as good as ever, and of course faultless. But Galvin @ Windows is more than just a hospitality show. The food is world class, the attention to detail breathtaking.

The Winner - Newman Arms

There are many things to love about the Newman Arms, from the Dickensian charm of its dining room and downstairs bar, to the lovely thick-crust pies they do on Monday lunchtimes served with buttery mash and fresh parsley sauce, to the astonishing Modern British food cooked up by their superstar chef Eryk Bautista the rest of the week, who seems to have completely bypassed the ‘one to watch’ list and nestled firmly in the ‘one to shortly win every award under the sun’ list. Everything about the Newman Arms is wonderful, and owner Matt Chatfield, whose Cornish connections mean Bautista is never short of the country’s finest ingredients to work with, should be very pleased with himself.

But what lifts the Newman Arms above its many competitors is that it has, over the last few months, turned into somewhat of a testing bed for young talent, hosting popups and special evenings from supper club stars wanting to spread their wings in the capital. Recently I ate lovely home made laksa by the Sambal Shiok guys, matched with Riesling chosen by wine expert Zeren Wilson, a collaboration that would have been hard to envisage least of all organise were it not for the generous intervention of Chatfield. So it’s this sense of community and charity that - much like Islington’s Drapers Arms - mark it out as much more than a (top notch) gastropub. It’s the beating heart of London’s place in the world, and is everything that’s uplifting and gratifying about eating out in the city distilled into one quaint pub in Fitzrovia. It is, in short, my favourite restaurant of 2015, and I look forward to visiting as often as I possibly can in the months to come.

And there’s plenty more to look forward to in the months to come besides, not least the 2016 version of my app which will be out very soon, as well as the usual slew of new openings that will no doubt be jostling for a spot in the 2017 version. I won’t preempt the final 100 now; lord knows enough can happen in a week to make a list obsolete never mind the time it takes to publish a new app, but expect to see most of the above and a few more besides. It’s been a very, very good year, and keeping the app to just 100 entries is a challenge on the level of writing the 100 brand new reviews to go with them. You’ll just have to wait and see for yourself who made the cut.

Anyway, with that I’ll leave you for this year. I hope you had as much fun as I did scooting around the capital for dinner, and if you didn’t then I hope 2016 is more to your taste. There are few better ways to lift the spirits than a glass of wine and a meal out in a great restaurant, and I’m convinced there are no better places in the world to do just that, right now, than London.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Black Axe Mangal, Islington

Perhaps it's a good thing I've had a bad meal at a restaurant everyone else seems to love. Consensus is certainly useful, especially when making a guide (or even, hint hint, an app), but runs the risk of getting at best boring, at worst counterproductive. Over the last few months I've barely heard a word against Chick'n'Sours, the Marksman, Hoppers, Bao and the rest and while it's great that these places exist (and are clearly excellent by most standard measures), the overwhelming agreement across online and print media starts to look a bit less like objective appraisal and a bit more like group think. Nowhere, despite my occasional 10/10 score, is *perfect* - a healthy approval rating for even the greatest restaurants in town shouldn't really be over 90%. This is, after all, a democracy, not Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

So here's my attempt to bring down the average on Black Axe Mangal a bit. I wanted to enjoy it of course; that goes for every restaurant I visit. But from the moment I stepped through the door of this self-consciously grungy spot near Highbury & Islington tube it felt like the customer was the least important part of some kind of strange student art project where eye-catching ingredients, ironic blokey cocktails and an insanely loud heavy metal soundtrack took precedence over anything close to hospitality.

But let's start where it matters - the food. Unable to choose between the two £3 snacks, and against, it has to be said, the advice of our waitress, we ordered both. Smoked cod's roe and crisps was pleasant enough, chips clearly home made and the roe with plenty of flavour and nicely seasoned. Salt pollack with crispy pig's skin was less enjoyable - a very greasy slab of puffed skin, so fresh out of the fryer it popped quite painfully in the mouth, with a blob of bacalau (as they'd call it in Catalonia) that didn't really go with the pig and wouldn't combine with the greasy skin even if you wanted it to. And yes, that is a pool of grease you can see at the bottom of the bowl.

"Lamb offal" was a decent piece of fresh flatbread, covered in indeterminate mush of lamb, and beaten into submission by onions, mayonnaise and way too much chilli. Sweet, soggy and way too fiery, it was a bit of a chore to eat.

"Sesame" was more edible, but I've still had way better flatbread from Green Lanes for a lot less. It was hot and fresh and had a decent texture, but was not really any more than that.

"Brussel[sic] sprout, cauliflower & preserved lemon" was just an unseasoned bowl of raw sprouts and cauliflower, dressed with nothing more than lemon juice as far as I can tell. Fine if you're on some kind of raw food diet and allergic to salt and pepper but oddly enough that's not why I'd travelled to a kebab shop in Islington.

I'd wanted to try Mangalitza pork since the boys at Pitt Cue started playing around with it in their place in Soho. In many ways, I wish I'd waited for my first taste - this was just a big slab of chewy meat, dripping with bland fat and pretty unpleasant. It was topped with rock hard sticks of greasy pork fat and a few bits of winter veg. The scallop was hiding underneath somewhere, as if it belonged to a different dish altogether. Not nice.

Finally, the Deep Throater wrap, hilariously stamped with its student-joke name - more decent bread containing a sweet, mushy filling of bland slow-cooked mutton. There was no trace of anchovy, the salty savouriness of which may have lifted it a bit, just an underwhelming faint note of mayonnaise and stewed meat. By this point we'd lost all patience, with the food, the lack of elbow room, the having to scream to be heard above a speaker system set to "fuck the customers, at least the staff are having a good time". We sipped the last of our ironically-decorated cocktails, paid the not insubstantial bill, and left.

Maybe I'm just getting old, I thought to myself, as we rested our ear drums and nerves in the lovely, quiet Canonbury pub just around the corner. Black Axe is clearly popular, there was a queue when we left and every table was taken, and this in a part of town with genuinely excellent competition like Trullo and Le Coq just over the road. Maybe I was missing something, or underestimated the population of hearing-impaired death-metal loving kebab lovers in N1. Maybe I'm just not their target audience.

But then I remembered that Smoking Goat have all the same acoustic, queuing and seating issues as Black Axe but also serve food so good that all those other inconveniences are just that, inconveniences. No, I didn't like Black Axe Mangal because the food wasn't very good. And you can blast your Spotify playlist at me as loud as you can, make me wait for hours in the rain and sit me three inches from a table of ten who've been drinking since midday, but if my dinner's not up to scratch, I won't go back. I won't go back.


Black Axe Mangal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Wright Brothers, Soho

If you're a fan of oysters - and I can't think of any good reason why you wouldn't be, because they're great - then you've never been short of places to indulge yourself in London. Pretty much every gastropub or mid-range restaurant worth its seasalt has at least some Rocks on the menu, and a good few go even better than that, with some zingy Natives on offer (at least, in season).

But for the discerning bivalve botherer, there's a company that, when it comes to oyster knowledge and sourcing, stands head and shoulders above the nearest competition. In some of London's fanciest seafood places you'll be lucky to see more than two or three different types of oyster on the menu, and you'll pay through the nose for those. At Wright Bros, not only are (the entry-level Rocks at least) pretty keenly priced, but there's a very impressive choice as well. On a recent trip to the Borough Market Wright Bros I spotted no less than 10 different species (is species the right word?), sourced from France, Ireland and Scotland as well as their own Duchy oyster farm in Cornwall. Yes, there's that part of the world again - there are very few exciting things happening food-wise in London that don't somehow involve Cornwall.

So for many years Wright Bros have been my default go-to mini-chain when I fancied half a dozen and a glass of fizz. The bars, particularly in Borough Market and Soho, are a perfect informal-yet-glamorous spot for if you're early for dinner somewhere else (which I always am) or just in the mood for oysters and champagne (which I always am) and it's always fun to see what weird and wonderful types they have available on any given day. What I hadn't ever done, though, is ever stick around for a full meal - that is until a pescatarian friend wanted somewhere "nice but not too flashy" in Soho and I thought, well, if they're this good at oysters, perhaps they're good at the rest of it too?

Grilled Madagascan tiger prawn is one of those things that sounds like it could be great fun until you're presented with the reality of a single, vast prawn with only some of its waste pipe cleaned and a weirdly unpleasant flavour. Perhaps I'm too used to the sweet, fresh flavour of lobster that seems to be an obligatory feature of every London restaurant menu at the moment, but this was still not a particularly enjoyable way of spending £26. I'm sure those more knowledgable than me about seafood will be able to explain why the flesh tasted soily and pappy - some side-effect of farming, presumably - but all I know is I didn't much like it. Chips had a decent flavour but at the bottom were literally sitting in a good 0.5cm of oil.

Cod was probably the better of the two mains but needed extra tabletop seasoning to bring out the best of it, and even its best wasn't great. The flesh of the fish had nice defined flakes but somehow still tasted rather sandy and thin, and though the wild mushroom sauce it sat in was good, the clumps of pea shoots they'd dumped on top, you may be able to tell even from my terrible photo, were desperately sad and wilted and should never have been used.

All of which would be enough to put me off Wright Bros for life were it not for the fact that these two disappointing large dishes were preceded by three Jersey rocks for £8.50 that were lean, fresh and minerally, full of flavour and life and completely lovely in every way. And they paired so well with a glass of petit chablis that despite everything that came after, I will be going back to Wright Bros just like I always have, for a plate of oysters and a glass of wine and to relax in one of London's most attractive seafood bars. For this, and this alone, Wright Bros is worth the effort.


Wright Brothers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Pidgin, Hackney

A few weeks ago I was invited to a wild mushroom dinner at Heirloom restaurant in Crouch End. I'd never been to Crouch End, and I'd only heard in passing of Heirloom, but a quick glance at the online menu convinced me it looked like it could be worth the journey and after briefly panicking about the amount of time it might take to get there (sorry Crouchers, but you are far), then reassuring a friend about the same, we set off.

I can't give it a full review because in the end it was a one-off event that I didn't pay for, but you could instantly tell from the general attitude of the kitchen and serving staff that this was a place very comfortable in its own skin. Every neighbourhood deserves a restaurant like Heirloom, an informal, friendly little spot serving attractive seasonal dishes, for that £35-40 a-head-with-a-glass-of-wine sweet spot that most mid-range restaurants seem to have (quite rightly) settled on. We ate seared ceps with truffle and hazelnuts, roast partridge with girolles and chanterelles, and wild boar tortellini with trompettes. There were even pickled mushrooms with the cheese course. It was all very, very good.

But if it seems like running a neighbourhood restaurant like Heirloom is easy, or some kind of inevitable result of an area going up in the world (Whole Foods > Organic coffee bar > Neighbourhood restaurant), then you'd be mistaken. Running any restaurant takes effort, and pulling together the myriad things that need to go right (building works, fixing suppliers, finding staff) as well as avoiding all the potential disasters (power failures, extraction systems giving up, flooding), along with - yes - finding a location with a population of locals willing to spend £35-40 a-head-with-a-glass-of-wine, none of these things are easy. There's no such thing as "just" a good neighbourhood restaurant. Heirloom is no accident.

The point of this extended preamble is just that when you're sat down for dinner, enjoying yourself, eating amazing food and drink and wanting for nothing, it's the result of a lot of hard work, of course it is. And I'm taking nothing away from the efforts of James (Ramsden, an old friend of mine but don't let that put you off) and Sam (Herlihy, friend & podcast partner), or any of their staff, who are obviously all very good at what they do and in Pidgin have found a way of making a relatively tricky site work (this is where the late, lamented Mayfields was) and have themselves a very successful new neighbourhood restaurant.

But when things go quite as well as they do at Pidgin, when the food is this good, well, you need that little bit of extra pixie dust. In this case, at the risk of embarrassing her, that touch of magic is Elizabeth Allen, who in what I'm assuming is a ludicrously short space of time (she looks about 18) has trained at kitchens up and down the country and landed herself the head chef role. There's every chance Pidgin would have been a very good restaurant without Allen in the kitchen. But with her... well, let's see.

First on the no-choice, £35-a-head menu (at least, after some excellent sourdough bread) is "Celery granita" with Valdeon (a blue cheese), sorrel, and pumpernickel crumb. A very Dairy-style amuse - I'm sure they won't mind me making the comparison - containing big chunks of salty cheese, cubes of apple, crunchy toasted bread and, on top, a layer of frozen celery. It's not easy to get this kind of texture-heavy vegetarian dish right - it so easily works or doesn't based on the proportions of each element - but this was perfect, refreshing and rewarding, not to mention great looking.

Next, one of the best, most perfectly-cooked bits of fish I've ever had in my life, married with croutons, slivers of interesting herbs, shoots of salty samphire and finally dressed with a green vegetable "soup" of some kind, the flavours sharp and distinct as the finest consommé. Having had so many poorly-cooked fillets of fish in recent months (chewy skin, overcooked flesh, you name it) I've sadly started to get quite excited when some nice white fish is merely "not messed up too badly" as opposed to actually impressive. But this was, as I say, impossible to fault, a masterclass in seafood cooking and putting countless other more expensive and well-known restaurants to utter shame.

The thing about a no-choice menu with a predictable number of covers per night is that it lets a kitchen produce dishes like this Beef Wellington, which usually require a group of people willing to participate, as part of normal dinner service. I like Beef Wellington at the best of times, even when (as often happens) some of the end slices are a bit overdone and despite the often exorbitant cost. To have it as part of a £35 tasting menu is a rare treat, and the way Allen does it - with sprouts fried in Iberico pig fat, wild mushrooms and salsify, and draped in one of those sticky marmite-y sauces that make you want to lick your plate clean - is 2nd only to the the Ritz in recent memory. And that was a slightly different price point, if you remember.

Dessert was a cute mini financier (warm out of the oven), chunks of caramelised plum, "pepita tahini" (your guess is as good as mine, but it tasted quite nutty) ice cream and swirls of sazerac caramel. Inventive and technically accomplished, correct to the seasons and presented well, this was another top-flight dish.

So yes, I was impressed. And not just from the excitement of discovering a brand-new white-hot talent in London's restaurant kitchens - although clearly this is the case - but because the whole package worked, from the warmth (literally and figuratively on this cold winter night) of the welcome, to the tasteful drinks list and intimate atmosphere. True, it's impossible to be ignored in this tiny dining room but that doesn't mean such experiences are always as comfortable as they are here at Pidgin. Atmosphere and bonhomie have to be earned. It all takes effort.

Anyway it's time I stop and give you a chance to run to the phone and book a meal for yourself. By now a completely new weekly menu will be in full swing, with four more dishes of sparkle and finesse to swoon and babble over, so even if you may not have a chance to eat that incredible Beef Wellington or the perfect gurnard, there's every chance they'll have been replaced by something equally astonishing, or possibly more so. It feels that in this restaurant, right now, with a team at the top of their chosen profession and with that sprinkling of pixie dust, anything's possible. Well done. Well done indeed.


Pidgin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 7 December 2015

Cheese and Biscuits on tour - Cornwall 2015 (part 2)

Anyone going anywhere in the British Isles any time of year knows not to take the weather for granted - this is, after all, a part of the world where the only predictable thing about the weather is its unpredictability - but even so I seem to have been unluckier than most when it comes to weekend breaks in Cornwall. A trip in April last year was characterised by various terrifying trips through the driving rain to be greeted with a "you should have been here yesterday, it was bright sunshine", and whilst less spectacularly apocalyptic, events on this most recent trip took place under a constant grey blanket of drizzle. I warn you, Cornwall, if I don't see the sun next time I'm going to take it personally.

Fortunately, shelter from the storm came in the form of Martindale, a sumptuously restored cottage (or rather, series of cottages; the place is huge) in the pretty hamlet of Penrose, on the hills just outside of Padstow. It is, apparently, Jill Stein's work, a restoration and interior design project that cleverly blends the latest tech (every room has a wireless speaker system and a tablet to control it) and a very high level of finishing detail (the warm brick floors in the main living room were a particular hit) with a building and setting that is still very much of Cornwall. It's a lovely place, and collapsing in the TV room in the evening while rain battered the skylights overhead comes very much recommended.

But, fun though it was hiding in Martindale and playing with the electric blinds, we had producers to see. So after a breakfast of kippers and bacon sandwiches in Stein's Cafe in town, we were picked up and taken to the Padstow Kitchen Gardens to see where the vegetables we'd eaten at St Petroc's the night before - along with a great deal else besides - began their lives.

So as the rain battered our backs and my flimsy London clothes were tested to saturation point (they let me borrow a pair of wellies, with a look halfway between concern and pity) we went on a tour of the farm. Ross Geach has come to farming from quite a unique place, having first worked with the Steins in their restaurants, gaining a thorough understanding of the kind of things required by a high-end kitchen, and then using his dad's farm to - slowly at first, but now covering acres - grow the kind of speciality fruit & veg increasingly demanded by those kinds of places. Geach created his own demand for flower sprouts, for example, by using his connections in Padstow kitchens to get them on the menu, and likewise Padron Peppers, weird gnarly things packing a load of heat & flavour, which we also ate at St Petroc's the night before.

It's a finely balanced relationship, a virtuous circle of supply and demand. A farm producing food they know they can sell, and a restaurant (or more accurately in this case, a series of restaurants) with a varied and interesting supply guaranteed in quality by a man in charge with an insider knowledge of what restaurants can and can't use. It's a great system.

Nearby, also on the hills outside Padstow, is a chilly warehouse (look I know I keep going on about the weather but honest to God, it was relentless) currently home to the South West Distillery. Another local success story, Tarquin began distilling gin in his home kitchen, and once he got the hang of it scaled up to a small corner of an industrial estate. Today a series of impressive copper stills fired by reappropriated paella burners (and a brand new contraption from Italy yet to be installed on our visit) occupy a huge space and there are no plans to stop there. As well as the signature Tarquin's gin (each bottle wax-sealed by hand) Tarquin also makes Cornish Pastis, which surely ranks as one of the most brilliant product name puns in the history of the world. Cornwall increasingly seems full of these interesting food and drink stories; Tarquin's story is hardly unusual, though it is impressive.

It's probably not surprising that, next to all these rising stars, exciting producers and new Cornish talent, the old stalwarts whose risk-taking and entrepreneurial spirit defined the first generation of the Cornish Food Revolution are starting to look a little old fashioned. We certainly enjoyed our meal at the Seafood restuarant in Padstow - the Singapore Chilli Crab is still a stunning dish, and the Indonesian Seafood Curry contained some remarkably precisely-cooked bits of fresh fish - but it all seemed less about what Cornwall is about in 2015 than what the legions of Rick Stein fans that flock to Padstow expect to find. We can, in short, be eternally grateful for what this place did for the Cornish restaurant scene back in the day, whilst still thinking paying £50 for lobster thermidor is a bit odd. It's still undoubtedly popular though, so there's clearly room for everyone.

On Sunday, our final meal was at the St Tudy Inn, a place far more closely following the Cornwall 2015 brief. In a comfortable dining room heated by a log fire, with a pint of local ale to warm our damp spirits (yes, it was still raining outside), chef Emily Scott presents an exquisitely tasteful menu of modern Cornish gastropub dishes, such as this vast mound of fresh Padstow crab with lemon mayo, or seabass with garlic and fennel.

All the suppliers are lovingly listed on the back of the menu, from the peerless Warren's butchers, to Hanson fine foods for the wonderful cheese course we packed up for the train home, and of course Padstow Kitchen Gardens for veg. It was a neat summary, in fact, of everything we'd learned about cornish food scene in the last few days, elegantly put into practice. Anywhere else, St Tudy's would be a destination foodie spot, but then St Tudy's couldn't exist anywhere else. These suppliers don't exist anywhere else. Talent like this would struggle to find ingredients like these anywhere else to work with, and maybe couldn't find a dedicated local audience that appreciated their efforts anyway. The point I'm trying to make, over these last couple of Cornwall posts, is that this is a very special part of the world, and one I intend to return to as often as I possibly can. Only, can we have a bit of sun next time do you think?

2 nights at Martindale, breakfast at Rick Stein's Cafe, dinner at the Seafood Restaurant and lunch at Stein's fish & chips all provided by the assorted Steins. Many thanks to Padstow Kitchen Gardens and the Southwestern Distillery for showing us around. Rail tickets to and from Cornwall provided by GWR. And most of all thank you to Rosie, who made the whole thing happen.