Porthminster Beach Café in National Restaurant Line Up

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We are pleased to announce that Porthminster Beach Cafe has been recognised as one of the top dining destinations in the UK at an awards ceremony which took place at The Hurlingham Club in London on Monday 29th June.

We were one of only 3 establishments in Cornwall to be recognised at The National Restaurant Awards.

The awards are voted for by industry experts and cannot be entered; restaurants have to be nominated by their peers – chefs, restaurateurs, food writers and critics – the number of nominations are then counted to reveal a list of the top 100 places to eat in the UK.

Ryan Venning, who has been Head Chef here at Porthminster for the last three years, said he was overjoyed with the ranking of 61, saying: “It’s such a great achievement to be recognised as one of the best 100 restaurants out of every single establishment nationwide.”

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He added: “On this list we are ranked alongside so many restaurants that we as chefs really admire, and have been placed there by industry experts.”

From humble beginnings, our Beach Cafe has made a name for itself over the last decade, emerging as one of the best places to enjoy fresh Cornish seafood – which is cooked with Mediterranean and Asian influences by a talented brigade of chefs.

Dishes such as Monkfish Curry, Salt & Pepper Squid and Deconstructed Pimms generated such a cult following that they have been immortalised in Porthminster Beach Café – The Cook Book, bringing the signature Porthminster style into kitchens across the country.

Michael Smith, Executive Chef and one of the owners of the restaurant commented: “We have a fantastic team in place at Porthminster Beach Café under Ryan’s experienced guidance; this national recognition is a testament to everyone’s hard work.”

He added: “To me this shows the continued strength of our offering at Porthminster, and proof that a busy restaurant on the beach can compete on quality with fine-dining establishments, which serve far fewer numbers.”

Ryan and Front of House representative Pete Foulkes attended the lavish awards ceremony on the banks of the River Thames, where they mingled with other stars of the industry and sampled food and drink in the grounds of the exclusive Hurlingham Club.

After celebrating, both are now back in Cornwall and ready for the busiest weeks of the year, which will see hundreds of people flocking to Porthminster to enjoy award-winning dining on the beach.

New Harbourside Dining Destination From Porthminster Team

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Our eagerly anticipated second venture, Porthminster Kitchen, opened in April, bringing a new kind of creative dining to the heart of St Ives.

A year in the planning, our new location offers an alternative dining destination above the hustle and bustle of the town’s harbour, combining the same high standards with a fresh new approach – and an equally awe-inspiring view.

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Porthminster Kitchen serves up a refreshing, playful take on Cornish cuisine, introducing a menu of smaller plates and lighter options combining global flavours, local ingredients and creative cooking.

Michael Smith, Executive Chef of both restaurants, explained the thinking behind the new venture: “We wanted to create a more casual dining environment where people can enjoy inventive but affordable food.”

Appetisers are £3, starters £5-£7 and main courses are priced at £11-£17.

He added: “We have also stripped out much of what is unnecessary; dairy and gluten take a backseat in favour of light, vibrant ingredients.”

The restaurant, which enjoys stunning panoramic views of St Ives Harbour, is also light and airy, with a more urban feel than our beach restaurant; rustic wood flooring, stainless steel, industrial lighting and stark white tiles are complimented by huge windows and mirrors – ensuring that the view remains the star of the show.

Diners can watch fishing boats return with their catch – shortly to make its way to these very tables – and admire a vista which has inspired many generations of artists, including Anthony Frost whose work adorns the walls.

Head Chef at Porthminster Kitchen is Lee Wilson: A South African-born chef who has worked with Michael for many years, Lee’s other experience includes spells at Peirre Koffman’s in Knightsbridge and Jason Atherton’s flagship restaurant Pollen Street Social, as well as a stint as personal chef to the Qatari Royal Family.

Lee is embracing the challenge at Porthminster Kitchen, saying: “We’ve spent months experimenting with dishes in order to produce a fresh and exciting menu; the food is designed to allow people to create their own tasting menus by choosing a succession of small dishes – it’s a really relaxed and informal approach.”

Lee arrived in St Ives 11 years ago and, despite taking several high-profile jobs elsewhere, he says he has always felt an inextricable pull to return.

He explained: “You hear it so many times but we really are blessed with amazing produce and an inspirational food culture in Cornwall; Michael and I have both travelled and worked all over the world and it speaks volumes that there is nowhere else we would rather be.”

The restaurant also has two self-catering rooms available, which enjoy the same impressive views of the harbour. These can be booked via No. 27 The Terrace.

Reservations at Porthminster Kitchen can be made for dinner only. Call 01736 799874 to book.

To find out more, please visit http://www.porthminster.kitchen/

Discover the wild food of St Ives Bay

It’s the start of a new season at Porthminster, and we’re looking forward to rediscovering the wild food of the seashore and coastal path as nature comes to life this spring. No doubt as our understanding and knowledge of every inch of our surroundings is fine-tuned, we’ll be introducing new dishes inspired by our finds as the year progresses. We hope you’ll come and see what we’re creating!

The aptly-named Navelwort....

The aptly-named Navelwort….

Once again in 2014 we are offering the chance to join us and Caroline Davey of Fat Hen, local forager and ecologist, for a Forage and Feast experience. A day of exploration providing a unique insight into the wild food of St Ives Bay, these events start and finish at the Café, and involve a guided walk and a three course lunch featuring foraged ingredients.

Spring dates are as follows:

March 3rd

March 17th

Prices £50pp

Please book via the Fat Hen website.

Fat Hen pioneered foraging and cookery courses when it was launched more than 5 years ago.  Having recently returned from maternity leave, Caroline is relaunching with an impressive new cookery school at her renovated barn near Penzance. Specialist wild food courses in fish, game, seaweed & wild Italian cookery are on the curriculum. There will be a chance for everyone to get involved, including a fun foraging and cooking club for children, kayaking and cycling foraging routes, and gourmet wild food weekends.

Caroline has inspired many people to begin using foraged ingredients

Caroline has inspired many people to begin using foraged ingredients

However Caroline is also happy to be returning to work with the team at Porthminster for Forage and Feast 2014. “Porthminster is a stunning and inspiring location. Micheal and his team are dedicated wild food enthusiasts, keen to make the most of their unique surroundings. The food they create with the seasonal ingredients we find has really impressed me every time we have done an event together. It’s very creative but also refined.”

Michael Smith, Executive Chef at Porthminster added, “alot of the things that we forage along the seashore work inherently well with the delicious fresh fish and shellfish of St Ives Bay. Small touches can really enliven dishes, adding exciting colour and fresh flavours. These wild foodstuffs are out there waiting to be discovered and can easily be used at home.”

Please book early as spaces are filling up quickly. More Forage and Feast dates are planned for the autumn.

Searching for seaweed....

Searching for seaweed….

Polgoon Cider Orchard and Vineyard

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One of our favourite local producers is Polgoon Cider Orchard & Vineyard, award-winning makers of wine, cider and fruit juices.  

Polgoon is owned and operated by Kim and John Coulson. The couple previously ran a business in Newlyn, but in 2002 they bought a derelict farmhouse on the edge of Penzance and set about restoring it and the surrounding land. Now Polgoon occupies a series of sun-drenched slopes, home to lovingly-tended vines and apples trees as well as a tasting room and a store featuring other local produce.

Polgoon02There are not many sites suitable for vines in this country. Luckily for Kim and John, their gentle south-south-east facing hillsides and well-draining soil is ideal. They had to choose grape varieties that grow well in the English climate, including Bacchus, Orion, Rondo and Pinot Noir, which is used in Champagne.

From these grapes they make white, rosé, red and sparkling wines. The vineyard has a relatively low yield due to the climate and it can be a risky business. For example, Kim remembers the 2007 growing season. “Rain in July and August destroyed the crop, the grapes literally rotted on the vines. That was really heartbreaking; there is nothing you can do!”

For several years, the fledgling vineyard weathered the storm, winning awards and loyal followers despite poor conditions for grape ripening. “We focused on careful vineyard management and keeping yields low,” explained Kim, “that is the way to keep quality high in tough years.” However 2013 finally brought sustained warm weather and plenty of sunshine – just what is needed to produce ripe grapes full of flavour. “Its an exciting time for Polgoon,” said John, “for the first time our tanks are full and the quality is again superb, I am really enjoying the winemaking and for the first time have a sparkling white wine nearing completion. The weather in 2013 was kind to us and we believe we will see some interesting and award winning wines again this vintage.”

As well as nurturing these vines into maturity, Kim and John also produce delicious apple juices and sparkling cider. The latter is made by allowing the cider to undergo a secondary fermentation in the bottle. The bottles need to be turned gradually, allowing the sediment to make its way to the neck. The sediment is then quickly ‘disgorged’ and the liquid is topped up and re-corked.

“We have over 400 apple trees,” said John, but the varieties that go into Polgoon Aval (Aval meaning ‘apple’ in Cornish) are a well-kept secret. At Porthminster we serve Sparkling Aval Raspberry – refreshing pink bubbles made by combining apples with a hint of raspberry.

Polgoon also produce a Perry and a Sparkling Elderflower, as well as juices.

You can visit the store at Polgoon or take a tour between March and October. Click here to find out more.

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Here’s to 2014!

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2013 is now over, and what a year it was.

In the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn we brought you our Forage and Feast Days in collaboration with Caroline Davey of Fat Hen. The great success of these coastal forays to uncover the wild food of St Ives Bay will be built on in 2014, with new dates now available to book.

With the St Ives Food and Drink Festival and the launch of our cookbook in May, the season got off to a fantastic start, followed by a long, hot summer in which guests on the terrace basked in sunshine day after day.

Other developments included the chance to experience a laid-back morning start in one of Cornwall’s most stunning locations, with the introduction of our breakfast menu – returning again later this year.

The year was book-ended with awards – The Food Mag Reader’s Awards in January for Best Cafe, and runner-up in the Cornwall Tourism Awards in the Best Restaurant category in November.

All in all, 2013 was one of our busiest and most successful years ever, and we are very proud of all our staff for what they have achieved, and for still wearing a smile at the end of each day!

We will be closed for our annual break from 6th Jan, reopening on the 14th Feb. The best way to book a table for 2014 is online, where you can also sign up to our network to receive news of events.

Happy New Year and we look forward to seeing you again in 2014!

Wild Harbour

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Sustainability is a priority here at the beach. We are continually pushing the boundaries in an attempt to neutralise our impact on the environment and, wherever possible, to have a positive effect on our surroundings.

One example is our policy on sourcing fish. We have done our best to research the most sustainable options available, and have built our menu around seasonality, life cycles and an evolving understanding of local fish stocks.

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One company we are lucky enough to work with is Wild Harbour. Based in Hayle just across St Ives Bay, Wild Harbour supply 100% sustainable fish from their own boat and other small Cornish fishing vessels. Each fish is traceable back to the fisherman who caught it, as Wild Harbour is part of the Southwest Handline Fishermen’s Association which operates a tagging scheme. The company is also commited to paying fishermen a fair price for their efforts.

Wild Harbour was the brain-child of Saul and Abi Astrinsky, who explained their relationship with Porthminster:

“The Porthminster Beach Cafe has been part of the journey for Wild Harbour right from the beginning – from before we existed actually!  When Saul was fishing full time he used to drop Mick some Sea Bass from time to time and it was the enthusiasm of Mick and his team for the quality, freshness and most of all our sustainable roots, that made us think that perhaps Wild Harbour could become a reality.”

It’s fantastic to work with a local business who share our ethos so perfectly. Abi from Wild Harbour explained further:

“We believe that the sustainability and traceability of our fish is of the utmost importance.  We only supply wild, sustainably caught fish from the local inshore fleet and every individual fish or shellfish is traceable back to the fisherman who caught it.  We also believe that our handpicked, in shore fishermen are special! They keep their fish to such a high standard, that we choose to set a fair price for their fish and keep this throughout the year.”

Respecting the breeding seasons of certain species and relying on less intensive fishing methods means that our menu has to be adaptable to change. Daily specials allow us to make the most of a fresh haul, whilst we take species off the menu if stocks are low and therefore in danger of not being properly replenished.

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Our Sea Bass, Mackerel, Pollock and several other species are supplied by Wild Harbour. We hope that by supporting the sustainable fishing industry, Cornwall’s fish stocks can be managed responsibly to meet the needs of locals and visitors, at home and in restaurants, to enjoy in years to come.

‘The New West Country Cook Book’ Launched

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On Monday 2nd December, a ‘culinary collective’ of the South West’s top chefs gathered at Watergate Bay for the launch of photographer David Griffen’s The New West Country Cook Book.

The book aims “to showcase the region’s culinary talent and high quality produce through beautiful photography and home-cooked recipes.”

wccb-mick-smith-01David has been documenting the burgeoning food scene in the South West for over 10 years, becoming an influential figure in the industry himself along the way. “Working with David is always exciting and reassuring in equal measure,” said Porthminster Executive Chef Michael Smith. “He is knowledgeable and passionate about food. David’s work shows off each chef’s creativity and individuality, which is what makes this collection of images and recipes so exciting.”

David explained how he first dreamed up the idea of bringing the culinary talent of the South West together. “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 recipes from 17 chefs including Nathan Outlaw, Paul Ainsworth, Michael Caines, Mitch Tonks, Mark Hix, Tom Kerridge, Chris Eden and Porthminster’s Michael Smith.

Focusing on key ingredients that can be found or foraged locally, the recipes emphasise the flavours of food in a uniquely West Country style, all of which is captured through stunning photography.

wccb-mick-smith-02Nathan 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.”

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

Tom Kerridge, who grew up in Gloustershire 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.”

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 The New West Country Cookbook is now available to buy at Porthminster Beach Cafe, alongside our very own cookbook.