Autumn at Porthminster

The autumn months may be a little quieter as the hustle and bustle of summer in Cornwall subsides, but it’s also the time of year which gives the chefs in our kitchen new impetus. Fresh ideas inspired by the changing season are dreamed up and refined, whilst signature dishes are slowly perfected. Below our Executive Chef Michael Smith tells us more about what’s on the menu this autumn. 

Executive Chef Michael Smith is busy reworking menus

“Autumn is a great time for us chefs and we’re doing some exciting things at Porthminster this year. Firstly we have refined the menu a little to focus and perfect our signature dishes – those that really reflect our style and ethos. For example our fish and chips are now served with hand-cut chips, triple cooked in duck fat. Porthminster Fish & Chips has won many awards in the past, but we now think they’re better than ever! Seafood Linguine is back, heaped with Cornish crab, mussels, squid and prawns and of course our Monkfish curry is as good as ever.

Delicious red mullet is on the menu once again, landed by day boats at Cadgwith Cove on The Lizard Peninsula. Earlier in the year Monty Hall’s series The Fisherman’s Apprentice highlighted the importance of eating local, sustainably caught seasonal fish; an ethos which benefits global fish stocks, local fisherman and the consumer. This has long been at the heart of what we do here and it’s fantastic to see sustainable fishing high on the agenda. Our red mullet is poached in coconut milk and served with white crab, compressed cucumber and celery salad, with jasmine rice and lime.

Other favourites you’ll still find on the menu include Salt & Spice Squid, Sticky Pork Belly and our Dashi Broth. The latter is made entirely with ingredients from our immediate surroundings, including foraged kelp and mackerel caught just out in the bay.

There are some new, richer dishes to try as the cold nights draw in. Our Cornish White Fish Soup is hearty and warming and our mussels are now served with the earthier flavours of Cornish cider, wild sorrel, nettles and tomato. We’re also pretty happy with our take on that English classic, the apple crumble! It’s served with lemon and chamomile ice cream, and of course a scoop of clotted cream in a nod to tradition.

Availability of local fish depends on weather conditions

Refining the menu in this way also means we can concentrate more on daily specials which make the most of the freshest fish of the day. Being a little quieter means we can be ultra adaptable – if a local boat hauls a fantastic catch it can go straight on the menu that evening. However sometimes as the weather gets rough at this time of year the boats can’t get out, that just means we serve more red meat and game as specials: we don’t have to compromise on quality. I’m excited about getting some fantastic partridge, pheasant and venison in shortly.

It’s a stunning time of year to be in St Ives. We’ve been having bright, blustery days recently and the town and beach look at their best in many ways. I’m really envious of people visiting St Ives when it’s like this!”

Coming soon – eat out for less with the early diners menu, plus the exciting new Porthminster Tasting Menu will be available in early November. Watch this space!

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Trip to Champagne? If I must…..

Rebecca, our brilliant and unflappable front of house manager has had a busy year. Months have passed in a whirlwind of coffee beans, shift requests and stock sheets, and we thought she deserved to put her feet up. A long train trip seemed in order, so we sent her to Champagne, where the sounds of tinkling cutlery could no longer reach her….

Reims Cathedral

“Would you like to come on an all expenses paid overnight trip to the Ruinart Chateau for dinner and champagne tasting?”  When faced with this question over the phone, mid service on a busy September afternoon in the Café, my answer was easy!  And so after a mere twelve hours train travel from St.Ives, I arrived in Reims, a city of traditions and centuries-old know-how, and one of the main gastronomic centers of France.

The Champagne region is a very ancient province of France, consisting of 319 villages or vineyards, each one having its own characteristics and in total possessing an incredible 250km of cellars.

Prized stocks of past vintages

Ruinart is the oldest established champagne house, exclusively producing champagne since 1729.  Founded by Nicolas Ruinart, the house is today owned by the parent company LVMH Moet Hennessey Louis Vuitton SA.

Ruinart cellars are among the largest in the region, and are Gallo-Roman in origin.  Like most cellars, they are the product of chalk mining, and extend 38 meters below ground and are 8km long.  The chalk helps to keep the cellars at a constant 11 degrees celcius.

Exploring the maze of ancient cellars

As we shivered our way through a fraction of the maze of ancient cellars, we were told how Nicolas Ruinart, an entrepreneur, came to make Ruinart an authentic champagne house.  In the period immediately following the 1728 edict of Louis XV, which authorized the transportation of wine in bottles, the house was established.  Prior to this edict, wine could only be transported in barrels, which made it impossible to transport wine to distant markets, and confined consumption primarily to its area of production.  Nicolas Ruinart founded the house of Ruinart in 1729.  The first delivery of ‘wine with bubbles’ went out in January 1730. At first the sparkling wine was a business gift for cloth purchasers, as Dom Ruinart’s brother was a cloth merchant, but six years later Maison Ruinart terminated its cloth selling activities due to its success in the champagne business.  Since then the house has kept the standards of excellence of its founders.

Tasting and food matches

After a chilly but fascinating cellar tour came the best bit, the champagne reception and dinner!  Ruinart has a long standing relationship with the Arts and its recently and beautifully renovated reception bar and dining hall holds some stunning art work to enjoy whilst sipping a glass of their Blanc de Blanc and enjoying a canapé or two!

At dinner each of the five courses were perfectly matched with one of their five champagnes, Ruinart Blanc de Blanc, Dom Ruinart, Dom Ruinart Rose, “R” de Ruinart and Ruinart Rose and each enjoyed all the more knowing the time and effort that goes into the production of each and every bottle at Ruinart.”

Too many bubbles Rebecca?!

We currently serve “R” de Ruinart Brut by the glass at the Café and Blanc de Blanc by the bottle. The latter goes spectacularly well with our Fish and Chips as well as the current new season oysters.