Taking a G&T by the beach to the next level…

We’ve recently released a small batch of our very own gin, crafted with botanicals from the Cornish coast. And, just in case you’re stuck for somewhere stunning to drink it, we’ve launched an alfresco bar too!

Earlier this year, Executive Chef Mick got talking to Steve Dustow from Colwith Distillery (makers of multi-award winning Aval Dor Vodka). It wasn’t long before the conversation turning to gin, and the two came up with a cunning plan to create a spirit which would encapsulate Porthminster’s unique location.

“Clearly there are a lot of great gins out there,” said Mick, “but meeting Steve gave us the opportunity to make a really high quality spirit that is infused with ingredients sourced right on our doorstep. It was a chance we couldn’t pass up!”

Mick and Steve explored the kitchen garden together, and also walked the chefs’ regular foraging route to Porthminster Point. They selected various wild finds, including Pepper Dulse, Rock Samphire, Alexander and Sea Buckthorn. These were added to a pure Cornish spirit made from potatoes – not from an imported grain spirit or Russian vodka, no cutting corners here!

Up at Colwith Distillery near Fowey, Mick and Steve tried putting a small batch through the still and, after a few adjustments, believe they have created a unique Porthminster take on a London dry gin. “It has a distinctive coastal edge which works so well in our G&Ts. We love serving it with lime, samphire and purple violets.” said Mick. “The bar team are enjoying experimenting with Porthminster Gin in various cocktails, and in the kitchen we’re using it in some of our desserts.”

The release of Porthminster Gin coincides with the launch of a new Garden Bar here at the beach. Set just back from the restaurant, with incredible views over the bay, the new bar will specialise in G&Ts and cocktails and promises many a memorable sun-downer during the summer ahead.

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Recipe: Halloumi Salad with Wild Sorrel

Wild Sorrel is a really useful herb which we use a lot here at Porthminster. It is especially great in salads and also compliments salty cheese and fish very well. It is similar to Wood Sorrel but has a stronger flavour. Look out for the red stems, as several other plants look similar!

The beetroot and citrus in this salad also work really well with the salty and rich halloumi cheese.

If you don’t have the time to cook beetroots from scratch, you can use the ready prepared ones (as long as they’re not in vinegar).

This will serve four as a starter, or two for lunch.

 

Ingredients:

4 small beetroots

4 sprigs of thyme

400 gms of halloumi

2 tablespoons of rapeseed oil

1 cup of sorrel, preferably wild common

1 orange

200 gms of mixed salad leaves

½ red onion, finely sliced

½ bulb of fennel, finely sliced

Balsamic vinegar and olive oil

1 teaspoon of sumac

 

 

 

 

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Clean the beetroots under cold water, taking care not to pierce the skin. Wrap them in foil with the thyme, a splash of the rapeseed oil, salt and pepper and cook them in the oven until they are soft, approximately 45 minutes.

When they have cooled a little, peel the beetroots and set to one side. While they are cooling, peel the orange, segment half of it and reserve these segments to add to the salad. Place the remaining segments in a blender, along with two beetroots and one tablespoon of rapeseed oil. Blend until smooth and then season with salt and pepper.

Cut the other two beetroots into the desired shapes for the salad. Wash the sorrel and mixed salad leaves and put them in a bowl with the beetroot, fennel, red onion and orange. Dress the salad with the balsamic dressing and the sumac.

Cut the halloumi into 1cm squares, add a splash of rapeseed oil to a hot frying pan and when it begins to smoke, add the halloumi and fry until golden, turning occasionally.

Finally smear the beetroot puree onto the plates, arrange the salad in the middle and serve with the halloumi on top.

A great start to 2019, thanks to you!

The entire team here at the restaurant have been celebrating this month, after Porthminster was named ‘Best Restaurant’ in the South West at the 2019 Food Magazine Reader Awards.

This award is really special to us because it’s down to votes from our customers that we made it through to the final, where we were up against tough competition from across Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Bath and Bristol.

Executive Chef and Co-owner Mick Smith said he was overjoyed with the award and heaped praise on all our fabulous chefs and front of house staff, following our busiest year to date in 2018.

He said: “Every member of the team has contributed to this award, as we continually strive to deliver great food and service in a busy restaurant. Last summer was particularly intense with very high cover numbers and the hot weather, so I want to say a massive thank you to everyone involved.”

Three of those team members – Stuart Cobb, Magda Kaminska and Joanne Wiggin – were given the task of collecting the award at The Greenbank Hotel in Falmouth on 28th January, where they enjoyed a celebratory feast and wine flight as the winners were revealed.

The annual awards recognise the very best restaurants, cafes, pubs, chefs, hotels, producers, retailers and cookery schools in the South West; this year saw 25,000 individual votes cast across the 12 categories.

Jo Rees, Editor of Food Magazine said: “Porthminster Beach Café, and all the finalists, exemplify the leading, creative and ground-breaking food and drink businesses we have in the South West.”

Thank you so much to those who voted and helped us get through to the final. We really appreciate your support and look forward to seeing you soon! 

It’s Official: Our Executive Chef is Food Hero of the Year!

The Cornwall Life Food & Drink Awards, which celebrate the county’s food and drink champions, were presented at a celebratory event at Carbis Bay Hotel on 1st November and we are pleased to reveal that our Executive Chef, Michael Smith, was amongst the winners!

After fifteen years at the helm here at the beach, Michael was named ‘Food & Drink Hero’ of 2018. This award is reserved for an individual who “goes the extra mile to promote Cornwall to a wider audience and is passionate about local produce throughout.” The winner of this prestigious award must also be someone who truly champions the vibrant local food scene and who has helped make a positive difference to their team, community and the food and drink industry as a whole.

Carol Burns, Editor of Cornwall Food & Drink presented the award, and said in her speech:

“Cornwall is not short of incredible food and drink and chefs that know how to use them. Michael Smith perfectly reflects Cornwall’s attitude to food – creative cooking and original dishes, incorporating the best of our local seasonal produce, and all in a very relaxed inclusive atmosphere that makes the most of the beautiful views on offer in one of Cornwall’s favourite harbours.”

Carol noted several key factors in naming Michael as this years’ winner. For example, he was one of the first chefs in Cornwall to feature foraged ingredients in his dishes on a regular basis, and has invested a great deal of time and effort in establishing a kitchen garden opposite the restaurant. By training new chefs in foraging and caring for the garden, he actively spreads this knowledge and passion for the wild and home-grown ingredients which flourish in our coastal environment.

Michael has also been proactive in promoting sustainable seafood and supporting charitable causes such as The Fisherman’s Mission. He is responsible for dreaming up Porthminster Beach Café – The Cookbook, a collection of signature recipes, and has been a driving force behind the St Ives Food & Drink Festival, which is held on the beach outside the restaurant each year.

It has been such a memorable year here at Porthminster, and this award has been the icing on the cake! Thanks to all those who have played a part in our success – including the whole team and all our fantastic customers. We look forward to celebrating with you soon!

Chefs Reunited!

This year the St Ives Food and Drink Festival reunites Michael with a chef he worked with many years ago and many miles away – the other side of the world in fact.

Our Exec Chef Michael Smith is originally from Victoria, Australia, where he trained at Donovans – a much-loved and highly acclaimed Italian restaurant on the beach-front in the trendy St Kilda area of Melbourne.

Michael’s mentor in the pastry section was Helen Goh, who he remembers as endlessly imaginative and intensely hard-working. She inspired a deep respect in the young chef for the work involved in the pastry section, and for the endless possibilities of creating desserts and cakes which were both beautiful to behold and devour. This manifested itself in the ‘Sweet’ section of Michael’s own recipe book, Porthminster Beach Café – The Cookbook, published in 2013.

Although the two lost touch, Helen also moved to England and has worked closely with Yotam Ottolenghi as the lead product developer for the past ten years, drawing widely on Asian, Western and Middle Eastern influences – and of course, on her love of sweets.

In the stunning new baking and desserts cookbook – Sweet – Helen and Yotam bring the Ottolenghi hallmarks of fresh, evocative ingredients, exotic spices and complex flavourings to indulgent cakes, biscuits, tarts, puddings, cheesecakes and ice cream.

Michael and Helen will be reunited for the first time at the St Ives Food and Drink Festival, which takes place at Porthminster Beach from 11 – 13th May. For more information on demo times visit www.stivesfoodanddrinkfestival.co.uk.

Meet The Gardener

Executive Chef Michael Smith introduces our very talented professional gardener, Polly Carter, who is responsible for bringing that extra touch of seasonal colour and flavour to many of our dishes…

Michael: “From my early days here at Porthminster Beach Café, I dreamed of creating a coastal kitchen garden. There was a plot I had my eye on directly opposite the restaurant; it was on quite a steep slope and the area was bisected by an off-shoot of the coast path, but I couldn’t help wonder whether one day we could transform it into a fabulous source of flavour and colour for our dishes.

“Luckily for me, around 8 years ago the parents of one of our young apprentice chefs – Jim and Julie Horn – were both passionate and knowledgeable gardeners. I craftily planted the seed of the idea and they ran with it, clearing, weeding and terracing the plot to make way for fresh herbs, fruits, edible flowers and vegetables. Over the years several dedicated gardeners have been charged with its upkeep and development. That task currently rests with Polly Carter, a freelance gardener whose training includes a National Trust traineeship in Heritage Horticulture (including kitchen gardening).

“Kitchen gardens are relatively common – at country house hotels for example where they have plenty of space and existing in-house gardening skills. I don’t know of any other restaurant gardens quite like ours, and it certainly presents its own challenges, as Polly explains:

Polly: “The plot here is north-facing, but sheltered and protected from frost by its proximity to the sea. The soil is relatively poor (we are working on enriching it this year using a homemade compost combining seaweed from the beach and comfrey). There are two distinct areas; the lower half gets plenty of sun, so we grow Mediterranean plants and herbs there; further up in the shade we’ve planted fruits and also encourage things like ramsons (wild garlic), sorrel and horseradish. These crops support the chefs foraging efforts – they like to pick wild food from the surrounding area, but we also propagate what we can to give their legs a rest!

“The biggest challenge is ensuring that the garden is productive all year round, so that Michael and his team can find fresh flavours and inspiration in this little plot, week in week out. I focus on crops which regenerate and benefit from being cut regularly, and I also sow the same seeds over successive weeks to make sure they are replenished ready for those scissor-happy chefs! We don’t have much room, so every tiny area yields something useful, and I under-plant wherever I can.

“Michael is adamant that everything must add something to the dish or drink (some of the flowers and leaves are used in cocktails or as fresh teas) so I’ve developed the garden by focusing on flavour, not just adornment. Although I do think it is still a thing of beauty, especially in the summer. In fact, the view from here is probably the best in all of St Ives!”

The following, amongst others, can be found in the garden: Tagetes (the edible petals and leaves have a pronounced fruity  flavour), Borage, Broad Beans (apparently the shoots are good when stir-fried), Courgettes (mainly used for the flowers, which are stuffed with various good things and deep-fried), Blackcurrants (the chefs use the leaves like vine leaves) , Gooseberries, Nasturtiums, Calendula, Eciums (good for bees), Thyme, Olive Herb, Black Mustard (a common weed which is encouraged in the garden because of its strong, punchy flavour), wild strawberries, watercress and various types of sorrel. There are also pear, apple and crab apple trees – the chefs use the blossom as well as the fruit.

Michael – “To a certain extent, having a kitchen garden dictates the flow of the menu. It means that we naturally take our lead from what is in season; our chefs get quite excited when something new is ready to pick!”

Meet The Fish Merchant

Executive Chef Michael Smith introduces fish merchant Matthew Stevens; the two have been working together to bring the best seafood to your table here at Porthminster for 15 years…

Michael – “It’s hard to believe that 15 years have passed since I arrived in St Ives via the branch line from St Erth – as soon as the train rounded the bend I knew I had found somewhere special. I had been working in London and missed the outdoor lifestyle and beaches of Victoria, where I grew up at the end of the Great Ocean Road. I’d heard about this mythical place in the UK, where the surf was genuinely good, the beaches were actually sandy, and the local produce was top class; Cornwall surpassed my expectations on every front.

“I feel so lucky to live and work here – especially as the restaurant is right on the beach. Seafood is the major focus of our menu, combined with produce grown in our garden and foraged from the coastal surroundings. A lot of our dishes have an Asian influence, as the fresh zingy flavours of Asian cuisine work really well with the bounty of fish and shellfish available to us.

“I’ve been working with Matthew Stevens since I started at Porthminster and I speak to him or one of his colleagues every day. They understand our specifications when it comes to quality and filleting, and they know we are always keen to fill our daily specials with less regular catches like turbot, John Dory and red sea bream.”

Matthew – “Every time I visit Porthminster Beach Café I’m impressed by the creativity and intricate techniques Michael and his team use to showcase the huge variety of seafood they take from us.

“We supply Michael with virtually every kind of fish and shellfish found in Cornish waters, including oysters, lobsters, brill and several varieties of sole. We’re up and down that hill several times a day in the summer – luckily we are based just a mile or so away! We also supply fresh Cornish fish for the award-winning fish and chips in the takeaway; I think it’s fantastic that such a busy operation still uses the best fish and doesn’t skimp on quality.

“The fact that Michael has been at the helm for so long means that we have a great understanding, and hopefully that has helped him deliver the outstanding fish dishes he produces day in day out. Despite his seniority and managerial responsibilities he can still be found behind the pass most days – he clearly loves being in the thick of things.

“If chefs or journalists come to visit me from elsewhere in the UK I often take them to Porthminster, it’s such a special spot – you just can’t beat a beautiful piece of fish and a glass of chilled white wine served on the terrace!”