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!”

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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!”

Win A £100 Voucher

Do you have a favourite recipe from our cookbook?

If so we’d love to see your versions of our signature dishes, whether you stick to the recipe faithfully or give it your own twist!

Next time you cook your favourite take a quick pic and send it to us via email (pminster@btconnect.com) or social media (using the hashtag #MyPorthminster).

At the end of April our Executive Chef Michael Smith will choose his favourite entry – the prize is a £100 voucher to spend on food and drink here at the cafe. Happy snapping!

Dine With Bordeaux At Porthminster

Saturday 28th October, Porthminster Beach Cafe 

£55 for five courses, including wine

The latest in our series of wine dinners takes us to the most famous vineyards and chateaux of the world, as Nigel Ede from Experience Wines guides us through the iconic wine styles of Bordeaux.

We devised five inventive courses and set Nigel the challenge of matching them – we think you’ll agree that the results are mouth-watering!

From sparkling Cremant to lively and complex whites, classic heady reds to sumptuously rich Sauternes, this will be a delectable evening of food and wine.

Please see below a provisional menu – there may be some small alterations to both food and wine depending on last-minute availability.

To book please call 01736 795352. Spaces are limited so be quick!

We will be taking card details to secure your booking. Late cancellations will incur a charge.

 

Arrival

Smoked Cod Roe

Cucumber – Caviar

Les Cordeliers Cremant de Bordeaux Brut, Bordeaux 

Starter

Ginger Cured Monkfish

Hyssop – Nectarine – Yoghurt

Château Tourteau Chollet ‘Elegance’ 2015, Graves Bordeaux 

Fish Course

Cornish Sea Bass

Shrimp – Yuzu Butter – Pork Puffs – Sesame – Wild Sorrels

Caillou Blanc du Château Talbot 2013, Bordeaux Blanc

Sorbet

Crab Apple Sorbet

Meat Course

Pink Roasted Venison Fillet

Suet Pie – Celeriac – Spiced Spinach – Bitter Cacao Sauce

Château De Fonbel 2013, St. Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux

– 

Dessert

Manuka Panacotta

Rum Fig – Dehydrated Honey – Yoghurt

Château Petit Vedrines 2014, Sauternes, Bordeaux 

 

 

Festival Dinner Brings Together Top Chefs

Please note that booking for this event is via email only – see below for more info…

We are thrilled to announce that we will be hosting a Festival Dinner as part of the St Ives Food and Drink Festival this May – with dishes by Mitch Tonks, Jack Stein, Jose Pizarro, Gizzi Erskine and Sophie Michell.

Porthminster Beach Cafe will be the setting for a culinary tour-de-force, as five of the country’s top chefs get creative with Cornwall’s unrivalled local produce.

The St Ives Food and Drink Festival runs over the weekend of 13th and 14th May; the annual event sees big-name chefs and award-winning producers descend on the sands of our very own Porthminster Beach – a unique setting for one of the UK’s most spectacular food festivals.

The restaurant is a key festival partner, helping to facilitate the event each year.

The dinner will take place on Saturday 13th May; the five-course menu, which will shortly be released, is priced at £60 per person and booking is exclusively via email (pminster@btconnect.com) on a first-come-first-served basis.

With so much culinary talent arriving on our doorstep, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to bring some of the chefs together to devise a menu which celebrates the bounty of St Ives Bay. The Porthminster team is looking forward to working with Mitch, Jack, Jose, Gizzi and Sophie to deliver a truly memorable experience for our guests.

A percentage of the profits from the dinner will be donated to Surfers Against Sewage, to help preserve the beauty of Porthminster Beach and others in Cornwall.

Spaces are expected to sell out quickly, so early is booking recommended!

If you would like to book, please email pminster@btconnect.com with the subject ‘Festival Dinner’, specifying the number of guests and a contact phone number on which to reach you. Note that full payment will be taken in advance. 

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….

Wild Harbour

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.

fish

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.

mackerel

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.