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….

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Polgoon Cider Orchard and Vineyard

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!

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

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.

‘The New West Country Cook Book’ Launched

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.”

west-country-cook-book-cover

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

Christmas is Coming!

Christmas is coming and at Porthminster we’re looking forward to the busy festive season. Our Christmas and New Year opening times can be found here (please book early to avoid disappointment!).

If you can’t visit us to make merry, why not order a copy of Porthminster Beach Café – The Cook Book?

More than just a recipe book, you will find inspiring images and ideas to help you recreate the fresh flavours of Porthminster at home.

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We wanted the book to capture the joy of cooking and living in such a remarkable location.

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Look out for foraging tips and a tour of our much-loved garden, which sits just next to the Café.

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We parted with some recipes for iconic dishes, including our famous Monkfish Curry, Tempura Courgette Flowers and Sticky Asian Pork.

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Porthminster Beach Café – The Cook Book has fast become an emblem of Cornwall’s rich and diverse food culture. To buy online click here.

The book is also available to purchase at the restaurant.

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StreetSmart 2013 – Time to make a difference

StreetSmart is a national campaign to help the homeless through voluntary £1 donations from those dining in the country’s top restaurants during November and December. Porthminster Beach Café is taking part for the first time this year, in what is hoped will be a record-breaking campaign in Cornwall.

All money raised in Cornwall will stay within the county, as administration costs are paid by national StreetSmart sponsor Deutsche Bank.  Therefore every pound donated goes solely to the three benefitting local charities – St Petroc’s Society, the Cornwall Women’s Refuge Trust and the Cornish branches of Foodbank. Need is greater than ever, with foodbanks in particular now in high demand, and everyone involved is hoping that the public will get behind the campaign and help us make a difference to the lives of vulnerable people this winter.

Front of house manager Rebecca Symons said she hopes it is a successful campaign. “In December we are very busy in the run up to Christmas so hopefully we  manage to raise a good amount,” she said. “I think it will be a good thing – I don’t think people will mind donating £1.”

So, if your visiting us over the next few months please look out for table cards with more information. Your voluntary contribution is a very easy way to have a positive impact on troubled lives this festive season.