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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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.

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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.

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.

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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Autumn Forage & Feast Dates Announced

Last spring saw the introduction of our popular ‘Forage and Feast’ days at Porthminster Beach Café, in collaboration with ecologist and forager Caroline Davey of Fat Hen. The opportunity to discover the diverse wild food of St Ives Bay returns this autumn, as new dates have been announced.

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On the 4th and 18th November Caroline will once again be guiding small groups, exploring the hedgerows, footpaths and shoreline in the immediate vicinity of the Café. The route reflects the daily incursions of the Porthminster chefs, led by Michael Smith, as they harvest the bounty afforded by their unique location.

Participants will meet at the Café for coffee, before beginning their foray along the beach and coastal path. Botanical expert Caroline will guide the group through the secrets of harvesting delicious wild food full of flavour, whilst keen forager Michael will explain what his chefs look out for as they gather plants, herbs and seaweed from their immediate environment.

“Autumn provides a rewarding range of tastes and textures for the foraging enthusiast” says Caroline, who will be looking out for things like pennywort, sorrel, wood sorrel, nettles, pepper dulse, laver and cow parsley. “This day course is perfect for anyone keen to discover the amazing produce growing all around them, and how to use even just a small touch of these free ingredients to transform the way they cook at home.”

Once back at the Beach Café, Michael will cook up a feast. Using the results of the morning forage, he will create a three course meal. Participants will have the opportunity to see him in action, and learn about the techniques which bring those seasonal ingredients together. This late lunch will be served to the group in the café, overlooking the beach.

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“We forage daily around Porthminster Beach at all times of year,” explained Michael. “Each new season brings its rewards. At the onset of autumn our cooking turns towards warming, earthy flavours and foraging plays a key role in that seasonal shift. Harvesting food from our surroundings has become an integral part of what we do here at the beach and we’re keen to share our passion and give some of our secrets away.”

To book, visit www.fathen.org where you can find a booking form under ‘Courses and Events’.

Course dates – 4th and 18th November, meet at the Café at 10am.

£50pp including coffee and pastries, a two hour forage and a three course lunch.

The Times – 20 best places to eat by the beach

Porthminster Beach Cafe was surprised and thrilled to be included in this feature in The Times (Thurs 8th August). Chosen by top chefs, the places picked from around the coast were a diverse range of architecturally impressive Beach Cafes, old-world pubs and classic brasseries.

Executive Chef Mick Smith and Head Chef Ryan Venning were both very pleased to have been singled out from so many great place to eat by the seaside. Ryan commented “The whole kitchen team work so hard on a day to day basis, especially at this time of year. This kind of recognition has given us a great boost and put a little spring in our step today.”

Here is Porthminster’s entry in full:

Porthminster Cafe

St Ives, Cornwall

“Aussie chef Mike Smith forages on the nearby coastal path for ingredients for his wildly eclectic menu at this casual beach-side cafe that has high culinary ambitions. Feast on air-dried Cornish duck ham with compressed melon, nastursium and fennel followed by a roasted whole lemon sole with white crab and tomato, cucumber and vanilla salsa while taking in the wonderful St Ives bay views.”

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Fellow Cornish restaurants The Hidden Hut, Fifteen Cornwall and Outlaw’s in Rock were also included in the list of top spots.

Sir Peter Blake in St Ives

Sir Peter Blake, often refered to as the ‘Godfather of British Pop Art’ is exhibiting for the first time in St Ives, at the Porthminster Gallery from 3rd August to 7th September. The exhibition will consist of signed silkscreen prints of recent work.

Sir Peter is most famous for his iconic album covers for the Beatles, including Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. He has also worked with The Who, Oasis, Paul Weller and Madness.

'Vintage Blake'

‘Vintage Blake’

His images “capture the effervescence and optimism of the Sixties, with the use of bold geometric patterns and primary colours” according to the gallery. The work also incorporates comic strips, advertising texts and photographs. Humourous and nostalgic, this is a must see show if you’re visiting St Ives this summer.

For more on the exhibition click here.

Porthminster Gallery is situated at Westcott’s Quay, which is a five minute walk from the restaurant in the direction of the harbour.

Visiting the show? Click here to make your table reservation with us before or after.

Meet our Head Chef, Ryan Venning

Having worked at Porthminster Beach Café in the past, as well as on other projects alongside Executive Chef Michael Smith, we were thrilled to welcome back Ryan Venning as Head Chef at the start of the year.

Now that he’s well and truly settled back in, we thought it was time to introduce him properly, so here goes….

Where did you start cooking?

“I grew up in Durban, South Africa. I started training at the 5* Royal Hotel, which sleeps 2,000 people! It was an incredible 3 year apprenticeship. The hotel had its own butchery as well as an enormous grill department and a vast pastry kitchen. The hotel hosted important functions, including several gala dinners for the President with 1,200 guests. It was a good grounding in all aspects of cooking. After I qualified I worked in some brilliant smaller places, including a gastro pub and a buzzing Cafe which specialized in outside catering, and a grillhouse where we aged our own meats.”

How did you end up in St Ives?

Cooking demo at Fifteen Farmers Market...

Cooking demo at Fifteen Farmers Market…

“I met Mick (Smith) when he was on holiday in Cape Town. He’d been in St Ives a few years by then and was loving it. It sounded like the perfect place to come and cook in the UK – I was happy to bypass London! In a few months I was here; I started at Porthmeor before working with Mick at Porthminster and later becoming the Head Chef at Porthgwidden (Porthminster’s sister restaurant). From there I went as Head Chef to The Herring at Bedruthan Steps Hotel, before returning to my roots here on the beach.”

You arrived in Cornwall eight years ago, and it seems the attraction hasn’t diminished?

“Certainly, I still love it just as much as when I first arrived! Don’t get me wrong, as chefs we do work very, very hard. The hours are long and unsociable. But in Cornwall a positive work/life balance is just that bit easier to achieve. I don’t have to commute to work and I have the beach and countryside right on my doorstep whenever I get a chance to get out there. For me there’s always something different and essential about being by the ocean. It’s a lifestyle I wouldn’t be without, especially now I have a family. Surfing, cooking and my family are my inspiration – not in that order! Being based in the UK has allowed me to travel to places like Morocco and Portugal. Looking for new waves and new food experiences is a great combination.”

In terms of being a chef, what is it that’s unique about working here?

A trip to the garden before service....

A trip to the garden before service….

“For me, the UK in general has four distinct seasons which we just don’t have back in South Africa. This keeps your creativity flowing; there’s always new produce coming into season which is really exciting. Cornwall in particular of course has the best seafood in the world! As well as that, we enjoy an abundance of foraged produce throughout the year. Spring I think is my favourite time for the great variety of local ingredients which come through the door – everything is so fresh it’s impossible not to be inspired.”

Do you find it a challenge leading the kitchen at Porthminster?

“It is a challenge, but it’s a good one. My experiences as Head Chef elsewhere have taught me a lot and they have all been positive stepping-stones. The team here are fantastic – you need to have that behind you in order to create great food, especially during the summer season when cover numbers are so high. I’m finding real satisfaction in coaching the younger members of the crew; I think even more experienced chefs feed off that sense of discovery and learning we see in our apprentices. And at the end of the day our location is unique and inspirational. We’re privileged to work on a beach with this stunning view, and I genuinely think that is reflected in what we create everyday.”

Read more about Ryan and Michael’s favourite seasonal ingredients in our Summer at Porthminster blog feature, coming soon….