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.

Polgoon01

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.

Foraging for Seaweed

Ever wondered about the practicalities of foraging for this widely available ingredient? Our chefs went on an epic excursion to learn more, kept in check (more or less!) by the capable hand of local forager Rory MacPhee. One of the youngest stars of the kitchen, Lucy Holland, is our latest guest blogger to give the inside story.

“This December the chefs from Porthminster Beach Cafe joined local forager Rory in discovery of edible seaweeds on and around the beach at Mawnan Smith, near Falmouth on the South Coast of Cornwall. Bright and early, we all meet in the restaurant sporting our best wellies ready for the days adventure!

Our foraging spot on Cornwall's south coast

Our foraging spot on Cornwall’s south coast

The Cafe has a great reputation for sustainability and it’s something which is ingrained in us in the kitchen right from the start. We love to use produce from just beyond our doorstep to create new and exciting dishes.

Mick learns more about foraging at the seashore

Mick learns more about foraging at the seashore

We were keen to learn more about foraging such a common plant as seaweed, which amoungst other things could provide us with a natural seasoning for some of our dishes.

Using seaweed to naturally enhance flavour

Using seaweed to naturally enhance flavour

On our day with Rory, he explained all the different seaweeds and their beneficial factors, whilst introducing us to new ways we could use each variety in the kitchen. A firm favourite of ours for example is Dulse Seaweed, as we use this to create our own Cornish take on the Japanese dish Dashi. Also now appearing on the menu will be a sour dough bread containing Carrageenan, which was inspired by our foraging trip.

More of the days bounty

More of the days bounty

Some of the other seaweed discussed among us include Bladderwrack which is used in many medicines, Kelp which also appears in our Cornish Dashi, and the serrated Pepper Dulse, which has an intense flavour to it (this was popular with the chefs to have a nibble on!)

We all learnt a lot from Rory and after the days expedition were all itching to get back to the kitchen and try out some new creations!”

Seaweed Foraging 6

Porthminster Chefs let loose!

Rory MacPhee heads up the Falassa Project, which is undertaking coastal research between Fowey and the Lizard on Cornwall’s south coast in collaboration with the Seaweed Health Foundation. The aims are to protect the resources found at our coastal fringes, and to argue the case for the sustainable use of marine algae for nutrition, therapy, agri-food and energy.

“Seaweeds offer a spectacular addition to our diet and lifestyle. You can eat them; you can bathe in them; you can make ointments; you can turn them into cloth and bio-fuel, and you can fertilise your garden.”

The project generates funding through courses and the sale of foraged products and also things like seaweed spa kits. To find out more visit www.falassa.co.uk

Seaweed Foraging 5

Fifteen Farmers Market, Autumn 2012

Porthminster’s Executive Chef Michael Smith teamed up with friend Ryan Venning of The Herring for an inspiring demo at this year’s Fifteen Farmer’s Market.

The pair served up a treat for an audience of food lovers, creating a traditional Japanese Dashi Broth entirely from Cornish ingredients. “We’re having a bit of fun and going for a ‘rock pool’ effect as the end result,” explained Ryan, who prepared wonton’s coloured with squid ink to create a pebble-dash effect. These were stuffed with corriander, lime, chilli and ginger.

Ryan lets Michael do the talking!

Michael explained that many ingredients similar to those used to create a Dashi Broth in Japan could be found within the immediate surroundings of the beach café. For example sugar kelp from the shore line is now picked, boiled and dried and replaces Japanese kombu in the dish. Mackerel from St Ives bay is dried and used instead of bonito flakes.

Adapting local ingredients saves thousands of airmiles

Michael and Ryan added native oysters from Porthilly, local Lobster, mussels and clams, as well as some sea lettuce and foraged samphire to the broth. For a similar recipe and more details on how this Cornish Dashi was created, see our earlier recipe post.

Finishing touches

The audience were keen to have a try!

Thanks to Matthew Stevens and Son, who provided the local seafood for this dish. Ryan Venning is head chef at The Herring, located at Bedruthan Steps Hotel, Mawgan Porth.

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!

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.

Reaping the rewards of sustainable fishing

In Cornwall, we have access to some of the best seafood in the world in terms of quality, freshness and diversity. And we’d like to keep it that way, which is why supporting sustainable fishing is so high on our agenda.

One company we work with is Wild Harbour, a family-owned business supplying 100% sustainable fish. Wild Harbour are part of the South West Hand Line Fisherman’s Association, which operates a scheme tracing fish back to the small vessel responsible for the catch. This pioneering supplier is also a member of the Responsible Fishing Scheme, and were first fish merchant to be approved by the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

Sustainability is about fishing methods (line-fishing has minimal environmental impact and waste) but also the species we choose to eat. For example cod has not featured on our menu for some time due to troubling stock levels.

“The simple explanation is that cod has been Europe’s favourite fish for 1,000 years. And it comes as no surprise that with modern technology, fishermen have become better, and more ruthless, at catching it.” – Rose Prince writing in the Daily Telegraph.

However here in the South West, we have one of the only cod stocks considered to be sustainable and we only use the hook and line method to catch them.

Sustainable cod on the menu this summer

Our head chef Tom Pryce came up with this summer special to do justice to Wild Harbour Line Caught Cod, featuring summer tomatoes, fennel, garden herbs and hand-dived scallops.

So if you’re visiting us soon you can enjoy the UKs most popular fish, knowing that it comes from a sustainable source.