Bruton (& At The Chapel)

BRUTON

The Bruton train station immediately plunges you into deepest darkest Somerset. With naïve and simply un-googled views of Bruton being ‘just past Bath’ on the train from Bristol Temple Meads, the hour and a half travel time was quite the shock – but at least we had the Sunday papers to keep us occupied. Although, with a table booked for 4:00, and breakfast fast becoming a distant memory, the abundance of food images in said papers was abhorrent. Hunger fully developed, we set off from the tranquil station into the ‘high street’, past the impressive church with it’s forever chiming bells through the Midsummer town. A town I highly suspect was entirely curated by the National Trust or English Heritage.

My first impression of Bruton was its quaintness and charm. With character rich stone houses, dating from way back when, it really is beautiful to look at. And as if to rub its perfection in our faces, it even has a babbling brook trickling through (River Brue). With gorgeous banks on either side, dotted with wild flowers and looming trees. It reminded me of similar dated towns such as Lewes in terms of the architecture, and eclectic mix of old dilapidated building next to tasteful (and expensive looking) conversions and restorations.

Bruton appears to have heaps of character, in the winding alleys snaking off from the main artery, reminiscent of old villages and towns such at Port Issac yet with the grandeur of Bath. However the second big impression was the vacancy of the place, almost death life silence smothers it save those infernal church bells. Walking along the main streets of one of the the smallest towns in England it is clear it is no ghost town, the odd range rover rolls on through. But many shops are closed, other than the obligatory pub, convenience store and the main restaurant. Walking through the back streets and across the river, we never passed a soul. So if you want to really see Bruton, I’d recommend going for one night. You can spend Saturday relishing in the craft shops and cheese peddlers, and getting a better taste for the retail, food and life it offers, while Sunday you can appreciate the serenity that comes with the holiest day of the week.

And oh! What a food haven it seems to be! Given it WAS a Sunday, many of what I can only hasten to assume are the local delicacies were shut. Matt’s Kitchen, a restaurant right in Matt’s home has a daily changing menu that reads fantastically. Truffles Brasserie looked equally if not more appealing, promising a refined and delicious dinner, while Bruton Wholefoods stores looked like the most authentic and interesting organic store come café that I’ve seen in a while. All of these places within basically 100 metres of each other really reinforced a lasting memory of Bruton as being not ‘foodie’ but tasteful. See ya later chains, there no room for you in this little Somerset idyll.

11418331_10155756996030360_1035740351_n

I took no other photos other than the roast. Apologies!

AT THE CHAPEL

So as unfortunate as it was that we couldn’t spend more time in Bruton and explore these promising eateries, our table was booked ‘At The Chapel’, and it did not disappoint. As you walk up to the restaurant desk, you are immediately taken aback by the size of the place. Not in square meters, but the height of the ceilings leaves a beautiful and open building. The décor itself is refined and tasteful. It boasts a minimalist tone, with streaks of wilderness and modernism helped along by the gallons of natural light filling the room. It’s mainly white with accents of natural tones, exposed wood and glass leaving an impressive finish. And despite much of the modern art on the walls being rather ‘unimpressive’, the splashes of vibrant colour they give the room are welcome.

The meal itself was delicious. Really super delicious. The English Laverstoke Park Farm buffalo mozzarella was a highlight for me, mainly as a novelty more than anything else. In texture, it was unusual, and unlike it’s Italian counter-part. It was soft, but not gooey, yet still melts in the mouth. Not as good as Italian? Maybe not. But delicious in its own right. Hell yeah.

I’d have to say the best dish was probably the asparagus and poached egg though. In the main part because of the ingenious brassica pesto that accompanied it which lifted the simple asparagus dish to another level, complimenting all the flavors and giving you a different taste to your more run of the mill asparagus expectations. Executed beautifully, it is the best asparagus dish I’ve had in a while.

The roast was also a hit, and one of the best we’ve had in a restaurant for years. With perfectly cooked beef, buttery squash mash, cauliflower cheese, well-cooked and seasoned veg, there wasn’t really anywhere to go wrong. The Westcombe ricotta gnudi was also brilliant, perfect in texture and taste, highlighted by the sage, wild garlic and pea shoots, which adorned it.We drank Picpoul, which worked well with the intense flavours of basil & tomato starter and garlic splattered gnudi, but would have been too sweet with the fish. The house red worked well with the beef.

11354704_10155757129000360_1376392438_n

We were too full for pudding, but did indulge in some take away treats from the in-house bakery. Their brownies were not as good as mine (ahem), but the lemon drizzle was pretty tasty.  At The Chapel has an in-house bakery and wine shop, which is immediately a win for any self-respecting hotel.

Any qualms? Potentially the unfinished nature of the dishes, in that I was recommended sides with everything that wasn’t the roast. Also the puddings didn’t SOUND delicious enough to order despite already being uncomfortably full, which is saying something. The service was temperamental, which tainted it slightly. And the biggest regret was not trying the pizzas. But i’m just picking holes.

In the immortal words of Arnie, we will be back.

Advertisements

Outlaw’s Empire.

— This post got really long. Flick through the pictures and read the summarising sentence at the bottom if you have more important things to do with your day, no one would blame you for that. —

This post has been side-lined for a while, in favour of recipe testing, my job, job hunting and other, less valid procrastination activities. However, the announcement of the latest Michelin guide last week reminded me of my failings as a new blogger, and the desire to document my un-nurtured opinion returned. Why? Because Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, Port Issac, has been awarded a prestigious star. Hmmm.

I should say now, before I rip this accolade apart, that I’m a massive fan of Nathan Outlaw. The boy’s got talent, serious talent. And it’s a popular opinion to share. But the decision to award his newest establishment a Michelin star, strikes me as odd, misplaced, and highlights the flaws in the system. I fear at this point my boyfriend may accidentally happen upon this blog, read this, and shrink away in embarrassment as I boldly talk about something I honestly know very little about. But I suppose having a wordpress account lets anyone who can type have an opinion, so why not document mine.

Outlaw has a growing Empire down in North Cornwall, and I have had the pleasure of eating at most of them, as well as his restaurant in The Capital. I advise you now not to do what I did, and eat in them all in a confined space of time, as I had very similar dishes at a lot of the places. I would also advise you to not journey to Port Issac in the hope of a replication of Outlaw’s style similar to The Capital or St Enedoc Hotel. The food wasn’t horrible, I mean, c’mon, it is Nathan Outlaw, we gotta give him some credit. But without that name pioneering that little restaurant on the front, there is no way that place would have received a star. No way. Not from what I saw.

The Fish Kitchen is a dainty little eatery, right on the harbour side, situated in a unassuming little fishing cottage. It has been designed well inside, is bright and feels spacious despite the square meters they have on offer. The menu reads well, and are dishes typical to the Outlaw repertoire: cured salmon with horseradish mayonnaise OR smoked mackerel with cucumber, dill and caper salad and crispy oyster etc. When I went for lunch in August, I was taken aback by the value as well. To eat from the set menu, it was only £15 per person (based on 2 sharing), and you were treated to 3 of the small dishes from the regular menu to share, finishing with a heartily sized fish burger and shoestring fries each.

DISCLAIMER: All photos on this post are taken with an iPhone 4 – apologies for the quality – which varies a lot.

First things first, the cods roe dip with flatbread. I have become quite the connoisseur of this, but this take on it didn’t really hit the spot. I have been informed this may be because his is ‘proper’, but I think the smoother, moussier texture is more appealing. This was slightly lumpy, unnecessarily finished with oil, and the taste was a little weak. It was good (value and taste), but I would never put that dish as a starter to a Michelin starred menu. My socks stayed firmly on my feet.

10653794_10154681054945360_1886877187882341342_n

Cured Salmon and Cod’s Roe Dip (w/ flatbreads – really tasty flatbread)

Next, and featured above was the cured salmon. True to form, this was delicious, but it’s one of my favourite dishes ever, so I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to this. It wasn’t as good as the version I had at The Capital, but it could get a little boring me just arguing ‘it wasn’t as good’, as I feel it might be a critical approach akin to ‘I could do that’ in the art world. Apologies. It already happened. I’m not deleting it.

10382453_10154681054950360_7931868120018437_n

Great simple mackerel dish. Shameful unfocused photography.

The smoked mackerel was really good, and it’s a shame I had eaten the same dish done slightly differently 2 days before at St Enedoc Hotel, as the latter was world’s better, and the Fish Kitchen’s one, just didn’t live up to it’s rival.

10703664_10154681054955360_421448606587346848_n

Then was THE fish burger. This was by no means a good dish. I can only assume the judges for the Michelin guide decided the set lunch was not something they should be sampling. BUT IT SHOULD BE. Every dish should be impeccable and delicious and you should want to eat it again and again. However, aside from our table, there were audible and visible signs of other diners dislike of this dish. Blitzed up fish, set together in a burger form. Which tasted a old a bit dry and chewy. WHAT? NO! This is not fine dining. It is just a bit rank. Maybe if it has been a breaded fillet of good quality fish, and pulled you nostalgically back to when you used to have fish fingers sandwiches for tea, but in a refined, clever manner, then a fish burger would be apt in this Fish Kitchen. But done in this way, I can’t see where the merit is. Give me Birds Eye over this any day. Bizarre that this relaxed dining experience now has such a sophisticated accolade.

Here’s some food I WOULD recommend, just so you know I do LOVE Outlaw… Ode to Outlaw.

The Mariners Public House, Rock.

Simple delicious food. Not a thing to criticise. Tasty and great service too. (We also had mussels and olives)

1236316_10154681037130360_1439795447581543337_n

Whole Plaice, cider onions, anchovy & tarragon butter, courgettes.

^ This was incidentally the star of the show ^

10614358_10154681037125360_7129949187290365523_n

Butterflied Sardines, tomato chutney.

1378272_10154681037120360_2899211118875835984_n

View for the afternoon.

Outlaw’s at the St.Enedoc Hotel, Rock (not it’s neighbour Restaurant Nathan Outlaw – who do not serve lunch)

BUT, everything, from the view, the food, the wine, the service, was all impeccable. Cannot reccomend this enough, especially if you’re not feeling plush enough to eat at the ‘real deal’ next door… but you’re still feeling a little plush.

Lunch – 3 courses. £45.

1610806_10154681048625360_3193816550956575781_n

Start: Char-Grilled Octopus, avocado, green olive, lime & rocket – This was the best.

10670194_10154681048635360_1736744107350634221_n

Start: Cured Mackerel, cucumber, dill, horseradish yoghurt.

10712712_10154681048660360_6991578461807089534_n

Main: Plaice, hot tartare sauce, crushed minted peas.

10616299_10154681048615360_3965184299710893541_n

Main: Bass, cider spring onions, tarragon & anchovy butter.

1621711_10154681048650360_6952554367393442468_n

Pud: Chocolate Cheesecake, raspberry sorbet, raspberry and honeycomb.

10710787_10154681048905360_6097510296620947221_n

The view. Mmm yes.

Outlaw’s at The Capital Hotel, London. Set Lunch. 3 Courses, £27.

All SO spot on. (Service and food). And it’s all proper fancy given it’s setting.

salmon

Set Menu – Cured Salmon, horseradish yoghurt, saffron kohlrabi & dill.

10489136_10154340062535360_1006610727_n

Set Menu – Bream, pickled vegetable, smoked paprika sauce.

10516981_10154339980615360_239623956_n

Set Menu – Breaded Hake, runner beans, parsley & mussel butter.

10488844_10154339978345360_1129978897_n

Set Menu – Red Gurnard, broccoli, lettuce, lemon & garlic

10508513_10154339975965360_1273939256_n

Set Menu – Dark Chocolate Tart, lime ice cream & cocoa syrup

10489195_10154339973880360_1877144661_n

A la Carte – Poached Peach, honey ice-cream, pistachio & yoghurt

10490103_10154339904645360_135998104_n

Coffee and Petit Fours

10517175_10154339904240360_823357032_n

Fancy toilets, with swans head golden taps. Cool.

Effectively: Eat at Outlaw’s little empire. Lunch is cheaper, and no less delcious. Don’t make a pilgrimage to Port Issac for the Fish Kitchen, but check it out if you’re in the area. Don’t eat the fish burger.

Pigs in Cornwall

North Cornwall – Fishy Heaven. 

‘Fishy Heaven’ was found a-plenty along the North Cornwall coast. Our lack of driving abilities ensured we were limited to a walking radius from our camp in Polzeath, at the edge of the Camel Estuary. A walking radius that was tested with the Polzeath to Port Issac cliff-top walk. Breath-taking, sure. Leaving us breathless; also true.

Jack and I spent 6 days in and around Polzeath, Padstow (read: Padstein), Rock and Port Issac. This corner of the world is one of my favourite ever places. Sadly, it isn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, an un-tapped idyll of English Countryside. However, with a few handy tips (which will soon be provided), the hustle and bustle of this picturesque coast can be somewhat avoided, and a more relaxed get-away obtained.

First things first; the delicious food. Given it was 6 days, packed with a variety of absolutely lovely, seasonal, local, food shaped gifts, I will endeavour to focus on the PROPER highlights, although, bare with me if this post drags on, it’s my first, and allowances should really be made. (Disclaimer: Given the sheer volume of Nathan Outlaw food that has been consumed recently, it’s only right he gets his own section – but don’t for one minute think he was ignored in his own ends).

Let’s start with the basics.

Best Ice Cream: Roskilly’s in Padstow. It’s Organic, it’s local, it’s tasty. Perfect.

Best Pasty (it is Cornwall after all): Chough Bakery (of recent TV fame) or Pasty Presto (Both Padstow – apologies for ‘fence-sitting’).

Best Pub: The Golden Lion, Port Issac. It’s 17th Century, it’ll make you feel like a fisherman, and offers gorgeous views across the harbour. What more could you want?

Best post-swim treat: The hot doughnuts on Polzeath beach (@ the Galleon Beach Cafe). Comfort food, because let’s be honest, it is England, and despite what people try to tell you – not THAT warm.

Secret Star: The Spar – Polzeath. (The busiest in the UK, if you believe the grapevine). Provider of breakfast goods, (including fresh pastries) and well needed rest-bite from the dismal breakfast the cafes of Polzeath had on offer – all of them seemingly relying on location, with little attempt to provide any proper cornish, or well executed food. Spar also provided plenty of local produce, such as St Endellion Luxury Cornish Blue (with extra double cream) – banging.

Best Fish: Even with the inclusion of the chef heavy-weights, Outlaw and Ainsworth in this area, my best was the fresh fish from the mongers in Padstow (Rick Stein’s, obviously). Coupled with some foraged ingredients, a raw tomato and onion salad, a disposable BBQ from Spar, and the emptying, sunset drenched beach, it was SUBLIME. When the ingredients are that quality, they really need little to no help in making them shine. (Outlaw a strong second though – post for this ‘fish heaven’ up soon).

Best Best: Paul Ainsworth @ No. 6, Padstow. (I got a little carried away with talk of pudding, so this has spilled over into, a separate post. Here.)

NB: Rock has been ignored as the two highlights for me were both Nathan Outlawed shaped, and a different post dedicated to him will be up shortly. However, the Rock to Padstow ferry is something all holiday-goers should board. A ferry run by the same bearded man who was running it on my first voyage in my toddler years. A shout out to him, for the reliable, no-matter-the-weather, service.

 [Photos from a mixture of disposable cameras and iPhone, so apologies for the (altering) quality – none have been edited, as easy as that may be to believe]

10593169_10154583777700360_5985547630803685546_n

10629646_10154583788995360_6303068861689976127_n

Admiring the coast line. There may be a few of these to come. Strap in!

hot doughnuts

Enjoying fresh doughnuts by the scenic car park after a bracing swim.

CNV00062 10603489_10154583786795360_6560973473800166415_n

The Mariner’s (not featured), and cooking against the odds, in our muddled camp. Making use of SPAR. What a shop.

 10649830_10154583782675360_6208228499814584154_nCNV00003

Ice creams, (not Roskilly’s, so basically a let down) & busy Polzeath.

CNV00072

CNV00007CNV00006

These views. It’s no wonder I love this corner of the world.

CNV00057

Enjoying the local delicacies.

Finally, the, as promised, ‘top tips’. Potentially obvious, but its very easy to get bogged down in the crowds, and forget they’re avoidable.

1. Avoid the main beaches, namely Daymer Bay and Polzeath. Even the beach on the Padstow side of the Estuary is quieter, and just, if not more picturesque. Lundy Bay is one of my best ‘secret’ ones. Booby’s Bay is also one to check out, not so secret, but oh-so dreamy. (Even the other side of Bray hill will do it!)

1535482_10154583835425360_6849826381944184269_n

2. In-keeping with the quieter beaches theme, coastal walks are one of the best things to do along this stretch of Cornwall. Immense views, often reasonably quiet, and a good work out after those pasties and fish and chips. I’d recommend the Port-Issac to Polzeath walk. It’s a bit of and up-and down hill slog, but the views can’t be beaten. Make an afternoon of it and take a picnic. I wish we did! (Also, maybe pick better weather)

10629827_10154583829580360_1321121239105505814_n CNV00017  10616101_10154583826010360_1834058027160782474_n

3. Explore. Just explore more. It’s easy in the small villages with harbours, to just stick to the harbour, but wander back, explore the more authentic and local areas! This can’t be proved better than my experiences with Padstow. You can find your own hidden gems. (Photos sadly of Port Issac – wish I had been more prepared!)

CNV00018

10603298_10154549344255360_8708839141053509260_n

10389078_10154583835400360_1397692569158060457_n

4. Use the beaches the WHOLE day. Early morning walks, mid-day swims, and sunset BBQs should all be done. Pictured is our sunset BBQ, complete with scallops, whole bream and whole sardines, courtesy of Rick Steins fish mongers. We foraged the herbs along the coast, and with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of Maldon, it was totally perfect.

                               beach bbqbeach bbqCNV00028

5. If you have no car, get familiar with the local bus schedule. They do run reasonably regularly, and they can be a lot of fun, but do be prepared for them not to be totally on time. But when are they ever anyway?

6. Try camping. I’m a novice, but the Polzeath Tristram campsite made even me feel at home. And it means, even if you don’t have the dollar to pay for those sought after cliff top houses, you get some pretty photogenic views at breakfast and dinner time (even if the previous photo of our camp wasn’t all too appealing).

CNV00070

10615409_10154583786815360_2214049364917270135_n

– The camp/the view.

10628309_10154583836595360_3996937144482650990_n

View at the entrance to camp.