Food by a top Cornwall chef, booze selected by a pro, and coffee and cheese prepped and chosen by a deli owner and 2008 UK barista champ? Forget fantasy football (in fact I have been trying hard to forget any football since Euro 2012, the penalty jinx and Rooney’s hair); this is fantasy dining for real.
Tom Scade at Tides restaurant Rock, David McWilliam from binTwo Padstow and Hugo Hercod, 2008 UK barista champ and owner of Relish Food & Drink Wadebridge, combined culinary forces last week to stage a sensory tour de force. Relish operates as a top quality café by day serving some of the best coffee in Cornwall, but the idea of holding a series of pop-up dinners at the venue has long been loitering in the ether. Wadebridge itself is short of decent dining options and Hugo, with considerable experience in the food and drink industry, was “being nagged” by locals to hold an evening event.
Tom Scade was one of the first Cornish chefs I ever reviewed and I am still as excited about his cooking now as I was then. Three and a half years at The Ritz and a sincere commitment to local Cornish produce has resulted in an earthy yet glamorous style of cooking; think Heston meets Nigel; on a slate. David McWilliam, wine merchant and house music aficionado in flip-flops runs binTwo Padstow with a similar down-to-earth but highly professional manner (also responsible for my pounding headache after reviewing BinTwo last summer but which did completely re-write my little world of wine knowledge).
To start the evening we crunched on sticks of airy pork crackling alongside radishes, salt and bread on a wooden sharing board: simple continental sophistication.
Following the exquisite lard was a very generous portion of pressed chicken terrine with charred leeks, homemade salad cream topped with a creamy button of summer truffle. This was true summer picnic fare lifted to the formality of restaurant dining, missing only a woolly rug, some plastic wine glasses and wet grass for a truly authentic experience.
Chasing the chicken came Cornish mackerel, Nathan Outlaw’s GBM signature dish, which he defended on TV for its very simplicity and taste. Served with refreshing cucumber chunks, Deli Farm coppa and Porthilly oysters deep fried (and received with sighs), it was a true Cornish homage to sustainable ocean fare.
After surf, came the turf: hay roasted beef; blackened rounds of blade beef, wrapped and roasted in hay then cooked sous vide. The result was a fleeting taste of summer bonfires, followed by rich succulent beef notes, although mine was tough to cut with the butter knife. Accompanying the meat were coin-sized rounds of bone marrow (a little too pink for this normally offal-happy critic), heritage carrots (purple, orange and yellow) and a crisp beignet of roasted garlic cream.
The dessert was Tom’s masterpiece and a modernist canvas to summer: Cornish strawberries with chunks of elderflower jelly, a sprinkling of actual elderflowers, delicate sticks of meringue with sprinkles of black pepper and vanilla ice cream.
If the essence of summer could be captured conceptually, sensorily and visually then Tom had achieved exactly this throughout the meal – it was summer (or at least our ideal perception of it!) in food form; a sophisticated and fun distillation of an all-too-fleeting season.
Hugo’s sumptuous and generous cheese selection was, at this final full stage, a little neglected: Colston Bassett, Brie de Meaux and a Goldminster Vintage Reserve Cheddar were followed by some of the best coffee this side of Italy.
David’s wines were a constant talking point from the light summer sparkles of the Bruno Sorg Cremant d’Alsace Brut NV to the banana and pineapple notes of the 2009 Charles Hours Jurançon Sec Cuvée Marie with the mackerel and the fresh elderflower tang of the Malvasia Frizzante 2011, Castello Luzzano with dessert. The pièce de résistance however, was the Macon Charnay 2007, Les Perserons – a wine that actually echoed the taste of cheese and which was astonishing with, ah, the cheese. David confesses to having “long been a fan of rich, dry, white wine with cheese” – and explained the surprising taste of the wine: “This unusually rich Macon had lots of malolactic character: as part of the winemaking, malic acid (as in an apple) is changed to lactic acid (as in milk) and this creates a creamy character in the wine.”
Pop-up venues are a lot of fun and great value for money (this was just £35 a head with various wine options on top) but you have to be quick to get both your ticket (the next one with chef James Nathan is already sold out) and find out when the next one is happening. For more details on upcoming events contact Hugo at Relish 01208 814214, email@example.com or on Twitter @hugohercod.