Paul Ainsworth at No.6, Padstow

Had our booking at Paul Ainsworth been three-to-four weeks earlier, I am almost certain that my thoughts would have been different. The diary had been unkind to it, sticking it on the end of a six week spell of gluttony that saw a trip to a food mecca sandwiched either side by multiple starred restaurants and some others pushing for similar accolades. Aside from a bulging waistline, this brings another problem, one that comes from short-term saturation of too much of the good stuff. We had a stable memory for ingredient quality, for seasoning and technique, and for service. I could still taste some of the best dishes we had. Coming out to play last they were always on an uphill battle, though that is not an excuse for them never getting out of second gear.

I don’t have much negative to say about our meal here, though I’ll struggle to hit superlatives over the next few hundred words. The building is nice, in particular the very smart CiCi’s bar upstairs, and the staff are eager to please. On arrival we get a nibble of deep fried Porthilly oyster with a smoked cod roes dip that is fairly unremarkable, followed by nice bread with two types of butter; one a sunflower yellow, the other caramelised. The former is okay, the latter unique and slightly unpleasant.

I’d been looking forward to the starter for a long time. A ragout of Jacobs ladder with tagliatelle sounds right up my alley, the kind of reinterpretation of homely cooking that gets me a little giddy in these kind of places. The ragu meat is lovely though it is too light; the late application of tomato concasse and a splash of vinegar has taken it too far away from its roots. The pasta is marginally too thick, though has nice flavour. It has little in the way of identity and is very light on seasoning. I’m disappointed.

Smoked haddock quiche Lorraine is another starter that sounded better on paper than the reality. The portion of haddock is generous and nicely smoked, the pastry case underneath rich with lardons, onions and an oozy egg yolk. The dollop of salty caviar gives it a nice luxury seasoning, with the whole thing covered in a foam that tastes of little, if anything at all. I thought foams had died by now. Claire sums it up with a subtle shrug of her dainty shoulders. “It’s alright”, she says, “we’ve just eaten so much better recently”.

The frustrations continue into the mains. There is some good stuff bought down a level or two by the company it keeps. A new take on Tournedos Rossini has chicken replacing beef as the protein. The poultry has been rolled with a duxelle stuffing and is unforgivably dry given that Michelin has bestowed this building with a star. Around this lay ceps, the rock star of the mushroom world, though these are lacking in the intensity of flavour that the very best have. The best bit is the brioche and liver parfait which crowns the chicken, the parfait in particular packing a real punch. The side bowl of peas, lettuce and bacon, again light on seasoning, does little for the dish. The other main was mutton in a rich suet pie, with a moat of red garlic ketchup. This eats far better than the other main; bold in taste, meaty, and with a nice acidity from the ketchup. On the side this time is fricassee of sweetbread, consisting of mostly cucumber and one solitary thumbnail sized piece of sweetbread. We order a side of asparagus that arrives on the bill later that evening priced at £10 for five spears and praise ourselves on not ordering the two portions they suggested. The table of four next to us are going to have a shock when their bill arrives and they have a £40 bill for twenty spears.

Dessert sees them up their game. A cheese course of sorts has a fat wedge of Barkham Blue served alongside a little jug of cider and a slice of tarte tatin. It is a combination that makes perfect sense, the salt and sweetness in harmony. It’s lovely, held together by some top quality ingredient and a killer tarte tatin that has apples just holding their shape and lots of caramel. The bread and butter pudding seems a perfect way to finish the evening. The cubes of bread in a custard-like sauce dotted with rum soaked raisins, covered in a chocolate ginger snap. On the this goes cream, with a puddle of sherry for good measure. It’s bloody brilliant; that spark we’ve been waiting for all evening. It has character in abundance, is fun, and most of all is an improvement on the original.

Service was considered, if a little keen on the upsell at times, and there was an issue with a glass full of sediment that I personally felt could have been handled better. We pay a bill of £180 for the above, a bottle of Beaujolais, two cocktails, and a glass of dessert wine. Not a life changing amount of money for dinner, but one that I expect not to be littered with small errors. Paul Ainsworth comes across on television as a cheerful and passionate chef, and everyone I know in the industry says he is one of the good guys. As much as I wanted to enjoy No.6 it left me a little disappointed. There is a playfulness to the concepts of each plate that simply doesn’t translate into the eating, which coupled with some erratic seasoning issues left me feeling cold.


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Rojano’s in The Square, Padstow

I can’t remember the name of our waiter, but I would like to publically extend an apology to him. I am sorry for the jokes straight out of the seventies, and my personal state which went from nicely pissed to pathetically wasted. I had no idea that Bin Two was such a lovely place to sit in the sun, or that one drink would turn into two G&T’s and five glasses of wine before dinner, so I when I continually pestered you for the arancini as dessert and petit fours, it was the grape juice talking. Even if I could have easily eaten twenty more of them.

Now, if you hadn’t guessed by now, this short piece is 100% seen whilst wearing my beer googles. But I can confidently tell you with way more certainty than how we got home, that this place would have been bloody lovely even if I were sober and it was raining outside and the pretty lady sitting opposite me was trying to talk Kardashians with me. It starts with those arancini filled with a peppery Bolognese, with a truffle and madeira dip that adds a earthy quality without detracting from the richness. And a special of gypsy eggs, which is really just baked eggs with tomato and chorizo, and three fat spears of local asparagus to dunk with. Unlike any gypsies I’ve met these are clean in taste and polite. Just like gypsies, I would gladly marry it if it were related. But those arancini. They were the best thing we ate all weekend, which included a trip to the other Paul Ainsworth restaurant in town that happens to be bestowed with a star.

Being Italian in notion, we order a pizza and pasta for mains. I’m mocked for my choice of pizza by the equally wasted partner, who points out that I may as well be in Pizza Express. Piss off Claire and get back to your wine. The Diavola has a thin sourdough base that doesn’t do much for me, though what this lacks in character is made up by a tomato base with bags of attitude. The salami on top is of obvious quality and the roquito, jalapeños, and chilli peppers add varying degrees of heat and fruitiness. Liberal blobs of proper mozzarella are just plain naughty. The crusts get taken through the last of the dip which came with the arancini. Oh those arancini.

The other main is the kind of bastardisation that would usually have me sweating for mucking about with the classics, but here, well I like it. We have essentially what is carbonara with pork meatballs. The pasta is fresh and, don’t tell anyone, better in texture than the tagliatelle the night before at No.6. The egg yolk still warming through on the pasta adds a lusciousness, whilst the back note of madeira is unexpected but welcome. The meatballs have little interference other than the taste of pig. It’s a very good bowl of pasta. Fat bronzed chips were totally unnecessary but quickly gobbled down after a dredging through a mustardy mayonnaise.

Dessert has one ice cream based option called a Whoopsie Splunker, presumably a description of what will happen to me if I eat that much dairy. We pass, finish up on the wine and pay a bill of £80 for the two of us. The following day whilst stuck in traffic on the A30 we discuss the meal, concluding that it is was more than just the wine that made it so jolly. When done this well, good Italian food can awaken the soul; it’s nourishing and dare I say it, sexy. Not that any of that was happening in our little cottage, we were too busy sleeping off the booze and the food, dreaming of Bolognese filled arancini.


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Fifteen Cornwall, Watergate Bay

I have a real soft spot for North Cornwall.  It’s rugged and handsome.  Where the south of the county is a refined collection of postcard perfect towns and villages which require sunshine, the north is a thing of beauty all year round.  I prefer it in winter, all windswept and daring, when the sea is vivacious and the sun occasionally beats through the clouds and transcends the vast beaches from a dull yellow to golden.  It’s less busy.  I can walk on the beach without crowds.  I can get a table at the places I want to eat at more easily.  Both of these things are important to me.

One of the places I have been keen to eat at is Fifteen Cornwall, a social enterprise from Jamie Olivier.  It’s easy to bash Olivier, others do frequently and I have in the past, yet the fact remains that his cooking has inspired a generation of home cooks, myself included once again.  I own several of his cookbooks; his onion gravy recipe is now mine.  And the restaurant serves to help those less advantage.  If it sounds like I am trying to justify eating at one of his restaurants, it’s because I did.  The reality is that we could have had lunch at Paul Ainsworth’s No. 6 restaurant for less, yet here we are, putting our empty stomachs in the hands of apprentices.


Those apprentices and this program are doing great.  At it’s best Fifteen Cornwall stands up with some of the finer Italian cooking found anywhere on this Isle.  Antipasto lives and dies and the quality of the produce and obvious care has been taken in this department.  High quality ‘Nduja thickly spread on toast is all fire and spice, arancini is an earthy mixture of al dente rice and spongey mushroom.  We go a little bit crazy over the soft Cotechino sausage with salsa verde, less so over the metallic strips of charred pepper which end up an accessory to the other dishes.  A bread basket has good sourdough and an outstanding focaccia which tastes like aerated olive oil.

Cream laden burrata is the centre point for scoops of roasted squash that are just about holding their shape.  There is a comfort about the plate, underpinned by warming leafs of crispy sage.  It’s simplistic, maybe overly so, but then the best things in life are.


Buccatini are fat ramen-noodle-like tangles of pasta, coated in a fiery tomato sauce.  The sauce was deep and rich, with plenty of chilli heat and something more sinister lurking behind (vodka, I think?! I’ve been wrong before).  Densely packed beef meatballs complete the generous portion, though these are too heavy to finish.  Compared to this a dish of pork belly is refined, the skin finely scored to fine strips of taught crackling.  The meat is unctuous and tender, the braised lentils underneath just cooked.  My scepticism towards a vivid green anchovy and herb dressing is short lived; it is clean, vibrant, and salty – the perfect foil for the fatty cut of pig.



Desserts give us less to get excited over.  A pear cake has lost the essence of the fruit in amongst the heady spices, and ricotta donuts are a little stodgy in texture.  Both have redeeming features;  the cake’s toffee sauce and the donuts chocolate dipping pot are decadent to the point of being plain naughty.  The high point is a brick of tiramisu, doused in amaretto and restrained in sweetness.  It is a grown up dessert, elegant and well balanced.

Unfortunately, if the kitchen came out with there guns blazing, front of house must have ran out of bullets.  Service was poor, bordering on abysmal at times.  We were abandoned by one server, another eventually taking over and completely forgetting to bring the wine which I specifically ordered for the pork.  I can forgive most things but please, I beg you, do not come between me and fermented grapes.  Other than that, it was bloody lovely.  Like, seriously bloody lovely.  Proper Italian, cooked with care and attention.  We need one in Birmingham, where the Italian food is generic crap and I struggle to find a carbonara that doesn’t have cream in it.  Plus we have plenty of less advantaged youngsters who would kill (not literally.  Bad choice of word.) for this type of training.  Come to Birmingham and I promise to eat there once a month.  I’ll even forgive the forgotten glass of wine. C’mon, Jamie, I can’t say fairer than that.


Fifteen Cornwall Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


The Mariners, Rock


No trip to Cornwall would be complete without a visit to Rock. Whether or not the Camel estuary tide is in, there cannot be many places as equally beautiful and dramatic. It is easy to see why it’s my partners favourite place in North Cornwall though amid the long stretches’ of sand and view over to Padstow I have always found it too aloof to meet my ideal. You can smell the money in the air here. The promenade has 4×4’x as chunky as the knitwear wrapped over the shoulders as its drivers, whilst on the beach has pure-bred dogs nearly as large as its owners trust fund. With such wealth, it is completely understandable why Nathan Outlaw had until recently based his two Michelin star restaurant here. He has since upped and moved to a larger premises and the passing trade of Doc Martin in nearby Port Isaac, leaving behind a gap to fill in the local market. In it’s place is The Mariners, a much more casual offering, steering away from the precise seafood Outlaw has made a name from and in to much more familiar pub food territory.


Mini chorizo sausages seemed a good place to start a light lunch. Five of them, good meaty things, for a fiver. See, I told you Rock was expensive. A sausage sandwich, picked from the specials menu, saw wonderful things done with onions braised in ale. Less wonderful were the sausages itself, with the casing flaccid in parts from not being sufficiently browned off. Fries were fine.



On paper a main of pork schnitzel, fried duck egg, anchovies and rocket salad sounded heavenly, though by the time it reached the table the pork had dried out a little and the egg yolk had progressed some distance past runny.  The anchovies were of a high quality and suggested that despite the carnivore offerings, perhaps fish really is the way to go when in a Outlaw establishment.  A meatless Bourguignon had chunks of beetroot as the main element, along with button mushroom, baby onions and a dollop of sour cream for freshness.  It had nice acidity from wine but ultimately was Death by Beetroot.  I get that its the trendy vegetable of the last few years but there is only so many times you can dip a spud into some spiked beet juice before worrying what it might be doing to your bowel movements.



We never bothered with dessert, mostly because the opportunity for a sunset walk was too enticing, though a glance at a nearby tables indicated that we may have been missing out.  There is no question that The Mariners is going to be a huge success; even on a warm December afternoon both inside and out on the terrace was heaving.  They have the location, the great beers and the backing of a superstar chef, though, for the standards that Nathan Outlaw has set, it felt very much to me like work in progress.


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