Sunday 14 November 2010

Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 in Padstow

Our annual pilgrimage to the Cornish coast was one part “glamping” and another part fitness camp. On a frustratingly rainy day we stayed dry and cheery by conducting our own version of “Escape to the Country” by driving around looking for derelict wrecks to spruce up and turn into our dream house. We found a fabulous seven bedroom mansion with roses growing out of the tumbled down living room and dreamt of a new life of Cornish bliss. But when we got back to our campsite our hearts dropped when we saw that our tent had suffered a similar architectural disaster! My slapdash approach to securing the guy ropes had caused the business end of the tent to collapse and soaked all our bedding inside.


To her credit Cowie didn’t blame me in the slightest, but we both knew it was my hopelessness that had caused the catastrophe. We had planned to cook dinner al fresco, but in an inspired moment we decided instead to see if we could get a table somewhere good and not Steiny in Padstow.

“Not a problem Sir. We’re looking forward to seeing you,” were the words from the charming telephonist at Paul Ainsworth’s Number 6 restaurant that lifted our sodden spirits. In fact they were lifted so much that we decided to go for a sun downer 6 mile run to build up our appetite. So with chaffed nipples and an appetite the size of a dieting Texan we descended on Padstow.

We’ve been to Padstow a fair bit over the years with a very memorable stay at an eccentric BnB and a blow-out meal of lobster and all the trimmings at Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant, but we have recently started to pick up an unfriendly vibe from the village. Parking attendants are particularly officious. Shopkeepers refuse to give you change. Ice-cream-licking-tourists hang around with nothing to actually do. And finding somewhere to give you a decent cup of tea is almost impossible. So the warmth we were greeted with and the genuinely friendly service we received at Paul Ainsworth’s restaurant couldn’t have been more welcome.

Paul Ainsworth is a talented chef who earned his stripes within the Gordon Ramsay Empire at The Greenhouse and Petrus who upped sticks and headed west in 2008 to cook in Padstow. He worked to the orders of the then management before buying them out and taking over in the last year or so. Since then, according to our waiter, the restaurant has taken on a new lease of life and is being touted, by some, as a Michelin starred restaurant in waiting.

We immediately warmed to the restaurant which was ablaze with rosy cheeks, the hubble bubble of merry laughter and the glistening twinkle of licked-clean-plates. The menu is full of locally sourced produce and just as many fun ideas that make you want to sample every single item.

Feeling exhausted after our run I chose to feed my weary muscles with as much iron-y meat as possible. So a starter of Charles Macleod black pudding with Dave Thomasson scallops and carrot cream was as welcome as a scalding hot Radox bath. Both the perfectly cooked scallops and black pudding were worthy of bearing their maker’s name on the menu.

Cowie’s beef carpaccio salad with pea shoots and horseradish was so delicious that I was barely allowed a mouthful. But that one little taster was stunning.

The star of the show was a rather dull sounding “day boat plaice with sea greens, brown shrimps and sweet corn salsa”. It was a single-handed demonstration of just how fine plaice can be. It had been poached in a flavoursome liquor which left it quivering like a petrified toddler who’s just seen their Wendy House go up in flames. All the elements worked together perfectly and we just wished, like at Relais de Venise, that they would bring out a second portion!

My Cornish lamb's liver with braised bacon, lettuce and a tomato fondue couldn’t have been more what I wanted. It was as if Paul Ainsworth had judged my mood and cooked exactly what my body wanted but my mind hadn’t realised. The liver was tender, pink and perfectly seasoned whilst the braised bacon and lettuce was a pitch perfect counterpoint. The tomato fondue was a clever twist on the classic grilled version that normally comes with liver and bacon. It was a great example of how the chef tried to apply his own twist on classic dishes.

We shared a wonderful dessert of Boddingtons strawberries, thyme, cheesecake and strawberry sorbet. It almost ended in a fight as I absent-mindedly demolished far more than my fair share having said that I wasn’t really in a pudding mood! If you want to avoid arguments ruining the end of your meal, you might want to have their, rather pricey, dessert tasting slate.

As the evening drew to a close and the other guests all left we found ourselves having a enthusiastic conversation with our waiter who could not have been more passionate about food and hospitality if he had tried. I’ve since read an interview with Paul Ainsworth where he speaks about his young team with enormous pride – and it is easy to see why. It’s this sort of youthful passion that is infectious and helped to make our evening far more than the sum of its excellent parts.

Photo from the Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 Facebook page

Further Reading

You can follow Paul Ainsworth on Twitter or like the restaurant on Facebook which is a good idea given that their website is “under construction”
Review in The Telegraph
Glowing reviews on Tripadvisor
How to make Tongue-n-Cheek by Paul Ainsworth


Muhammad Qasar Rafiq said...
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Cakelaw said...

I am planning a trip to the UK and wasnted to include Cornwall on the itinerary, but the lack of friendliness is a bit of a worry. However, it sounds as though a trip to Paul Ainsworth's establishment is a must.

Jonathan said...

@Cakelaw - You should definitely put this on your list. And if you are in Padstow for more than one night try Margots as well. I've heard it's great.


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