So the restaurant critic goes on tour (well working holiday at least) and finds himself in Padstow, ah yes, glorious ‘fish central’ the home of some of the finest fish restaurants in Cornwall. That is undisputed, but, and this is very important for many a diner, what if you don’t fancy fish for your supper? Well I’ve found a very interesting option indeed. Paul Ainsworth at Number 6, it’s a very classy joint – with extremely high standards of food and wines with no pretences. You will not be expected to wear a jacket, tie or even socks if you don’t want to!
Paul has undoubted credentials, he has worked with Garry Rhodes, Marcus Wareing, oh, and 3 years with Gordon at Royal Hospital Road, yes that Gordon and that Royal Hospital Road. So this calm, talented young chef who put his name above the door a few years ago has much be pleased with. He has surrounded himself with professional and charming front of house staff with knowledge of what they are serving so extensive it is beyond impressive. At times I felt I was in a parallel universe of culinary education. This is what I loved about this place, there is a passion and cognition so often missing or just hinted at in other high-end restaurants, but Number 6 delivers on all levels. I asked many questions and all were greeted with glee as they were answered in full and with embellishments! I admire a restaurant where you can find out about everything on your plate.
I have mentioned that this is not really a fishy restaurant but I thought I’d try the Smoked Haddock anyway which came sitting on some Stornoway Black Pudding with a silky Vichyssoise holding it all together and a poach quails egg for good measure. The only thing I would say about this is it was a shame it wasn’t a main course, as I just wanted to eat it all over again. The Black Pudding offset the gentle south coast Smoked Haddock (yes, I asked where it was smoked). All in all a triumph of a dish that provided clear and defined flavours yet as a combination a perfect mix – I don’t think a chef or patron could ask for more. My other half had something billed as Goose and Pickles which emerged as a Goose Liver Parfait in a clear glass lidded jar with a layer of what I would be tempted to call ‘Goose Mousse’ on the bottom such was its lightness and a kind of deconstructed Piccalilli with fresh herbs and the odd flower sitting on top to add texture. This was all presented with some Pumpkin Seed Toast. When it came to the crunch, the cutting freshness of this combination of suede Parfait and topping more than held its own.
Now you may think by now that there is nothing wrong with Number 6, well there might be for some people. It’s a very higgledy-piggledy layout, with little turns and twists here and there, the tables are a touch too small for my liking but are not cramped together, so given the choice I’d rather have more elbow than side plate room.
It was once a Georgian house, which explains its curious ways but I think this adds to the charm of having a great meal on holiday in an unexpected location. It’s not on the quay, more in the hinterland of Padstow and it looks just like a house from the outside. All these are all pluses, and an attraction for me. I could spend hours wandering around these tiny back streets.
Now, some more food came along which was bold and interesting. Mr Ainsworth knows how to bring the best out of what’s available, as of course many of the fresh ingredients are close to hand. Cornwall has a rich larder and he uses it to the full here.
I had Braised Ox Cheek and Raw Rump this was a dish of two halves really. Firstly a Vietnamese broth of pak choi, chilli, beef and egg noodles and separately served chervil soup to be poured all over and then a giant ball of succulent and smooth Ox Cheek sitting resplendently on top – the deserved king of the platter. Very good but maybe a touch too much salt in the broth, but we are by the sea and maybe that’s the way they do it down here. My other half enjoyed her Cornish Lamb Shoulder served with sweetbreads, beetroot and the now near essential cow’s curd. This was rich and strong with slow cooked flavours really doing their job well. She enjoyed this very much.
Paul’s talents don’t just exist in the kitchen, earlier this year he appeared in BBC’s Great British Menu and won his round with his dessert ‘A Taste of the Fairground’ – don’t be surprised if you see him again soon on the merry-go-round that is TV food programmes.
I have, as regular readers will testify a great love of cheese and seeing it as a separate course – well yes, you guessed, I had to have some. There were five in all starting with a mild ‘White Nancy’ and working up to the regal and blissfully smooth and powerful ‘Berkham Blue’. They were all kept in superb condition and came with oatcakes, local biscuits and green tomato chutney. A mild ‘Little Riding’ made of unpasteurised sheep’s milk took my fancy as it was silky smooth and had a tasty rind. This was a good course to have over a longer lunch, as the servings were not too frugal or onerous in size – in fact just right (for me, anyway!)
The desserts here are very good, as can be proven by their winning televisual quality and they do not let the other courses down. We had an Espresso, which ‘popped’ in our mouths as we ate and a chic Hot Chocolate Moelleux with Passion Fruit Ice Cream and Banana that just oozed indulgence. The list went on. But the one that caught my eye and taste buds was just called Pineapple but was in reality cheesecake ravioli with pineapple as the ‘pasta’ and a nice helping of raspberries and ‘crumble’. This was not only fun also a treat for the eyes and tasted gooey and creamy with that sweet pineapple coming in at the end. Scrumptious. They were all scrumptious.
The food at Number 6 is exciting, innovative and (this is not a criticism) is refreshingly not fishy for Padstow. My tour of Cornwall continues and I think somehow that I’ll have to create another reason to return to ‘fish central’ and knock at number 6’s door once more. So if you are visiting Cornwall my advice is move off the quay and away from all the usual suspects and venture into the hinterland, it’s exciting and worth the extra walk, you never know, you might learn something.
6 Middle Street
Tel: 01841 532 093