Having studied TEFL in Truro ten years ago, I have really fond memories of The Old Ale House during our Saturday study sessions. They always sold a selection of homemade local wines, as well as everything you’d expect on a pub bar, and in that sense have always had an interest in the provenance of the area. There was a huge barrel of monkey nuts for people to chomp on, and their shells decorated the floor in an old-fashioned spit ‘n’ sawdust kind of way.
This summer, they had a fantastic competition to showcase their new menu to the public. Strategised by probably the nicest lady in PR, Harry Wild, the event gave 100 families the chance to dine for free. Celebrating the collaboration between River Cottage and Skinner’s Brewery, all chefs are trained at River Cottage, where their menu inspiration comes from. We were offered the review opportunity, having failed to make a previous press launch.
This particular menu being the summer one is a celebration of all things summer. From barbecued ribs to fish n chips, and some of the lighter salad-y summer meals, everything is cooked in a rustic River Cottage style. Everything is as locally sourced as possible, and the menu explains this, to really emphasise it.
Since the offer was open to families, and there were tables consisting of every family combination you could imagine, I’d unreservedly say this is an all rounder. Pub prices make it an affordable choice, and its central location makes it a great stop off whilst battling the throng of human traffic whilst shopping.
In a word
The actual pub downstairs has decided to really play on the spit ‘n’ sawdust theme by shaving actual sawdust all over the floor. Whilst this does look a little contrived (the floor is spotless outside of it), it creates the same kind of atmosphere that locals and regulars will assimilate with The Old Ale House.
Above is a sample of the menu, showcasing its focus on provenance and how the collaboration has included River Cottage Ale, Skinners’ Betty Stogs and Apple Slayer from the Cornwall Cider Co. Subtly using alcohol to flavour the seasonal menu demonstrates a commitment to keeping things as local as possible, and using what is immediately available. All those years ago when I was head chef in a pub, sausage and cider casserole and steak and ale pie were mainstays that really brought the pub into grub.
Their full menu can be viewed here.
Did someone say crab? Whenever there’s crab on the menu, I’ll be lurking somewhere nearby, and as it happened some crabby croquettes were included in the sharing fish platter. As well as some freshly pickled mackerel and beetroot, and beer battered bites of fish.
Presentation is key to the River Cottage ethos, and everything is presented as you imagine Hugh would serve it to you if you popped over for dinner.
Again, offering a selection from seaside classics to summery tartiflette, the mains had something for everyone. The ‘tache had Apple Slayer slow cooked belly pork, pan-fried Cornish mids, courgettes and peppers, with caper and mint dressing. The capers cut through the creamy fat of the belly pork, and everything was topped with pea shoots, which presented really well, and tasted great. A good mix of flavours certainly tasted of summer.
I had tartiflette, having recently made one based on Monica Galletti’s trip to Franche-Comté, from which she gave the recipe for a Comté tartiflette. This one uses Cornish Brie, which is delicious and oozy. Traditional and rustic, there were crunchy bits of rind on the top and a local leaf salad to accompany the bubbling cheese. Somehow my camera played up, so there is no picture, but you can use your oozing imagination.
And the winner is…
So, there was not really a competition as such, but it is actually not often I am so blown away by dessert. Presentation wise and for the taste. All hail the dessert chef at the Old Ale House, as these were a triumph.
A light and summery pannacotta with summer berries, meringue shards, Skinner’s rhubarb and custard cider syrup, decorated with citrusy wood sorrel infused the lightness of summer and some fresh and zingy flavours that left a tingle on the lips.
I, of course, had the dark chocolate mousse with burnt cinder toffee. Luckily the bitterness of the cinder toffee was countered by enough sweetness and creaminess from the mousse.
As it was during the week that we visited, I was not drinking and just made use of the jugs of water pre-emptively left on the table. I always appreciate this simple gesture, as I am always thirsty and don’t like to feel that asking for water is an inconvenience.
The ‘tache had the River Cottage EPA, at 4%, which was clearly agreeable, as he smashed a couple or three in our time at The Old Ale House Truro.
As pub food goes, these guys are doing it really well: classic and simple flavours, lots of booze and reasonable prices. The pub downstairs still has a traditional feel,and the restaurant is just decorated in a humble and rustic kind of way, that makes use of the light and airy space upstairs. If you want to try some simple, local food cooked well then I definitely recommend popping into the Old Ale House.