The type of cuisine
Tapas. But these ain’t no ordinary tapas, foo!
In a word
With its lush views over Polzeath beach, the hotel has rooms with a budget to suit most people wanting to stay for a break near to Cornwall’s blue flag surfing beaches. Offering a fine dining experience and a more relaxed tapas menu at The Seaside, St. Moritz Hotel tries to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, and the prices reflect that. You’re gonna pay a bit more than you would for a pasty, but hell, it is worth the splash. Anyone who loves sharing, families, couples and friends will all find this a great place to relax and eat some amazing flavours.
On the hottest day this year, we took a trip across the county to visit the rockier beaches and soak up some sun with editor Jack when he came to visit. Growing up in Boscastle, Rock, and even the St. Mortiz Hotel were household words, as I had friends who worked at the hotel. Sort of seventies chic characterised the outside of this hotel, which still had a retro vibe, and some contemporary touches. To me it looked like the apartment blocks of Cullera, Gandía, Javea: Spain’s Valencian beaches. Though without the crowding, and set against the azure backdrop of the Cornish coast, The St. Moritz pulled it off.
Who does lunch?
I mean, this is something we rarely fit into our busy schedules, especially on a school day. But as we were taking the trip ‘up that way’ to speak to Cornish gin maker Tarquin Leadbetter, we thought we’d pop in and check out what chef Jamie Porter has been up. We’ve heard a lot about him lately…
Apparently the protégé of the likes of Rick Stein and Michel Roux, that boy certainly had some skills when it came to creating some of the best tapas this side of Andalusia. Seriously.
Son of a beach?
Named The Seaside, the restaurant used classic beach huts to line the lawn and add the essence of British holiday to an otherwise Mediterranean vibe. How these were used wasn’t clear, but they were bright and pretty to look at; reminding me of holidays to Littlehampton. Outside in some of the hottest temperatures we’ve had this year, the furniture was stylish seventies-esque outdoor seating.
Inside the restaurant had a contemporary take on the sixties/ seventies kind of décor, which I found really warming and relaxed. Perfect for if the weather had not been so splendid, The Seaside has a semi-open kitchen, so you can see the food being cooked when you’re near the bar.
One of the best things about tapas menus is being able to legit order everything you want, instead of panicking about ordering the wrong thing. Anyone else get that same anxiety? Anyway, holy shit! There was a lot to choose from, and just as you thought you were done ordering, then something else would stand out. A great mix of classic Spanish tapas like Galician roulette peppers pimientos de Padrón and the best crispy calamari I’ve ever had, with locally caught seafood, this was a menu that felt as if it had been created with me in mind!
Having lived in the mountains near Valencia, the food here had surprisingly Galician roots, with its paprika flavoured octopus and aforementioned peppers. There were influences from the quality produce sourced too, such as heritage tomatoes with mozzarella, and violet artichokes. Evidently provenance is important to Jamie, as would be the case with any Cornish chef who takes pride in the locale.
Seafood caught from fishing boats that we could probably have seen if it wasn’t for the heat haze tasted every kind of amazing. The Spanish prawns were deliciously salty; tasting of the sea more than some of the cheap, washed out prawns I’ve had served up. Prioritising provenance, we also had a mackerel escabeche, which would have been sweet, if it wasn’t balanced with the parmesan purée, which added a saltiness. Mackerel is landed frequently off the coast of Cornwall, and this was a fresh as you like. I even lucked out and had a Porthilly oyster, again from just down the road.
Cured tuna was thinly sliced and served simply with little gem and parmesan. The tuna carried the salty flavour of serrano style hams, but with an umami hit too. I said it before, but the chopitos, or calamari were salted, crispy and cooked absolutely perfectly. I tried a lot of calamari when I lived in Spain, and have had several in the UK too. None were as good as these; Jamie! I salute you. Served with peppery rocket, and homemade aioli, the flavours went well with the salty creaminess and I would eat, like, 5 of them right now if I could! Melt in the mouth, the texture was what really demonstrated that this boy can cook. Incredible.
Galician octopus is a tricky one to get right too. The octopus has to be boiled prior to making the dish, and at my favourite sidreria in Spain, this dish was hit and miss. If the octopus is over boiled; it’s of course really tough, and no amount of paprika, olive oil, salt or potatoes can counter the rubbery texture. This was delicate, a little sweet from the rice-vinegar taste of the pickling juice, and melt-in-the-mouth. A bit too sweet for both Jack and I, but the ‘tache couldn’t get enough of it. Most amazing texture I have had with this dish also. Really intelligent seafood.
Whilst, for me, the seafood absolutely stole the show, the vegetables were delicious as well. Sweet and earthy, the violet artichokes were really good with everything and added a creaminess to the meal. The heritage tomatoes were fresh and sweet, with citric flavours. Unfortunately, they had run out of buffalo mozzarella, so we opted for Cornish Gouda as a replacement. Mainly so Jack could taste it. I’m already besotted with their fenugreek Gouda.
As is customary, the peppers were just blistered in olive oil and soft and chewy. Flavoured with nothing but salt, these were as good as any I had in Spain; just could have eaten more of them! Nobody got an especially hot one, but that’s the fun thing about eating Padron peppers: the element of surprise. Once in Madrid, I had some kick ass ones right by its trendy Matadero arts space.
We ordered a goat’s cheese salad with beetroot and roasted walnuts. The pickled flavour of the beetroot cut through the often claggy goat’s cheese really well, and the roasted walnuts added texture, as well as an earthiness. I’d have had more of the seafood in a heartbeat, but that’s not to say the veggie side of things wasn’t well covered: everything packed some serious flavour!
You can say that again Rodders! OK, my shoddy Only Fools reference aside, the duck burger was well presented. I’ll let the picture do the talking about that, suffice to say it looked a real showstopper. Since I am effectively a non-meat eater, apart from the Inkie’s debacle, I left this one to my compadres. The verdict was split. Rich and earthy, the duck had a sweet and sharp quince jam with it, which the ‘tache argued balanced the whole thing. Jack deemed it too sweet. There was also this pork scratching on the top, which gave effect, and added texture, but added no flavour of note and seemed a bit incongruous. This is nitpicking, though. The food was incredible.
Overall, the food was seriously good, and very reasonable for its cost.
A thought should definitely be added for the amazing wine we had. A hot and hazy day made just the right setting for a crisp and light Riesling, which kind of tasted ever so slightly peachy. It had some kick ass packaging too, which shouldn’t matter, but did!
A chilled vibe, some great views and again the best tapas I’ve had in England, this is pretty much as must visit if you’re in Cornwall. Certainly if you’re on the north coast and anywhere near Padstow, Rock, Polzeath or Port Isaac. I can’t wait to go back and try out the fine dining restaurant too, when we’re in the area. Jamie lived up to his reputation, and it will be really interesting to see what happens next for one of Cornwall’s most exciting chefs. To cut a very long story short: Go! And see for yourself.
The hotel offer gourmet mini breaks, which include visits to other reputable restaurants in the area, like Jamie’s Fifteen and Rick Stein’s seafood. Information and sample menus can be viewed over at www.stmoritzhotel.co.uk
Tel: 01208 862242
Fax: 01208 862262
St Moritz Hotel