I experienced what I think can only be described as food heaven this week. I was invited with a group of writers for an evening of fine dining at The Samphire Restaurant at The Headland Hotel in Newquay with their Head Chef Christopher Archambault.
As you can see from the photograph above, the hotel itself is beautiful and couldn’t really be set in a more stunning location. I suspect many of you will be thinking that it looks familiar and that’s because it was where the film of the Roald Dahl book The Witches was made. The photo isn’t my own, as it was slightly (massively) more windy and rainy when I was there.
Steeped in history having welcomed its first guests in June 1900, you can almost feel the history as you walk into The Headland Hotel. Obviously the inside has been modernised over the years, but very considerately. Simply put – it is beautiful.
The evening that I was invited to was a special evening with their chef Christ Archambault, who actually came and sat with us at the start of each course to talk about the food and chat to us.
At the start of each course we were also given a different wine to accompany our food and a wonderfully knowledgeable man (whose name I wish I could remember) told us a bit about each wine. As I was driving, I just had a sip of each, especially as I started the evening with a Tarquin’s Gin and Tonic.
The evening consisted of an eight course taster menu. Here is a quick run down of what we ate along with photographs;
Course 1 – Diver Scallop, Bone Marrow, Leek Scapes, Sake Bullshot and Caviar
This was a bonus course as there were meant to be 7 courses. This was the first time I had ever tried scallop and I really enjoyed it.
Course 2 – Cod, orange, chorizo, Headland samphire.
Some of the ingredients of the courses were actually foraged from around the headland itself and lots were also locally sourced. This course was the perfect balance of flavours.
Course 3 – Pigeon, rhubarb, sesame, hispi cabbage.
This was my favourite course, which surprised me as I never would have thought to order pigeon before. It was so soft and succulent though and the sweetness of the sesame, plus the slight tartness of the rhubarb was a phenomenal mix.
Course 4 – Curried Monkfish, Headland sea spinach, soba noodles, nori crisp, mango.
I’ve always thought that I wasn’t a fan of seafood, but the evening with Chris and his team’s wonderful cooking has made me realises I’m just not a fan of badly cooked seafood. The curry sauce was mild, but so tasty. The fish was melt in the mouth good and the noodles were just wonderful.
Course 5 – Aged rib-eye, ox cheek rissole, cumin carrot, parsley sauce, pommes soufflé.
Another delicious course, the pommes soufflé must be so tricky to make, but it really added to the aesthetics of the dish. I preferred the rib eye to the ox cheek, but both were good and tender.
Course 6 – Dark chocolate and lime, avocado ice cream
This tasted divine and in the photo below, that isn’t a brown plate – it is actually chocolate spray. Honestly I need more chocolate spray in my life, the dark chocolate was also the best dark chocolate I have ever tasted. So rich and the whole dish went so well together, basically perfection on a plate.
Course 7 – Strawberry and elderflower cream tart
This tart is just phenomenal, it looks beautiful and tastes even more so.
Course 8 – Truffled Cornish brie cheesecake, pickled grapes, sultana puree
This was the only course which sadly was a teeny bit of a disappointment to me. Entirely personal taste, but I am really not a fan of brie and even less so when it is on an otherwise delicious cheesecake. The rest of the dish was lovely, but the brie really didn’t do it for me sadly. Big cheese lovers though, I suspect would love it.
It was such a wonderful evening in great company and in such a beautiful place. The staff at The Headland Hotel are all so polite and courteous, they really make you feel so welcome. Chris Archambault is a genius in the kitchen and a thoroughly likeable person to boot. He pointed out that he couldn’t do what he does without a strong team.