PADSTOW: NUMBER 6: NIL, BIN TWO: ONE
The whole issue of food bloggers taking pictures is becoming an interesting one.
Dos Hermanos are pretty shameless in whipping out our digitals and snapping away and few restaurants seem to have a problem with it.
Of the ones that do, there seems to be two arguments against the practice.
First there is the school of J Sheekey, The Ivy, Scott’s etc where the unspoken but obvious premise is that someone taking photos of their meal, even without a flash, may be a distraction to the more important part of their clientele, the famous folk. It’s a stupid reason and just serves to re-enforce the two tier system of dining that operates in such places. But, at least it is honest and pretty up front.
The second school of thought was exemplified last night by the good people of Number 6 in Padstow where we were ask to “restrain” ourselves from taking pictures because and I quote “ it is not a fair representation of the presentation of the food”
This displays a level of pretension and self delusion that is hardly supported by what was by any standards a meal of such supreme blah-ness that the definition will need re writing.
First though, the enjoyable part of the day. We arrived in Padstow after that long old train journey, dumped our bags and headed straight to Bin Two, a wine store owned by our good chum David McWilliams who was fully prepared for our arrival with a chilled bottle of Manzanilla. He added to our view that he is one of the finest of men by suddenly producing a 6 kg bag of pork scratchings from which we were allowed to choose all the choice bits. Big fatty chewy bits of porky goodness that wash down perfectly with a salty sherry.
A few pints and a brief rest later, we were ready for supper and headed for Number 6 less than thirty seconds from our B&B.
The menu outside reads well. Very well in fact with lots of reference to local sourcing and seasonal ingredients and so it should with a London pricing of £38 for two courses and £45 for three. For that kind of money, it shouldn’t just read well it should eat well and be well served in a lovely room. Unfortunately, we got none of the above.
The room, with its austere decorations and chequered floor, is cold and unwelcoming and the table settings shriek “café/bistro” not star schtick which is an aim so tangible they should perhaps all wear badges reading “please love me Michelin”
While the service could certainly never be called unfriendly it was rigid and overly formal.
The food? Well, it certainly showed technique aplenty and would possibly win prizes for number of ingredients on any plate but showed no signs of passion or indeed any enjoyment in its creation. A lack of zest that came through in every muted biteful.
I wish I could show you pictures so you can see for yourself, but after we had sampled some adequate bread, I snapped a picture of a quite passable amuse of Arancini and Foie mousse and was immediately asked by the front of house not to take any more. When I asked why they had this policy, they said that others had visited, taken pictures and put them on food websites previously and they did not show off the food to its best.
So this was not about the possible distraction to others by the use of a flash or about the fact that Mr A List Celeb may be dining with some dropsy who is not his wife at a nearby table. This is about the fact that Chef Patron, one Paul Ainsworth doesn’t think that food bloggers have the right to take pictures of food they have paid £75 a head for because it is not going to look as good as shots he may have taken professionally. I will leave you to decide if you think that is fair. Me? I thought it a bit silly.
Back to the food. For HP, a starter of pork belly that had been poached and roasted and then served with pickled tongue and a rhubarb and foie salad. It should be a stellar dish as it contains just about everything I love. Instead, the tastes I stole from HP’s plate saw a excellent pieces of pork with a crunch to the skin, being let down by plate companions that offered nothing.
It was, however, better than my own starter, a tartar of Mackerel, advocado and elderflower with a deep fried egg and cucumber salad. The egg was overcooked to a solid yolk and the tartar could have contained anything with the mackerel smothered by the dressing and a topping of unnecessary Avruga caviar.
We both opted for Turbot as a main course as little else on the list appealed. Dusted in five spice, it was served with oxtail cottage pie, creamed cabbage and spring peas. That the peas came in the form of a tempura was a harmless bit of frippery. That the turbot was so horribly over salted that I could only eat two bites before pushing it to the side of my plate is not quite so acceptable. It didn’t matter that they offered to cook another piece, I was almost finished with the rest of the dish by then. It didn’t matter that the rest of the ingredients were actually quite good, they were not the reason I ordered this dish. If you are going to get the main ingredient of your main course so horribly wrong, then you are in a bit of bother.
Like wise a £4 plate of asparagus with summer truffle that came to the table as limp as a sitcom involving Harry Enfield.
Paul Ainsworth , from what I can gather, is a former apprentice of Marcus Waering and, from on the evidence of my last trip to Petrus, it shows. Decent ingredients, lots of cheffy stylings, main courses that disappoint and a lack of passion in the whole affair that sucks enjoyment from the air like a Dyson.
Ironically, or perhaps not, the only part of the meal that even caused a raised eyebrow was a pre-dessert, just as it did at Petrus. This time, a small cone of bubblegum ice cream that HP, rightly identified as tasting like Bazooka Joe.
Desserts were up a notch but, a decent tarte tatin came with an unannounced sauce of “Baileys” custard which, given my allergy to coffee could have been interesting for both me and the restaurant as I swelled up to the size of a balloon and stopped breathing. Fortunately, I heard the front of house mention the word as she poured it over the tarte and she whisked it away and brought me the other half sans death in pouring form. Not bad at all.
HP had the chocolate moelleux which was fine, but added little to the meal.
With a bottle of over priced Fleurie at £36 and a service charge the bill was £150 which would be a lot for London but is far too much even for “ Chelsea on Sea” down here in Cornwall particularly for an experience that did little to change my low expectations of high end dining in the UK these days.
No photos of the meal then, but perhaps I could take a picture of the receipt to remind me how we came to pay £150 for a meal so ordinary I am going to struggle to remember what we ate without some visual aid. Mind you, that may be a good thing.