MARGOT’S: WE ARE FAMILY
What is the most difficult restaurant in the UK to secure a table for supper?
The Ivy? Nah, Easy Peasy.
J Sheekey? Nope. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeasy.
The Wolesley? You kidding? Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeasy, Hands and Kneesy, One two Threesey.
The correct answer is of course, Margot’s Padstow. To quote Chef Patron, Adrian Oliver “ if my own mum came in and asked for a table tonight, I couldn’t fit her in” quite right too.
Now, this may have something to do with the fact that the place only has 22 covers but it has more to do with the fact that Margot’s is really rather good and people come back again and again and he is, consequently, packed to the gunwhales every night.
I know that, if it were in my neck of the woods, I would make Adrian even more sick of me than he became over our three night stay in Padstow. It is just my kind of place. Which probably explains why we ended up having two meals there on this visit.
I once wrote something nice about it on one of the food boards and a well known restaurant reviewer e-mailed me and asked if it was really any good or if I was just being kind. My response was that I would have been kind anyway, but fortunately I didn’t have to be as it really was very good.
Three years later, nothing has changed.
Our first Margot’s meal saw Dos Hermanos given the chance to play wicked Uncle Ernie to the two unsuspecting offspring of my chum Nick and his wife, Ann who had joined us for the long weekend. There are few things more enjoyable in life than telling a young innocent that the food in front of them is made from dead dog and the tears of crushed fairies and Nick’s two daughters provided suitable sparring partners for the evening’s entertainment when, that is, they could be prised away from their Nintendo’s.
We were really quite full already by the time we arrived having already grazed on ice cream, pasties and some Fish & Chips from Stein’s Shop on the harbour which turned out to be much better than expected. On top of which, a few glasses of fizz at BinTwo or base camp as it became known, were accompanied by the inevitable large bowl of porkie goodness in scratching form.
Despite that, walking into Margot’s and getting a big old waft of Duck Confit roasting is enough to heave one’s appetite back up to suitable levels and we were all soon bib in collar and knife & fork at the ready.
The joy of Adrian’s food is its simplicity. The food is not about him, it is about the ingredients. Mackerel is so fresh that little is done to it save a flash under the grill and a drizzle of herb butter. Goats cheese is grilled so it is crunchy on the outside and liquid in the middle, mussels come in a sauce of coriander and ginger which compliments rather than swamps. Lamb chops come pink as they should and, heaven forfend, taste of lamb. Best of all, the duck confit which is braised in its own fat until it is falling off the bone and then roasted to give the required crunch. It was three years since I last tried Margot’s version. My memory did not lead me astray. It really is the stuff of dreams.
But, as in all things, such simplicity takes skill and restraint. It is about the ingredients not about the chef. It is about letting the customer taste the food not guess how long the chef spent in catering college.
Adrian’s menu changes little and this gives him the confidence in his ingredients to let them speak for themselves. None of this is to suggest that he does not have any skills in the kitchen just that, like the man himself, Adrian’s food is unassuming and eager to please without showing off.
For many, the desserts at Margot’s, made by Claire, are the main event although there is a tendency to over cooking the Sticky toffee pudding so it can be a little dry. Not so this time and two portions of that and a chocolate parfait disappeared as quickly as they arrived.
Tea and Coffee came with some decent petits and some even better caramelised walnuts and brought the bill to about £165 for the four adults and two Gameboy addicts.
Good value by anyone’s reckoning.
Margot’s is not perfect, of course. Adrian seems pathologically incapable of passing the napkin test. He dismisses my idea of offering an “ all day breakfast” out of hand and Claire’s Muscat jellies are a tad on the misshapen side. But, these are small things and only slightly muted our enjoyment of an otherwise fine meal.
So fine, in fact, that when Adrian and David from BinTwo suggested Margot’s could be used as a venue for a full on family style lunch the next day, we all leapt at the chance to return and reconvened on Sunday with our BYOB, a crab tart prepared by David’s own hands, enough children to put on a performance of “ Lord of The Flies” and more food than you could shake a maypole at.
I can seldom recollect such a fun lunch as plates of mackerel, cod and smoked duck swapped hands for salads, the sweetest of scallops and a few delicious bottles of Vino Collapso. The adults talked amongst themselves, the children did likewise. Me, the perpetual man child, I just talked out loud to no one in particular. It’s better that way.
A quick stagger over to BinTwo for one more goodbye over a jug of Pimm’s in the afternoon sun provided the perfect full stop to a splendid weekend and we left Adrian and David to get on with their real lives as we went to watch the sister marriers prepare for Mayday while trying hard not to think of The Whicker Man.
I am pretty sure it wont be three years until I am back there having some more of Adrian’s Duck Confit. That is, of course, if I can get a table.