FOOD HEROES: PORTHMINSTER BEACH CAFE
PUBLISHED: 13:43 18 September 2015 | UPDATED: 12:56 30 August 2017
St Ives is home to one of the country's top eateries: Porthminster Beach Cafe
It’s a must for foodies offering an incredible menu and a view that few restaurants can boast. This year it’s been named as one of the top 100 restaurants in the National Restaurant awards (they find out exactly where in a ceremony at the end of June). Ahead of the crowds, we head down to the Porthminster Beach Café and ask South African-born head chef Ryan Venning to share some of the secrets of their success.
How would you describe your food style?
I like to cook with big flavours and experiment with diverse cooking methods. I also enjoy the freshness and lightness of Asian flavours and the way they combine to such brilliant effect.
Who has been your greatest food influence?
From a Cornish perspective it would have to be Nathan Outlaw – I admire the refined style he has bought to cooking fish and his commitment to supporting the Cornish fishing industry. Martin Burge from Whatley Manor in Wiltshire is one of my food heroes, as is Thomas Kellar from The French Laundry.
How important is seasonality in your menu?
At Porthminster Beach Café we go to great lengths to use sustainably caught fish, so seasonality has a big impact because it dictates what species are in abundance at market. We then combine seafood with seasonal ingredients – locally grown produce and foraged foodstuffs from the hedgerows and shoreline in the vicinity of the café – so the menu changes a lot throughout the year. Our clientele really enjoy these fresh flavours and our chefs have a new opportunity to be creative with each shift in the season.
What is your favourite flavour of Cornwall?
Fresh, line-caught mackerel is incredible and is one of the most versatile species found in Cornish waters. It can be combined with really robust and powerful flavours or served very simply, for example with local samphire and foraged leaves.
What ingredient couldn’t you do without?
Lemon is indispensable, especially when it comes to seafood.
What was your most memorable meal?
I really enjoyed a recent visit to Whatley Manor in Wiltshire where the restaurant is overseen by Michelin two-starred chef Martin Burge. The food was incredible and I would recommend anyone who is passionate about food to visit!
Why did you become a chef?
As a youngster my dear old grandmother used to cook a lot and I always found myself cooking alongside her. It seemed natural on leaving school that I should pursue a career in the culinary world. I also knew that cooking would give me the opportunity to travel and work, which is something I have really embraced.
What is your food heaven?
Having a simple and tasty meal with my wife and our son. I love inventive and elaborate food as an experience, but for me something wholesome and straightforward at home is the way to go.
What is your idea of food hell?
I don’t really have any particular food that I dislike but I do have a recurring food- related nightmare: being unprepared for a 350 cover day at Porthminster and not having enough chefs or food – luckily we are so well practiced that this never actually happens!
What’s going to be big this year?
For me personally it would be great to achieve two or three Rosettes at Porthminster Beach Café. I’m also really excited about the arrival of my second child in early December so making sure I spend time with my family is going to be top of the list. In terms of food trends I think more and more people are looking for lighter meals with less dairy and gluten – even if they don’t have allergies. This is something we are already strong on at Porthminster given the style of our food and we’ll build on this over the next year.