Chef and Great British Menu finalist Andrew Sheridan moved most of his team down to Cornwall to cook a menu full of local ingredients with a familial twist. Amanda Afiya reports
Perched high on the clifftops of Port Isaac sits Stargazy Inn, a handsome Victorian villa and the new home of 2019 Great British Menu finalist Andrew Sheridan.
The nine-bedroom property, formerly known as the Bay hotel and situated directly across the road from the two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, was acquired by local businessman David Barnard in 2017. Barnard, who also owns the nearby Port Gaverne hotel and Pilchards café, duly closed Stargazy Inn for refurbishment last winter. It reopened in April with a new look and Sheridan at the helm.
Liverpudlian Sheridan rose to prominence as executive chef of former celebrity hangout Sosban in Llanelli and by appearing in the 2018 series of the BBC Two hit show. But, following the shock closure of Sosban in February, Sheridan moved, lock, stock and barrel with his faithful team to Cornwall, ahead of his appearance in Great British Menu.
"I came down, met David and we just sparked straight away," says Sheridan. "He showed me how amazing Cornwall was. I went back to Wales, met all the chefs and the front of house team at Sosban and said, ‘you've all got new jobs. Do you want to move to Cornwall?'" Sixteen members of Sheridan's team (front and back of house) followed him to the south west.
While Stargazy Inn is yet to undergo further development – Barnard plans to spend £500,000 in the new year on extending into the car park, doubling the size of the kitchen and adding two extra bedrooms upstairs – Sheridan's focus, for now, is entirely on the food.
The bar menu includes starters of cider belly pork, pea and mint (£10.50), and smoked haddock kedgeree Scotch egg with curry sauce (£8). Mains include 40-day-aged sirloin with béarnaise and straw fries (£19), and Newlyn hake with herb sauce (£18). Sheridan also offers five- and seven-course tasting menus (£55 and £80 respectively). Diners can enjoy the food in Stargazy Inn's three distinct Caroline Cleave-decorated dining areas, which seat 12-15 in the main dining room, 28 in the bar and 10 in the back room.
Sheridan has designed the menu to showcase the finest local ingredients, and he uses produce grown at Mora Farm near St Neot. "I go down to the farm pretty much every morning," he says enthusiastically. "The produce is absolutely stunning and I really want Cornish ingredients to be dominant on the menu."
The tasting menu opens with some homemade beer bread served with Marmite butter (or a Cornish cultured butter for yeast extract haters) and a ‘snack' – perhaps pickled oyster and dill, or hand-dived scallop and three-roe sauce. Then the tasting menu begins proper with a series of dishes showcasing the county's premium ingredients. Such is the quality of the produce, Sheridan is almost tempted to serve some just as they come, but he stops short of serving a bowl of freshly picked strawberries – much as he's tempted. Perhaps the most stripped-back dish is Forest House tomatoes, a selection of locally grown, multi-varietal tomatoes (picked personally by Sheridan the day The Caterer visited), served in tomato water and accompanied by a basil ice-cream.
Sheridan says his ideas are not culled from cookery books: "I've got zero books," he scoffs, "I don't like books. In fact, I hate books because as soon as you study a recipe in a book, you have that image planted in your head. So when you go to create something, whether you're doing it consciously or not, you can't help but be inspired by the book.
"Other people have got this collection of people they've worked for, but I'm quite fortunate: pretty much everything I've done I've had to teach myself, so I just make stuff that I love to eat. The trout dish [sea trout, potatoes and truffle], for example, is a take on my mum's tinned salmon and potato salad, but we've given it a refined twist."
Sheridan's most-recognised dish has to be the course that helped him get to the finals of Great British Menu – a cold, set rice pudding with hay-infused ice-cream, inspired by his great grandmother, Nurse Onions. It is flavoured with different ingredients throughout the year to reflect the seasons and topped with shards of dehydrated milk skin, created by baking milk in the oven at 180ºC then skimming off the skin and dehydrating it. A thing of beauty and a delicious dessert to eat, it's no wonder it was awarded 10 out of 10 by veteran judge and now nearby chef Paul Ainsworth.
From the menu
- Crab tart, tempura oyster
- Forest House tomato, basil
- Sea trout, potatoes and truffle
- Lamb, cauliflower
- Mora Farm strawberries, sorrel and goats' curd
- Rice pudding, banana and hay
From the tasting menu, £80
The Terrace, Port Isaac PL29 3SG www.stargazyinn.co.uk
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