I was being treated. It was my first time. I was collected at 7pm and driven (at nerve wracking speed!) through a pitch black gale-riven rain-drenched night; weather which would not allow me to experience the much praised view from the huge length of glass panelling overlooking the bay.
I had little idea what to expect, and my first impression was one of bright space. Lots of tables, but not crammed together; large tear-drop pendant lights, with, I am sure, energy efficient bulbs; and welcoming smiles. The atmosphere was one of friendly cheerfulness, without any of that pseudo-subservience found in so many ‘posh’ restaurants. There is mutual respect between staff and customers. And my goodness, those guys know their stuff!
James, the young man taking our orders, who had been working there for a couple of months, talked us through an extensive menu, explaining in fine detail how each dish was put together and how the components worked with each other to achieve an effect. His command of it was stunningly impressive, and someone soon will need to pay him very good money indeed to employ him!
Gordon is a world-class sommelier. I was not going to be asked to choose the wine I would drink – I was going to be told, not only what wine would be served with each course, but why, with an explanation of how the grape was grown, where it was grown, why it was different from wines from neighbouring vineyards, and something about the people who make the wine. Pretentious? Not on your life. Gordon knows his stuff to a daunting degree (I have never been that expert at anything) and wanted to impart as much of that knowledge as possible in the short time available. None of that ‘A suspicion of gorse in the breeze’ crap but pure unadulterated expertise in a language anyone could feel comfortable with. He even suggested to me that after experiencing the Soave he produced, I should keep the taste in mind and try a supermarket Soave the next day to see the difference! My response – I would rather not, as the next Soave I would drink would almost certainly come from a Supermarket, because of budgetary constraints.
As the food was served, discreetly without fuss, there was none of that ‘OK, who’s having the crab?’! Everyone, including Gordon, knew which of us had ordered what. Each course turned up exactly when we were ready, together with fresh glasses for the next wine. Used plates and cutlery were cleared equally discreetly. And all the while there were cheerful smiles.
Without wishing to get too sugary, I am bound to say that in a very literal sense the whole thing worked like a symphony. The food, the wine, the service, the cheerful respect, nothing either overdone or underdone (I don’t mean just the food) contrived to produce a dining experience you would need to go a long way to match.
And consider where this experience comes from. Jamie Oliver set up a charity called Cornwall Food Foundation, which is funded largely from the restaurant, and whose purpose in a nutshell is to give young men and women from less than ideal backgrounds the chance to learn to become top class chefs. With expert teaching and support these young people, working side by side with skilled professionals, produce meals such as the one that I enjoyed.
Is it worth the money? That question cannot be answered. The menu prices are by my standards eye-watering.
Is a £500,000 house worth the money? Or a £50,000 car? Not to me! I don’t need it and wouldn’t be interested even if I could afford it. But to other people with different standards and priorities? Presumably yes.
Is it worth spending that kind of money to support this extremely effective charity? Without question, if you can afford it.
If I had to pay next time, would I go again? If the credit card would stand it, if the occasion or the company called for it, then absolutely without question!