It’s not often a pre-prandial nibble that sticks in your mind after eating in a top-notch restaurant. Forget salty peanuts, olives or fiddly canapés which tantalise more than they satisfy. The anchovies wrapped with deep-fried sage that Andy Appleton feeds you as you arrive at his Appleton’s restaurant, are in another league; moreishly salty, crunchy, and deeply satisfying, I could happily dine just on these.
I visited while researching a feature on the food of the North Cornwall coast for Olive magazine, published in its August issue this week. Andy, as any foodie knows, used to head the kitchen at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall and before that worked at Fifteen London. In March 2016 he and his partner Lyndsey bravely decided to launch their own venture.
The setting is idyllic – a light, contemporary building bang in the middle of a working vineyard and winery, Trevibban Mill, with views across a wooded valley. Touristy Padstow might be just a few miles away, but this place is so tucked away you’d never guess it. The narrow lanes leading there have grass growing in the middle – in my book, always a good sign of getting away from it all.
Andy’s cooking is uncluttered, and ingredient-led, and his creative ideas are guided by years of training and travelling, mainly in Italy. It’s simple yet intriguing at the same time. The main ingredients are Cornish and they naturally change with the seasons, so when I visited there was Padstow crab with confit tomatoes and bee pollen granola (wow!) for starter, and for main, Wild garlic agnolotti filled with fermented leek. Herbs, vegetables, honey and lamb are sourced from the vineyard, so we’re talking not just food miles but food yards. Andy also draws on the region’s fantastic seafood, so not surprisingly the Rose harissa fish stew and the Squid ink linguine (home-made of course) with Cornish scallops have both become menu staples.
To this glorious Cornish produce Andy adds a few carefully chosen specialist Italian ingredients, such as fregola, which bulks out the fish stew; ricotta, used to fill hand-made pasta; and ‘Nduja which is used in a pangrattato to sprinkle over the squid ink linguine. As at Fifteen, Cornwall and Italy meet on the plate – and it works. This is Italian-style rustic cooking that’s modern, utterly delicious and exactly the kind of food I want to eat.
The Italian-Cornish fusion continues when it comes to the drinks. As with the food, Andy sources the “best of the west”, while also listing some of his and Lyndsey’s personal Italian favourites. For Cornish beverages, they’ve not had to venture further than the vineyard outside; they stock all of Trevibban Mill’s excellent ciders (still and sparkling) and wines (including its very drinkable sparkling rose brut which makes a superb aperitif).
For relaxed breakfast-to-dinner eating at digestible prices, this is one of North Cornwall’s top addresses. Even if you visit just for those anchovy and sage crispy bits, go. Make sure you leave room in your boot to stock up on Trevibban Mill wines and ciders, and if you’re there on a Wednesday or Sunday in high season you can join a tour of the vineyard too.