St Ives Days Two and Three

Days are very fluid in Cornwall. Time becomes elastic, with some days seeming to whiz by, and others going on forever. My second and third days here already seem ages ago already. I’ve stopped wearing a watch and am finally stating to loosen my grip on my phone, meaning I tend to go hours without any idea of what time it is. I can highly recommend that!

More beach time and more wandering – you can’t get round the town without spotting at least one Hepworth sculpture!

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Less common, though is the sight of a fox in a tiara…

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Yo homes, to Bellair (Terrace)

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Making use of the fantastic kitchen in the property, I made some extremely lazy comfort food – pasta in red wine and tomato sauce, with Portobello mushrooms pan-fried with rosemary and garlic, and a super simple panzanella. Not worth recipising (that’s a word!) on here as it was very basic.

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I also made the cheesiest toasty known to man. The Bruce Forsyth of toasties.

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Porthmeor Cafe Despite the proliferation of grilled cheese at home, we did manage to eat out at an old favourite. The Porthmeor cafe is perched centrally on the beach, complete with a glass roof and little cubby holes outside. Great value for money, boasting some of the nicest staff in St Ives, and full of imaginative culinary creations, it’s somewhere I keep coming back to.

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Only open at lunchtimes during the Winter, lunch takes the form of a variety of tapas-style dishes. It’s a dream for vegetarians – veg dishes are seamlessly integrated into the menu without feeling a) tacked on, or b) like you’re missing out on all the decent stuff.

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It’s worth saving space for pudding though, which is consistently delicious. I opted for treacle tart with blood oranges and marmalade syrup…

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The dress code? More stripes, of course.

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When Mac Met Cheese at The Endurance

Hello! A massive lack of posts lately, but let’s go straight back in with a food review. Since working in Soho, I find myself making quite a lot of ‘what to eat in Soho for lunch’ inquiries into Google. The problem is, there’s almost too much choice, and I’m attempting to avoid chains and explore somewhere different most days. I’m planning on writing posts based around my lunchtime escapades, in the hope that it might help out someone else similarly stuck for where to eat! Anyway, mission statement dispensed with, let’s go to the food:

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When Mac Met Cheese: The Concept

Virtually underneath our office is a rather glum pub aptly named The Endurance. It’s nearly empty and appears to play host to a variety of pop-up ventures, including When Mac Met Cheese. When I saw the posters, I nearly passed out with excitement. Mac and cheese is one of the most truly perfect foods in existence, and a dining experience solely devoted to it sounded wonderful. I’m a big fan of the new wave of restaurants offering just one choice of food in a couple of incarnations (Honest Burgers, Burger & Lobster, Bubbledogs). I read up on previous reviews of WMMC as a food stand, and set my hopes to: ludicrously high.

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The Food

Three options for the pasta, optional extras (bacon lardons, chicken, rocket, tomato, broccoli); a side of coleslaw; deep fried Oreos. Absolute simplicity, which made me think that the food was duty bound to be excellent. I mean, if you’re only serving one thing, you’ve got to do it right, haven’t you? I opted for one option with a ghastly name: the ‘cheesy green afro’. Because, you know, who DOESN’T love thinking about a hairstyle with a hygiene problem while eating? Anyway, with stilton, mozzarella and broccoli, it ticked quite a few boxes.

On first mouthful, I was happy. Rich, extremely cheesy and supremely comforting, this was like the Richard Madeley of foodstuffs. It came to us in cardboard boxes, and let’s just say that mac and cheese is never going to win any beauty contests, so visually it wasn’t much. I started flagging at around the halfway point. It was lukewarm on arrival and cooling rapidly, and each mouthful tasted exactly the same. My companions struggled  – this, from one of the boys: ‘I think I’m going to go to Leon after this to get a wrap’.

The primary issue for me was how I felt afterwards. A truly great eating experience leaves you full but happy. I’m not just referring to restaurants – just down the road from The Endurance are Freebird Burritos and Jerusalem Felafels, both of which leave me full and happy, whereas WMMC left me feeling like more sluggish than a slug that had just taken part in a marathon slug battle and had also found out its’ slug wife had left it. That’s how sluggish I felt. The general table consensus was indeed: ‘I feel full. Not the good kind of full’.

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The Atmosphere

Curious. We were served by a waitress AND someone who appeared to be from The Endurance itself. Things rapidly descended into a Fawlty Towers-esque situation with one waitress coming from the right, another from the left, asking us the same questions. The person serving us from The Endurance came across as slightly brisk, telling us she had ‘nothing to do with the pop up’, she was ‘just helping out’. Taking orders was a bit of a faff: ‘they get it all mixed up in the kitchen’. Mm.

I’m going to touch on decor here too, for a minute. A stripped out ghost pub; tables clung to the walls like kids at their first school disco. Stuffed animal heads on the walls and wallpaper that reminded you of those strange country hotels where you feel slightly uneasy but can’t really put your finger on it. And dark, it was so dark. Dimness doesn’t equal atmosphere, lighting concept designers.

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Overall

Some street foods translate perfectly from pavement to plate. After all, you never expect street food to be that hot or that pretty but it still kicks ass (kinda like Mickey Rourke). But when you’re served that same lukewarm, messy dish with plastic cutlery in an actual  restaurant, it’s a different matter. Come on, would it kill you to give us some proper cutlery? Even wooden cutlery would do. Anything. A rough hewn tool from wire and rocks. Just not plastic.

For me, this entire experience demonstrated the sticky problems with pop ups. What exactly constitutes a pop up? What service do we expect? Should the food come in takeaway boxes or should it be properly plated up? To give it the benefit of the doubt, I think I’d have been a lot happier with this if I’d been eating it while wandering around Camden Market, which is where it usually stands. But as it is, I’m confused, I’m underwhelmed, and I still feel full. And not the good kind of full.

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Bill’s

I’ve been over in Guildford for the past couple of days as had a workshop on apps (one of my favourite topics) and was also checking out locations for the next shoot for Sussex Style. Yesterday, I also took a couple of hours to do some sneaky shopping in Guildford itself, and to have lunch with my lovely friend India at Bill’s.

I know it sounds horribly indulgent to be taking hours out of a Wednesday to shop and eat, but this year I promised myself I’d try and take a proper break every week. I believe most people know it as a ‘weekend’, but as I tend to usually work right through those, I’m attempting to recreate them at other points during the week. It’s actually very nice – it feels much naughtier and more indulgent to be having a two hour brunch on a Wednesday!

Since discovering Bill’s in Lewes, I’ve been a massive fan of the place. Always a buzzy, cosy atmosphere, with walls stacked full of preserves and jams and absolutely delightful staff. As for the food….wow. It’s all big, bold, bright and healthy (apart from the glorious puddings, but who wants a healthy pudding?!) I opted for the vegetarian breakfast – two door wedges of rustic bread, one with guacamole, one with a kind of chunky hummus and spicy tomato sauce, two perfect poached eggs, sauteed mushrooms and roasted tomatoes, with a serving of sweet chili sauce for good measure. HEAVEN ON A PLATE.

India went for the fish finger sandwich, which I expected to be two sad squares of white bread filled with formerly frozen fingers. Not so – stacked home made bread, home made fish fingers, a little pot of skinny fries…Please, please, I implore you to try Bill’s. It reminds me of restaurants that Cornwall does so well but we don’t seem to really manage in the South East. India and I introduced a new custom which I think should catch on: brunch with pudding. She had a gooey, rich pecan pie with vanilla ice cream, I went for plump, warm mini cinnamon donuts with chocolate dipping sauce and fresh strawberries.

We chatted about the important things: Summer holidays, hideous workloads, agents (India is an actress), Breaking Bad, and of course food. The service was friendly and attentive without being ‘too much’, and we spent a very pleasant couple of hours there. I think they seem to be popping up everywhere, so definitely recommend you pop in if you spot one!

Happy eating x

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