The Headland Hotel, Newquay
Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Headland Hotel in Newquay for an evening with their Head Chef Christopher Archambault.
The Headland Hotel is less than a mile away from home. It’s situated at the stunning Fistral Beach and has panoramic views of Newquay, the surrounding villages and the beautiful Atlantic ocean which stretches out as far as the eye can see. It’s a very iconic building, especially as it dominates the headland.
I walk past the Headland Hotel most days. Sometimes I will drop in and meet my friends for a coffee, lunch or perhaps a cocktail on the terrace. I have also enjoyed the spa facilities and once had an overnight stay. One thing I’ve not experienced, is dining in their Samphire restaurant. I love the hotel for all the reasons mentioned above, yet it’s not a place I have considered for fine dining. Some hotels make a real effort with their food. However without stereotyping, many hotels really don’t. I have to admit, I did’t realise that the Headland could be placed in the box with those who do.
Evening with the chef
The evening started off beautifully with reception drinks in the lounge area of the hotel. I had a gin with Fever-Tree elderflower tonic, the perfect drink for a summers evening. It was a great opportunity to get to know all the other guests that were also dining with Chris.
After reception drinks we went to a private function room to meet Chris for wine and dining. The table looked so elegant, and in the corner of the room there was a table filled with glasses for the wine pairing.
Having grown up in Canada, Chris’s culinary experience began quite meat orientated with French influences. I get the impression that he’s clearly a meat lover. However now he’s based in Cornwall, it is apparent that he also loves cooking with fresh fish and seafood just as much.
It was great getting to know Chris during the evening. He has a clear passion for food, especially considering flavour and textures that work together. He pays a close attention to detail with his courses, which is exactly what you would expect from a good chef.
Embarrassingly I forgot to mention to the hotel before arriving that I don’t eat meat. Therefore when I sat down to start eating I realised that it might be a problem if I didn’t taste every course. I don’t eat meat for any other reason than I simply don’t like it, or the thought of it. I figured that to make it fair I should actually put this aside and give the meat courses a try.
This doesn’t mean that I’m now converted. However, we had a really interesting conversation with Chris about dietary requirements and agreed that it is very difficult to serve people a dish without all the original elements to it. For example as soon as you start replacing meat or products to make it dairy free, you end up with something that is so far away from the original meal. This is fine if cooking something that is quite simple. However when considering food and specific tastes this is more difficult.
Each course was paired with wine of which the waiters knowledge was incredible.
Course 1 – Seared diver scallop, bone marrow, leek scapes and caviar, sake bullshot
This course was actually a bonus. I love scallops and they were cooked perfectly. Soft and easy to chew with a good texture. The bone marrow isn’t something I would normally try, however with the leeks and sake it gave it a really comforting taste. Great for autumn and winter nights I imagine.
Course 2 – Pigeon, rhubarb, sesame, hispi cabbage
Not being a meat eater, this has to be the course I struggled with the most. Mainly because it’s not something I thought I would ever try. However as mentioned above, what’s so perfect about it is the texture and flavours that Chris has carefully considered. The rhubarb was crunchy and along with the sesame it gave this course a really unique and gratifying taste.
Course 3 – Cod, orange, chorizo, Headland samphire
The spanish flavours made this course taste really interesting. Cod can sometimes be tasteless or bland. However Chris has added zest and spice to this course, making it extremly mouth watering. We enjoyed a Portuguese white wine with it which complemented it perfectly.
Course 4 – Curried monkfish, Headland sea spinach, soba noodles, nori crisp, mango
This has to be my favourite course. I’m a massive fan of Asian food so I found the flavours from the curried monkfish heavenly. I would quite happily enjoy this as a main. The nori crisp added some great texture to the course. The sea spinach foraged from the ocean in front of the Headland Hotel is also a really nice touch. We enjoyed this course with a French white which had a flowery and fruity taste.
Course 5 – Aged rib-eye, ox cheek rissole, cumin carrot, parsley sauce, pommes soufflees
Again this course was quite intense for me due to not being a meat eater. However I acknowledge that it would be a meat lovers dream. I could tell that this was one of Chris’s favourites. Again lots of thought has gone into the delicate flavours added to this course. Such as the cumin carrot and the very fresh and bright green parsley sauce.
Course 6 – Dark chocolate and lime, avocado ice cream
Chocolate and avocado ice cream you say? Yes this course does taste as good as it sounds. Although I’m probably not the best critic, I love anything chocolatey. The lime complements the dark chocolate well and the avocado ice cream was divine. We enjoyed this course with a glass of port.
Course 7 – Strawberry and elderflower cream tart
I’m still day dreaming about this delicious desert. It is so good and looks so unbelivebly pretty too. I understand that this desert is a Pascal Barbot of Astrance classic, however Chris has added a strawberry macaron in the centre instead of his pate de sucre. A thin pastry ring is filled with a mixture of strawberry, rhubarb and strawberry sauce. Whipped cream and elderflower cordial is added on top. My mouth is watering thinking about it. We enjoyed this with a glass of Italian Asti which reminded me of dessert wine due to it’s sweet taste.
Course 8 – Truffled Cornish brie cheesecake, pickled grapes, sultana puree
Last but not least the cheese course. Chris has carefully created a heavenly cheesecake as an alternative to the traditional cheese board. It is very delicious, however I personally found it a little sweet after the two desert courses. I also like a cheese board for the savoury element. However it was still very nice and worth the try. To mark the end of a perfect evening we sipped away at a glass of Camel Valley Brut. One of my favourites.
A stay at the hotel
After the fantastic evening with Chris and the other guests I got to enjoy the hotel with my family. The room was clean and comfortable and to top it off we had a sea view. I thought it was a nice touch that classical music was playing in our room on arrival. This instantly made me feel relaxed. The staff at the hotel are so hospitable and professional, they make you really feel at home.
One other thing I really love about the Headland Hotel, is it’s open doors to the public. I have to admit it can look and feel quite unapproachable when you walk past. However it couldn’t be more accommodating. It’s also really child and dog friendly. I have taken my young baby to the hotel on many occasions and there has never been any problems.
So if you’re just in the area pop in and enjoy a coffee and lunch. Or if you’re looking for somewhere to dine with exquisite food and an incredible view, then it should be on your A list of places to go.
And look at who I got to wake up with…