Places To Eat In Cornwall: Appleton’s at the Vineyard, Padstow
Six years ago in a basement kitchen that was part of the Jamie Oliver complex in Old Street I met Andy Appleton, then Head Chef at Fifteen Cornwall during a slightly drunken evening where I seem to remember Gennaro Contaldo was also there, teaching us all how to cook pheasant in his usual, exuberantly bonkers fashion. Memories are a little fuzzy (I think it was the wine!) but I do remember that Andy was the one who pointed out to me that I would not have a very long career if I remained scared of a chefs knife – I’d had a pretty bad, pass out on the kitchen floor, lots of blood incident the week before which made me a little timid – I found myself in a classroom at catering college a few weeks later for a proper knife skills course. Memories aside, Andy has moved on from Fifteen and into his own space, opening Appleton’s at the Vineyard at Trevibban Mill Vineyard, a fantastic Italian restaurant where we enjoyed what was honestly one of the very best meals of our trip. They’re leaving the space on October 31st, so naturally when I heard the news I wanted to get my review and all my photos online as soon as possible so you can try and visit for a simply incredible lunch.
We’d had a bit too much English wine that morning so we opted to switch to Italian white to go with the plates of Italian nibbles Andy kindly sent out to us before our starters. They were all excellent; the prosecco battered polenta chips with ‘Nduja ketchup and parmesan were insanely more-ish and fun to nibble on with a few drinks, as were the excellent fried sage leaves with salty anchovies sandwiched in the middle, and the wonderful crispy olives stuffed with almonds – such a lovely idea you simply must try if you visit! The salt cod croquettes were also fun, but as expected, where the other three nibbles had a fun little twist to them that made them extra special!
The moment my father and I saw the courgette flowers stuffed with lobster and served with bright green plankton aioli on as a starter, we knew we had to have it. It was a beautiful light, crisp starter with a perfect batter, I think made bright and fresh by the inclusion of the baby courgettes that were still attached to their blooms.
However, I think my mother hit the jackpot with here starter: burratina with wild asparagus, crunchy buckwheat and creamy hazelnut. Not flavours I’d think to put together, especially the hazelnut it was fresh, bright, rich, complex and creamy, a real star of a dish. It also did not hurt that it looks rather beautiful, too!
All three of our mains were excellent. On recommendation from Kate, who had brought us to Appleton’s as part of one of her Cornish Wine Tours, I had a menu stalwart, the rose harissa fish stew, made with little nuggets of fregola sarda, and served with a shard of thick, chewy charred rye bread, dotted with more of that complex aioli and a generous scattering of micro herbs. The portion of white fish, mussels, shell on prawns and I think cuttlefish (?) was generous, the broth rich and delicious, and the bread added texture along with the chewy grains and interest that set it apart from other red-based fish and shellfish soups of a similar ilk, Italian or otherwise.
My mother, again, ordered another hero dish. Her baby gem, pea, cured egg yolk and whey agnolotti was incredible. Light, melt in the mouth pasta with a fresh, slightly unusual filling. If I was not so all about my own fish stew (or if I would have had room to manage a plate of both!), I would have wished that it were my lunch. I only stole a bite of my Dad’s plate of confit and smoked duck, but it was also lovely.
Puddings really were the perfect end to the meal. I was still on a high from some of the incredible desserts we’d had on the trip, and these really delivered! Again, I only stole a bite of my Dad’s raspberry panna cotta (it was great) but I think the best choice was what my Mum and I ordered, the chocolate salted caramel pot, topped off with syrupy cherry compote and a fresh, zingy scoop of cherry sorbet. Bright, balanced and indulgent.
Honestly, overall, Appleton’s was joint up there with Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen (review coming soon!) as the best meal of the trip, and is still one of the best meals I’ve had so far this year. Next time you’re down head over there for lunch, even if you’re just after a few nibbles and a glass of wine overlooking the vineyard, rather than a full blown lunch before they move onto pastures new (still to be announced) at the end of October.