Our editor Rebecca Moore headed to Newquay’s latest supper club offering, Hartley’s, and with MasterChef: The Professionals semi-finalist Andrew Durham at the helm, expectations were high.
It’s not often you can turn up for a taster menu with hair damp from the sea, a somewhat salty face and a pair of flip flops. But then again, it’s not usual for such an extravagant menu to take place inside a shipping container. But Hartley’s – chef Andrew Durham’s supper club – isn’t the only foodie hotspot at Prow Park Business Village in Newquay.
Home to a varied range of restaurants and takeaways, including Babu Kebabs, Wing Yard and WanMai Thai, the eclectic mix of eateries is making waves in Cornwall, and reminded me of fond foodie memories of time spent at Pop Brixton in south London and Cargo in Wapping Wharf, Bristol.
An abnormal journey, passing all the usual suspects you’d find on an industrial estate, once you take the turning to the food court area, Hartley’s stands proud on the upper level of this rather understated wooden-cladded zone. I was greeted by the chef himself and told to choose whichever table I liked; instantly my worry of being too informal diminished. I positioned myself as close to the kitchen – and conveniently under the air con – to see chef Andrew in action. And he’s no stranger to being rubbernecked, as a semi-finalist in MasterChef: The Professionals in 2019, he’s seemingly unflappable and a pleasure to watch.
A twelve–cover restaurant, the setting is intimate and you feel more like an invited guest at a clandestine new club, in this relaxed yet interactive atmosphere. Andrew is exceptionally warming and I felt totally at home here. However, it’s safe to say I don’t usually eat seven courses at my kitchen table on a Tuesday night.
The menu kicked off with Cornish mackerel tartare, Japanese ponzu sauce and pickled shallot, all tucked into a seaweed flatbread. As Andrew rightly proclaimed when delivering the dish, Cornwall’s mackerel is the finest in the world, so its best enjoyed in its most natural form, and he’s not wrong. He attributes this dish to his mum, eating mackerel as a child.
Next up is damper bread, a dish inspired by his son’s forest school. I learn that it’s traditionally a thick homemade bread, prepared by European settlers in Australia. Andrew serves his with a generous filling of Cornish Yarg, chilli jam and chives, and it’s incredibly wholesome.
Two fish dishes followed, BBQ monkfish with ribboned courgette, lemon and basil, and a slight variant of the dish that saw Andrew get into the final of MasterChef: The Professionals; lobster tom yum nam sai; a delicious hot and sour seasoned broth, he credits to his Thai wife, Somyong.
What I’d consider the ‘main dish’, felt quite different to the dishes that had preceded. Another standout plate from his time on MasterChef; a wood pigeon and Cornish blue cheese pie with wood pigeon breast, pickled blackberries and Tarquin’s blackberry gin sauce. A work of art, the small but mighty pie was encased in some of the finest pastry I’ve ever tasted. It’s the sort of dish you want to eat next to a roaring fire while it’s blowing a hooley outside, so on a scorching summer’s day in August it felt a little wintry, but the flavour can’t be denied.
The dessert in comparison, was a celebration of summer; a coconut and mango mille-feuille with Jamaican ginger cake ice cream. While almost too beautiful to eat, my sweet tooth prevailed and then there was no turning back. It was sensational, and irrefutably fresh on the palate, without a sniff of my go-to chocolate pudding in sight. Ticking all the boxes, fortunately the meal was rounded off with chocolate petit fours, so I still got my fix.
Spending two hours at Hartley’s was a complete joy. An entirely different experience to typical ‘fine dining’, if you’re in Cornwall and want to try a variety of smartly executed dishes, which pack a punch in the flavour department, you’d struggle to top Hartley’s. Cornwall’s lucky to have Andrew Durham’s talent, and it shines through with his set menu. It’s safe to say I’ll be back.
The set menu costs £75pp and Hartley’s is open Tuesday to Saturday. As the venue is intimate, availability is limited, therefore early booking is advised and prepayment is required.