Michael Caines opening two new restaurants in Cornwall
- Credit: www.simonburtphotography.com
The Michelin-starred chef has already opened The Cove at Maenporth, Falmouth, with another venue to follow in Porthleven
Michael Caines’ latest venture, The Cove Restaurant and Bar in Maenporth, was only open for two weeks before lockdown was announced in March. “What was more devastating was the news that proceeded it a week before, when people were told to avoid restaurants. That was ridiculous. We saw our bookings just completely disappear and there was cancellation after cancellation,” says the acclaimed chef who held two Michelin stars at Gidleigh Park near Dartmoor for 18 years. “When they announced lockdown and the furlough scheme, there was actually a big sigh of relief because we [in the industry] were free falling into obscurity. It provided a lifeline, and now we’re moving in the right direction with cautious optimism.”
The Cove, with its panoramic views of Maenporth beach near Falmouth, was owned by Arty Williams and Annette Rickard for 17 years. “My business partner lives locally, and we were dining there last year when he said it was a boyhood dream of his to own something like it. We didn’t know at the time Arty and Annette were going to put it up on the market but when we saw the information, we thought we’d go for it and the deal was done by mid-January,” says Michael, 51, who grew up in Devon with his adoptive family and has been visiting Cornwall for years.
“Caravanning, camping, Run to the Sun, we’ve done it all. It’s a beautiful place, as is Devon,” he says. “Until it was mentioned, I never thought I’d have a restaurant in Cornwall, and in such a wonderful location, but in life you just take the opportunities when they come along, and places like that don’t come on the market very often.”
Unlike Lympstone Manor, the country hotel, restaurant and vineyard in Exmouth that Michael opened in 2017, The Cove has a relaxed atmosphere befitting the beach location.
“The restaurant gained a great reputation as a destination experience, so we just want to continue and build on that. We refurbished the kitchen, did some painting, and put in some bi-folding doors, so we can make the most of that wonderful vista. It’s very informal and casual. We’re open seven days a week, offering breakfast and lighter bites, so families can come off the beach, and then there’s à la carte and the tasting menu with some classics of mine. It’s quality ingredients, beautifully prepared and well served,” says Michael whose favourite dishes include sea bream ceviche ‘that we marinade and put with this lovely avocado and citrus vinaigrette’.
“We also do our own smoked salmon with sourdough bread we get from the local baker, and we’ve got beautiful steaks from Philip Warren Butchers, and whole Falmouth lemon sole with rosemary butter, shrimp, parsley and capers, so it’s all really simple but delicious.”
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The menu will change with the seasons in order to maximise the local produce on offer. “Whatever’s in season, we’ll focus on that. We’ve got a great larder in the south west, and we should use it. We’re surrounded by the sea, so there’s amazing seafood, but also fantastic pastures for grazing stock too, so it’s about making the most of the ingredients available to us.”
In line with Covid 19 guidelines, the team, including head chef Alfred Hazlitt and restaurant manager Lucy Cascarina, has implemented new measures, ensuring there is enough space between tables and staggering bookings. “It’s important the customer feels they’re getting the service they want, and I don’t think the dinner experience is adversely affected. The end game for The Cove is to create a fantastic restaurant for local people to enjoy all year round and to also attract people from outside the region when they visit,” says Michael.
He also recently acquired the former Rick Stein Restaurant in Porthleven helping to cement Porthleven as Cornwall’s new food capital. Alongside the newly reopened Amelies, Porthleven is home to BBC2’s Great British Menu Jude Kereama and his award-winning Kota. In April the annual Porthleven Food Festival attracts around 40,000 people.
“We’re delighted to have the opportunity to pick up where Rick and Jill Stein have left off, taking over this wonderful property.”
Michael studied at Exeter Catering College before spending three years under Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Oxford. He advanced his culinary career by travelling to France where he worked with the likes of Bernard Loiseau and Joel Robuchon, then in 1994, at the age of 25, he moved back to the UK as head chef at Gidleigh Park. Just two months in, Michael lost his right arm in a car accident. Undeterred, he was back at work within weeks and had two Michelin stars by the time he was 29. He left in 2016 to realise a long-held dream of owning his own hotel. Within six months of opening Lympstone Manor, he received a Michelin star.
The Michael Caines Collection has also taken on a new project in Exmouth. “I still cook and develop menus, but obviously my role’s evolved from just a chef. It’s not about juggling. That sounds like you’re struggling and I’m not. I’m successful because I’ve worked hard through the system over the years, to now be in a position where I’m living my dream and running my own businesses with people who are equally passionate about what they do,” says Michael, who was awarded an MBE in 2006. “Businesses don’t work unless you keep them fresh and exciting, and my job is to be the innovator and creator, and motivator for the team and that’s important. I’m absolutely passionate about what I do and ultimately, every day I see customers enjoying the food and leaving happy. It is a proud moment for me.”
This feature first appeared on the September issue of Cornwall Life. Find out more about our latest subscription offers here.
RECIPE - Pan-fried Monkfish with mussels and a grain mustard tarragon sauce
• 1 tablespoon curry powder
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 600g monkfish tail, cut into 12 medallions
• Olive oil
• 60g unsalted butter
• Juice of one lemon
• 40g shallots, chopped
• 1 bay leaf
• Sprig of fresh thyme
• 50ml white wine
• 400g mussels, washed and cleaned
• Pinch of saffron
• 25ml double or whipping cream
• 500ml fish stock
• 1 teaspoon grain mustard
• Chopped fresh tarragon
Pre-heat the oven to 200c Mix the curry powder and one teaspoon of salt together. Season the fish with the curry salt and a good twist of black pepper.
Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick ovenproof frying pan, then add the fish and 20g of butter.
Cook over a medium heat until the fish is golden brown, then turn it over and put the pan into the oven for approximately three minutes. Remove, squeeze over the lemon juice and set aside to rest.
Wash and clean the mussels.
Melt 20g of butter in a large saucepan, then add the shallots and cook until they are soft and transparent.
Add the bay leaf, thyme and tarragon followed by the white wine and bring to the boil, then add cleaned mussels and cover with a lid.
Once the mussels have opened, pour them into a colander over a bowl and leave to drain (discard any mussels that have not opened).
Pour the cooking liquid back into the saucepan, add the pinch of saffron strands, the cream and the fish stock.
Bring to the boil, then whisk in the remaining butter and simmer until reduced to a creamy consistency.
Add a teaspoon of grain mustard, season with salt and pepper and finish with chopped tarragon.
Briefly reheat the monkfish in the over for a few minutes, then remove and transfer to your serving plates.
Pour the cooked mussels over the top (you can serve the mussels in or out of the shell) and spoon over the sauce.