Magnificent Marazion meals – review
I'VE said it before, but Mount Haven Hotel & Restaurant in Marazion is very special.
It's now taken a further step-up with the addition of former Masterchef semi-finalist Lee Groves as head chef.
So many hotels advertise themselves as an oasis of calm, with views to die for, blah di blah.
But Mount Haven is the real deal. In fact, The Nurse felt so at peace during her meal, she asked the waiter if she could curl up on the bench seat. Relaxing someone who slaves away in the gritty reality of the NHS is surely a gift?
It's the view that gets you first – almost within touching distance of St Michael's Mount.
I can just imagine the Veuve-induced excited frenzy of some city hedge fund manager arriving for the first time.
But the view's not everything – the hotel itself is a tranquil, erm, oasis of calm.
Owners Orange and Mike Trevillion took over the hotel in 2001 – the building dates back to the 1840s and has been a hotel since the 1920s.
The hotel's simpatico meeting of East and West is down to Orange, who supports a group of street children in south India, giving them a safe and loving home.
Throughout the hotel the furnishing and decoration collected on Orange's travels creates a calm atmosphere without ever falling into hippy chic cliché.
Along with its reputation for relaxation, food and views, Mount Haven is renowned for its talented team of holistic therapists who cover a wide range of treatments for mind, body and spirit – all the profits from which go to the street children.
I enjoyed the best massage I've ever had on a previous visit, but this time it was all about Lee Groves' food. With a 23-year career in catering, Lee started off his career in a three-rosette restaurant in his native Wales in 1990.
Having settled in Cornwall for three years, starting as the executive chef at the Headland Hotel in Newquay and Seagrass in St Ives, he has amassed a number of awards including semi-finalist in the 2012 South West Chef of the Year, finalist in Food Magazine's Best Chef 2012 and semi-finalist in MasterChef The Professionals 2010.
Lee's signature style is to take well-established dishes and give them a new life, for example cooking fish with a blowtorch rather than pan-frying and adding different textures to make the food more tantalising.
But he can do simple too, when it's just about the ingredients – my starter of Cornish fish soup with aioli and croutons (£8.75) was testament to his loving way with local produce.
Lee's artist's eye was apparent for all to see when my main arrived – roast breast and braised leg of Bressé pigeon ... with the addition of a clawed foot emerging from the sculpted plate of food. It repulsed The Nurse (I'm sure she sees worse than that when she walks on the ward) but gave me a smile. Who says there can't be a bit of humour in dining?
Claws or not, this was a wonderful dish; the strong flavour of the pigeon levelled by celeriac, roasted shallots and Parmentier potatoes (£18.75). My wife – not a fish fan – put her life in Lee's hands and gambled. It paid off. The perfectly meaty grilled red gurnard was accompanied by a creamy and piquant crab bisque with saffron and crab potato croquette, and caramelised onions (£18.50).
This is inventive cooking that doesn't forget taste in favour of flair. It continues into dessert land – how about this to get the juices flowing: a citrus assiette with two-tone posset, blood orange and lime, blood orange sorbet, lime fancier and lemon parfait (£7.50). The icing on the cake, or should I say vegetable in the pud, was a sweetcorn parfait with caramelised popcorn. Madness, I hear you cry. But it worked, oh my, it worked, proving that right at the edge of our country there is a chef working wonders.
For more information see www.mount haven.co.uk, and follow Lee and all he is doing at the restaurant on Twitter @lobstertruffle