Tales of the Riverbank
BLOWING my own trumpet here for a minute, but three years ago I wrote what was probably the first review of Paul Ainsworth's No 6 restaurant in Padstow.
Since then Paul's star has ascended at a rapid rate, gaining a reputation as one of Cornwall's most outstanding chefs, been a winner on the BBC's Great British Menu and taken over a second restaurant in the town (Rojano's).
Paul has told me it all started with that What's On review, which declared him the best chef in Cornwall.
Now I predict similar things for Dale McIntosh – a chef with a similar grasp of interesting flavour combinations and one who is not afraid to experiment but not to the detriment of stunning dishes.
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Dale is well-known to gastronauts in mid-Cornwall, having been head chef at the Pandora Inn, Restronguet. He then made a name for himself at Bustophers in Truro, taking it from a run-of-the-mill bistro into something quite special, instigating an exclusive 12-seater steak room, using the best cuts available in the county.
He has now reunited with Steve and Diane Franks, managers at the Pandora during his tenure, at the rejuvenated Riverbank in Old Bridge Street, Truro, under new general manager Emma Salter.
Many of us remember the venue as the spit and sawdust Barley Sheaf – what would probably now be coined with a hint of cynicism and no little snobbery, a "townie's pub". That's to do the Barley a disservice as it was one of the city's most vibrant hostelries. For many Truronians, it was the scene of their first pint, game of darts, disco and snog – if you managed all four in a night, you were special.
After the Barley went the way of the majority of those brash boozers, the replacement Riverbank proved less successful under a series of owners. It may have been spruced up but it failed to attract discerning drinkers and diners.
However, I'm adamant that will all change with Steve, Diane and Dale installed. The bar has a more welcoming atmosphere, a great array of the finest wines and some damn potent cocktails plus, of course, Dale's expertise in the kitchen.
There's flair in abundance here, helped by produce from the very best local artisans (which really should go without saying these days, though you'd be surprised ...).
My starter – carpaccio of moorland Rose Buck venison, shaved parmesan, truffle oil, young shoots and beetroot glaze is Dale personified; strong flavours perfectly matched and presented with an artist's eye. For something so wonderful, it's reasonably priced at £6.
The Nurse, who particularly found this one of the most relaxing and relaxed venues in which we've dined in recent months, enjoyed fresh and potent chilli, lime and coriander squid, again with young shoots (an odd description – as if you are going to be served old shoots in need of a little haricot zimmer frame). Another reasonable starter at £6.
Dale has a master's touch – he's after a rosette at the Riverbank and having tasted such delights as his cauliflower puree (who knew that most hated of veg could produce something so wonderful?), sweet chilli houmous, his very special scotch egg and Cornish duck with hoi sin jus, he's on the right track.
For what is essentially pub food, a main like baked half Mylor lobster with parmesan Pernod crust, fries and thermidor mayonnaise (£17) is pretty exceptional. The collision of fennel and succulent shellfish is wonderful.
Our other dish, open ravioli of spinach and wild mushrooms, garlic foam, shaved grana padano cheese and truffle oil, was a delicate yet hearty Italian triumph, especially at just £11.
Always a dab hand at a fascinating dessert, Dale excelled again with a roasted peach baked Alaska, vanilla bean ice cream wrapped in an Italian meringue (£6).
He really is a chef to watch, and with such superb dishes at an affordable price alongside a new-look al fresco dining area, the Riverbank should now comfortably take on all-comers in the city.
For full menus and more information head to www.theriverbanktruro.co.uk
Dale McIntosh at work in the Riverbank in Truro.