Review – Rastella restaurant at Merchant’s Manor – Falmouth, Cornwall
Situated within the Merchant’s Manor Hotel, Rastella restaurant is headed up by an exciting new team of chefs who, at the time of writing this, have only been together for 5 weeks. Whilst they are a new partnership, their synchronicity and passion for developing locally-sourced, seasonal dishes is evident by what is being produced in the kitchen. Hylton Espey, recruited from Cape Town, South Africa, heads up the team as Chef Patron and Daniel Kerr (formerly of The Bingham, Richmond) is the new Head Chef. Between the two of them they are an exciting duo.
The menu is based around making the most of local producers and the chefs have a close, working relationship with them. One supplier, Canara Farm, is a bio-dynamic, organic holding a few miles down the road that specialises in mixed market gardening. Using ancient techniques and planting by the moon and stars, the vegetables produced were absolutely packed with flavour. The local beaches and countryside are also a goldmine for keen foragers. With the rise in popularity of foraged foods, local man Miles Lavers collects a bounty of various sea greens and wild herbs which the chefs can then adapt to fit in with the menu on a day-by-day basis, so don’t be surprised if there are some exciting last minute additions. Falmouth Bay is renowned for it’s lobster in particular and sustainable fisherman Steve Cariad delivers lobster, prawns and crabs directly from the bay to the hotel each day.
Restaurant Dining –
For my starter I chose the appropriately named Falmouth Rockpool – a delicious combination of shellfish, foraged seaweed and horseradish. Delicate, light and full of flavour it was a perfect introduction to what is on offer at Rastella. The presentation was clever, showcasing all that can typically be found in rock pools along the coast and I loved the fact that there were elements of the dish still to be found hiding under the seaweed.
There is a good and not complicated, choice of main courses. I selected the Cornish Catch which is assuredly, whatever has been caught that day. On the evening I dined here it was lemon sole. Perfectly cooked and seasoned, it was accompanied by side orders of Truffle Fries and Roasted Garlic Creamed Spinach, both great additions to round off my meal.
On a side-note, the homemade bread and butter was also superb. Blended with seaweed or wild garlic, the butter was whipped to create a fluffy, light texture that spread easily and was delicious, I ate far too much of it as I went back for thirds. Special mention too for the wild garlic aioli, served alongside the lobster. A sweet, garlicky punch without the bitterness that can come with white garlic, not only was it a beautiful, vibrant green, I could have eaten it with a spoon by itself.
You will recognise the names of the desserts but the presentation of them may be a surprise. These are modern takes on classic dishes and they look fantastic. With all components made on the premises, these are sure to tantalise those with a penchant for all things sweet. The ginger cheesecake was a particular success around the table as well as the cheeseboard made up naturally, of local cheeses. My favourite was the creamy blue cheese, so much so that I availed myself of my neighbour’s board and cleared hers too.
Private Dining –
Private dining is a popular way to host a party nowadays and with the beautiful facilities available at Merchant’s Manor and the expertise of the Rastella chefs, what better way to celebrate that special occasion. The Library made for a stunning setting with a menu put together based on the freshest, local ingredients of the day. Personalised menus can be put together with chef, for us, we wanted to make the most of the local seafood.
Falmouth crab is lauded as being some of the best in the UK and this dish was tantamount to proving that. Delicious sweet crab in a light mayonnaise with seasonal, pickled vege and wild garlic – delicious!
A combination of razor clam, mussel and creamy oyster served on a bed of freshly foraged sea spaghetti and rock pool greens. The shellfish was perfectly cooked, highlighting the natural flavours of the sea in it’s simplicity whilst the greens balanced out the dish with their subtle saltiness and textures.
Fresh fish caught that morning and lightly pan-fried. Served up with asparagus, samphire & scallop and served with a butter sauce and shaved truffle. The fish was flaky and succulent as one would expect from a fine dining kitchen and I especially enjoyed the scallop and samphire. The quality of the ingredients speak for themselves as does the style of cooking. Clean and uncomplicated, it makes the most of the individual components ending with a well-balanced, satisfying dish.
Deconstructing seems to be the buzzword for the last couple of years and what better way to represent it than with this strawberry dessert. A combination of Cornish clotted cream, strawberry soup, fresh macerated strawberries and meringue, it was a perfect, light end to a gastronomic evening of feasting. I have to be honest here, I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth nor do I have a predilection for strawberries so the fact that even I cleared my plate is testament to the talents of the chefs. Refreshing and not too saccharine it is the first dessert I have finished in many a meal.
With the kitchen under it’s new leadership of Chef Patron Hylton Espe, I think the photos speak for themselves. This is an exciting destination for anyone wanting to experience modern dining in Falmouth Bay and given that Hylton has only been at the helm for 5 weeks, he and his team have definitely hit the ground running. I look forward to visiting again and tasting more of their culinary delights.
For my full review on staying at Merchant’s Manor Hotel click here