Fifteen Cornwall, Watergate Bay, near Newquay

2.19pm, Saturday 22nd October, London Bridge, London, England, UK

Afternoon folks, it’s an absolutely beautiful autumn winter day in London – just the ticket for the massive fan rally that’s currently going on right now in Trafalgar Square for the Visiting American NFL football teams The Chicago Bears and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They play tomorrow out at Wembley in the one big offshore NFL game of the year. And I’ve got the window open because it’s so nice, and the bells have just started up from the Southwark Cathedral just down the road on this end of the actual London Bridge itself. Its all very London around here today.

But last Wednesday it was all coastline and belting razor cold winds down in Cornwall, when we made our pilgrimage down to Fifteen restaurant Cornwall – built into the Sandhills cliff above Watergate Bay, just north of Newquay. Our wines are distributed down there in Kernow ( = Cornwall in the Cornish language) by long time supporter Damien. And our absolute ‘fortress’ in Cornwall? Fifteen. Because? Two reasons really. Firstly – we got involved very early on with the original Jamie Oliver ‘Fifteen’ restaurant project in the old nail factory at 15 Westland Place, Islington – with Jamie’s Australian wine man Matt Skinner listing our Pewsey Vale Riesling from the outset. We did the introductory wine classes for the first two groups of trainees that went through their program, and those were very interesting times, as it put wine into a whole new ‘with food’ perspective. Secondly, we have a top local champion at Fifteen Cornwall in their Wine Man, Front Of House, and generally all round talented entertainer Gordy Lawrence.

When we can make it along to the restaurant, we do the whole thing! Staff training for the Fifteen wait staff, then another introductory wine class for the current group of the young trainees going through the Fifteen ‘folks deserve a second chance’ program – good timing as they’re just about to go to Tuscany to see what an age old established regional food & wine culture actually looks and tastes like. They do well, very quickly recognizing the different aromas, flavors and even textures of the four different Y Series wines that we work through – 2010 Riesling, 2010 Viognier, 2009 Merlot and 2009 Shiraz. With a limited wine specific vocabulary, it’s great to watch them identify various wine attributes, and the genuine pleasure that comes with realizing that they can ‘get wine’ in a reasonable way without too much trouble – once they’re given a bit of guidance. This is one of the best things about my job – working with self confessed ‘wine beginners’ and being enough of a tour guide that it gives them the confidence to explore the world of wine and food with a bit more confidence in their own palates.

Then Gordy puts a set of Yalumba wine and food course match options on specially for that one nights only menu, and we get to talk to the folks who are in for dinner who choose the options!! It works really well, and this is the second time we’ve done it.

So here we go. For starters, here’s the new seasons olives from Puglia that you get to try before dinner

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And this their Antipasto Plate – with the big feature being the ‘baratta’ (not sure that’s the right spelling) which is the home made mozzarella tied off that’s made as per usual, then opened up and filled with cows milk cream and slowly poached. Quite special.

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Here’s the ‘before’ for one of the wine and food match courses. It’s the ‘Cappeletti of Casablanca Madaio bufalino, loadsa herbs, rainbow chard with Amalfi lemon butter sauce and canestrato’ Just a quick translate for those from different parts of the world – Casa Madaio are Italian cheesemakers near the Amalfi Coast, and bufalino is like a soft mozzarella thats aged with a 90 day life, and lends itself to the fillings for pasta. Rainbow chard is a local silver beet type of vegetable – organically grown. And Canestrato? Is a southern Italian pecorino or hard parmesan like aged cheese. This dish went out with either the 2008 Yalumba Virgilius Viognier or the 2010 Heggies Chardonnay, depending on the diners’ preference.

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I didn’t get any photos of the finished dishes, as I was flat out around the tables talking my face off about the wines. To who? For starters, we had happy honeymooners, a 30 year wedding anniversary , folks from near Manchester who have dined at our fortress up there – the Magnall family’s Fisherman’s Retreat, folks from Melbourne in Australia, folks down from London for the weekend, and even some Newquay locals. A nice happy buzzy room on the night.

So at the end of it all, another very excellent trip to Cornwall, and a top time with Fifteen. And now Gordy wants me to wear the incredibly fashionable Fifteen Cornwall T shirt in the vineyards that supply the wines on the Fifteen list. I can do that! Watch this space – I’m not really fashionably worthy, but I’ll do what I can.

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And why do folk make the trek to Watergate Bay? Have a look at this view!

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