Margo's at Trevisker Garden Centre

18 Sep Padstow gets cooler by the mile – out of town for the hippest restaurants

As Padstow gets busier and the prices of commercial premises and rents move further into the stratosphere a new generation of culinary entrepreneur is looking further afield to enhance the Camel delta experience. Two of our favourites are Margot’s, that opened this year at the Trevisker Garden Centre a mile or so out of town on the B3276, and Strong Adolphos perched above the achingly hip Hawksfield lifestyle retail development on the Atlantic Highway A39, near Wadebridge.

You can’t miss either: Both have ‘cafe’ on their roofs, a simple and effective inducement.

Some readers may recall the original Margot’s, a fine restaurant on Duke Street in the centre of the old town. What they may not know is that despite all the hoopla surrounding other more feted chefs there were many, including yours truly, who thought Margot’s chef, Adrian Oliver, to be the best in town. Quietly going about his business cooking fresh, locally sourced ingredients in a classic and altogether satisfying way. While the food mood here as elsewhere veers towards piles and squiggles Adrian  erred on the side of thoughtful classics. Generous too. I recall one night a cheese course that would have kept a French brasserie in business for a week, and on another, desperate, because I couldn’t source anchovies for a broccoli pasta dish that Kim excels at, Adrian, across the road enjoying a well earned end of evening fag, led me inside and handed me a pot of his own marinated anchovies. A real foodie – and better still, a motorcyclist to boot.

So you can imagine how pleased Kim and I were when earlier this year Adrian resurfaced at an all new purpose built Margos a short ways out of town. The new Margot’s is within a bright and airy timber framed structure, joined at the hip to the reinvigorated garden centre. With an exposed gable roof and a partially open kitchen at the far end. There is a large terrace restaurant adjoining it for sunning afternoon teas. Glass and natural wood pervade and the feeling is open and faintly Scandinavian.

While the surroundings are different the Margo’s menu is reassuringly Adrian. West country comfort food including smoked haddock chowder, grilled mackerel, scallops, hake with clotted cream and mashed potatoes and baked plaice. From overseas exotic roasted aubergine and red peppers with cous cous and mint yoghurt, and confit of duck.

Not a big meat eater I nevertheless often opt for the steak when eating out; How it’s cooked is a good measure of a place, like house wine. Henk’s sirloin, with a florin of tarragon butter atop and a plump grilled tomato and crunchy, salted chips balanced flavour with texture, and colour with aroma. Kim ordered the Eton Mess, a leaning tower of Pisa stuffed with meringue and strawberries held together with whipped cream. I wrapped things up with the cheese course featuring an aged local blue that unleashed our inexpensive Australian chardonnay.

Asta did well too. The waitress brought a bowl of water while I despatched slices of sirloin beneath the table.

Strong Adolphos

Strong Adolphos

Three miles further from town, on the Atlantic Highway, Strong Adolphos is the sort of ‘Millennials’ breakfast and lunchtime diner the modern motorcyclist has been craving for.  It serves all the biker favourites: Juicy fat butternut squash bean burgers (!) served with chips the size of thumbs, salad and coleslaw,  and the prettiest cupcakes this side of Betty’s of Harrogate. And if that doesn’t flush your pistons there’s usually a motorcycle parked nonchalantly on its side-stand next to the counter – inside.

New age biker, meats, meets tattoos,  surf boards, big beards, body piercing, and delicious colourful grub; king prawn, clam and chorizo chowder with chives tomatoes and sourdough bread almost made me break a golden rule and take a photograph of my meal.

One look at the owner John Fristrom Eldridge and you can sort of understand where Strong Adolphos is coming from. Its his restaurant but his passions seem equally divided between food, customising motorcycles and designing surfboards. This man has the wild west county on steroids. It fiuts right along with the other business at Hawksfield: John O’Carroll’s contemporary gallery; Jo & Co a tasteful interiors store; Bin Two at The Arc, a deli with every culinary treat you didn’t know you wanted; The Goose Shed vintage interiors and reclammations; and Bespoke Traders specialising in some of the best and quickest classic cars and bikes known to man. Strong Adolphos is the perfect fit.

But don’t for a moment think Adolphos is just a drop-in for politically correct bikers. Although it’s important to put what is the coolest and genuinely alternative highway cafe into context. Strong Adolphos is about as far away from the conventional west country lunch-stop as imaginable. Like Margo’s its a purpose built restaurant with high ceilings and a neo industrial look featuring polished ventilation ducts and naked light bulbs. There’s a ‘loungy’ sofa and coffee table seating/dining area, chalk boards with specials, and piles of scrumptious primped and preened cakes baked by Mathilda.

If there are underlying influences its Scandinavian (I’ve never used that word twice in the same article before) and oriental, with bits of the menu reminding me of trips in an earlier life to Sweden and Norway. Salmon gravadlax with dill and beetroot, yarg fritters with onion and chutney. Elsewhere Thai beef with mushroom noodles, tempura prawns and always plenty of dal – lentils, chickpeas and coconut – that’s spicy, warming and filling.

The basics are catered for too. The meat hamburgers are juicy and aromatic, served with all the extras any burgerista expects; chilli and gherkins. There’s slow cooked shoulder of pork and halloumi salad. And Strong Adolphos can also claim to making the otherwise bland pollock a fish worth eating enlivened with chilli and tarragon potato salad.

Time to get out of Padstow – to get in.

Margot’s, Trevisker Garden Centre, Padstow, PL28 541361.

Strong Adolphos, St.Breock, Wadebridge, PL27 7LR. 01208 816949