Bruce Rennie is a chef with a story to tell. A decade ago, he moved from Edinburgh, where he worked under Martin Wishart, to the Cornish coast, eventually opening the Shore in Penzance. So far, so normal, but Rennie’s kitchen boasts a brigade of one – himself.
In part a reaction to the waxing and waning tides of the area’s tourists, he has been able to foster a focused style of bright colours and bold flavours to accompany the local seafood. The Shore plots his story, along with Rennie’s connection to the region and the dishes he produces on his constantly evolving menu. His plates are ripe sources of inspiration, from gloriously pink char sui-infused monkfish to a delicate-looking tartare of pollock, rose, yuzu and golden beetroot.
Unfortunately, this vision is, in my opinion, let down by the publisher – whose light-touch approach to editing makes it feel as though the chef’s emails have been run through a spellchecker and planted straight on the page. Editors serve a vital purpose, and given Shakespeare himself used them, it feels right chefs should too.
The clearest example of this is Rennie’s direction for cooking fish, which is not listed in the individual recipes. Even the suggested weight of fish required is often omitted. Instead, a vague catch-all guide makes up one of the opening pages: bring to room temperature, season with salt and fry skin-side down first. Beyond this, the recommendation is to roast with 10% steam and check with a temperature probe. ‘How hot should it be?’ you ask. “Experiment,” says the book. Unfortunately, this leaves us with a problem: The Shore is a seafood book that does not tell you how to cook fish.
The most disappointing thing is the dishes look sublime. The sharp contrast of Porthilly oysters with apple and green rocoto chilli, the earthiness of brill with Jerusalem artichokes and hazelnut – dishes leap off the page and straight onto your tastebuds. Rennie’s approach clearly yields incredible results and it is heartbreaking to see a chef’s talent and interesting story diminished by its delivery.
The Shore by Bruce Rennie (A Way With Media, £25)
• Try the recipe for cod, dhal, cauliflower, lime pickle, onion bhaji, coriander from the book here