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Menuwatch: Driftwood

22 January 2020 by

Situated within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it's no wonder Olly Pierrepont left the capital for a new life at the Driftwood hotel on the Roseland Peninsula. Amanda Afiya pays a visit

When Driftwood veteran Chris Eden announced his decision to leave the Portscatho hotel last spring, nobody would have predicted that the head chef of London's La Trompette restaurant in Chiswick would become his successor.

More city slicker than country-dweller, Olly Pierrepont grew up in London and Oxford before taking on a career that would see him spend his formative years at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire, followed by numerous posts in London, Ascot and Bath.

Driftwood
Driftwood

But the moment he saw the 15-bedroom boutique hotel's stunning views of the Cornish coast, he became completely enchanted with the place. "It's a really big change for me. I was looking for something new and this came up. I just fell in love with it." And, having become a father in 2018, the timing couldn't have been better for his family, either. "My wife Ulyana and I had a little boy 15 months ago; we thought it was a good time to get out of the city."

Pierrepont grew up in Tottenham with his Thai mother before moving to live with his father, who ran the Lamb & Flag in Hailey, near Witney, Oxfordshire, when he was 14. He describes his mum as a "fantastic cook", but admits that it wasn't until he was exposed to pubs that he thought of cheffing as a career. "I used to help my dad out and I loved it – not just the food side of it, but the atmosphere, the banter in the kitchen... Everything appealed to me."

Driftwood cod
Driftwood cod

After spending three years working under Raymond Blanc and Gary Jones – "I couldn't have asked for a better start; they're the best teachers in the country" – Pierrepont joined Chris Staines at Foliage at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, before going on to work at Texture, the Square, Heckfield Place, Restaurant John Campbell at Coworth Park, and Allium at the Abbey hotel, Bath. He was part of the opening team of Fera at Claridge's, and then in 2014, joined La Trompette, where he worked under executive head chef Rob Weston for nearly five years.

"Rob is one of my biggest influences. He showed me how to use everything, how to make everything profitable, how to make a business really work and still cook great food at the same time," he reveals.

Driftwood mackerel
Driftwood mackerel

Pierrepont brought much of Weston's thinking to the Driftwood, where he works under the property's entrepreneur owners Paul and Fiona Robinson, with his arrival in August. He buys animals in whole, and bread and butter are made in-house – not just for financial reasons, he says, but because he enjoys the process. "I think a lot of these things are forgotten skills, but it's important for the guys to learn."

He operates an à la carte menu (£55 for three courses) and a seven-course tasting menu (£75 per person, with an optional cheese course for £8), which he offers alongside a vegetarian tasting menu (also £75) in the 40-seat dining room. His cooking is eclectic in style, featuring wholesome dishes such as agnolotti of Italian white sweet potato, ceps and aged Parmesan , but other dishes surprise with a lightness of touch and Asian influences.

Driftwood strawberries
Driftwood strawberries

"I like these flavours because of my mother. I like fresh things, acidity," he says, referencing a balanced dish of cured gilt-head bream, miyagawa (mandarin), wasabi, radishes and chilled dashi. "The use of sweet and sour, balanced with acidity, comes from Le Manoir, really."

Meanwhile, his seasonally changing soufflés are derived from his time at La Trompette. "It's something we always had on the menu – they work well for the kitchen." The current soufflé is built around quince and bergamot, paired with an Earl Grey ice-cream, while the previous version featured Kea plums, uniquely found growing just off the Fal Estuary. "Soufflés are a little bit of theatre; they're light and they tick a lot of boxes."

Olly Pierrepoint
Olly Pierrepoint

With his arrival at Driftwood in late summer, it was no surprise that the restaurant's Michelin star, which it had held for seven years, was deleted in the 2020 guide. But Pierrepont, who held a star at La Trompette, is sanguine about it. "I know what I enjoy cooking and after the last five years at La Trompette, I know what I want to keep cooking. I think it's a good standard and if other people think so as well, then that's brilliant. As long as the people in the dining room are happy, that's the main thing."

From the menu

Starters

  • Roasted lamb sweetbreads, alliums, sheep's curd, potato crisps
  • Curgurrel corner beets, soused Cornish herrings, horseradish, apple, crème fraîche

Mains

  • Aynhoe Park deer, crisp polenta, pumpkin, kale, mole sauce
  • Gratin of Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, Tunworth, winter leaf salad
  • Suckling pig, creamed potato, salsify, sand carrot, black garlic

Desserts

  • Cornish rum baba, mango, pineapple, Chantilly cream
  • Warm bitter chocolate tart, prunes, Guinness ice-cream

£55 for three courses

Driftwood hotel, Rosevine, Portscatho, Cornwall TR2 5EW

www.driftwoodhotel.co.uk

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