Paul Ainsworth of Number 6 launched his second venture, Rojano's in the Square, in Padstow in April. It is good value popular dining interpreted by a chef with serious fine-dining credentials. Michael Raffael reports
Padstow, aka Padstein, continues to grow as a Foodie phenomenon. However, it's new boy Paul Ainsworth who is making ripples. The Number 6 chef-patron won the South West's Great British Menu heat this year and back in April, he launched a second venture, Italian restaurant Rojano's in the Square. The name reflects its location but it's also a tribute to his first job working for Gary Rhodes during his Dolphin Square period.
Opened just before Easter, it has pulled in the masses from day one. Operating a no-bookings policy, Rojano's serves 150-200 covers at lunch and 200-plus in the evenings, seven days a week. Charging Pizza Express prices, it is popular dining interpreted by a chef with serious fine-dining credentials.
Ainsworth's menu, based on a fortnight's fact-finding mission to Rome last summer, hinges on pizza-pasta. Up close are details that might escape notice: a bucket of rock fries served with Parmesan and truffle shavings (£3.25); handmade coleslaw with duck egg mayonnaise (£2.75); or a Parma ham salad with compressed watermelon, ricotta and walnuts (£9.95).
Instead of making the pasta in-house, Ainsworth uses Rustichella (from Guidetti Fine Foods), an artisan brand made in Abruzzo. Slow-dried, it has the characteristic coarse texture to which sauces cling: pesto rosso with strozzapreti (£10.95), a ragú spiked with Chianti for spaghetti (£10.25) or salsiccia, cherry tomato and chilli with monachelle (£10.75).
Pizzas divide into 11 thin crust and five brittle "rustico sottile" versions that resemble the pide sold by Istanbul hawkers. The UK take on a Fiorentina is to bake the spinach and egg with the base but at Rojano's they are added after the pizza emerges from the oven (see picture), so the egg is never overcooked and the spinach remains green.
Many of the antipasti have subtle Italo-Cornish fusion twists. White crab bruschetta (£7.95) comes as chargrilled ciabatta topped with crab meat, basil and a lemon-chilli mayonnaise; while smoked mackerel pâté (£5.75), spiked with oregano is accompanied by slices of rosemary toast. Antipasto ‘in the square' (£16) is a sharing plate of salumi, pickles and porcini relish piled round a melted Camembert studded with roasted garlic.
A shortlist of three grills has the same crossover theme: salsa verde with a Cornish T-bone (£19.95), a burger with fontina, pickles and tomato chutney (£15.95) or "Day Boat Market Fish of the Day" (£15.95) served with peppers, salsiccia, oregano, garlic and capers.
Among the desserts ‘Gelati Mostro' (£5.95), an invented Italian-sounding title, is no less than a Knickerbocker Glory. ‘Calda Cialde' (£4.95) is an attempt at turning "toasted waffle, poached pear, caramel sauce and vanilla ice-cream" into Italian.
If foreign language skills aren't Paul Ainsworth's forte, cooking certainly is. During the launch, he left his fine-dining restaurant to take charge of Rojano's kitchen brigade. At the same time he kept an eye on the front of house where a loose-knit team that includes an ex-manager from U2's Clarence Hotel in Dublin and a demobbed student with a marketing degree put plates on tables.
This is La Bella Italia at one remove. To its mainly British patrons, it's familiar, reassuring and a very good deal.
Sample dishes from the menu
Sicilian arancini - risotto balls with mozzarella and beef ragu with arrabbiata sauce £4.95 Beef carpaccio, raw Cornish beef, radishes, Parmesan, rocket and lemon oil £6.95 Il Prosciutto di Parma insalata - Parma ham, watermelon, ricotta, walnuts with spinach and watercress £9.95
Linguine marinara - pasta with smoked salmon, mussels, squid, king prawns, tomato, watercress and basil £11.25 Burger Italiano - Cornish beef patty, Fontina cheese, chorizo, salad, pickles, tomato chutney and fries £10.95 Pizza diavola - pepperoni, roquito peppers, green chillies and jalapeños £9.25
White chocolate panna cotta, fresh berry compote and honeycomb £4.95 Tiramisu £4.95 Selection of ice-creams and sorbets £4.95
Rojano's in the Square 9 Mill Square, Padstow, Cornwall PL28 8AE