Chef Emily Scott has moved to Watergate Bay where she's cooking what she wants to cook – simple, seasonal, beautiful dishes with a sense of place. Katherine Price hears all about it.
It feels like it's chef Emily Scott's year. Having quietly run the St Tudy Inn in Bodmin, Cornwall, for the past six years, she sold the site to Harbour Brewing Co in May to focus on her new restaurant at Watergate Bay, the first to have her name above the door. Her debut cookbook was also published in June – the same month she was one of the host chefs for the G7 Summit.
Scott was initially approached to run a pop-up restaurant in the former Fifteen Cornwall building at Watergate Bay last summer, but she has since taken a three-year lease in the space that used to be Watchful Mary and relaunched it as Emily Scott Food.
"It just felt like the right time to do something else," Scott explains. "St Tudy was amazing, but a pub is a hard thing to run because you've got so many different groups of people – whether it's the person who wants a pint and a pork pie, a three- to four-course meal, or fish and chips."
Now, she's cooking what she wants to cook. The restaurant's menu is, of course, fish- and seafood-focused and changes regularly to ensure the freshest seasonal produce is on the menu, sourced as locally as possible. Scott is passionate about seafood – she used to run the Harbour restaurant in Port Isaac until she sold it to Nathan Outlaw in 2013, and her ex-husband was a fisherman. She uses suppliers such as Padstow Kitchen Garden for vegetables, while her fish comes from merchants George Cleave and Danny Gilbert.
She hopes the restaurant will become known for its sharing fish dishes, including whole turbot (£55pp) and monkfish (£50pp) on the bone. The fish are roasted in a Bertha oven and the turbot is served with a sauce that is made monter au beurre – where butter is added to reduced chicken stock with chives. "It becomes this silky-smooth, umami, Marmite-y, delicious sauce," says Scott. This is poured over the fish and then fresh black truffle is shaved over the top.
The monkfish is also served with a warm butter vinaigrette. "I can't cook without butter," she laughs, "if you want to be on a diet, you can't come to my restaurant." Butter, vinegar, tomatoes and tarragon ("one of those herbs that's so underrated and so good") are warmed through gently for the sauce, with tarragon leaves added for decoration.
"With cooking simply, there's nowhere to hide – the sauces have to be right, it all has to marry together," she says. "It's all done in a considered way, but it is fish on a plate. That's what's so lovely – you're not messing around with it too much."
With cooking simply, there's nowhere to hide – the sauces have to be right, it all has to marry together
Predictably, the restaurant's deep-fried new potatoes (£4) are also a bestseller. The potatoes are slightly crushed before going into the fryer, with flavours of confit garlic, lemon zest, tarragon, chives, parsley and salt.
Scott's French training is apparent in the amount of butter in her cooking (she spent a few years in Burgundy, including at L'Etape de Santenay), but also her love of wine. "I'm a bit of a Burgundy girl, having lived there," she says. "There's nothing better than turbot and a glass of Burgundy."
Her partner, Mark Hellyar, is also a winemaker, so wine is a priority at the restaurant and the team tastes the dishes and wines every week to discuss pairings. The experience Scott hopes to create through the food and atmosphere is somewhere between nostalgia and the French joie de vivre, "taking you back to that holiday in the sun, where you remember eating a peach", she explains, clarifying that it is not fine dining. She says head chef Kye Byford understands her "less is more", regularly changing approach to menus, which keeps her small team of five on their toes when serving approximately 100 covers per day.
"That's always how I've cooked – I couldn't print a menu for three months and say, ‘this is my menu'. I don't cook like that," she says.
It has been a change for Scott, running a restaurant with her name on it, and she says expectations have been higher following her participation in the G7 and 2019's Great British Menu competition. This has brought more pressure on top of the challenges of the last year and ongoing staffing shortages in the sector, but she clarifies that she "feels very at home" at her latest restaurant: "It just feels the place I should be at the moment."
Emily Scott Food, On the Beach, Watergate Bay, Cornwall TR8 4AA
From the menu
- Tempura of monkfish, miso mayo, pickled kohlrabi £13
- Mozzarella panna cotta, tomato, basil £11.50
- Sashimi of scallops, yuzu ponzu, spring onions, sesame £12
- Whole Cornish lobster, seaweed butter, burnt lime £48
- Day boat pollock, tomato butter vinaigrette £24
- John Dory roasted over coals, lemon butter, fine herbs £35
- Lemon posset, Cornish fairing crumb, raspberries £7
- Flourless chocolate and almond pudding, crème fraîche £8.50
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