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Restaurant review: Ugly Butterfly by Adam Handling, Carbis Bay in Cornwall

LLM food and drink editor Natasha Heard heads to Ugly Butterfly to sample the creative tasting menu with wine pairings.

By Natasha Heard  |  February 24, 2022
Ugly Butterfly

What differentiates a good meal from an excellent one isn’t just the quality of the food on the plate or the atmosphere in the venue, but the whole experience that is enjoyed by the diner. One such place that provides creativity with their culinary expertise, a treat for their guests, and an all-round enthralling experience is Ugly Butterfly.

The restaurant and bar, which opened in summer 2021, take up a floor of space in Carbis Bay Hotel and Estate’s Ocean Venue and offer up a treat before guests have even taken a sip of a carefully crafted cocktail or a bite of sumptuous food by way of glorious, attention-grabbing sea views. Looking out onto St. Ives Bay, on the Atlantic coast of Cornwall, where the sand is always bright and the sea is never far from a constant bright blue hue, this venue makes the most of its ravishing backdrop with wall to wall, floor to ceiling windows onto the bay.

food at Ugly Butterfly
The seasonal menu features a selection of full flavoured and artfully presented dishes

A glance around the interior of the restaurant and you’ll spot natural elements such as dried local flowers hanging from the ceiling, while bare wood tables are lit at night by pendant lights to create a cosy feel in the open plan space. Part of the kitchen is open so you can see the chefs hard at work and be part of the action while you dine on the locally sourced and foraged foods.

Sustainability plays a key part in the restaurant and bar’s values with offcuts and trims from the restaurant being creatively repurposed into tasty bar snacks and delicious cocktails as served in the trendy bar. As is stated on Carbis Bay’s website; ‘This restaurant and bar menu illustrate that there is no such thing as food waste, much in the same way that there is no ugly butterfly.’

Having chatted with bar manager Josh about what type of cocktails and ingredients I typically enjoy, he expertly created me a light, delicate and floral concoction topped with a fluffy aquafaba foam, and it didn’t take me long to devour at all, such was its delectable flavour.

After being seated in the restaurant, we received a warm welcome from recently promoted restaurant director George, who oversees this location and also Covent Garden’s Frog by Adam Handling, which has been recently awarded its first Michelin Star.

Adam Handling
British chef and restaurateur Adam Handling is a Michelin-Star chef who uses his skills to conjure up delightful dishes across London and in Cornwall

We were to enjoy the tasting menu with wine pairings on the evening of our visit and ‘Adam’s Menu’ consisted of nine courses as prepared by the team of chefs including head chef Jamie Park. George poured my dining partner and I a glass of the restaurant’s own sparkling wine, which has been created with Gusbourne, with plenty of Chardonnay and resulting in a flavoursome glass of bubbles.

This paired well with the range of mouth-watering canapes that were served up, which consisted of a decadent, delicate and artful cheese donut topped with a cheese flower; a melt-in-the-mouth flower shaped waffle with smoked fish pate inside and caviar on top; beef tartare tartlet with horseradish cream which packed a punch; and a light yet flavoursome potato, truffle and chive foamy mouthful with dry ice to add a wow factor to the table.

canapes at Ugly Butterfly
A selection of mouth-watering canapes, or ‘snacks’, are served up as part of the tasting menu

Next up was the bread and chicken butter course, along with a personal explanation on card by Adam of why the flavours and elements were used and what the foods mean to him. A small sourdough loaf was laid out alongside butter topped with crispy chicken skin, chicken parfait topped with salted egg yolk and a chicken gravy to dip the bread in. All of the elements were so full of flavours and textures, and this proved that you really can elevate a bread course to lofty heights.

The crab course consisted of white Cornish crab meat mixed with crab oil, horseradish and with apple grated on top, in a nori tartlet and cleverly served in a crab shell filled with little pebbles. Paired with a light and very easy to drink Italian wine, this was a light, delicate and textureful course that I tried to savour, but couldn’t help devouring quickly. ‘All about the Sturgeon’ is an additional course to order if you wish, and it celebrates this fish by serving up a helping of caviar, sturgeon cream and smoked diced sturgeon, with warmed heart-shaped waffles to scoop up said elements.

cheese donut canape at ugly butterfly
A decadent, delicate and artful cheese donut topped with a cheese flower is a mouth-watering part of the canape selection

A mushroom agnolotti covered with foam produced some deep, dark flavours thanks to the additions of garlic and parsley oil, and this was paired well with a luscious glass of Blood of Jupiter Sangiovese red wine. This was followed by a gorgeous sweet, plump and juicy scallop with kohlrabi and a salty broth, and I love the fact that scallop pairs so well with so many different flavours. The white burgundy worked well with the delicateness of the scallop, while also lifting the broth.

This wine was also paired with the next course of halibut, shrimp and carrot, which consisted of a delightfully meaty and delicious piece of fish – crisp on top – complemented with a helping of shrimps in a flavoursome creamy sauce with a carrot puree and little carrot flower. Delicious.

A Greek red wine was poured in anticipation of the venison dish, one which I was eager to taste as I love this meat. A chunk of the lean meat sat alongside a rich and creamy parsnip purée, thinly sliced truffle, parsnip crisp, a Cornish cabbage side and a rich and hearty jus to make for a tasty, seasonal dish.

food at Ugly Butterfly
Fresh, local seafood from the coast of Cornwall makes up part of the menu, all of which can be paired with a selection of winning wines

A little pre-dessert was brought out and this refreshing apple crumble style portion surprised us with its fizzy foam, made with St. Ives Cider. Our dessert was then served up – a take on the classic pairing of rhubarb and custard with sponge, meringue, rhubarb sorbet and compote and ginger cream – a fresh, fruity, uplifting and sweet dish only made better with the dessert wine.

A lovely foamy cappuccino with a selection of eye-catching petit fours (pear jelly, Cornish clotted cream fudge with sea salt, aero, and mint chocolate) was a winning end to what had been a delightful experience at the hands of some affable, professional individuals who clearly have a passion for what they do. From Josh and Alice to George and Toby who all epitomise service with a smile, and all in the kitchen who prepare such scrumptious dishes using local ingredients and present them in such a superb way, this is a meal where all of the little details are much appreciated and I, for one, cannot wait to return.

In a nutshell

Head to Ugly Butterfly by Adam Handling for top quality, locally sourced ingredients prepared with plenty of flavour and texture. The tasting menu is a journey of careful attention to excellent produce, personal touches and creative presentation, and the staff make the whole experience a thoroughly enjoyable one.


The bar is open Tuesday to Saturday 11am-11pm, and the restaurant is open Tuesday 5.30-10pm and
Wednesday to Saturday 12pm-2.30pm and 5.30-10pm.

Address: Carbis Bay Estate, Carbis Bay, Saint Ives TR26 2NP

See snippets of my travels on Instagram @tashheard_food_travel

All imagery supplied by Ugly Butterfly