Truro: Natasha Heard spends 48 hours in Cornwall’s new gourmet capital
Much that is written about Cornwall consists of its stunning coastline and seaside resorts but inland there are places certainly worth spending time in including none other than the county’s only city of Truro.
With a magnificent cathedral in the centre of the Cornish capital, which was completed in 1910, a large range of shops to partake in some retail therapy, art galleries, and a £21 million renovation of the theatre, which is currently underway and due to open next year, you will be kept busy.
I was delighted to return to The Alverton, a grade II listed four star hotel just outside the centre and, with this, I was offered a day at Truro Cookery School, who the hotel partners with and which I gladly accepted. The beautiful building dates back to 1830 and offers 51 bedrooms, including 9 suites, a restaurant, bar, outdoor terrace, events rooms and gorgeous gardens. The weather was on side on one of the days I visited so made it a priority to enjoy a drink on the terrace, it’s a perfect escape.
As you wind your way up the driveway you are offered the most pretty welcome of the grounds and main building; the gardens are gorgeous with mature and younger trees creating a rainbow of green against the sandy coloured building, which rises up to create quite the majestic image. Part of the building was created as a family home for William Tweedy, president of the Royal Horticultural Society, in later years this was added to and was lived in by nuns before spending its last 35 years as a hotel and you’ll certainly spot some character as you walk around.
After a friendly check in I was shown to my room in the courtyard, which houses a fairly recently renovated set of rooms offering individual style, quality furnishings and plenty of mod cons. The decor in the room was classic with wood panel effect wallpaper sitting along the back wall and soft shades on the walls and doors frames in pale browns to complement this. Alongside the wallpaper were two butterfly pictures hanging on the walls, which gave the room a traditional gentlemen’s study feel. A contrasting headboard in a gentle floral pattern, pale brown wood furniture and a bench at the foot of the bed completed the look. Comfy robes and slippers were waiting on the bed ready to snuggle into, a fridge in the wardrobe was ideal for my post-cookery school food and the modern bathroom with night lighting, multiple shower heads and lovely toiletries was ideal.
A drink in the hotel bar is a great way to start any meal and, what’s more, at The Alverton on a Friday evening during summer expect live music for their summer sessions and some cocktail o’clock offers. Sipping on a Gin Garden (Tanqueray gin, elderflower, apple, lime and cucumber) and listening to Miranda Brook belt out a mix of tunes on her guitar was a great way to begin the trip away.
For dinner I opted for confit pork belly with seared scallop, black pudding and apple puree to start and it was a deliciously meaty dish with all of the elements required for a winning plate of food – crispy thin crackling, sweet puree, rich black pudding, with a lovely scallop and a glass of Romanian Pinot Noir too.
The duo of duck main course was another winner, and head chef, Simon George’s signature dish, consisting of confit duck leg, breast, squash fondant, pancetta, corn puree and a port and maraschino cherry reduction. On the side I opted for a portion of ‘posh’ rustic chips with parmesan and a truffle and mustard mayo – best chips I’ve had in a long time with lovely flavours in the mayo. The duck breast was tender, the leg rough in texture, the fondant was so tasty wrapped in crisp pancetta and the lovely gravy made this a dish I would certainly devour again.
On my return visit the next evening I opted for the crab linguine, which was really tasty but for £18 I would have liked more crab. The service was patchy, there were plenty of staff in, who were all friendly, professional and smiling but the side dishes came out a good five minutes after the main dishes on both nights and I had a slightly awkward moment with a waitress about whether I had ordered the right or wrong chips on the second evening. However, the food served in the spacious restaurant was better than I remembered from a previous visit – expect well portioned, tasty dishes that are worth returning for, as I did.
TRURO SCHOOL COOKERY
In partnership with Leith’s School of Food and Wine, Maria and AJ, who run the classes at Truro School teach college students during the week and members of the public outside of hours. Classes are themed and, for my visit, I spent the day preparing a feast for four of Spanish tapas. Recipes are designed by the pair and their experience is clear to see with everything clearly explained and ingredients measured out so that when it’s your chance to prepare each part it’s as easy as can be. Maria and AJ made it a fun process with music and Prosecco, and the easy to follow recipes to take home are amendable so I could take my newly learned skills away with me and be creative with different ingredients when I got home.
I’m great at eating food but not necessarily creating certain things like breads, pastries and puddings and I was surprised to learn that bread is not as difficult to make as I previously thought. I came away with a delicious looking chorizo, feta and tomato swirly offering that I couldn’t wait to devour and also make again to show off to friends and family. I also attempted a pear and almond tart, saffron aioli and Andalusian shrimp fritters, from scratch, using and learning techniques that I had only ever seen on TV and never thought I could do myself. I learned tips such as roasting garlic to make it sweeter and less pungent in your cooking as well as using more spring onion that I thought, tips on how to save a split aioli, how to roll and not roll pastry and many other interesting things that I can apply in the kitchen in future.
I can’t recommend this course enough, you will have a fun day and take, not only, glorious food away with you but also skills that you can use for the rest of your life as well as the satisfaction and proud feeling that you did this yourself.
The Alverton Hotel, Tregolls Rd, Truro TR1 1ZQ / 01872 276633 / thealverton.co.uk
Truro School Cookery, Truro School, Trennick Lane, Truro TR1 1TH / 01872 246 099 / truroschoolcookery.com
Image credit at the very top of the article: James Ram