Chef Joe Mercer Nairne has worked in a handful of the world’s finest kitchens, from Chez Bruce and The Savoy Grill in London to the antipodal Rockpool in Sydney. Just over a year ago Joe opened up his first restaurant, The Medlar, with David O’Connor (ex-front of house for the Michelin-starred restaurants The Square, The Ledbury and Chez Bruce). Light and relaxed, The Medlar serves good value, globally inspired French dishes to a fifty-fifty split of well-heeled locals and travelling foodies. This Sunday the Cornish Grill is delighted to have Joe and sous-chef Andrew Kyriakides take over the Redhook kitchen, where they will showcase their wonderfully creative – and truly original – take on the Great British roast dinner. BUY TICKETS HERE.
Born in England, but raised in Scotland and Seattle, Joe led a fairly nomadic existence before he met his wife. It was then, eight years ago, that she introduced him to Cornwall and he began to appreciate the exquisite nature of the region, and its delicious, unstinting produce. It’s some 700 miles north in Scotland, however, where Joe’s formative roasts were served. “Most commonly it was chicken, because it was cheap I suppose, but I love roast chicken”, Joe tells me, between smacked lips. “Mum was quite a good cook. We always had mealy pudding and bread sauce.”
Joe’s fondest memories of roasts were in Scotland, when his mother would cook the prized local beef. It was something he’d miss dearly when the family upped sticks to the West Coast in the 80s, where the beef philosophy was ‘bigger is better’. It’s those halcyon Highland days that he’s trying to recreate on Sunday, this time with Cornish produce. And that’s not the only twist…
The roast will begin with a wonderfully accomplished plate of asparagus, served with soft, oozing, parmesan and butter seasoned polenta, St George mushrooms, a poached egg and shavings of Berkswell cheese. Berkswell is a nice, earthy, sheep’s milk cheese, which will tie together the burgeoning flavours of spring. It’s the sort of dish that The Medlar is known for, but it’s the main course where Joe is really going to get his kicks.
The Cornish Grill has always been an outlet for culinary creativity, as proved most recently by Tim Anderson’s five-spice rubbed rib of beef with Shaoxing wine gravy and Carl Clarke’s glorious venison with ‘Pitt Cue Co’ smoked pig fat roasties. Joe’s approach is no different, in fact, this might be the most iconoclastic Cornish Grill yet. Make sure you’re sitting down for this one. THERE WILL BE NO YORKSHIRE PUDDINGS. And, steady… NO ROAST POTATOES. Instead, Joe will rework those textures, flavours and ingredients back into the meal, pushing his nerve to the limit in the meantime. No goading on my part will draw him into competition with the likes of Alyn Williams for the perfect roastie. “I love roast potatoes, don’t get me wrong, but you can’t have them all the time!” And so is chuckled the final word.
The main surprise however is perhaps the type of cut that Joe has gone for. He’s taking the whole rump of 30 day aged Belted Galloway (purebred suckler beef raised on the lower reaches of Bodmin Moor) and cutting it into its different muscle groups. At the heart of it, he wants to surprise us, to shatter our associations of tough, flavourless, supermarket rump.
“Andrew and I thought it would be fun. We’ve gone for the rump because I think it’s got more flavour. You don’t get the benefit of the fat but the meat’s nicer. Everyone expects a fillet or a rib to be good, but if you have a really good butcher who’s selected really nice cows, and aged them well, bits like the rump are delicious.”
– Chef Joe Mercer Nairne
That said, Joe’s only human and, like the rest of us, has a lust for lipids. “We’ll certainly be serving it with a bit of fat. We’ll try to keep a bit of fat on the outside of the rump, if it looks nice, and render it down a bit.”
The meat will be served with in-season purple sprouting brocoli with toasted almonds and an anchovy vinaigrette, pickled walnut salsa verde (an influence from Andrew’s Greek-Cypriot heritage) and what Joe describes as a ‘butch’ potato salad. New potatoes are boiled first thing in the morning and left to marinade in celery, red wine vinegars and choice herbs. “It’s very tasty and, like the salsa verde, it has plenty of acidity. It all goes nicely together with the rich beef. Hearty stuff.” The Medlar is not known for skimping on portions, and this Sunday will be no exception. Joe will be serving his sides just as he does at home: a little on the plate, and lots more in big help-yourself bowls.
“It’s always a challenge to try to make something look pretty on the plate while giving enough food. I was always taught to be generous with the main ingredients.”
Now, I’ve deliberately left the last side for last, because I think you’re going to need to compose yourself all over again. Braised. Shin. Croquettes. Think the crunch of a fine roast potato, but with an inside of unctuous, melting meat. That’s where you’re at. The shins are braised in (lots of) red wine, port and vegetables, then removed from the pot and cooled, after which the meat shredded from the bone. The liquor is left to reduce by half before it’s returned to the meat as a thick, sticky glaze and together the mixture is rolled into boudins and hung in the fridge. When chilled the boudins are sliced into discs, breadcrumbed and deep-fried. If anything’s getting stuffed down my trousers this weekend, it’s these.
Headstrong and with the determination of a Special K model squeezing into her cereal-diet jeans, we proceed onto dessert. And boy does it sound good, and after the excitement of the main course, reassuringly simple, too. A generous slice of poached rhubarb frangipane tart with a quenelle of Cornish clotted cream. What could be more delightful? But its simplicity belies a great deal of technical skill, for it’s a ‘proper’ frangipane tart, you see. Real frangipane has no flour in it, just eggs, sugar, ground almonds and butter. It makes it more like a cake than a frangipane. The texture becomes too bouncy. “With a proper frangipane, if you push your finger into it after it’s cooked it will leave a finger print”, Joe corroborates. He’s leaving nothing to chance with the frangipane case either, opting for rich sable pastry, which has a biscuity, shortbread texture. “Some people would use other pastries, but for frangipane sable is definitely the best. It’s the nicest pastry to eat on its own too.”
So there you have it, a wonderful, button bursting Sunday roast fitting for a wet April’s afternoon. And if you’ll be recovering from Ribstock like me, the unlimited Grey Goose Bloody Mary bar and cocktail reception will be just what the doctor ordered. I hope to see you there!
The Cornish Grill Sunday roast will be served from 12.30pm on Sunday 29 April. There will no turning tables so take your time and enjoy the feast. Tickets cost £40 and include a cocktail upon arrival and unlimited trips to the DIY Bloody Mary bar. Buy tickets here. The menu in full:
THE MEDLAR – CORNISH GRILL
The Cornish Grill at Redhook
Sunday 29 April
Joe Mercer Nairn and Andrew Kyriakides
Grey Goose aperitif – Ruby Red Royale
(Grey Goose vodka, Ruby Red grapefruit juice, elderflower)
Grey Goose Bloody Mary buffet
(DIY your favourite or bartender’s best)
Cornish asparagus and poached egg with soft polenta, St. George mushrooms and Berkswell cheese
Roast rump of Belted Galloway with braised shin, purple sprouting broccoli with toasted almonds and anchovy vinaigrette, pickled walnut salsa verde and a ‘butch’ potato salad
Rhubarb and frangipane tart with Cornish clotted cream
Tea, coffee and chocolate truffles