River Cottage Canteen - Plymouth
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About this restaurant
The River Cottage and Hugh Fearnley-Whittington go together like, well, fish and chips. Following the success of the Axminster River Cottage Canteen, HF-W (as we all now know him) has opened another branch in the former victualling depot of the Royal Navy. On the waterfront, the granite Grade 1 Brewhouse features a triple-height ceiling and a large outdoor terrace with spectacular views of the Tamar River and Mount Edgcumbe. The spacious, family-friendly interior is modern rustic with exposed brick and stone, scrubbed wooden tables made from recycled doors and a large open kitchen with a wood-fired oven (the downside is the noise level can become uncomfortably high).
The bistro-style menu reflects the RC philosophy of food provenance, seasonality and support for local producers. Ingredients are chosen at weekly tastings, and the Canteen has been pioneering a plan to bring fresh produce by sailboat down the Tamar. Savvy Modern British is probably the best description of the cooking style but the kitchen under the direction of Tim Maddams is sensible and unassuming enough to keep things skillfully simple without being plain. Pan-roasted pigeon breast with watercress puree and crispy bacon, cured mackerel tartare, sour cream and crisp bread, bitter chocolate torte, cider brandy cream and sunflower seed praline were all part of this year’s Valentine’s Day menu (the online menu was not available at the time of writing but the average spend for a three course meal is around £25 per head).
Other dishes that have been praised include beetroot and cumin soup (£5.00) venison and pork open burger with sautéed pears (£8.50), rustic pizza with roasted crown prince squash and Montgomery cheddar - and there are daily fish specials. The River Cottage bacon sarnie is a can’t-miss breakfast bargain at £4.00. The stinging nettle ale is said to slide down nicely as well.
We at the Canteens are registered as buyers of first sale fish so we can legally support local rod and line fishermen by purchasing direct from them. We register these purchases on line with the MMO We are also members of the SRA who also check our sourcing policy. We only buy wholesale fish from day boat sources and we actively encourage the use of by-catch species. Oh, and we were instrumental in the fish fight campaign on channel 4.
Given the restaurant’s own provenance, it would indeed be a poor show if HFW didn’t put his principles into practice. Happily, the Plymouth Canteen meets all expectations of sustainability. Line-caught mackerel, sea bass and pollack, Cornish ring-netted sardines, day boat-caught Cornish megrim, mussels from the Fowey estuary and local in-shore fishery crab, for example, feature on the menu. It’s a fine roll-call, and although the Canteen has the advantage of being on the coast, it is an exemplary reminder to all restaurants and chefs the environmental choice need not be a restrictive one.
We look forward to seeing the daily menu appear online.
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October 26 2012