A micro-seasonal approach to produce affords exceptional pub dining in the heart of the city.
Words by Hannah Tapping
Chef Tom Hannon’s dream was to own and run a pub; but not just any old pub. For Tom, and wife Katie, it had to be somewhere that would extend a warm, friendly and genuine welcome to all. A pub where beers and ales were well-kept, the wine list was carefully curated, the back-bar enviable and, most importantly, food that would have guests returning again and again. So, in 2014 Tom and Katie took the reins of The Rising Sun in Truro, an 18th century building with a dining pub at its heart. With an ethos of inherent and uncompromising quality and attention to detail they have created a dining destination that has garnered a loyal foodie following and industry acclaim.
For Tom, it all begins with the ingredients – local, seasonal produce: “It may sound cliché, but it’s really important to me, and it’s not just about buying any local produce, it has to be the best and it has to be in season.” The Rising Sun’s menu has good food at its core, with dishes that are tweaked and evolve as the seasons change, but rather than those seasons being shoe-horned into the obvious spring, summer, autumn and winter, Tom embraces a more organic approach. “Seasons don’t just stop and start, it’s much more fluid than that,” says Tom. “So, today I’ll go foraging for wild garlic and that will now feature on the menu as it’s come into season. We also have a lovely duck dish on at the moment using purple sprouting broccoli but that’s coming to an end now, so we will move over to asparagus when that rolls into season. We try to be produce-driven wherever possible. For example, most of our fish is dayboat caught, and when I call our supplier, I don’t tell them what fish I want, I ask them what fish I should buy and that’s how we build the menu and the dishes.”
For Tom, it’s not just about seasonality, it’s also about provenance: “Flying Fish is our choice of supplier for seafood and they’re absolutely superb, supplying some of the best restaurants in the country. The pub is also licenced to buy fish directly from day boats. Sometimes a fisherman might send me a picture of what’s on his boat asking if I would like it? Caught that day, two hours later it can be in my kitchen. It’s the same with Philip Warren, our beef supplier. I can tell you who breeds our beef, what breed of animal it is, where it has come from, and it’s this traceability that’s fundamental to what we do. I believe that if you’ve got amazing food to begin with, you actually don’t have to do a lot to make it taste great. I feel a bit of a fraud if I’m being honest; I just have to treat the ingredients with love, care and respect and the result is an amazing dish.” Having worked closely with some of his suppliers for more than 20 years, this collaboration has helped to drive The Rising Sun’s food offering to new heights; the result is simple and elegant.
Following the mantra of ‘what grows together, goes together’, Tom selects from an incredible local larder. West Country’s Canara Farm stamp brings seasonal ranges of the most inspiring and remarkable produce grown by selected local farmers and growers from across the south west to Tom’s kitchen. Agroecologically cultivated vegetables come from Soul Farm just a few miles away the pub, while incredible micro-cresses are grown by a lady in Truro. “Not every kitchen has the ability to source produce like this, but because we’re small, we can. So, while we’re in position to do so, I believe this is the way we should work.”
Tom’s style is classic French, with British and modern European influences: “I love classic French cooking and take elements of this as highlights within my dishes. For example, we have a lovely fish dish on at the moment that we serve with a bourguignon garnish. We combine shallots, pancetta lardons and black trompette mushrooms which are fried off and plated with wilted spinach, topped with a roasted piece of fish scattered with crispy capers and parsley, and served with pomme purée and the bourguignon sauce.”
Duck appears as a signature dish on the menu: at the moment this features a pan-fried breast served on a bed of orange glazed Chantenay carrots, with parmentier potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli, goat’s cheese bonbons and a little carrot and cardamom purée. The duck leg is then French trimmed and confited with a pomegranate jus and garnished with micro-coriander grown just down the road. For beef lovers, the fat is all taken off a loin of beef to leave the eye of the meat. This is then pan-fried and served with spinach, a caramelised onion purée, beer pickled onions, black trompette mushrooms, a red wine jus and pancetta crisps. Diners are always greeted with fresh bread; baked in-house daily, served with homemade butter – the perfect accompaniment for perusing the menu. It’s these little extras, such as the homemade melt-in-the-mouth coffee biscuits, that add the personal touch.
Drinks are important too – of course they are, this is a pub after all. Beers and ales are afforded the same care and attention as the food ingredients, locally brewed and well kept. The back bar selection is unsurpassed in the county, each bottle chosen for its flavour. Katie is the pub’s sommelier and can advise on wine pairing from the venerable list, include biodynamic varieties; this too changes with the seasons.
Above all, Tom and Katie wanted to create a really lovely pub. From the furniture and pictures on the wall, to cutlery and tableware, food, drink, and even a secret garden for al-fresco feasts, each and every element is thoughtful. “I wanted to take the elements of fine dining and lose the pretence, putting it into a relaxing and welcoming environment with exceptional service.” says Tom. “I come from quite a humble background, where eating out in a restaurant wasn’t something we could afford to do. With this in mind, I wanted to create a dining pub where all are welcomed, whatever the class or background. Come for a lovely pint at the bar, or a delicious glass of wine. Come for one course or three. In every case, we want our guests to have a wonderful experience.” The Rising Sun is a hub for hospitality in its purest of forms.