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A taste of the bay

The tide has changed on the sea wall at Watergate Bay, as Zacry’s settles into its new shoreside setting, adopting an elegant take on ocean-front dining. Words by Hannah Tapping.

Introducing Zacry’s on the sea wall; where beautiful food reflects an ethos of ‘elegant simplicity’ shaped by provenance, place and perspective and, of course, the elemental energy of its coastal setting. Three-course menus change with the seasons but will always reflect an uncompromising attention to detail, showcasing the best of Cornwall’s fields, market gardens, waters, woods, hedgerows and skies; each dish telling the story of the farmers, fishers and producers behind them. 

Zacry’s kitchen is led by chefs Neil Haydock and Nick Giles and I was lucky enough to be able to catch Neil between service to find more about the restaurant that is the talk of the town.

I ask Neil, at what point in your life did you know that cooking was your passion?

From a very early age I loved my food. I was a very active child, always outside with friends and always hungry. Breakfast at home was usually followed by a jam sandwich next door and then we would head off over the fields scrumping damson, apples and field mushrooms. I would also spend time shooting with my grandfather, so game was a big part of my younger years. Picking up the pans came later at the age of 14 when my parents became the managers of a hotel in the Midlands. I stepped into the kitchen and knew I wanted to cook; first cooking for my friends after school and then in the hotel kitchens in school holidays.

How would you describe yourself as a chef and your approach to cooking?

As a chef you grow and change, influenced by your environment and experiences. I have had the pleasure of working in France, South Africa and the Caribbean, all of which have influenced my cooking. This experience along with amazing Cornish produce has helped form the current Zacry’s menu. I would describe our dining as elevated rather than fine. We go back to the Fifteen days of food which told a story in an amazing environment, where ingredients are treated with respect and allowed to shine through.

What is the ethos behind the food offering at Zacry’s?

The food always has a story at Zacry’s. Take our shitake and lion’s mane mushrooms that come from Mushlove which is just at the top of the hill. We use these in one of our most flavour-packed dishes, the umami-edged lion’s mane and shitake tare with Jerusalem artichoke; or the Agromontana hazelnuts from Italy that complement rich silky leeks elevating a humble vegetable to signature dish status. Cornish-grown Meyer lemons are made into marmalade to go with our take on a Cornish fairing; Coombeshead sourdough, made with rye, spelt and wheat flour is beautifully sour and chewy; while Crapaudine beetroot is cooked in its own juices with the remaining juice turned into a cocktail. Each ingredient has a narrative of its own.

Do you have a favourite ingredient that has featured on your menu?

Robert and Gill Hocking of Buttervilla have supplied me with berries and tomatoes since the first day of Fifteen Cornwall. They have an unbelievable passion for food in its simplest terms; flavour without compromise. They take heritage varieties of tomatoes and create the very best growing environment for them using five-year old manure, hand-turned into the earth at the beginning of each season. Watered with spring water when needed so as not to dilute the flavour of the fruit and hand-picked when perfectly ripe, their tomatoes are unrivalled. I always look forward to the first delivery and taste, with Roberto teasing with pictures ahead of their arrival. This year will sadly be their final year – I was their first and will be their last customer. 

I can see that from this that ingredients lie at the heart of the menus; can you tell me about how you go about choosing?

Communication and planning are key. I maintain a constant dialogue with growers, farmers, fishers and producers, built up over many years, all of whom have a mutual respect and understanding of all the moving parts that make a restaurant work. It is these very relationships that influence our menus. Seasonality in Cornwall is about talking and listening to our partners, to understand when something will be available. More often than not this won’t have a specific date attached to it, and so relationships are key to the supply chain.

Creating Zacry’s menu was very exciting and involved the entire team from executive level and external partners to the team who deliver the menu on a daily basis. This menu has been in place through the winter and we now look forward to the spring produce and seeing the menu evolve with such items as asparagus and spring lamb. So, to answer the question, the seasons dictate our favourite ingredients and we merely add our influences. 

Does Zacry’s have a signature dish?

I have never thought of having a signature dish, as my chef mind never stands still, always looking for the next ingredient, flavour and dish. Saying that, I am very proud of the charred leeks, leek cream and roasted hazelnut relish as it is such a simple dish, elevated by using all the parts of the leek in various textures.

How would you describe the Zacry’s experience for diners?

The view is the first thing that hits you when you come to Zacry’s on the seawall. The sea literally hits the windows some days. The space is energised with the kitchen placed front and centre, with our engaged team on-hand to take diners on a culinary journey, explaining the menu in detail. Every wine is available by the glass so you can pair perfectly with your food on any level. Even the chefs will, on occasion, come out of the kitchen and deliver your dishes, proud of what they have created and happy to share kitchen secrets.

From grilled Newlyn hake with Camel Valley Brut sauce to Cornish black pork and morcilla with preserved gooseberry and crab apple relish, eating at Zacry’s is to experience hero local ingredients prepared with flair. A butcher’s block laden with the finest Cornish and European cheeses adds an extra dimension to dining on the tideline. Drinks follow suit, featuring the county’s breweries, distilleries and vineyards, with a cocktail list inspired by the location. Acknowledging the seasons, the drinks list also strives for zero waste, using normally discarded items from the kitchen to create an expansive and thoughtfully curated collection. A collaboration with Cloudy Bay will see a Cloudy Bay Oyster Bar pop-up in the afternoons, with Neil’s lunch menu also matched to Cloudy Bay wine.

The focus on provenance and sustainability continues through every element of Zacry’s space and experience, from design, art, furniture, crockery and glassware to uniforms and recruitment. Moving beyond just buying better, Zacry’s is also big on reuse and repurposing, innovating circular systems to reduce waste wherever possible. 

Zacry’s on the sea wall is open for dinner every night and will additionally open for lunch from the 24th May, offering a Mediterranean-feel, relaxed, simple seafood affair. The Cloudy Bay oyster bar will be open between 2pm-5pm.


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