Come in for kai

Words by Dan Warden


A career that started in New Zealand and which has, along the way, included appearances on TV, now makes its home on the harbourside of Porthleven.

Starting as an apprentice in his hometown in New Zealand, before working as a Sous Chef for the best chef in the country – Simon Gault – Jude Kereama’s career was off to a flying start, but he was never destined to remain on home soil. Determined to take the next step towards furthering his career in the UK, he arrived here more than 25 years ago, with the intention of staying for just two years. But it wasn’t meant to be, as, within the first couple of months, he would meet his future wife, Jane, who also worked in the industry. “We shared an absolute love for hospitality. We lived and worked in London together for eight years, during which time I ran and opened restaurants for a group in the capital, which helped fuel my ambition to finally open my own restaurant with Jane. She was an incredible front of house manager,” he recalls fondly, “and I always thought of her as the ‘hostess with the mostess’. It was a dream come true for us when we opened our first restaurant in 2004.”


The restaurant in question, was Kota – one of the longest established eateries on Porthleven’s harbourside. But why Porthleven? Second only to Padstow on Cornwall’s hot-list of foodie must-visits, those who have visited will, no doubt, be familiar with the growing selection of cafés, roasteries, bars and restaurants that are making a name for the village. But it hasn’t always been this way, and it’s fair to say that Jude – whose business now encapsulates two restaurants there – was there at the beginning. “My late wife’s family lived in Cornwall, and it was the first place I went on holiday when I moved to the UK from New Zealand,” he remembers. “I fell in love with it instantly, and when we were living in London, we were constantly on the lookout for a restaurant in Cornwall. When we finally found the perfect place in 2004, it just so happened to be in Porthleven, and we never looked back. We felt so lucky to have found such a fantastic, beautiful and friendly village in which to make our home. The Cornish are brilliant people too and are so like Kiwis, in that they are great at taking the mickey out of you to keep you grounded!”

As a chef, Jude tells me that the most important thing to him are the ingredients, which is lucky, as restaurateurs here are spoiled for choice with the seasonal fruits of the county’s natural and agricultural pantry. “It is like God’s own larder,” he agrees, “from the number-one butchers in the UK and the freshest seafood and fish, to the top vegetable and herb farms and other artisan producers.”

Left image by © Photo Matt Keeble

Kota is one of only five restaurants in Cornwall to have been awarded three AA Rosettes. “We opened in 2006 and over the years, it’s developed into a restaurant with tasting menus that highlight the best ingredients of the day. Guests can choose between four courses, or six, and we also now offer a six-course vegan menu,” says Jude. The approach to service here is relaxed, but attentive; there’s attention to detail as well, with flights of wine perfectly complementing each dish. Guests can also expect surprise courses throughout, such as homemade bread, amuse bouche and petit fours, and for anyone who prefers the conventional three-course experience, there is a set three-course menu available every night, too. In recent years, Jude explains: “It has been lovely to introduce our resident artist, Maxine Greer, and to have our own range of pottery made by The Toll House Pottery Ceramics. It makes the whole experience more immersive – celebrating Cornwall not just for its food, but its creative identity, too.”


Moving onto Kota Kai, Jude and Jane’s second enterprise, he explains that a lot of the dishes on the menu there are the kind that his mum used to cook for him. “Kai means ‘food’ in Maori, and the idea behind it was to open a family style restaurant. Whenever it was dinner time,” he recalls, “my mum would yell ‘Come on kids, come in for Kai!’” Guests at Kota Kai are free to choose from an extensive menu, with lots of small plates to pick from and large plates to share. The menu is replete with Asian influences, fusing the rich, sweet, aromatic and playful flavour profiles with which travellers to south-east Asia will be well familiar, with incredible local ingredients. But the key difference here is the ‘family’ vibe; an atmosphere in which guests can eat, drink and be merry, all the while soaking up the incredible views over the harbour, towards Porthleven’s iconic clocktower, and the ocean beyond.


If you’re unfamiliar with Jude’s two restaurants in Porthleven, then you may recognise him from the BBC’s Great British Menu. First appearing on the show in 2015, Jude explains: “I was always a huge fan of GBM, and to be asked to compete is the pinnacle of any chef’s career. It was the first time I had been recognised nationally as a chef and for me, it gave me a sense of belonging as one of the best restaurants in the south west of England. It pushes you to new heights to compete on the show, as there is a mountain of pressure for you to get things right as the whole country tunes in to watch. But it is a double-edged sword. It can be great for your restaurant if you do well,” he explains, “but equally as bad if you make mistakes. Luckily for me I have done okay,” says Jude, rather under selling himself.

In truth, he is a craftsman – a master who relishes the challenge of bringing the laboured fruits of Cornwall’s growers, farmers and fishermen to the plate before you. A culinary artisan in the truest meaning of the word, with a legacy that continues to grow, Jude, who was born in New Zealand, is nevertheless one of the Great British chefs of our time.

kotarestaurant.co.uk

kotakai.co.uk


The Rockpool


Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:


For the Dashi Stock:

2 yuzu fruits, juiced

10cm square of kombu

75gms bonito flakes

2 litres spring water

100ml sake

100ml Japanese white soy sauce (shoyu)


For the crab ravioli squid-ink pasta dough:

125gms pasta flour

1 large free-range egg

14gms squid ink

½ tsp salt


For the ravioli filling:

75gms lemon sole fillet

½ tsp salt

Pinch of white pepper

150ml double cream

50gms picked white crab meat

25gms brown crab meat


Shellfish:

20 mussels, washed and de-bearded

20 cockles purged in water

4 pan-fried scallops

1 cup of Mylor prawns, deep-fried

4 x 100gm fillets of Hake, roasted


For the garnish:

1 tin wasabi caviar

50gms Cornish dried sea greens

50gms Cornish dried red dulse seaweed

50gms Wakame dried seaweed

4 shitake mushrooms, sliced and warming in the dashi stock

80gms samphire gently steamed

A few leaves of crispy deep-fried kale

20 small florets of Romanesque cauliflower, steamed


Method


Dashi stock

Soak the kombu in the spring water overnight and leave at room temperature. Next day heat the water and the kombu to 60oC and hold the temperature for 1 hour and then remove the kombu. Increase the temperature to 80oC, add the bonito flakes and soak.till the bonito sinks to the bottom, this will only take up to 30 seconds. Pass through a muslin and then add the sake and season with the white soy sauce and yuzu juice. If you need additional seasoning, add salt to taste. Leave warm on the side.


Crab Ravioli

Mix the egg, squid ink, and salt in a Robot Coupe to combine. Add the flour and mix until it resembles a breadcrumb texture. Remove the dough to a floured work top and kneed till smooth, approximately 8 minutes. Cover with cling film and rest in a fridge for at least 30 minutes.


Chill the Robot Coupe bowl down in a fridge, take out and add the lemon sole and salt and blend quickly until smooth, drizzle in the cream until it’s all incorporated, then pass through a sieve. Season with the pepper and fold in the white and brown crab meat, place in a piping bag and chill. Roll out the pasta dough in a pasta machine, folding over and putting it back through while bringing the thickness setting down to number 2. Cut the pasta sheet in two and on one side pipe 4 mounds of fish mousse onto it, leaving room between each mound. Brush the other side of the pasta sheet with water and place on top of the other sheet and seal all around the mousse mounds, pushing out any excess air. Cut out with a round cutter.


Cook the raviolis in a pot of salted simmering water until it floats, refresh in ice water and then wait to reheat when needed.


To Serve

Have the dashi stock warming but not boiling on the side and add the cockles and mussels. Warm the raviolis in a pan of salted water. Place a sprinkle of each seaweed at the bottom of 4 large bowls then the ravioli on top. Place the mussels and cockles around the bowls and add the hot stock. The hot stock will re-hydrate the seaweeds so do put a little extra. Spoon some shitakes around each plate. Dot each piece of hake with wasabi caviar and then place the Romanesque cauliflower around the bowl. Garnish with all the seafood, samphire and crispy kale leaves.