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Food, not numbers

Words by Dan Warden

Images by Jean-Philippe Baudey

What really matters to the team at Porthleven’s Amélie, as it gets set to reopen.

As Cornwall slowly begins to emerge from lockdown, many businesses around the county seem to be re-finding their feet. A combination of social distancing guidelines and, simply, getting back into the swing of things after the long fallow period, makes for a strange opening to the season.

Not so at Porthleven’s Amélie. Sam Sheffield-Dunstan, who owns the harbourside restaurant, has been planning this since late last year. That’s not to say that anybody could have had the foresight to predict the recent lockdown, but for Sam and her team, a lockdown of sorts was forced upon them months ahead of everybody else. In October last year, a kitchen fire caused extensive damage to the restaurant, which was ultimately forced to close. Ever since, Sam tells us that builders have been hard at work transforming the restaurant, combining casual dining spaces with an informal, music-led bar area. “We were planning some changes to how the restaurant was going to run even before the Covid-19 restrictions. The most important elements for us are the atmosphere and the food, not numbers.”

If you want to call that foresight, so be it. We prefer to think of it as attention to detail. Sam has listened, and responded, to the wants of her guests, and the result is set to be staggering. Renowned for its Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, the Amélie menu continues to major in locally caught fish and seafood. Dishes such as crab claws, fritto misto and whole-baked fish take centre stage, alongside favourites that include Cornish mussels. After all, if it isn’t broke…

There will also be a keen focus on sharing plates as the Amélie doors are once again thrown open, with pizzette, salt and pepper squid, and crevettes being served in a choice of sizes, or as taster boards.

As guests, nowadays – particularly here in Cornwall – we’ve come to expect a certain level of provenance in our food. And it’s fair to say that as we emerge from lockdown, the importance of buying local has never been so important. This, Sam explains, is “really important to us.

“We source local ingredients, including meat and fish from local suppliers, and we are now actively looking to source all our fish and vegetables from within a 25-mile radius. You can’t get much fresher than fish brought into Newlyn Harbour, or crab landed in Porthleven that morning!”


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