Ugly Butterfly in Carbis Bay: “Adam Handling’s upscale zero-waste concept is marvellous”
There are days when the waves of the ocean crash against the golden sand beaches of St Ives so loudly that every other sound is muffled underneath; and there are days when the gentle lapping of the water on the shore allows space to breathe in the saline breeze. Cornwall has remained an almost untouched beauty: a not-so-easy-to-reach country, it provides breathtaking scenery and incredible raw produce. It doesn’t come as a surprise, then, that during the UK’s presidency, the 2021 G7 meeting took place in Carbis Bay. Accessible via steep roads, the beach itself maintains its privacy. Adam Handling’s Ugly Butterfly is situated here.
The upscale restaurant’s name derives from its sustainability concept: using and reusing every part of the ingredients may sound “ugly”, but actually results in something marvellous. A butterfly cannot be anything less than beautiful, so “ugly butterfly” is a paradox as much as food waste should be. There’s a fluid synergy between the kitchen and the bar, as the two spaces feed each other with ingredients and leftovers for their creations. The dining room makes the most of the heavenly location with picture windows that give the impression of one of the walls being entirely made of glass. Facing the beach, guests can relish the mood of the sea right in front of their eyes. The whole ambience is bright, and the interior decor is in tune with the surrounding nature, with smooth lines, wooden furniture and floral decorations.
Before starting on one of the two tasting menus (having received a fizzy welcome with Adam Handling’s Own Label English Sparkling) we are introduced to the native oysters. The crispy oyster is topped with caviar, whereas the juicy fresh oyster comes with the option of two pairings: Smooth Taoscán Irish Whiskey (Port and Chestnut-Finished) or the rare Château d’Yquem 1998. A signature – and a must – at the beginning of the experience at any of Handling’s restaurants is the arrival of the snacks, featuring here a crunchy Black Cod Waffle and Pea and Sturgeon, presented with theatrical dry ice.
Salt is to the sea as the crab is to Cornwall. All About the Cornish Crab is an original course celebrating the crustacean – in fact, every bit of it, not just the meaty part. A soft sourdough crumpet sits on the crab shell, which in turn is hiding underneath a delicate tart, prepared with brown crab emulsion, picked white crab meat and sea herbs. The velvety brown crab butter is the perfect spread (and no, it doesn’t have a fishy smell), and the finishing element is an umami crab bone broth, all refreshingly paired with Waterkloof Cape Coral Rosé 2021. Vegetables are treated with the same – if not more – care as the fish and meat dishes, under the guidance of head chef Jamie Park. And so the Courgette, Tomato, Fresh Herbs is a showstopper: elegant, clean presentation and luscious taste, matched by the gentle textured body and exotic notes of Eschenhof Holzer, Invasion of Great Taste Load… Invaders, a young and fun (particularly for the label) Müller-Thurgau selected by the brilliant Kelvin McCabe.
Lobster, Carrot, Purslane, resting in a glossy sauce of lobster and carrot, is succulent and tender, finding an impeccable companion in a glass of Frey Riesling Feinherb, which is racy with aromas of apple and a tangy hint of lemon. It is followed by the Wild Cornish Seabass, whose skin is garnished with nasturtium leaves and clams. We turn to the reds: the Xinomavro Reserve Vieilles Vignes Single Block, Barba Yannis 2018, from the sun-kissed soil of Greece, is complex on the palate, suggesting intense lingering notes of black cherry and sun-dried tomatoes. The depth of the wine meets the richness of the Dry-Aged Beef, cooked with stout, on the plate with a syrupy jus obtained from beef bone marrow and accompanied by celeriac in the form of a roll and a cream.
The pre-dessert palate cleanser is an icy treat of lemon and wine-waste foam. The ruby-oaked Muscateddu, Fiumicicoli matches the dark purple of the final course, Blackberry, Meadowsweet, Shortbread, in which the latter two contribute to creating an unusual harmony of consistencies, temperatures and flavours. The cheese course is covered in truffle and rounded out with a glass of 20 Years Tawny Port. The sea-themed petit fours seem a fitting goodbye, varied and colourful, with our preference going to the dark chocolate and cherry and the walnut cake and Helford Blue cheese.
Adam Handling’s deliciously Cornish concept is enveloped in friendly service and a breathtaking location. Sleek, exquisite, sustainable: Ugly Butterfly is a dynamic, memorable gem.
Photos: Cristiana Ferrauti
To book a table at Ugly Butterfly, Carbis Bay Estate St Ives Cornwall TR26 2NP, call 01736 805800 or visit their website here.