By Bruce McMichael
Sweetbreads, Roasted Cornish turbot, and Tomatoes served with English wasabi and chilli are just some of the flavours that seven of the world’s most powerful leaders will enjoy alongside British royalty as they gather in Cornwall, England for the latest G7 jamboree.
Bringing in three of the best local chefs, including London-based Adam Handling, Carbis Bay Hotel in St Ives will host the high level G7 summit for the seven leaders of the world’s most advanced democratic governments. Delegates will feast on plates piled high with gastro-diplomacy. These people eat well, and their stomachs beat to the rhythm of private chefs, starred restaurants and on-trend ingredients.
Scottish-born Handling, who is opening his first space in the Carbis Bay Hotel this coming Autumn, brings his team from London’s Frog restaurant group and will do most of the cooking. His modern British menu draws inspiration from Cornwall and subtly shows how the Brits are now using ingredients made locally, with produce labelled British Iberico Ham, English Wasabi, and English Caviar. This soft-diplomacy will not be lost on delegates. A single-estate 64% cocoa content chocolate, Manjari, grown in Madagascar and prepped in Lyon, France finds room in a dessert of strawberries and gorse (a tough, spikey shrub with yellow flowers). The use of Manjari is perhaps UK Prime Minister Johnson’s effort at soothing the difficult, post-Brexit relationship with France’s Macron.
British cuisine has long been mocked for serving up uninventive fish and chips, overdone roast beef and floppy boiled cabbage, but take a closer look at the menu and you’ll see world-class chefs and their brigades bringing culinary flair to this weekend’s talks. Italy’s Mario Draghi, Germany’s Angela Merkel, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, France’s Emmanuel Macron, Japan’s Yoshihide Suga, US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will sit down to breakfast, lunch and dinner to thrash out some of the world’s most intractable problems. Climate change, internet fraud, COVID-19 recovery, democracy, human rights and free trade will be on the agenda. But these people need feeding, and food brings people together.
The great Scone dilemma
One issue these great minds will be unlikely to agree upon is whether to put cream on a scone first and top it with jam, or spread the jam first and top with a spoonful of cream. Scones are a little baked cake made with flour and baking powder as the leavening agent. Devon locals typically spread the clotted cream first followed by jam; the Cornish tradition is to spread jam first followed by cream. A few years ago a chef to the royal family revealed that Queen Elizabeth preferred jam first, the Cornish way… so perhaps that settles it. There is another whole argument about how to pronounce the word scone, but that’s another story.
A New Book and Cooking for Royals
Chef and cookbook author Emily Scott of the Watergate Bay Hotel, also in Cornwall, will feed the guests that include British royalty Queen Elizabeth II, Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge. Scott is cooking Friday evening (June 11th) dinner at the spectacular eco-tourist and research site, the Eden Project.
Her formal dinner includes Spiced melon gazpacho with coconut, Roasted Cornish turbot caught in the waters offshore Newquay, a Selection of Cornish cheeses, a Strawberry pavlova and Petits fours featuring clotted cream fudge.
Scott published her first book Sea & Shore on June 10, 2021 and within the pages she shares connections between food, a sense of place and storytelling. As she writes in the book, Cornwall is a place with an “Unashamedly rugged north coast, with surfing bays where waves bash the beaches and where the weather can change in front of you, contrasting with the softness of the south coast, with its sailing boats, palm trees and flourishing flowers. It is a place for all of your senses. Exciting in all seasons, with rich pickings from nature by the seaside”. Sounds like the perfect metaphor for the G7 meeting: a political mix of storms and quieter times.
On Saturday night, the G7 leaders will shed the suits and ties to dress-down in carefully ironed polo shirts and chinos (perhaps even flip-flops) for a beach barbecue. Chef Simon Stallard of the Hidden Hut, a popular food shack on Porthcurnick beach, will stoke the flames and wield the tongs.
Stallard’s menu will feature canapés including Scallops, Curgurrell crab claws and Portscatho mackerel. For the main course he’ll cook Seared and smoked moorland sirloin with lobster (a surf & turf dish) served with sides of layered Cornish potato chips, St Just purple sprouting broccoli and salt-baked beetroot. The meal will conclude with a dessert of ‘Beach hut sundae’.
To finish off the night, the leaders will settle around fire pits, dig their feet into the sand and snack on Buttered rum and toasted marshmallows, while listening to rousing sea shanties sung by the band Du Hag Owr, a grizzled group of singing friends who have spent their lives on or by the sea.
Handling the Heat
The Masterchef: The Professionals UK winner – chef Adam Handling – will feed the delegates meals from ‘breakfast in a basket’ that includes the classic ‘Full English’ with eggs (done any way), sausage, bacon, Hog’s Pudding (a spicy sausage popular in the region and made with pork meat and fat, suet, bread, and oatmeal or pearl barley and spiced with black pepper, cumin and garlic), tomatoes and baked beans.
Handling and his team of ten will plate up breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea with a la carte options for room service and ‘bowl food’ for lunch meetings.
“We’re using whole animals and breaking them down, using veg from farms nearby and seafood from the harbours there,” he says.
“The menu is designed to be sustainable and zero waste but it’s also supposed to be fun. We’re using amazing ingredients like meadowsweet and pineapple weed.
“We’re doing an awesome velvet crab starter with roast cauliflower puree and herbs foraged from the seashore”.
Intensely loyal to his mission, Handling is notable for his playful twists and theatrical flourishes. His signature dish – a plate of celeriac, truffle and apple called Mother (a tribute to his mum on becoming vegetarian) – is often found across his restaurant menus.
He says for the G7 “I’ll be doing lamb sweetbreads with seaweed and potatoes, and we’ll be deboning another part of the lamb and filling it with kidneys and a mince made from the leg and rolling it into a ballotine to have with foraged mushrooms and asparagus.”
Handling’s modern take on his ingredients might be new to the palettes of the great and good, but reflects his interest in zero waste, sustainable fishing, regenerative agriculture and foraging; all great themes for a weekend of soft power and gastro-diplomacy.
Whether the 6,500 police officers, the hundreds of international journalists and protestors also in attendance will feast so well is unlikely. But they’re sure to argue over how to spread their scones: with jam first then cream, or cream then jam.