Dad’s Birthday Dinner at Ben’s Cornish Kitchen

St Michael's Mount, Marazion, near Ben's Cornish KitchenDarling old Pops has just turned 80! Toot toot toot! (blowing a trumpet for him). He says he can’t believe it, and inside feels a mere 53 years old. We got him a really cool record player so he can play all his old 78s (whatever they are) and it has the nifty function to record onto MP3 too. So in theory we can make CDs for him to play in the car. He was really pleased, and being a thoroughly generous and fun-loving kind of person, he also whisked us all out for dinner, to the closest thing we have to a Michelin starred experience, the much loved, much reviewed, and much visited by my family Ben’s Cornish Kitchen.

Ben’s is a smallish family restaurant in the heart of Marazion. It’s relaxed and unfussy, and the flavours on the menu can sound unusual but always work to make a delicious mouthful of wonder. This was my third visit so it’s time to give it my ‘when in Cornwall you must go here if you are a foodie’ stamp of approval.

So how did the evening begin? We took taxis (a special occasion in my family involves compulsory drinking – you can’t get out of it by offering to drive) down to the newly refurbished Godolphin Arms which I’ve written about before. We drank prosecco which was delicious but weird because it’s on draft and came in a carafe… and the teenagers took 400 selfies. We admired the sunset, like last time. Then we swayed over the road to Ben’s.

We sat upstairs – feeling lucky to have got our booking, given that they also had another party of 12 in at the same time. It didn’t show in the service or the length of time for food that they were pretty busy, which is impressive too. The best and most serious reason we go to Ben’s is the fancy food. It’s not expensive for the quality, at £7 or £8 a starter, £16 or £17 a main which is only marginally more expensive than our local pub. But the quality of the local ingredients and the passion and talent of the chef makes eating here a great experience and a total bargain.

I had four perfect, small, sweet scallops sitting on a folded blanket of spiced cauliflower puree, with a couple of flakes of crisp salted caramel and matchsticks of granny smith apple. Sounds weird, right? Absolutely friggin’ delicious. Then came the mains. The softest, unimaginably tender and flavoursome haunch of venison with a little potato cake and kale. The sauce was described as having anais in it, which horrified the fussy teens as they thought it meant it would taste of liquorice (cue gagging mimes and tongues hanging out in disgust. Discreetly thankfully.) Anyway, the sauce was not at all liquoricey, instead it was fragrant and I think it had port in it, so of course it was divine. There was a squash puree lurking underneath the kale which was really rich, velvety and creamy and brought the whole thing together like a bit of delicious flavour-melding goo.

Dad had a lobster ravioli followed by partridge. He was full early (big-ish portions, no haute-cuisine magnifying glass needed here) so I nicked his plate and wolfed down the remaining little perfect partridge breast with the savoy cabbage, bacon crumb (!!) and creamy sauce. It was delicious BUT seeing as I don’t really like venison, and I had ordered it anyway thinking “if it’s going to be good anywhere it’ll be good at Ben’s” – it was so, very, good. The venison won.

Desserts were cancelled because my sister had organised a birthday cake, but down at our end of the table we ordered a protest ‘chocolate brownie’ with raspberry sorbet replacing the listed orange ice cream (younger teen hates all things creamy/buttery). It was no such thing as a ‘chocolate brownie’. Instead of being cakey and slightly boring, it was more like a thin layer of brownie that morphed into the silkiest, darkest chocolate torte type thing, with a gloss on the top like a sweaty racehorse. The tart raspberries with the silky chocolate were made for each other. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Dad loved it, and we were home in time for Match of the Day so that was good too. Dinner for eight people including six starters and one dessert, four bottles of excellent wine, and a tip, was £300. Which ain’t bad. Now I’m thinking ‘when can we go again?’.

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