If you’re looking for a truly luxurious dining experience in Cornwall, Ugly Butterfly at Carbis Bay is the place to go.
Based on Carbis Bay Estate – known for being upscale and indulgent – and overlooking the beautiful ocean across to St. Ives Bay and Godrevy, Ugly Butterfly is a restaurant designed by renowned chef, Adam Handling, who runs several other celebrated restaurants in London. It launched earlier this year and I’ve been wanting to try it ever since!
This week we got to visit for lunch to try the Adam Handling tasting menu, which features 8 courses and a menu created by Adam himself and Head Chef Jamie Park. Something that Adam is really passionate about is sustainability, and his menu really shows that in his use of local produce (Cornish seafood from St. Ives, dairy from Trink Dairy which is just a few miles up the road, etc). I love to see this from local restaurants, but if you’d rather, you can also opt for the plant-based tasting menu instead.
One thing that really stuck out to me during our visit was that, although obviously serving a very luxurious style of menu, Ugly Butterfly doesn’t feel ‘stuffy’ or ‘intimidating’ at all, which is something that can be really off-putting in higher end restaurants. As soon as we walked in to the bar/lounge area, we were greeted warmly by the staff in here as if they knew us, and it instantly put us at ease.
Each of the waiting staff throughout the meal were incredibly friendly, and chatted to us in a way that made us feel comfortable and relaxed; there’s no sense of rushing here whatsoever. The whole meal is supposed to be an ‘experience’, and you’re there to enjoy every minute; from chilling in the bar/lounge with a cocktail, to being seated and having each dish and its ingredients explained when it’s brought over.
That being said, at no point did it feel too ‘slow’ either once we were sat at our table. Each course was brought out in perfect timing! Just enough to let your previous course go down but not too long that you’re consciously waiting for the next. It’s quite hard to do and they got it spot on!
Overall the service was outstanding throughout, and that, coupled with the amazing view we had of the crashing, wintery waves outside, created a really relaxed atmosphere. We were even entertained through the whole meal by a group of about 6 seals playing in the waves and swimming around the surfers – it was mesmerising.
Now, onto the food!
The first course of ‘Snacks’ (aka a selection of a few different delicious goodies) really came with the wow factor. Presented in a variety of different dishes, this course was given an extra flair with a ‘dry ice’ waterfall (I don’t know if that’s the proper name for this kind of presentation, but that’s how I like to describe it!); a fine smoke cascading around each dish and disappearing at the edge of the table. It was very impressive!
But it wasn’t all looks; each platter was amazing as well. They were definitely more eloquently described to me at the time, but I was too busy enjoying the tasty delights to take proper notes. Cheese filled donuts, duck leg croquettes, beef tartare tarts, and more. All delicious, and this was Alex’s favourite course!
The next course was inspired by Adam’s childhood favourite of roast chicken sandwiches (also one of my childhood faves!) and consisted of a warm Scottish bread roll, roast chicken butter (this was mind-blowingly good!), chicken liver pate, and a chicken jus/sauce – all to dip the bread in. This was one of my favourites of the meal.
Our next course was a bit of a palate cleanser; a super fresh Cornish crab tart with a nori base. This had a tasty Asian twist, and a close favourite for Alex!
I loved this next pumpkin, sage and roast onion creamy dish. Delicious, warming and winter flavours! And after this came what I think is my favourite course (very hard to choose a fave, FYI!), which was lobster cooked in Cornish beef fat. Apparently this is cured for 24 hours prior and then cooked on a barbecue to seal in the flavours, and I loved that it just came simply with no garnish. Sometimes you forget to enjoy and really focus on the flavours of just one thing, and when it’s as sumptuous as this, it really must be done!
Next up was Monkfish, served with pureed carrot and a lobster bisque; an amazing combination of flavours that worked so well together. Followed by salt aged duck with beetroot and a quince jelly, which again combined into a wonderful mix of flavours in one mouthful! This was followed by a small, surprise transition course before our dessert.
This course again felt deliciously warm and festive; a gingery pudding with squash, hazelnut and berries, alongside a sheep’s yogurt ice cream. We were definitely feeling full by this point, but enjoyed it thoroughly none-the-less.
Just as we thought we were finished, a surprise tray of treats was brought over while we enjoyed a post-dinner coffee. Cornish clotted cream fudge and a white chocolate truffle; the perfect way to end the day.
Each course was exceptional, and the presentation was fantastic too. But an impressive menu like this isn’t the only requirement for a really luxurious restaurant, I believe. It also SO comes down to the general atmosphere and quality of the service too, which was brilliant, and that’s what has earned it the title of ‘Cornwall’s Most Luxurious Restaurant’ – in my view anyway! :)
If you’re looking for a really special way to spend the holiday season, Ugly Butterfly are also open on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day, offering incredible festive tasting menus for a real treat.
Learn more on the Ugly Butterfly website.
*We were kindly invited to try the tasting menu in exchange for a review, but all opinions are my own. It really is a fantastic experience!