A Winning Location
“The ingredients that come into the kitchen inspire the menu, never the other way round.”
Richard Kearsley is the man at the helm of arguably the most remote 3 AA Rosette kitchen in the UK – a job many chefs would take on with trepidation. In contrast, Richard believes a large part of the restaurant’s success is down to its location.
“It’s island life,” he explains. “If the boat doesn’t come, or the delivery is delayed we have to adapt, improvise and overcome using what we have on the island. On Bryher, that’s not a hardship – it’s a luxury.
The menu at Hell Bay is all about sophisticated simplicity and authenticity, Richard explains.
“Simplicity because if you’re totally reliant on lots of shipped in ingredients you’re going to fall flat on your face when the boat doesn’t come in. Authenticity because that’s what our guests come to Scilly for: fresh, local shellfish straight from the sea, or vegetables they walked past in the fields hours before.”
On Scilly buying local makes sense. It adds to the island economy and gives the team in the kitchen wonderful fresh produce to put on the table. Everyone is happy: producer, chef and, most importantly, guest.
“It feels like Christmas when Mark and Mike from Island Fish come to the kitchen door with the day’s catch – except the presents are being delivered by a man in oilskins,” Richard laughs. “They know whatever they bring me I’ll use. There’s no doubting the quality or provenance when you can watch them hauling in nets one hour and take delivery of the fish at the kitchen door the next.”
It’s not just fish and shellfish Richard and his team source from the islands. He points at a rack of ingredients waiting to be whipped up into award-winning cuisine. Eggs from Tresco’s Boro Farm, tomatoes from Hillside Farm on Bryher, spinach from Mike and Sue Pender’s kitchen garden on Bryher. Tresco Beef is chilling in the fridge; St Agnes ice cream in the freezer.
Of course some produce has to be brought in from the mainland, but Richard and his team source as much of their stock from the Westcountry as possible. Fish they can’t get from the islands comes fresh from the boats of Matthew Stevens in St Ives and Stevensons of Newlyn; fruit and vegetables from Westcountry Fruit in Falmouth.
“It’s all about relationships,” says Richard. “We’ve got a great bond with our suppliers because I’ve explained to them: I’m stuck on a rock; you need to be my eyes at the market telling me what’s fresh, what’s best, what we should be using. It actually works well for us because they really keep their finger on the pulse so we get the very best produce around.”
Relationships on the island are important, too. When the supply launch arrives on Bryher a frenetic energy engulfs the quay for all of about half an hour as pallets and crates are unloaded, packed onto trailers and trundled up to the hotel.
“The team works,” says Richard. “It’s not just the kitchen that’s involved in producing the meal that people tuck into each evening; everyone has to play their part. Again, that’s island life. It’s what makes the job great.”
Richard and his team pull off something remarkable. On a remote and tiny island flung into the Atlantic they produce award-winning food not in spite of their location, but because of it.
Hell Bay Hotel is set in a picturesque cove facing the Atlantic Ocean on the beautiful, rugged island of Bryher. Hell Bay is open to non-residents every day for lunch, dinner and refreshments.