From sea to supper
From sea or field to plate and platter, we're proud to serve food of Scillonian origin. Contributing to the delicious meals on offer at Tresco eateries this summer are Jordan and Hannah of Penhaligon's Fish.
With the summer now upon us, we can expect more and more locally sourced produce in our island eateries. From sea or field to plate and platter, Tresco prides itself on serving up food of Scillonian origin and - as of Wednesday 24th May - New Inn Head Chef Liam Caves will be lighting up the Ox Grill on the terrace.
Serving simple yet spectacular seafood dishes twice a week, we cannot wait for the smell of mackerel and lobster to fill the air.
One such couple who will likely be contributing to the delicious meals on offer this summer are Jordan and Hannah - AKA Penhaligon's Fish...
"We point the boat out to the diners all the time," says Hannah.
"Yes, we say, 'See the little rowing dinghy with a mizzen mast?'" laughs Jordan. Hannah rolls her eyes.
At just sixteen feet long, Viddy – meaning happy in Cornish – proves that small can be best. She challenges preconceptions, much like her young crew.
Jordan's path to fishing was relatively traditional. Sun-drenched Scillonian summers messing about in boats under the watchful eye of his grandad, the St Mary's harbourmaster. Teenage years working on tripper, fishing and dive boats before qualifying as a marine engineer. The inevitable pull back to Scilly, where he worked up to his current role as Senior Fire Officer at Tresco Heliport.
Hannah's path to fishing on Scilly was less traditional.
"I was working on the cruise ships as a croupier," she reveals. "It was a great life, being paid to travel the world, but then the pandemic hit."
Spotting an advert to work on Tresco, Hannah's skills and passion have seen her work for departments as diverse as Cottages, The Flying Boat Café, The New Inn, and the Abbey.
While the young couple's days are busily occupied with helicopters and hospitality, evenings and days off see them swap fire kit and front-of-house uniform for lifejackets and salopettes, boarding Viddy and pointing her bow to the horizon.
"I went from being a glamorous croupier on the biggest cruise ship in the world to working on a tiny island and fishing in my free time," laughs Hannah. "My friends from the cruise ships expected no less!"
Given his island upbringing, strangely, it was not Jordan but Hannah that was the driving force behind the couple's fledgling business, Penhaligon's Fish.
"My grandfather bought Viddy for his retirement back in Looe in Cornwall," explains Jordan. "He fished her for a few years, but he mainly looked after her for his grandchildren. He kept offering her to me, but I was always so busy."
When Jordan and Hannah met, he told her about the boat and with their day jobs leaving the seafaring couple relatively landlocked, Hannah immediately saw the potential. "'Yes, Jordan, we do want the boat,'" she insisted, and Jordan journeyed to Looe to help his grandad prepare Viddy for a new life on Scilly.
"It was real, quality time together. Grandad said he wished it could be like this always; it meant a lot."
While Jordan readied the boat, Hannah was setting up the business, designing a logo and coming up with a name.
"That was a pretty simple process," she laughs. "He's got such a good, strong Cornish name – Penhaligon – so we kept it simple: Penhaligon's Fish.
"Plus, it keeps the pressure on him to make me a Penhaligon one day soon!"
The pair's straightforward approach is reflected onboard. They don't use GPS or fish finders, preferring a pared-back, traditional approach to fishing. The only electronics onboard are a radio and navigation lights. Instead, the couple let nature be their guide.
"I know the waters of Scilly from my upbringing," shares Jordan. "And for the fishing, we let nature help us. We watch out for flocks of seagulls or slicks on the water from where a shoal is feeding. It's about reading the water and the sky. Everything is hand-caught; we use handlines for fishing and pull the pots by hand. That's why I prefer fishing at low tide; there's not so far to haul the pots," he laughs.
"Catching by hand means we're as sustainable as we can be," explains Hannah. "We stop when we've caught enough, so there's never any wastage. If we can't sell it, we don't catch it."
Their fishing methods might be traditional, but the couple embraces technology to get the word out, using their Facebook page to share their catch with locals and visitors alike, often while still at sea.
Their laid-back approach might not work for some businesses, but for Jordan and Hannah, Penhaligon's Fish is about ethics and pleasure, not profit and pressure.
"We both work full-time," says Hannah. "So we aimed to keep it simple and not put stress on ourselves. We don't guarantee orders in advance, so we can focus on our motto, 'Fresh. Delicious. Sustainable.'
"What we catch, we sell straight from the sea; we don't cook or prep the fish. People love that we deliver to their cottage in our fishing gear, bucket in hand."
So how does such a laid-back approach work when delivering to Tresco's busy pub and restaurants?
"Liam, the Head Chef at The New Inn, told me he's always looking for great local produce," explains Jordan. "He likes our approach; he gets to put on some great, locally-sourced specials and be creative and spontaneous, which he loves. We might call him and Serge, the Head Chef at the Ruin, on our way in from sea, and if we've got 40 mackerel, they will have 20 each."
On any summer night on Tresco, given a fair sea and a westerly wind ('Wind from the east, fish bite the least,' I learn…), both The Ruin and The New Inn might have Penhaligon's Fish on the menu.
"It's amazing seeing the different things our talented chefs do with our catch," says Hannah. "Mackerel pate, tandoori mackerel, mackerel burgers, grilled mackerel… I'll never forget the first time we dropped our fish at the pub and went for dinner a couple of hours later, and there was our mackerel on the menu. Sitting down to be served our fish and hearing the waiting team telling guests about our fish and our business was such a proud moment."
"I've got a lot to thank granddad for," says Jordan. "He bought me my first boat – The Jordanian – when I was about five years old and taught me all about boat handling and safety. I used to take my gran on trips around the harbour!"
"She's still in use today as a flowerpot on the road into Looe. The Jordanian, not gran," he adds.
So what does the future hold for this young couple and their fledgling micro business? A bigger boat, perhaps?
"I'm putting my foot down; we're getting married first," laughs Hannah.