Oysters form a key part of the menu at his restaurant. Taking full advantage of the amazing bounty available on the doorstep, they are sourced from Porthilly, barely a mile away. In his version, they are lightly fried in a panko crumb, then topped with a fennel-lime salad and a thin slice of cured Cornish pork. The Independent describes this dish as “exquisite – a succulent squelch of chewy mollusc which has absorbed the flavours of an English garden and contrasts sharply with the spicy pig”.
Smoked eel is always present in some form or another, and other signature dishes include delicate starters such as Torched Cornish mackerel with celeriac remoulade and Bird liver parfait with pickled cauliflower, cucumber and shallot “piccalilli”. Fish is not the sole focus of the menu, however, and dishes such as Rib-eye steak with crispy polenta, smoked yolks and artichoke textures showcase local, aged beef. Desserts are equally accomplished, and one menu highlight is a dish inspired by his days with Gary Rhodes – a Bread and butter pudding with chocolate sorbet which was popularised by his mentor.
Often saying of his food, “it’s really all about the ingredients”, he utilises the brilliant seasonal produce of the region to great effect. Fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers come from their allotment, just steps away from the restaurant, while fish is sourced sustainably from Cornish day boats that land their catch in the seaside town – the fish swimming in the sea only 12 hours before turning up on the plate.
Paul Ainsworth was awarded his first Michelin star in 2013 and the restaurant has been in the Good Food Guide’s top 50 since 2012 with a score of 7/10. He says of these accolades: “To be included amongst such a great list of outstanding chefs is truly humbling, and I am extremely proud of the hard work that my team have put in to get to this point … A Michelin star is something that I’ve always dreamt of as a kid; for every chef I’ve ever worked for, that was the point to prove you were cooking good food. I have such a great team at No. 6 and after seven years of really hard work, it is amazing to be recognised in this way.”
Paul Ainsworth and his business partner Mapp have also collaborated on another Padstow venture, reopening a long-established Italian restaurant, Rojano’s, in 2011. Renaming it Rojano’s in the Square – a homage to his one-time mentor Gary Rhodes – he doesn’t cook at this restaurant, but his influence can be seen in the attention to detail and passion that run through the establishment. Though the dishes here are a little simpler than those at Paul Ainsworth at Number 6, the focus on top-quality ingredients and hand-crafted preparation remains the same, with plates such as Cornish free-range chicken with red pesto and fresh strozzapreti pasta combining the best of the South-West’s output with Italian flavours.
In 2011, Paul Ainsworth won the South-West heat of Great British Menu, going on to win a place in the final banquet with his nostalgic dessert, built from memories of his childhood. Called Taste of the Fairground, it featured an array of whimsical delights – cinnamon sugar-dusted doughnuts with raspberry curd for dipping, honeycomb and popping candy lollipops, coconut custard with chocolate and peanut popcorn and toffee apples and marshmallow kebabs. This show-stopping dessert is now on the menu at Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 and should not be missed.
Renowned for his brilliant combinations, big, bold flavours and beautiful colours, Paul Ainsworth’s food is getting better and better, marking him out as one of the very best chefs in Britain. The Good Food Guide calls his restaurant “Padstow’s premier gastronomic address” – no mean feat in this foodie town – going on to describe the chef as “an ambitious, ingenious presence in the kitchen, realising an exciting vision of modish, technically resourceful, regionally based cooking.” The Independent notes his “technical flair and sheer gastronomic exuberance”, but saves its highest praise for the menu and dining experience at Paul Ainsworth at Number 6, saying: “this must be one of the best meals in Britain”.