Chef Scott Paton: What’s cooking?
Hot out the oven! News that Àclèaf, Boringdon Hall & Spa's gorgeous eatery has just bagged 4 AA Rosettes. Here's head chef Scott Paton with the inside on his new for 2022 dishes.
Meet Scott, the head chef of the Elizabethan manor and pamper-heaven of Plymouth’s Boringdon Hall & Spa. He oversees their three restaurants, including Àclèaf, a romantic space overlooking the Great Hall which has just been recognised by AA with a whopping four rosettes, continuing its reign as Plymouth’s highest rated restaurant.
Congrats, Scott! One to tell the grand-children?
Definitely! We’ve had three-AA-rosette status since 2016, and we have the Michelin Plate, of course. But this now puts Àclèaf (above) in the top 75 restaurants across the whole of the UK and Ireland.
What did the AA inspectors particularly rate?
The seasonality of the dishes, and the fantastic ingredients. My vision is for it to be more than a meal, but an experience, a real memory-maker and a chance to try some of the world’s best ingredients.
Ooh, like what?
Our Highland Wagyu (above) is made with the most incredible Japanese beef you won’t taste anywhere else locally, you’d have to go to London or Scotland to try it. It’s really rich due to the marbling. I like beef to taste like beef, and this really hits the spot.
Hopefully it’s on spring menu?
Naturally! from Friday 11 March, we’re re-launching our new six-course menu, with an option to accompany each dish with a carefully complemented wine pairing.
Go on, whet our appetites…
We kick off with Orkney Scallops, hand-dived from Orkney – of course – so sustainable and really clean because they’ve not been dredged. Orkney scallops are older, bigger and sweeter. Next is our signature crab dish (pictured above) which is really popular with guests – some people come back just for it – super-pretty.
Then, Brixham turbot with a mix of brassica, kale, romanesco, purple sprouting with a dash of lemon puree and woodland sorrel picked locally followed by Secreto Iberico (above), a fantastically rich pork dish with a walnut jus, a bit like a Waldorf salad. Then the Beef Wagyu, and finally an Itakuja chocolate dish, with double-fermented cocoa beans and passionfruit ice-cream.
The taster menu at Acleaf is great fun! And it starts with unexpected fizz I seem to remember?
Yes, I like every guest to feel a VIP so we make sure everyone is given a nice surprise on arrival. It takes away that awkward moment when you first sit down and you’re trying to take everything in and make decisions about what you want to drink and so on. Much better to start with some unexpected ‘happy bubbles’!
Sum up your cooking style/ food philosophy?
Our slogan at Acleaf is ‘Truth with elegance’ which means the finest ingredients, honest and unpretentious, and served with elegance.
How did you get started as a chef?
My first job was pot washer at Jack in the Green at Rockbeare. I was only 14. After one shift I knew this was for me, and now I’ve been a chef for 18 years. I feel very lucky to have found out so young what makes me tick.
Ever cooked for anyone famous?
We quite often have famous people staying at Boringdon, like comedians who are on at the Pavilion and actors filming locally. The most memorable was Marco Pierre White when I was still at Jack in the Green. I was about 19 and on pastry. I was looking at the cookery books with him on and the kitchen and him in the flesh in the restaurant. It was quite an intense evening!
Your biggest mistake at work?
There’s rarely a day when everything goes right. Things burn, spoil, spill – you name it! But it’s when things go wrong that’s when the cream rises to the top. The key is stay calm, and learn how to use your skills and experience to sort it out so it doesn’t affect the guests.
You’re tired after a long day slaving over a hot oven. What do you eat?
Nothing fancy – unless it’s my wife’s birthday! Probably a piece of sourdough toast and salty butter. We use an unpasteurised Normandy butter which has sea salt crystals in it called Isigny Ste-Mère at Boringdon which I love because its so creamy and buttery. I like things to taste of what they should taste of. This is butter on steroids.
What sums up your favourite type of cuisine?
Anything which represents the chef’s personality. I’ll always remember what Paul the owner of Jack in the Green told me, “Treat people how you what you’d want to be treated”. And for me, that means great ingredients, great hospitality, a couple of unexpected extras and a bit of fun.
Do you have a favourite chef?
The Swedish fine dining chef, Björn Frantzén. I love his philosophy, everything is very pure, artistic and creative.
What about a favourite cookbook?
Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry. He’s a Californian chef and it’s named after his restaurant. He puts out a new book every few years or so and it always goes straight to the top of my favourites. What he does is very pure and very elegant. One of his dishes is a radish in butter. So, the radish would have been picked fresh less than an hour before, washed and dipped in melted butter, and you can guarantee it would be the best radish you’ve ever tasted.
Desert island kitchen gadget?
Probably a blender. We go through blenders like we go through, erm, ‘happy bubbles’! I know it’s a cliche but it’s really the guys in the kitchen I wouldn’t be without. They’re a brilliant team.
Favourite local café? Restaurant? Hotel?
I love the farm shop at Lifton, Strawberry Fields. The food is good, they do pick your own strawberries in summer, it’s nice for kids. They grow and sell fruit and veg, it’s all very authentic and good quality.
What mistake do inexperienced cooks tend to make?
Not seasoning enough. Salt enhances the flavour and brings out how something should intrinsically taste. Buy good salt which has minerals the body needs.
What’s your favourite ingredient and why?
Turbot is hard to beat. It’s also a good fish for anyone who doesn’t like ‘fishy’ fish, as it’s quite meaty and goes well with a chicken sauce. Just pan-fry it in butter, tossing it in when the butter has stopped foaming, a few minutes on one side, then turn it over, turn off the heat and leave it to cook through for a few minutes. Deliciously simple.
Want to get your chops around Scott’s new Spring 2022 menu?
Book your table on 01752 344455 or visit Àclèaf.com for further information. Four-courses £120, additional cheese course £16. Six-course Tasting Menu £140, wine pairing £80.
Boringdon Hall Hotel, Colebrook, Plympton, Plymouth, Devon, PL7 4DP.
Updated March 2022.