A bank holiday weekend in Cornwall wouldn’t be complete without a slap up family meal, and on this occasion, my mother-in-law sourced nearby restaurant The Hayloft for us to try, situated a 20 minute drive away from her village in the neighbouring town of Liskeard.
First appearances had all the hallmarks of quintessential rural charm; the cottage style building was adorned with a grey slate tile roof, and painted a gently cheering shade of pale yellow. Decorated with topiary potted plants, neatly trimmed rounded bushes, and hanging floral baskets attached to stonework outer walls, The Hayloft was wonderfully picturesque and inviting, yet also had an overbearing elegance due to its tidy maintenance and thoughtful presentation.
The interior was just as quaint however it also felt polished and well put together. The typical ceiling beams had been painted a pale grey to help add height and space to the quirkily shaped rooms, while the whitewashed walls, window paned alcoves and beam-draped fairy lights all combined to further enhance the notion of space. We were seated at a corner table upstairs, with a rectangular table and wooden dining chairs pushed against a decorative high backed wooden bench.
To kick things off, I ordered a large glass of red wine, a French Grenache-pinot noir to be exact. Labelled as soft and jammy, it sounded right up my street and I additionally liked the sound of the red fruit flavours. The wine itself turned out to be very easy drinking; it was smooth and silky with an intense fruity flavour that the ‘jam’ notation had implied. I don’t typically have red wine when I’m out, but this was a very good shout on my part.
For starters, we all shared a very simple bread board, which was served on a rustic wooden chopping board. It featured a few slices of soft baguette style bread as well as several chunks of holey ciabatta. However, for me, it was the dips that took this bread board to the next level. In one white ramekin was a garlic oil for that splash of the Italian, but our favoured topping was the house butter. Flavoured with spices such as turmeric and cumin, the butter was warming and gently spicy, meaning that it carried a slightly sweet curry flavour. It was so unique and we all loved it, lashing it generously on our respective bread slices with gusto. The concept of a house butter is unusual, and one with these flavourings even more so, however it really worked and gained a huge thumbs up from everyone at the table.
I decided to go for pork for my main dish, however this wasn’t just any old pork, but a trio of pork. My main meal featured Cornish pork belly, pulled pork, and pork loin, all served on a bed of buttery fried leeks. A cube of dauphinoise potatoes sat neatly at one end of my plate, while a neatly curled blob of burnt apple puree decorated the opposite end of my plate. At first glance, the portion looked rather small, and I was initially worried about how full I would be by the end of the meal. However, all thoughts of portion size diminished as soon as I started eating the food, as the flavours were just sensational. The pulled pork was sticky thick strands, coated in a typical BBQ toned sauce, the meat soft and tender. The chunk of pork loin was tougher to cut, but the meat was well flavoured and I could detect hints of lemon and various herbs peeking through the meaty taste. The loin was also nice and thick which is a win in my book. The pork belly was presented more like a steak shape with the fat trimming along one side, however both the fat and meat had a full-bodied flavour with crispy, crunchy outer edges, yet a juicily moist and soft centre that yielding satisfying under my knife. Each pork component was really delightful, so to have them all on one plate was a tasting sensation, and great for indecisive diners like myself.
The burnt apple puree was a deep purple, almost black in colour. I didn’t really get apple as the predominant flavour though, to me it tasted more like plums. Despite that, the texture was just the right consistency to spread generously over the meat without it being stodgy or sliding everywhere, and its peppy sweetness cut through the pork deliciously. The diamond cut leeks were really lovely too, I reckon they were pan fried in some butter to help them gain a lovely softness with a slight caramelised edge. The dauphinoise potatoes were soft and creamy, the knife easily sliding through the thin-cut slices. The top was a golden brown yet not too crunchy, which suits me.
Now dessert, I was really looking forward to. I ordered a chocolate and peanut bread and butter pudding, which would be served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I adore bread and butter but I don’t have it often, so I was thrilled to see an option that included not only one of my favoured desserts but that had the added bonuses of chocolate and peanut thrown in too. Presented on a rectangular wooden chopping board, the pudding itself was served in a beehive shaped brown ceramic bowl, which was a lot deeper than you would get at a lot of other restaurants. Next to it sat the scoop of ice cream, sitting pretty in neat circle of crushed biscuits for added crunch. The pudding used chocolate chips rather than raisins for the chocolate twist, which was really lovely as the chocolate melted around the edges to sink into the different layers of the pudding. The peanut element was peanut butter used to coat the bread slices, so it was a subtle, background note that gently inundated and permeated your mouthfuls in a very satisfying and non-invasive fashion. Chocolate and peanut is a classic combo for a reason, so this obviously worked well together. The bread and butter pudding was soft and squidgy; a true hallmark to good old fashioned cooking. The hottest bottom part of the pudding was also basically custard and a lot more liquid, which I actually rather liked as a hidden treasure to scoop up. Sweet and decadent, this generously portioned dessert soon filled me up to the rafters and boy did I enjoy it. The ice cream and biscuit dusting was a nice accompaniment too however I did spend more time worshiping the very lovely pud.
As a treat, I ordered a glass of dessert wine to have with my afters and I’m so glad that I did. I am still very much dabbling into the world of dessert wines, exploring what flavours and concoctions I like. I decided to choose a wine that I hadn’t heard of or tried before; I can’t remember the exact name but it began with Pedro. It was intensely dark in colour, by far the darkest dessert wine I’ve ever seen, almost like burnt honey or dark caramel from the top of a crème brulee. It tasted intensely like raisins and an abundance of dried fruit, giving it both a rich yet sweet taste. It was wonderfully sweet with a honey nectar feel, but I really loved how much it tasted like raisins. If I can hunt down what this was, I’ll certainly be looking in my local supermarket for it!
I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at The Hayloft. The menu was simple yet perfectly executed and the quality of the ingredients was evident with every mouthful. Different flavour combinations exploded across our plates and had us licking our lips with every course. Even though the main course portions were rather small, the tastes and textures were huge. Plus, my pudding was generous and filling, so I certainly didn’t leave hungry in the slightest. A two course meal with a sharing starter and drinks for five people came to £144 so the menu is also reasonably priced which is a plus point. Since this is their summer menu, I also suspect that this is a seasonal menu, so I can only rub my hands together for my next visit to see what autumn will bring to The Hayloft.