Adrian Oliver’s Margot’s Bistro in Padstow

MargotsI hate driving long distances. It’s incredibly boring. It’s even duller when driving alone.There’s no one to talk to as the scenery you can’t enjoy looking at flashes past. Slumping behind the wheel, just enough awake at 6am, I was pleased that I would be arriving in Padstow in time for a Friday lunch at Margot’s Bistro.

Lunch at Margot’s is motivation enough to drive to the edge of England (which I refer to in a cartographic sense and hope that Cornish readers can forgive this simplification) but the welcome once there is a master class. Adrian Oliver who has owned Margot’s for 15 years has created a respite for locals who are more about Padstow than Padstein.

As I ate, locals stopped by Margot’s and made bookings for the future, some were disappointed at being turned away on their night of choice, pleading to be called if a cancellation cropped up. One couple, booked the entire Bistro for a New Year’s Eve dinner leaving Oliver arguing with the laws of physics on how to squeeze an extra 5 people in on the night.

It was hardly surprising but it affirms that the drive was worth it. The regular customers endorsing Oliver and his bistro food just as London blogger Chris Pople had when he visited. I couldn’t argue with any of them as I slowly ate my grilled mackerel fillets served on some Cornish salad leaves with Cornish beetroot, cucumber ribbons and gooseberries. The mackerel was light and, well, fresh.

Asking Oliver why it didn’t hint of that signature mackerel taste he replied “that’s because it’s fresh not old. Came in off the boat today.” That’s me told. Oliver jokes that the likes of molecular gastronomy and sous vide cooking methods are all witchcraft. “What’s wrong with actually just cooking?

Behind every joke lies truth and the truth is that Oliver may have cracked the code for a successful restaurant of quality ingredients, cooked well at (more than) reasonable prices. In fact, Margot’s could reasonably and deservedly add a few pounds to some of its dishes.

Post credit crunch, Oliver these days spends as much time in the kitchen as he does reviewing spread sheets and negotiating with suppliers. The last few years have highlighted how important cost controls and margins are to keep a competitive edge. Oliver also continues his long term love affair with the internet and social media to reach new customers – that’s how I found him, on Twitter, @Adrian_Margots

Seeing in Margot’s the hard work required in running a restaurant takes the gloss off any holiday romance of running a bistro in France. That’s not to say you wouldn’t do it, but spending a day or two with Oliver you’d soon learn that it’s not all glad-handing the locals with complimentary apéritifs – it’s bloody hard work. 15 years in the same spot is testimony to that. Get in the car and go.

Published by Brett

Brett is an experienced lawyer and business executive who focuses on commercial outcomes. He has worked across three sectors in England & Australia advising and leading initiatives in digital, media and technology

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