The setting is far from modest and at the heart of the restaurant, sweeping back to the open plan kitchen is a cocktail bar that showcases not only restaurant manager Tom’s expertise on wine but also some top quality spirits and spirited cocktails. I’ve always been impressed by knowledge and service at the bar in Bustophers, especially as an under-rated late night drinking venue for a few intimate single malts.
Sipsmith gin and tonic later, we perched on the restaurant’s only table with high wooden chairs which I am now rather fond of – Paul Ainsworth may have the round table number 6 but Bustophers takes you right back to childhood. With summer finally confirming a trip abroad for assisted suicide (probably at the feet of some feckless Italian) the cool tones of autumn mean a return to slow-cooked, deeper flavours and especially game.
And we were definitely treated to an ode to autumn: almond and courgette soup was a homage to the Cornish summer we never had, earthy, “rabid” (!) according to P, rich and yes, according to T, it is “hard to be expressive about soup” but accompanied with homemade breads, this made for a pleasing taste teaser and starter. Next up were scallops bedded on a duo of hog’s pudding and black pudding with apple purée. “Well-balanced and decadent” according to P and I love the satisfying coin-shaped chunk of a scallop to bite through, however I wondered if both puddings were necessary: the peppery hog’s may have been enough on its own and made for a delicious combination with the scallops.
Chasing the surf ‘n’ turf was grey mullet and crab risotto with shaved fennel. The fish was textbook: crisp skin and moist flesh that flaked onto the fork and the crab risotto base meaty and confidently al dente as well as being bang on season. They were in effect two separate dishes, equally delicious but the risotto impinged on the limelight of the grey mullet which has a subtle taste much like many of our more sustainable fish options (grey mullet is considered moderately sustainable according to the Marine Conservation Society’s fishonline.org).
Following the fish was venison haunch sliced over a red cabbage coleslaw with roasted baby beetroot. The venison was impressively tender and D proclaimed it to be, “the best meat I have eaten in ages.” Normally reticent about new foods, particularly offal, I smelt a potential game convert. The cabbage was rich, crunchy and an ideal complement, as were the baby beetroot and parsnip purée which added an extra sweetness; I wasn’t too fussed about the parsnip chips.
The grand finale was a celebration of the apple: that elusive and quintessential of British fruits that is easier to buy shipped over from New Zealand than it is from the rolling orchards of Somerset. We were treated to apple jelly with crème anglaise, a nostalgic trip back to ‘tea’ as a child and a winning combination; a little copper pan of apple crumble; homemade apple crumble and a scattering of Granny Smith snow. It was complicated food on a simple theme and I loved it for both its Britishness and the excitement of delving into different puddings on the same plate, or in this case, slate.
Coffee and cocktails later – a liquid fruit strudel and a Mississippi Mud Pie Slide – and we were well and truly sated on a Thursday night, alongside other Truro late night diners and talkers who were enjoying Bustophers for what it really is: casual quality dining and drinking in a sociable, elegant space. Elegant, that is, until you smack your head on a cabinet in the loo made for dwarves and small yapper type dogs or, as T noticed, you realise you are drinking coffee from a sugar bowl rather than the conventional cup with handle. We had fun, the food was very good and I am, quite frankly a little over fine dining and tablecloths; Bustophers has the balls to pull off some personality in a restaurant world obsessed with fine dining when all you really really want is a decent dinner, good company and some booze, oh, and a sugar bowl coffee.