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Dine Under The Sky at Heligan

Muddy joins Woodfired Canteen for a memorable night in The Lost Gardens

In the middle of half term (on what was supposed to be a mizzly night) we headed over to The Lost Gardens of Heligan for an evening of great food under the sky.

The Lost Stories of Heligan is a series of special suppers, hosted at the gardens by the fab team at Woodfired Canteen. Read on to get a flavour…

Each evening is based around a theme – this month’s was ‘Wild’, since the night coincided with Heligan’s annual Wild Week and foraged herbs and ingredients had their place on every plate.

Next month’s feast takes place on the most magical night possible for an event like this: the summer solstice. So you can enjoy gorgeous woodfired food and a great Cornish welcome on the longest day of the year.

I love The Lost Gardens of Heligan any day but it was especially lovely to meander through them in the early evening when they were so empty.

On arrival, we were led to a beautiful courtyard, with a view that stretches to the sea, for rhubarb-infused vodka and tonic and a kind of fondue-style, wild cider rarebit with smoked Heligan potatoes, asparagus and bread, fresh from the grills to dip in.

After we were seated (all at one long table), Woodfired Canteen’s head chef Ben welcomed everyone and talked briefly about how the ‘wild’ theme was interpreted in the menu and a bit about the overall philosophy of these evenings.

You get the feeling that while woodfired food is obviously Ben’s passion, it is also about gathering people around a table the old fashioned way: sharing food, sharing stories, building community.

The main event was whole Heligan sirloin of beef, accompanied by Heligan herb jam and creamy, herby puy lentils, all served from the centre of the table, adding to the sociable feel. And on the side were some of the nicest greens I’ve had in ages, crumbled all over with wild yeast pangrattato, a crunchy Italian breadcrumb topping, Ben described as ‘poor man’s parmesan’. Our homegrown kale’s about to get interesting!

We were told that Woodfired Canteen does puddings not desserts and they’re aren’t really designed to be photographed but tasted. Still – you know me, I couldn’t resist and look at how beautiful this little pud looks. Heligan rhubarb with creamy elderflower posset was the perfect, refreshing yet indulgent, way to round it all off.

I should also give a special mention to Woodfired Canteen’s chefs and front of house staff, who are super friendly and very happy to give away all their secrets (prepare to raise your BBQ ambitions). A family business in the truest sense, Ben’s wife Sam runs the business alongside him and their daughter Blossom is often at their events. Both sat with the guests for supper the evening we came, which was really lovely.

The tables got prettier and prettier as the evening went on and the little walk back to the car beneath the tree ferns was magic.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

For me the best thing about these evenings is that although the food and the setting makes it a really special dining experience – the mood is super laidback. There were people of all ages, groups and couples, locals and visitors and you really can come as you are. On my left was a lady in an embroidered floral dress celebrating her birthday and on my left was a camper, fresh from the surf in her Buffalo fleece.

Good for: Outdoorsy folk, woodfired cooking fans, anyone looking for a different evening out.

Not for: Anti-social types may shy away from the long tables and though Sam said our kids would be welcome, I was glad we found a babysitter. The mudlets would never have let us sit and savour the food, the way it deserves.

££: The Lost Stories of Heligan suppers start from £30 and include a welcome drink. Other drinks are available from the Heligan bar on the night.

Book tickets for future events at Canteencornwall.com

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