Cornwall LivingIssue #99
The importance of atmosphere
As restaurants learn to work in line with Covid-19 guidelines, we discover that the team at Amélie in Porthleven are way ahead of the curve.
Acombination of social distancing guidelines and, simply, getting back into the swing of things after the long fallow period, makes for a strange new start to the season in Cornwall. Indeed, as the Duchy’s shops, restaurants and other businesses slowly begin to emerge from lockdown, many seem to be re-finding their feet.
Not so at Porthleven’s Amélie. Restaurant owner, Sam Sheffield-Dunstan, has been planning this since late last year. That’s not to say that she had the foresight to predict the recent lockdown, but for Sam and her team at least, a lockdown of sorts was forced upon them months ahead of everybody else, when a kitchen fire in October last year caused extensive damage to the restaurant.
Since the fire, Sam tells us that builders have been hard at work transforming the restaurant, working to combine casual dining spaces with an informal, music-led bar area. “We were planning some changes to how the restaurant was going to run even before the Covid-19 restrictions. The most important elements for us are the atmosphere and the food, not numbers.”
If you want to call that foresight, so be it. We prefer to think of it as attention to detail. Sam has listened, and responded, to the wants of her guests, and the result is set to be staggering. Renowned for its Mediterranean inspired cuisine, the Amélie menu continues to major in locally caught fish and seafood. Dishes such as crab claws, fritto misto and whole-baked fish take centre stage, alongside favourites that include Cornish mussels.
There will also be a keen focus on sharing plates as the Amélie doors are once again thrown open, with pizzette, salt and pepper squid, and crevettes being served in a choice of sizes, or as taster boards.
“We’re a family business,” says Sam, “and I want everyone to feel welcome. I love the Mediterranean, Moroccan feel of the [new] design and it really helps to achieve the chilled-out vibe I was aiming for.” What’s more, at a time when the provenance of our food, and that of buying local, have never been more important, Sam finishes by telling us that that the most important elements for her and the team are “the atmosphere and the food. Not numbers.”