Emily Scott doesn’t do faff. Instead, she takes a few quality, seasonal ingredients and lets them shine. “Sea bass baked in olive oil, thyme and lemon juice, served with new potatoes and greens is a perfect dish,” she says. “There is joy in simplicity.”
This is the ethos behind Emily’s eponymous restaurant, situated on the seawall at Cornwall’s Watergate Bay. Guests can feast on roasted scallops, crab with brown butter hollandaise and hake with pickled samphire, as they look out to the Atlantic Ocean, watching surfers bob about in the waves.
At high tide, the sea rushes beneath the restaurant, while at low tide, golden sand stretches across the shore. “Being by the sea really inspires me in the kitchen,” says Emily, who often forages for ingredients like sea purslane, rock samphire and gorse flowers along the coastline.
We speak to Emily about seasonality, simplicity and her love of the sea, plus her proclivity for gorse flower fudge – for which she shares a very special recipe.
When did your passion for food begin?
It’s been going on all my life. I grew up in Sussex, and my mother was a very good cook who often hosted dinner parties. She would create things like prawn and avocado, which was very chic at the time. For our family, life revolved around food and wine. Papa, my grandfather, was half-French, so we’d spend summers in Provence, feasting on cheese and charcuterie from the market.
So, you always wanted to be a chef?
Always. At the age of 15, I went to work in a beautiful restaurant in the village of Blanot in Burgundy, later relocating to Cornwall to run the Harbour Restaurant in the seaside village of Port Isaac. In 2015, I moved to the village of St Tudy and transformed the pub into a restaurant with rooms. I won a Michelin Bib Gourmand here, a wonderful recognition. But the pub came with many challenges, so I snapped up the opportunity to do a pop-up restaurant at Watergate Bay in 2021. It went so well, I was asked to stay permanently. It’s now my home away from home.
What’s your proudest moment to date?
Being selected to cook for world leaders during the G7 Summit was extraordinary for myself and my team. I spent 20 minutes chatting to Joe Biden. The menu included turbot caught off the coast, Cornish new potatoes, wild garlic pesto and locally-grown greens from Padstow kitchen gardens. We also served English strawberry pavlova and, as petit fours, a mini vanilla cream ice cream cone and clotted cream fudge. The menu showcased the best ingredients Cornwall has to offer – and the nostalgia of high days and holidays.
There are few things more nostalgic than fudge.
Fudge evokes such lovely memories for me. I remember visiting a lovely Cornish fudge shop as a child, eagerly watching as the confectioner cut and weighed the chunks, transferring them into a stripy paper bag. Of course, you could just buy fudge. But for me, there’s nothing more loving than making it for family or friends. I stir gorse flowers through mine. Their coconut-and-almond scent reminds me of the Cornish coast.
Has Cornwall stolen your heart?
It has always been special to me as my grandmother had a house in Porthilly and I have spent many days on holiday here. When you cross the River Tamar, it feels like entering a magical world. Whipsiderry Beach, near Watergate Bay, is one of my favourite beaches. At high tide, you can only reach it via very steep steps, though at low tide, you can walk there across the bay. It's like another world. There’s a real sense of place here, which I reflect in my food. I may not have cooked much fish in landlocked Burgundy, but when I moved to Cornwall, it felt natural to use what’s available locally. I love throwing a line out, catching mackerel and cooking it on the beach. Freshly-caught seafood is hard to beat.
Have you always been seduced by simplicity?
Less is more. During childhood holidays in Provence with my grandparents, we’d sit in the sunshine eating ripe peaches for breakfast. That’s one of my happiest memories. It taught me that wonderful ingredients don’t need much. But just because food is simple, doesn’t mean it’s not considered. Choosing the right ingredients takes time. There’s nothing better than a perfectly ripe strawberry or asparagus spear in season – but I don’t want them if they’ve been flown from the other side of the world. It's about eating what the universe is telling you is at its best.
Are there any ingredients you can’t do without?
I’ve always got lemons, good olive oil, sea salt and parmesan in stock: salt, citrus and olive oil lift a dish to new heights. I love Cornish sea salt, which is delicate, with a mineral-rich flavour. Saffron, from The Cornish Saffron Company, is another star local ingredient. It gives a unique depth of flavour and colour to so many dishes – from golden saffron buns and saffron aioli to sunshiny saffron risotto.
How do you conjure up recipes?
Most of the recipes in my latest book Time & Tide form part of a memory. My sugared fruit jellies, for example, were made by my grandmother, while my treacle tart is inspired by childhood Sunday lunches. I'm a home cook as much as I am a high-end chef – and my kitchen is where I feel most comfortable. Cooking food doesn’t just sustain me physically, it sustains my spirit. Baking is like therapy, the processes of stirring, folding and icing bring me such joy.
So, making dinner is never a chore?
Never. My partner, Mark, and I spend our lives thinking about what we're going to cook next. We love making pasta, stirring in courgettes, asparagus, lemon, thyme and crème fraiche. Although, crab linguine is our all-time favourite. I love hosting supper parties. There is joy in bringing people together.
What would be your dream dinner party?
I’d make scallops roasted in their shell with butter, thyme and garlic, followed by Cornish bouillabaisse with saffron aioli. Fromage, including Cornish mature Gouda, would follow – and dessert would be orange and almond pudding with fennel blossom ice cream (we make our own at the restaurant, and flavours change with the seasons). Guests would include Julia Child, David Attenborough, Robbie Williams, Keith Floyd and Cate Blanchett.
Sounds wonderful. What’s next for Emily Scott?
As my business and brand has evolved, my life has become even busier. I have a talented team which has grown as more opportunities have come my way. Still, I very much curate every detail to do with my restaurant and am lucky to have collaborated and worked with some wonderful people. Writing books is a passion of mine. My first, Sea & Shore, came out in 2021. My second, Time & Tide, comes out in June. There is so much more to come from me.
A Recipe for Gorse Flower Fudge
The windy open moors covered in bright yellow gorse are very much part of the beautiful wild landscape of Cornwall. Gorse has delicious coconut-scented flowers. Soft, crumbly or chewy – this is the sweetest treat.
150ml double cream
45g golden syrup
900g caster sugar
300g butter (extra melted for greasing the tin)
150ml the thick part of a tin of coconut milk
A good handful of gorse flowers
Melt the butter, syrup, sugar, coconut milk and cream in a heavy based pan, melt gently and then bring to a rolling boil until it reaches 115’C turn off heat and leave for 10 minutes. Line a tin (9 x 9 inch) with foil. Stir in a good handful of gorse flower petals and stir until it begins to thicken and come away from the bottom of the pan. Pour into the lined tin and sprinkle with coconut and more gorse petals. Set in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight. Cut into squares.
Cook’s note: Be careful when picking Gorse; they are gnarly and stalks are prickly, the flowers make up for this initial unfriendliness.
If you have not eaten all the fudge and need to store it, place a sheet of wax paper between the layers to keep them from sticking together. Grease the foil lightly with melted butter. Once set you can use the foil to lift the fudge from the tin. Fudge will keep for 3 weeks in an airtight container. Keep in a cool place or in the fridge.
Interview by Sarah Barratt.
Photographs by James Bannister.