Schooners, Quay Rd, Trevaunance Cove, St Agnes, Saint Agnes TR5 0RU

- Review -

Schooners: You had me at 'bone marrow cheeseburger'

I love Cornwall; it’s full of people working part-time in order to spend more time at the beach and off their face on Nag Champa, with many people (or their parents) having settled here off the nut they made working in the capital who now paint and or grow weed. Sea-facing houses that are 99.99% glass of Grand Design’s proportions, equipped with an Aga that can dry your shrooms, bake your brownies and cook down your ketamine, simultaneously.

At what feels like the edge of the world, tucked a cover is Schooners- what used to be the childhood home of head chef and owner, Adam Vasey. Across two levels you have front row seats to the elements- sunny days are all ultramarine fading into cobalt, ripples of white horses trotting to shore whereas on others, (i.e. my favourite) Poseidon is in a total strop, relentlessly blasting the restaurant windows with salt and fury and it’s the bloody best. Tonight is the former set of conditions and we happen to be eating right where Vasey’s bedroom used to be as a child. Which is sort of not not weird to think about.

Roasted or indeed burnt cauliflower with yoghurt and raisins is by now a well-established dish so in these instances, but the curried butter is a masterstroke. Separating it from the herd, it’s a much-needed ‘bit of wet’- a toe-curling phrase that my Editor loves- giving that depth that’s a little more complex than the umami kaleidoscope of 1st to 4th-degree burns offered by the cauliflower.

Vasey, the owner, is heavily influenced by his love of Mexico and expresses this in his food where he feels is right. A mix of hake and pollock, the dish is scintillating with pink pickled onion and citrus but soothed with the deeply subdued butteriness of avocado.

The IoW tomatoes with whipped ricotta, hazelnuts and basil is a simple riff on the tricolore classic that has nowhere to hide- and makes no attempt to. Almost dessert-like in its composition, it reminds you why we used to put tomatoes in fruit salads.

Rosey slices of onglet ensconced in a thorough and skillful sear yet pink, edge to edge and that glistens with their expertly contained resting juices. Pockets of bright mojo verde cling to the crisp kale leaves that plank themselves over the meat, issuing that bitter slap that jolts the sauce into service.

We can all feel the fickle winds of popular opinion turning. Burrata is prepping the landing craft to storm the palates of the masses and so I’ve got time for it, in the initial phases. Smashed peas and a slapping salsa verde are a welcomed deviation from the tomatoes, artisan EVOO and basil as you might expect- instead, it’s the sourdough crushed into wildly varying sizes that boosts the fattiness. It saves you having to ask for anything to load it onto- you can just go at it with a spoon in total silence. I can’t tell you just how in my element I am in this regard.

Another classic with Vasey’s own stamp on it. No tweezers or microscopes for the plating, instead a chorizo sausage simply halved and seared to near burnt, scallops with roe intact and expertly seared, allowing for that pearlescent honeysuckled meat to sing. All around is the romesco sauce that delivers Catalonian roundhouses of chili, peppers and tomatoes all thickened enough with the bread and almonds to give that needed one-scoop purchasing power.

Yes, the mussels are buxom, the crab claw hulking in its generosity, but the XO sauce makes you want infinite refills. I just want a heft of squidgy carbs and this, forever. So intense in its umami and heat, I ask the table if we can order it again, but I’m with people that are green; still wet behind the ears, weak, you might say. “What if you don’t have room for other things?” It’s a phrase that tells me so much about how little you know of me. Luckily, I eat those feelings away by taking the crab claw and fixing their gazes in alternation. “What?” I flippantly ask, hoovering the juices out so intently, that I completely drown out their response.

Padron peppers. I don’t quite get it. They’re a non-entity. Floppy, bitter with only salt to save them or make them interesting. It’s scorched chlorophyll with the added bonus of humid little seeds sloshing about. So I put them in what remains of the treasured XO sauce, shiv them like a prison hit and let them soak until they’re worth eating.

Schooners is also famous for throwing a party. And I don’t mean a few poppers (not those kinds) and a few shandy’s- these parties are the light that draws all the moths with a hankering to get loose. The restaurant becomes unrecognisable, apart from the bar where every font is manned and the slushing clack of cocktail shakers doesn’t seem to stop. The outside is a constellation of cigarette cherries huddling under umbrellas, the faces occasionally strobed by the disco lights from inside, next to the DJ booth. It’s like a speakeasy that doesn’t even consider cops coming to crash the whole affair.

Sufficed to say, the next day I feel like shit warmed up. So after unfurling myself from the pit of a stranger, we go back. Somehow there are footprints on the ceiling a la Lionel. Some of the hardier staff are back at the bar, serving hairs of various dogs to people in my exact state. But I’m also here for perhaps the sole reason I was made aware of Schooners in the first place: The double cheeseburger with bone marrow gravy.

It’s absurd. All of it. The patties are smaller than the bun but thick enough that, when placed atop one another, it creates the distance needs for the sheer volume of cheese to disperse itself properly. That said, the cheese doesn’t so much drape as uncontrollably cascade and maintains oozeability through the lashings of gravy that it’s doused in. The domino effect of this is that the bottom bun becomes merely a vessel for all this excess and so lights a fuse on the time you have to consume this as some semblance of a burger, before reverting to the needed but otherwise still, psychopaths’ knife and fork.

But in many ways, just shoveling it with your mits is the kind of thing you want: hungover as I am, I don’t have the mental or physical resources to feel shame or anyone else’s bloodshot eyes on me. It’s just me and this thing. This thing that’s healing me with each 60/40 chuck to forerib blend, still blushing in the middle and backed-up with some of the best fries I’ve ever had- each one a prism of basically creamy mash, encased in starchy fiberglass, speckled with rosemary some of which are crammed into the burger while she still holds. Some gherkins on the side for health and of course to do a Moses through all that fat. It’s magnificent. Between bites and frosty glugs of shandy, I’m given a shoulder rub by my friend. Schooners truly is a place of healing. A church for the sinner. A balm for the woes.