If you look up ‘feast’ in the Cambridge Dictionary, it’s defined as: “a special meal with very good food or a large meal for many people”. With that in mind, it occurs to me that the word is often misused, and by me as well as plenty of others.
However, when it comes to the evenings put on by the Hidden Hut near Portscatho in Cornwall, it is the exact noun for the job – especially since these occasions cover both the special meal with good food side, as well as the large meal for plenty of people.
I have wanted to go to one of the Hidden Hut’s feast nights for quite some time. Since Jamie and I stumbled on the hut – a rather unassuming little wooden hut overlooking Porthcurnick Beach during a walk along the coast path on a previous visit to Cornwall. After a bit of research I found out that during the summer months, as well as offering pasties, coffees, cakes and other yummy dishes they put on ‘feast nights’ at the glorious setting.
The premise is simple – one dish, cooked outside, and served up to eager punters who have to bring their own crockery, cutlery and booze. To some that might sound a bit shit. To me it sounds endlessly romantic. The sun going down, the waves crashing in, good quality food cooked without artifice or fancy techniques, and the convivial feeling that comes with a bunch of strangers united in the simple fact that they’re captivated by exactly the same idea of romance.
It can’t just be me. Feast tickets for each month go on sale on the first of the month at noon and they’re sold out within minutes. The endless ‘refresh’ of the computer and crossed fingers is a bit like Glastonbury, except tickets are only about £20, not hundreds. The hype is the same though. That’s why it’s taken so long for us to get there. Each time I’ve tried I’ve missed out.
Not this time. We’d planned to go to Cornwall anyway and to my delight our trip overlapped the first feast night of 2019 – Flat Iron steaks from cattle reared on the pastures above the beach, braised and finished over a beech and applewood grill and served with potatoes and roasted garlic, greens and salsa verde. All for the princely sum of £18. Halfway down the M5 my alarm went off for 11.55am and there I was, waiting with bated breath. My dedication paid off and there it was, the hallowed email confirmation.
And so on a Wednesday night in May – regardless of the slightly sketchy weather forecast – we followed the telltale smoke plume down the coastal path to Porthcurnick Beach where everything was just as I had imagined. Long tables, some draped in white tablecloths, adorned with freshly-picked flowers in jugs, set against the backdrop of blue skies and rolling waves. Gazebos are up – they never cancel a feast night – but we’re lucky and the skies have cleared, despite the forecast.
Huge chunks of meat sizzling over flames, basted using a brush made out of beech. Vegetables roasting on giant griddles. Huge woks resting on stone stands heating by real fire, not gas. People arriving from all directions clutching hampers, rucksacks, bags and anything else suitable for carting everything you need to accompany such a feast.
Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a tourist event – one local told me they have a Whatsapp group to coordinate their efforts when tickets go on sale. They’re the ones who come super well prepared and as well as bottles of bubbles, side dishes and nibbles and plates and cutlery, also have an artificial candelabra to complete the feast feel.
We park up on the end of a table with the pooches (since it’s outside you can take your dogs – another bonus) and take it all in. The cooking itself is mesmerising and the ambience is definitely a one-off.
As 7pm and serving time approaches, we’re already pals with the couple who have brought their two young children with them sitting opposite and the couple down for a holiday next to us. It’s that kind of place – you’re all in it together and that’s part of the magic.
Serving time comes and the first-timers are clearly spotted (including us) – they’re the ones who look up, shocked, to see a large queue has already formed. It doesn’t really matter – there’s plenty to go round.
Our plates are piled high with thick slabs of beef, joyously tender and subtly smoked, allowing its own flavour to shine. The roasted veg is sweet, the greens still crunchy and the salsa verde pureed into a smooth, slightly piquant, citrusy delight that balances things out, allowing me to queue up for seconds.
It’s coming up to 9pm – the listed end time for the feast – and we’re done. People have started to reluctantly leave and so do we, with full bellies and smiles on our faces at having joined in in such an experience.
If you like pretty plates covered in smears and foams, items intricately placed with tweezers and suited and booted waiters bowing and scraping as they cater to your every whim, this may not be for you. If you like hearty, quality food, big in flavour at a place that’s even bigger in character and heart, then I reckon you’ll come away raving about the Hidden Hut as much as I did.
Of course, I don’t want to take my own crockery and cutlery to every dining experience I have (though I quite like taking my own booze…), and as I say, there’s an element of romance about the Hidden Hut that probably makes everything taste just that little bit better, but it really is a one-off. It’s everything a feast should be – and more.
We paid in full for our tickets to the Hidden Hut like everyone else. They didn’t know I was a blogger. Feast nights go on throughout summer and they do ‘beach breakfasts’ now too – visit their website for details.