IF THERE'S one Cornwall-based chef who hides his light under a bushel it's Nigel Tabb.
Highly respected by his peers and with a loyal following, Tabb's in Kenwyn Street, Truro, is a hidden gem up there with the most celebrated fine dining restaurants in Cornwall.
Like a residential Tardis, it looks like a run-of-the-mill, terraced house from the outside, but step over the threshold and you are faced with a chic dining room with lilac walls, leather high-backed chairs and slate floors.
The tables are linen-clothed and set with the finest glassware and crockery; the waitresses are relaxed and friendly, and in the kitchen chef patron Nigel works his magic.
Tabb's has been in Truro for more than six years and previously in the fishing village of Portreath.
Nigel trained in some of the busiest kitchens in London and has always been at the heart of Tabb's kitchen.
Everything he serves is produced at the restaurant from the bread with your starters to the chocolates with your coffee.
Admitting that he needs to shout a bit louder now that most chefs are as adept at tweeting as they are tasting, Nigel has started a series of wine evenings.
The events are held in tandem with Jamie Tonkin, of Old Chapel Cellars, Truro.
What's On attended the most recent evening when expert Phil Barnet gave a fascinating introduction to the world of natural wines; those made with minimal chemical and technological intervention. It's basically just the fermenting grape and that's it.
As Phil introduced each wine, Nigel rustled up a complementing dish. Interesting is probably the best way of describing these wines – the ripe and rustic aroma can be off-putting at first, but the taste of the wines overrides the first impression.
The real hit with our table was the sparkling rosé Moussamoussettes, NV Rene Mosse from Anjou in the Loire – one to seek out, just visit Jamie.
What lifted the wines were Nigel's inventive dishes – deceptively simple but packing a flavoursome punch.
Smoked haddock black risotto with Montgomery shavings, followed by seared duck fillet and gizzard (don't knock it till you've tried it), asparagus and bean shoots with tomato reduction.
Culinary works of art with, the pièce de résistance, wild black bream, celeriac hash, pancetta, mushrooms and wild garlic on toast with chive cream. It all came to a somewhat boozy finale (The Nurse decided that natural wines weren't for her ... what could I do?) with a most fabulous pudding, chocolate marquise, cream cheese ice cream (this, in particular, was very special), pumpkin seed croquante and milk chocolate sauce. It came armed with a superb dessert wine – Maury Vintage Rouge 2008, Domaine Mas Amiel.
Watch this space for news of more wine evenings at Tabb's and in the meantime book a table – Nigel doesn't deserve to be a secret among the chosen few.
See www.tabbs.co.uk for more details.
Cheers chaps! From left in our picture, Jamie Tonkin, Nigel Tabb and Phil Barnet toast the future of their wine evenings.