by Claire Corbett inCreative Conversations

Creative Conversations with Hylton Epsey

Nature inspired cuisine
With a menu dictated by local farmers, producers and nature, Hylton Epsey and his newly opened Falmouth eatery serves recipes inspired by his ocean muse, Cornish landscapes and flora and fauna.

Situated on Arwenack Street off of Custom House Quay, Hylton’s first independent restaurant, Culture, is a celebration of storytelling and Cornwall. He believes that his menu must take guests on a journey, whether that may be nostalgic, geographic or somewhere new and exciting.

His daily foraging ritual allows him and his chefs to step outside to see what is happening on their doorstep. He is firm in saying that he does not forage to follow a trend, he does it for flavour and sustainability. Nothing goes on the plate unless it needs to be there and is delicious.

Culture is the realisation of a lifelong dream between two chef college students who fell in love with cooking, wine and each other.

After globetrotting experiences across the world, they have found themselves at home in Cornwall for the last six years. These experiences, working and eating, have instilled in them a passion for sharing their journey through food and wine. We were lucky enough to sit down and speak to Hylton about his own story and his Falmouth business. 

Hi Hylton, could you tell us a bit about your culinary background? How did you discover your love for what you do?

My mother, Juliana, is an excellent cook and as a youngster, we had adventurous meals inspired by worldwide cuisines. My Dad loves his food and wine, he makes a banging risotto and his bbq skills are up there.

From a young age, I would sit and watch my mom cook, I was never allowed to do anything to help, just to taste. Nothing has changed.

We camped a lot and I always enjoyed cooking outside on an open fire. I got a potjie (Dutch oven) for my tenth birthday and started to make my own meals in it, this pot is now in my restaurant.

I finished school and went to Uni to study winemaking before realising that cooking was my ultimate passion, I went to a local restaurant to ask for a job and have never looked back.

How would you introduce a Culture Restaurant?

Culture is a restaurant inspired by nature, travel and our experiences. Through our journey menu, we tell a story of where we are, where we have been and where we are going.  We follow the seasons closely and our menus adjust to availability from the hills, pasture, farms and sea.

The menu is written as inspirations and not courses, we change the menu constantly and it allows us to really use the best and freshest local ingredients

What inspired the idea of setting up your business?

I have always dreamed of having my own restaurant and during the first lockdown, we decided to open Culture as a family-owned restaurant in Falmouth. After two years of looking, we finally found the ideal location, an original building on the historic Custom House Quay, hidden in plain sight if you will.

Which values are a focus for your business?

We want to be part of and support the local Falmouth and Cornwall community where we live and raise our children. It is through supporting local producers and the provenance of our fresh produce that we hope to achieve this.

We limit single-use plastic and by offering one menu it allows us to bring our food waste almost to zero. Most of our food miles are single-digit, the granite on my kitchen pass came from a quarry 3.2 miles away.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

I love spending time outdoors, surfing, sailing, fishing or just a walk.

Every dish starts with an inspiration, it may be an experience, the season, a nostalgic memory, a farm visit or an adventure in nature. I carry a notebook with me all the time as you can never predict inspiration or a creative idea.

How do you source ingredients for Culture? Who are some of your favourite suppliers?

We have found most suppliers on Instagram which is pretty cool. These guys are super proud of what they do and show off their amazing produce through the seasons.

We get our wheat from William at Cornish Golden grains, he grows some amazing heritage wheat from forgotten strains. These are the original grains of the South West and come from a time before modern farming saw profit instead of flavour.

Patrick of Patrick’s patch grows some of our more interesting herbs and vegetables. He is always keen to experiment and his polytunnel is a breath into summer even in the winter months.

Martin at Sailors Creek Shellfish brings in our native oysters during the season and a few other shellfish which are not common on British menus. Since Brexit, all of these fisheries need our support as their exports have been hit hard.

Chocolarder in Falmouth is amazing and their ethos is really inspiring. The chocolate is next level and we love entering their world and going next level chocolate nerd as we look at all the nuances and differences between each bar.

Sam Marks made all of our plates and when he delivered them by hand he said it is the closest delivery he had to make, as his studio is around the corner. His artisanal work is exceptional and we are super excited to be working with him.

Tell us about your location and community

We are on Custom House Quay in Falmouth right amongst some great restaurants and local businesses. Falmouth is a real eclectic mix of students, creatives, yachties and professionals. We love the vibrant atmosphere of Falmouth and there is a great buzz year-round with locals and visitors.

Where are your favourite places in Falmouth and the Helford area?

A surf at Swanpool in the winter is always special, it’s the same crowd out and everyone is just stoked that we get some waves. The SUP from Swanpool to Maenporth is really amazing as you hug the cliffs and paddle past the Wreck. I love Ponzence Cove at the mouth of the Helford, we had our first overnight stay on our boat there and loved it.

For dining out, we really enjoy Restaurant Mine, New Yard and Kota.

If you were to dine al fresco what would you take with you to eat and drink?

My bbq, oysters, Malay curry chicken kebabs, tabbouleh salad, tins of ice cold IPA and a bottle of SA Chenin with s’mores for dessert

If you could stay at one of our properties, which one calls to you the most and why?

Dinyan in Port Navas, it’s the perfect place to moor our boat and sail the Mirror before relaxing and enjoying views of the Helford.

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