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From the Blog

Restaurant Diaries | Lunch at Ugly Butterfly in Carbis Bay

Posted by Sophie Hesp on Updated on

What to expect from Adam Handling’s fine dining restaurant

Building fantastic relationships with people and brands across the South West is a huge part of what we do at Perfect Stays. With a keen eye on the food scene, we’re passionate about finding the very best restaurants for our guests during their holiday, and we know that first hand experiences make all the difference.

That’s why when Nick Kimberley – Restaurant Manager at Ugly Butterfly – invited us to Carbis Bay for a very special lunch, we were excited to see what was in store. If you’re tempted to book a table, here’s what to expect from Adam Handling’s Cornish fine dining restaurant.


Setting the scene

Nestled amongst the Carbis Bay Estate and sharing its home with a handful of our favourite restaurants (including Walter’s on the Beach), Ugly Butterfly first came to be in August 2021. Riding the post-Covid wave in its debut year and headed up by Great British Menu ‘Champion of Champions’ Adam Handling, the vision here is to prove that zero waste food can be beautiful.

A refreshing take for a restaurant with a Michelin-star chef at its helm, a trio of foodies from our Guest Coordination and Marketing teams arrived on a sunny Thursday lunchtime to see the mantra unfold.


A sensational sea-view backdrop

Walking through the front doors, past the walk-in wine cellar and into the open plan bar-meets-snug, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve arrived in a stylish Cornwall speakeasy. The walls lined with bottled botanicals make a statement, the plush velvet chairs invite instant relaxation, but they don’t compare to the stunning ocean panorama that lies beyond the floor-to-ceiling glass. Miles of Cornish coastline stretch as far as the eye can see.

We take a moment to soak up the view while Nick introduces us to bartenders, Josh and Connor, who talk us through their imaginative cocktail menu. Shelf after shelf of jarred botanicals are on display, labelled “popcorn cordial”, “dandy liquor” and “butterfly flowers”. Everything in front of us is designed to be savoured, like the lemon husks, piths and peels that come from the Eden Project, 45 miles away in St Austell, to play a key part in their signature citrus drinks. Nick explains:


“We keep all the bases and roots – there’s no reason why you can’t use it. It’s easy, you just need the thought and creativity to do it."


Before long, the sliding doors are whisked open and we’re invited into the main dining space. With the restaurant to ourselves, we take our seats front and centre, overlooking the white sands of Carbis Bay. Dog-friendly between October and May, this Blue Flag oasis is a must-visit spot for those holidaying in West Cornwall. It's loved for its calm swimming waters and seal-spotting opportunities, and sure enough, we were soon greeted by a resident pup bobbing its head above the blue. Delighting in its frolics, sommelier Steph tells us it's a common occurrence.

Meanwhile, the kitchen team are busy sharpening knives and polishing tweezers, ready for the intricacies of the lunchtime menu. Set across one level, the restaurant space is light, airy and beautifully designed – think chef’s table meets conceptual art gallery. Overhead, floral installations by Hayley Scott Blooms (a local florist based in Newquay) make it feel as whimsical as it is modern, with pampas flourishing from every angle to echo the table décor. 



Steph guides us through the extensive cocktail menu, pointing out those that lend themselves to non-alcoholic mocktails (marked with an orange butterfly), and others that feature unique flavours like the sweat pea liqueur in their staff favourite “Dagworthy”.  With one drink decided, we also opt for the coconut rum-based “Lost Gardens” and a “Kissing’s in Fashion” – made with mint stem soda, nasturtium and elderflower.


A creative and thought-provoking menu

Glasses clinked, cocktails sipped, and views admired, it was time to eat. As you’d expect from a Michelin-star chef, the flavour and presentation of every dish was truly spectacular. Our three courses emerged from the kitchen, some enveloped in a cloud of dry ice, others alongside a tailored wine pairing, and all looking almost too good to eat. 

Guided by Nick’s recommendations, we opted for a mix of vegetarian and pescatarian “snacks” – each one small, perfectly formed, and packing a punch. Our favourites included the crispy ricotta doughnuts, the intricate savoury tarts with green apple jelly and edible flowers, and a fairytale-esque St Ewe Egg custard with mushroom, croutons and chive. Served on a bed of straw, this dish was a real crowd pleaser, as the three ceramic eggs were flooded with dry ice once they reached the table. Waiting just out of sight to gauge our reaction, Nick admits:

“It’s pure theatre, we want to entertain people.”





The two courses that followed were equally delicious: a chilled artichoke main and a dark chocolate and honeycomb dessert, not forgetting a handmade whiskey chocolate to finish. A combination of alcoholic and non-alcoholic sparkling wines made for an extra special lunch, with insightful tasting notes from Steph providing context about each glass’s flavour profile and region.

Nevertheless, what made our lunch so memorable was the expertise in which it was served. Every waiter, pastry chef and sommelier knew the pinpoint details of what made each dish unique, the recommended order in which to enjoy them, and which part of Cornwall the ingredients were sourced from. Theatrics aside, it’s clear that the chefs behind these dishes are truly passionate about the quality of ingredients, and how they can minimise food waste with every dish.

Handling’s team are young and passionate, with 24-year-old head chef Connor Blades leading the charge in his newly appointed position. He already has substantial accolades under his belt, most notably UK Young Chef of the Year 2021, so expect big things from Ugly Butterfly’s future.


Closing thoughts

We couldn’t slip away without passing on our thanks to Nick, Steph and Connor for looking after us so well. The insights we’ve come away with for our guests are second-to-none, and there were a few welcome surprises along the way:

• The restaurant is very dog-friendly, both in the bar and the main dining space. Dogs can relax beside your table which is a fine dining rarity.
• Menus can be a la carte, or diners are welcome to mix and match to make their experience more bespoke, with specific flavours on request.
• You can book for weddings, functions and large groups for semiprivate dining. The team open up the dining space to make way for tables of up to 18.


Celebrating something special?

Good things come in pairs, just like fine dining at Ugly Butterfly and holidaying at Shun Lee – our magnificent St Ives sanctuary. Sleeping up to 14 by the harbour, you’ll find frontline sea views and a cinema room to make this year’s stay extraordinary.

Catch the branch line train to make the most of the restaurant’s cocktail selection, or book the five or seven course tasting menu for a night you won’t forget.


Above: Shun Lee in St Ives.

Image credits: First image set © John Hersey Studio | All other images are our own.


Posted by Sophie Hesp

When she's not out for a roast by the coast, Sophie loves exploring with her partner and their golden retriever pup, Obi. She writes about all things Cornwall and is a strong believer that there’s no such thing as too many house plants.

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