Published 24 November 2021
by Henry Southan
After catering for world leaders at the G7 conference, Adam Handling has opened to the public his new sustainability-focused bar and restaurant Ugly Butterfly at the Carbis Bay hotel in St Ives, west Cornwall. CODE caught up with the chef to find out more.
The launch marks Handling’s Cornish debut. Following in the footsteps of his flagship bar in London, Eve Bar, Ugly Butterfly has a focus on utilising waste from the restaurant to create innovative takes on classic cocktails, sourcing produce as locally as possible, and going further with seasonality, foraging for what’s available there and then in west Cornwall.
Handling, more chef than mixologist, said opening a bar was never part of his plan, but it seemed right alongside the restaurant: “It gives us another avenue to be able to utilise food waste. We have a drinks lab that allows us to take food waste that we can distil into infusions, and we can have fun with it in our cocktails.”
He is proud to say Ugly Butterfly doesn’t have lemons or limes behind the bar, encouraging a more novel approach to its drinks offering.
The Fal-Town, their Cornish take on a dry martini, is created by infusing shucked oyster shells and their juices into vodka and is finished with samphire and seaweed. The Cheeky Monkey, a take on a Manhattan with a hint of banana and Cornish fudge, makes use of the restaurant’s leftover petit fours.
The food has as much an emphasis on sustainability. It was the plus ones of the G7 summit leaders, including Carrie Johnson and Dr Jill Biden, who got the first taste of Handling’s cooking in Cornwall in June this year.
Since opening, Handling said he has never been so close to his suppliers as he is right now. He tells us: “The dairy comes from five minutes away from the restaurant.
“While we’ve always had great relationships with our suppliers, we haven’t always been big on sustainability and zero waste.
“We always want to improve and come up with new ideas, and eventually came up with the idea of creating restaurants that utilise all of their waste.”
Handling said Ugly Butterfly came about after countless “positive, ideas-led meetings” with his GM George Hersey throughout the pandemic. Hersey had been to university in Cornwall and suggested opening a site there. “I had never been to Cornwall in my life,” Handling admitted.
But his decision was finally made when he drove down the hill to the restaurant: “All my troubles disappeared, it was magical. I might be biased but I truly think it’s one of the most beautiful restaurants in the country.”
Ugly Butterfly was initially meant to be a pop-up, but Handling said he’s not a fan of those: “They cost way too much money, you have to get marketing for the duration of the pop-up, and then after that it’s dead.”
The signature dish at Ugly Butterfly is lobster with beef fat – where the lobster is cured for 24 hours in retired dairy cow fat – before being cooked on a barbecue and served with no garnish. Handling talks about letting the incredible quality of the Cornish lobster speak for itself.
On the effects of the pandemic on the restaurant group, Handling said it made him and his team think more smartly when opening restaurants. He added: “[It was about] finding teams before opening, rather than the other way around.”