You can forget about lunch, you can forget about supper – you can forget every meal but breakfast.
Some people shirk the first meal of the day, certain that anything that travels the length of their oesophagus before noon will render them sick. For Hugo Woolley, breakfast is one of those unquestionable certainties – tasting better than death and taxes, for sure, but a definite morning must. Bloody Marys, Granola and fruit compote are all on the menu at Woodlands Country House, which Hugo runs with his wife Pippa. But these are just a run-up to the morning mainstay of a full Cornish fry-up, complete with Hogs Pudden. With two books under his belt, entitled “Breakfast” and “Brunch” respectively, the first meal of the day is always on this man’s agenda.
“You can forget about lunch, you can forget about supper – you can forget every meal but breakfast. Breakfast I think, is the most important meal of the day”, says Hugo Woolley as we sit down in the reception room of the Woodland Country House Hotel. Hugo and his wife Pippa have just finished cooking up the first meal of the day for their guests, as they do every morning. More often than not, they also cook for locals, and tourists who haven’t booked a room, but pay Woodlands a visit when they’re hankering after a decent bit of breakfast.
Hugo’s love of a good morning meal led him to write a recipes book on the subject. “Breakfast” is filled with recipes: traditional dishes, international offerings and a handful of pretty odd concoctions are included in the book, which is woven together by Hugo’s passion for good food, and his sense of humour. “It’s not a bog standard recipes book, because I can’t bear bog standard recipes books where there’s no preamble”, says Hugo. Aside from the preamble in “Breakfast”, the recipes themselves ensure that the book is anything but bog standard. Old favourites such as Eggs Benedict, and porridge get a look in, but they sit alongside the lesser known likes of Koulibiac, Coddled eggs and the Savoy Hotel’s “Corpse Reviver”.
So what’s the strangest thing Hugo has ever eaten? “I’ve had quite a lot of breakfasts that I don’t think are strange, but…there are things like fried worms, which is what we used to have when we were children.” Fried worms, which features in Hugo’s second book “Brunch”, is essentially pork crackling cut into strips – not something you’d find sitting on many tables in the morning nowadays. “In the olden days, bacon always used to come with the rind on”, recalls Hugo. “Nowadays, people don’t like rind, so they chop it off.”
Getting people to enthuse about breakfast in its many forms is one of Hugo’s greatest aims, especially when it comes to younger generations. “That’s the thing about “Breakfast”,” he says.” I’d love to inspire the youth – it’s the youth that I like to think are cooking breakfast. It’s nice to get the youth to cook more, and to understand good food.”
Good food has a global reach in ‘Breakfast’. “There are lots of marvellous things that come from America,” says Hugo when asked where inspiration for the book came from. “They have a whole group of breakfasts called ‘casseroles’,” he says. “It’s like bread and butter pudding, but it can be savoury or sweet.” There are also creations featured in ‘Brunch’ that have been inspired on Hugo’s very own doorstep. Eggs Sebastian came about when a guest named Benedict requested a dish to match the name of his brother, Sebastian. Instead of politely confirming that there was no such dish, Hugo answered, “Well I shall design one!” Eggs Sebastian was subsequently created in the form of a quails egg, seared scallop and black pudding, balanced on a scallop shell and topped with Sauce Cordelloise. “This is one of the poshest brunches,” says Hugo in ‘Brunch’. “It is not a very big brunch, it’s but a mouthful, so can be eaten by people with a tiny morning appetite.”
Breakfast at Woodlands Country Park Hotel caters perfectly well for those with a small morning appetite, but it specialises in serving up breakfast for those who love to savour it. Fresh fruit, cereals, home made fruit compote, muesli and toast are the precursor to the heartier second half of the menu. Once guests have woken their stomachs up with a few sips of tea and a light bite, it’s onto choosing from the likes of a full Cornish fry up, Cornish oak smoked kippers, or perhaps the milk poached haddock.
Hugo’s background has always been rooted in the catering trade, with much of his time spent in London. His stint in the big smoke included running Fleet Street’s well-known journalists’ haunt El Vino, not to mention training Hugh Hefner’s bunny girls how to do the bunny dip. He’d also set up his own sandwich shop in the city, and had started up a successful sausage company, supplying Harrods, Fortnum & Masons and Selfridges, when misfortune struck and a car accident left him in hospital for six months. With convalescence a priority, Hugo and Pippa moved to Cornwall’s warmer climes and have been serving up breakfast to their guests at Woodlands for the last five years. You get the impression that nothing much stops Hugo Woolley – especially if there’s a promise of breakfast. He talks briefly about the decision to relocate to Cornwall, but is soon back on the subject of his favourite morning meal.
For Hugo, appetite is not a problem in the morning - choosing what to have for breakfast is the difficulty. “Breakfast for me, has got to have an egg”, he says. It’s got to have delicious bacon. I love a full English or Cornish breakfast with lots of different combinations. I love eggy bread - possibly eggy bread might be my favourite”, he muses. “That’s been my favourite since time began. It’s got to be made with a bit of cream, and you can make it savoury or sweet, but I much prefer it savoury. I quite like building it up into a sandwich with bacon and hogs pudden!”
It’s while Hugo muses over his definitive favourite, that he happens upon the concept of a breakfast time tasting menu for Woodlands Country House. “A tasting menu….hmmm”, he mumbles to himself. “Blinis, egg mimosa with saviar…ooh I could do a little porridge brulee!” he exclaims. And that’s it; he’s off – hatching his next plan for the first meal of the day.
Hugo’s top five breakfast tips
1. “Use the best produce – you can’t compromise. You’ve got to have the best sausages, the best bacon and the freshest of eggs.”
2.“With fried bread, if you fry it in really hot clean oil, you literally fry the surface. It turns it brown and gives you the taste, but you haven’t soaked it in oil so it won’t saturate your veins. If it’s greasy, it’s just going to make an unpleasant breakfast.”
3.“Don’t overcook anything, otherwise you’ll end up with dry eggs and bacon that taste like cardboard.”
4.“Eat fish for breakfast as well as meat – it’s very good for you.”
5.“Last but not least, the most important thing is to eat breakfast. You can forget about lunch, you can forget about supper – you can forget every meal but breakfast!”
Brunch & Breakfast
Woodlands Country House Hotel
For more information on Woodlands Country House Hotel, visit:
Woodlands Country House Hotel: Treator, Padstow, Cornwall, PL28 8RU.
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