Who’d want to open a restaurant in the current economic climate when so many excellent restaurants have been forced to close their doors?

But that’s what acclaimed chef Hylton Espey and his wife Petronella have done opening Culture in what used to be a steakhouse on the ope down to Custom House Quay in Falmouth last June.

Hylton spent six years at Rastella at the Merchants Manor Hotel, becoming head chef, earning three AA rosettes and gathering a reputation for inventive cooking, with Cornish produce, on the way.

The restaurant's interiors feature raw wood and open masonry with blackened steel countertops giving an industrial edge to the design. Even the tables have been upcycled from its previous incarnation as a family steakhouse.

Falmouth Packet: The tables have been reused from the previous steakhouseThe tables have been reused from the previous steakhouse (Image: Paul Armstrong)

The open kitchen overlooks the 30-cover dining room and guests watch as Hylton creates seven-plus-courses from the kitchen. Outside tables in the summer boast the view of a “glance” over Falmouth Bay.

Hylton aims to cook sustainably with minimal waste and maximum flavour and ethically conscious local suppliers and their produce sits at the heart of Culture.

He also uses his foraging skills out on Trefusis Point to find edible treasure in the hedgerows.

The first thing you find is there’s no menu to choose from, you get what you’re given and to be honest that takes a lot of the stress away. There is one set, varying, menu depending on what’s in season and Hylton’s imagination.

It starts at seven, with no other start times so don’t be fashionably late, and continues throughout the evening as each course is brought to you and the back story explained taking you on a culinary journey.

There is no doubt that Hylton’s cooking takes Culture to another level, with the associated price tag, but more of that later!

The first ‘Flurry’ of snacks are inspired by Hylton’s first ever view of Falmouth, the sea and the Trefusis Peninsula.

Falmouth Packet: The Tapioca crisp paired with a glass of red wineThe Tapioca crisp paired with a glass of red wine (Image: Paul Armstrong)First is a tapioca crisp flavoured with Turmeric from local producer Patrick’s Patch and seasoned with dried scallop roe with a flavour similar to a fish pate. You can’t help thinking it looks like a giant quaver and you only get one. For the very hungry this could be worrying!

Falmouth Packet: Sourdough crumpet with a wild garlic caper cream cheeseSourdough crumpet with a wild garlic caper cream cheese (Image: Paul Armstrong)

However this is followed by a handmade from scratch sourdough crumpet with a wild garlic caper cream cheese flavoured with Biltong a South African snack food made from cured and dried slices of meat. Now we’re talking, these are delicious.

Following on are savoury Churros finished with some Stithians Cheese from Lynher Dairies which is not something that you would put together, but the sweetness of the Churros with the savoury of the cheeses works incredibly well.

Falmouth Packet: Savoury Churros finished with Stithians Cheese from Lynher DairiesSavoury Churros finished with Stithians Cheese from Lynher Dairies (Image: Paul Armstrong)

The grandly titled Grampound Hills course is bread made from grain bought from a farmer called William which Hylton mills himself before making the bread that day.

It is paired with a malted butter which is flavoured with the same wheat.

Falmouth Packet: The hand milled bread with malted butter was breathtakingThe hand milled bread with malted butter was breathtaking (Image: Paul Armstrong)

I think it’s fair to say I have never tasted bread like this, when you take a bite you can taste the air in the barn, it’s that light. Absolutely divine.

During the deep winter the farmers have less and less so Hylton goes out foraging for the next course called simply Cornish Hedgerow.

It consists of a Falmouth Packet: Three cornered leek in a savoury Japanese custard called Chawanmushi topped with PennywortThree cornered leek in a savoury Japanese custard called Chawanmushi topped with Pennywort (Image: Paul Armstrong), with three cornered chutney and pickled Alexander with a Pennywort leaf on top. It’s incredibly fresh and delicious.

When you see on the menu 'Rob’s potato' you do start to wonder what one chef can do with just one potato.

Well Hylton aerated and baked it, aerated the flesh turned the skin into a crumb and it was absolutely incredible.

Falmouth Packet: Rob's Potato's in there somewhereRob's Potato's in there somewhere (Image: Paul Armstrong)

This was followed by Carrick Roads which was inspired by foraging for Alexander at Trefusis with the oyster boats dredging in the background.

A native oyster is braised on the briar dressed in a pepper dulce butter foraged between Swanpool and Gylly Beach and a scallop, butter browned and with Alexander poached in the juices of the oyster, all finished with a bit dried sea lettuce.

Falmouth Packet: Scallop and oyster Scallop and oyster (Image: Paul Armstrong)

For Pasture there is meat from local supplier ‘Homage to the Bovine’ sirloin cooked on the briar barbecue, paired with pumpkin from Rob’s Farm near Stithians with some pickled and some smoked with the offcuts used to make a little powder with a pumpkin barbecue sauce.

Falmouth Packet: Homage to the BovineHomage to the Bovine (Image: Paul Armstrong)

I didn’t think I liked pumpkin, but I do now while the meat was of course cooked to perfection.

Finally we get Patrick’s Lemon Tree with lemons from Patrick’s Patch based in Budock which are ready in December giving the dish a lovely taste of summer.

They inspired this incredible lemon posset with a lemon marmalade and milk sorbet made with milk from Trink Dairy. It is topped with a caramelized white chocolate from ChocoLarder and a “burnt” meringue.

Falmouth Packet: Lemon Posset paired with desert wine Tenute Orestiadi Lemon Posset paired with desert wine Tenute Orestiadi (Image: Paul Armstrong)

To go with this we had two delicious glasses of desert wine Tenute Orestiadi followed by a cheeseboard with crackers made from yesterday’s bread, so nothing goes to waste.

Culture has just been put in the Michelin guide only seven months after opening and you can see why, the food, the restaurant and the cooking is exceptional.

Falmouth Packet: The impressive 'wine cellar' seems to be literally hewn from the rockThe impressive 'wine cellar' seems to be literally hewn from the rock (Image: Paul Armstrong)

You may think it all sounds a bit intimidating but Hylton and his staff couldn’t have been more welcoming and friendly. There is no doubt that the hefty £70 price tag is completely fair for the time, effort and skill that Hylton puts into his menu and cooking.

However, with such a hefty price tag, our bill for two came to £164 including the four glasses of wine, it may be something reserved for a special occasion for most people, but what a special occasion that will be!