Category Archives: Devon

The Room – The Elephant Restaurant – Torquay – Restaurant Review

The Elephant Restaurant - The Room - Torquay - Sign

I try and get down to The Elephant at least once a year as it’s the closest Michelin starred restaurant to my home (approx. 2miles), I like to go down around May as “The Room” the fine dining area of the restaurant re-opens from its winter shut down.  Due to the re-opening “Simon Hulstone” (Chef) makes a new and exciting menu, including a new tasting menu.

The tasting menu for this evening would be:

Amuse Bouche 

Brixham Crab

Sweet pea panna cotta with crab and cicely,

mango and dashi sorbet, brown crab toast

Scallops

Roasted scallop on crown prince purée, caramelised seeds

Brill

Fillet of brill with lardo Iberico, fennel pollen,

parsnip purée, verjus and spring onion butter

Lamb

Lamb and chicken roulade, smoked garlic,

new season asparagus, pea mousse, shallot and thyme purée

Cheese

Choice of artisan Westcountry cheeses from the trolley

(Also available as an extra course £12 per person)

Strawberry

Sphere of strawberry and lemon mascarpone,

elderflower crème and jus de fraise

Coffee

Coffee or tea with petit fours

Tasting Menu £69.50 per person

Optional Matching Wine £29.50 per person

 

The server was very polite and showed us to our table right in front of the main window, with an absolute gorgeous view over Torbay, if only the weather was as fabulous it would have been perfect.

 

The Elephant Restaurant - The Room - Torquay - Bread

Bread was then quickly served, this consisted of a duck rillette with crispy pork, hummous, butter, green and red olives and olive ciabatta bread.  All of this was very good, the bread was good and warm and the butter very good.

The Elephant Restaurant - The Room - Torquay - Ceps

Also with the bread some locally foraged ceps/mushrooms were provided, these were picked by hand up at Haldon Forest.  I have to say I wasn’t too keen on these and found there wasn’t any distinct flavour, or mushroom type flavour at all.

The Elephant Restaurant - The Room - Torquay - Amuse Bouche

Next a chilled Amuse Bouche of vichyssoise with cubed apple and candied walnuts. This was really nice with a creamy taste, the sweet walnuts were a very good addition also.

The Elephant Restaurant - The Room - Torquay - Crab

Next came the crab dish, this was accompanied by “Brown Crab Toast”, upon tasting my dining partner instantly declared “they should just sell these!!”.  She was correct as well the outer “toast” was extremely sweet and matched beautifully with brown crab.  The white crab meat was lovely, and the pea panna cotta underneath matched really well, the sorbet tasted alone had a very distinct flavour and wasn’t to my taste, but when matched with the other elements it worked perfectly.

The Elephant Restaurant - The Room - Torquay - Scallop

Next was the Scallop dish, this was a very well put together dish with the bowl being piping hot when served.  The flavours were very distinct and clean, with only 2 main elements it was very pleasing, the seeds only added to the slight sweetness of the scallop and prince purée.

The Elephant Restaurant - The Room - Torquay - Brill

The Brill came next, now this dish was my favourite of the whole evening.  The fish was perfect, with all flavours coming through but the star for me was the verjus and spring onion butter, this was very sweet and for my big sweet-tooth made for the perfect dish.  The small balls of spring onions which had been made I can only imagine with a mellon baller, shows the attention to detail here.

The Elephant Restaurant - The Room - Torquay - Lamb

Next came the lamb and chicken, this dish to me was slightly disappointing.  The lamb was gorgeous with it being cooked just as I liked, but I found the chicken just didn’t add anything to flavour, I think I would have preferred there be just lamb here with no chicken.  The side elements were all good with the flavours showing and the garlic added a lovely after taste.

The Elephant Restaurant - The Room - Torquay - Srawberry

Now for my best bit of any meal….. Dessert!  This was the strawberry dessert and was served plain and then the jus being added at the table.  The sphere itself was a beautifully light strawberry moose, with an added surprise of popping candy throughout.  It all worked well and the centre of the moose had a small ball of cream which really added a nice flavour.  The whole dish was so light and refreshing.

The Elephant Restaurant - The Room - Torquay - Chocolate

Now normally that would be the end of the tasting menu with the “Strawberry”, however being the greedy dessert lover I am, I opted for another dessert course.  This was a “Chilled bitter chocolate fondant, salted butter caramel ice cream, pailleté feuillantine”, the fondant itself was a deep, rich moose and personally I was in a small slice of chocolate heaven!  The ice cream was lovely with a rich caramel taste, with a subtle salt after effect.  However this dish did cause abit of a discussion at the table, and with a few other fellow bloggers after the meal……

The Elephant Restaurant - The Room - Torquay - Chocolate1

The centre of the “Fondant” was a strong butterscotch type caramel, however this was a very thick centre, and I would not call this gooey/liquid.  Now this asks the question “what is a fondant”, does this really class as a fondant having a quite solid centre, or more of a caramel centred moose? I’ll leave that up for individuals to decide, however all I know is that it tasting in a  word “lush”.

Well that brought the meal to the end, we were asked if we wanted coffee, however we both declined as we are both not coffee drinkers.  The bill was then served with a nice stick of rock compliments of the restaurant.  However we were both slightly disappointed as the tasting menu included coffee/tea and petite fours, although we declined the tea/coffee, no petite fours appeared.  After settling the bill, I then asked to have them which the waiter politely and kindly said he would go get from the kitchen right away.

The Elephant Restaurant - The Room - Torquay - Petite Four

Petite fours were then served, being a strawberry macaroon, orange jelly, chocolate fudge and white chocolate truffle.  The favourite for me was the white chocolate truffle, it was smooth and creamy and had a great taste.  Also which was great was that there was 2 of each item, so we could both sample each one.

Overall 8/10

 We both really enjoyed our experience at the Elephant, the food was clean, well cooked and executed well.  There seemed to be a rolling theme throughout the entire tasting experience and that was sweetness, which to my personal taste was my dream menu, however this might not be to everyone’s taste.  There was only a few minor issues of the evening, but they didn’t really distract from an overall good meal, it would have been nice if the petite four experience had not occurred, but something which can be forgotten easy enough.  I now only want to return and have the À la carte version of the brilliant Brill dish! Cant wait to return!

 

The Elephant Restaurant,
3 & 4 Beacon Terrace
Torquay
Devon
TQ1 2BH
Phone: 01803 200 044
Email: info@elephantrestaurant.co.uk
Website: www.elephantrestaurant.co.uk
 
Brasserie
Lunch
Tuesday – Saturday
Reservations 12.00 – 2.00pm
Dinner
Tuesday – Saturday
Reservations 6.30pm – 9.00pm
The Room
Dinner
Tuesday – Saturday
Reservations 6.30pm – 9.00pm
 
 

Elephant on Urbanspoon

Old Vienna – Torquay

Old Vienna Restaurant - Torquay - Sign

This restaurant originally opened in 1989 only 3 years after I was born, my parents actually had one of the most important business meals of their careers one evening here many years ago.   Austrian  rooted “Werner”, the owner then closed the doors of Old Vienna in 1991, but since then reopened at the same premises in 2011.  Due to his Austrian roots, this reflects in a major way on his menu with sauerkraut, schnitzel’s and many other Austrian delicacies having an influence. 

Old Vienna - Torquay - RoomWhen we entered the restaurant, “Werner” the chef was waiting at the bar to greet us, it seemed that on this Wednesday evening he would not only be our waiter but chef as well.  This originally scared be abit thinking we would be ignored, but I can gladly say by the end of the meal I was pleasantly surprised how well this worked, ill explain more about that below.

Old Vienna - Torquay - Bread

Bread was quickly served which was lovely and warm, this bread which is home made was lovely.  The flavours were so mixed with a hit of paprika, garlic and many other herbs, it was quite dense and doughy, which when accompanied with lashings of butter was gorgeous.

Old Vienna - Torquay - Goats Cheese

I was then then served “Grilled Goats Cheese on Garlic-brushed Bruschetta with Vine Tomato and Basil Concasse“, immediately I was surprised by the size of this, it was a very generous portion.  This was one of the most gorgeous goats cheese starters I’ve had at a restaurant, the dressing which covered the salad leaves etc was so very sweet and paired great with the cheese.  Everything on the plates matched well, looked great and tasted better.

Now while waiting for the mains to arrive obvious “Werner” was busy away in the kitchen, and while my table was chatting away we were all of a sudden shocked to hear yodeling…… Yes yodeling coming from the kitchen, it seems this chef used to have a past role in the “Generation Game”, needless to say “Werner” took several breaks from the kitchen on the evening in question to chat to us all, and he really is the life of “Old Vienna”.

Old Vienna - Torquay - Deer

After a lot of laughing, chucking and interesting conversation with the chef we moved on to my main which was  “Roe Deer Steak on a Carrot and Potato Cake served with sautéed Wild Mushrooms”.  This dish again was great, served as requested “Rare” and the mushrooms going great with the deer.  I was pleased to see that the portion was not in line with the large starter and was well proportioned.   This was served with a selection of vegetables such as Carrots and fennel seeds, Beetroot with Horseradish and a few others, roast and chipped potatoes were also served. I don’t think the additional potatoes were really needed, as each main already comes with a  carb element such as my Carrot and Potato cake, which was great. 

Old Vienna - Torquay - Tart

Now on to the best part of any mean….. dessert! I had to order the “Linzer Torte – Austria’s answer to the bakewell tart” just to say I had sampled something really Austrian at an Austrian restaurant.  This I can only describe as a very “almondy” almost marzipan tasting sponge, with a blueberry jam filling…… it was heaven.  The sauces added to it, however I don’t think the mango was needed as it had a sharpness which was just abit too overpowering.

Old Vienna - Torquay - Werner

Werner really is the star of this establishment and spent a good further 45minutes after our meal, sharing stories and his past experiences.  He makes the service personal and relaxed, however I am glad that on busy evening he has a waitress who assists him, as I’m sure if he didn’t have help everyone would miss out on his great entertainment. 

Overall 9/10

 This was a superb meal, I would no way hesitate to recommend close friends, or infact anyone I know to pay it a visit.  When you do just make sure to listen out for that faint sound of yodeling….. an experience not to be missed, both for the chef and for the food!

Old Vienna Restaurant
7 Lisburne Square
Torquay
Devon
TQ1 2PT

Phone: 01803 380 180
Email: Werner@oldvienna.co.uk
Website: http://www.oldvienna.co.uk
Opening Hours: Wednesday to Sunday Evenings from 7pm

Old Vienna on Urbanspoon

The Thatched Cottage Restaurant – Newton Abbot – Restaurant Review

The Thatched Cottage Restaurant - Newton Abbot - Sign

I had never heard of this restaurant before, until I was just browsing through TripAdvsior one afternoon out of boredom. I decided to pay it a visit on a Tuesday evening in April.

Upon arriving we were invited to sit down and have a drink in the bar area first while we browse the menu. The menu was good and I enquired to how often this is change, the kind waitress stated that they try and change it once a month.

The Thatched Cottage Restaurant - Newton Abbot - Starters

The Thatched Cottage Restaurant - Newton Abbot - Mains

The Thatched Cottage Restaurant - Newton Abbot - Desserts

The Thatched Cottage Restaurant - Newton Abbot - Room

After making our menu suggestions we were shown through the main restaurant area. It is all quite formal in here, clean white table clothes, though it does have that cottage feel still, which I quickly learnt as I just managed to see I had to duck under the low beams of the ceiling!

The Thatched Cottage Restaurant - Newton Abbot - Amuse Bouche

We were then served a small Amuse Bouche, this was tasty and really clean in terms of flavours.

The Thatched Cottage Restaurant - Newton Abbot - Bread

Bread was then offered by the waitress holding a large basket of different rolls, these were a selection of white, brown and white with sesame seeds. The bread was ok but nothing I would go on about, it could have done with being served warmer.

The Thatched Cottage Restaurant - Newton Abbot - Parfait

My starter of “Chicken Liver Parfait, Toasted Brioche, Truffle Mayonnaise” was then served in around 20mins of the Amuse Bouche. I was slightly disappointed with this as the Parfait around the edges seemed to be slightly dry with a small crust, the whole thing was more of a Pâté than a parfait. It was missing that gorgeous creamy texture and strong taste I was expecting. The truffle mayonnaise added to the dish but was not enough to make up for the main element.

The Thatched Cottage Restaurant - Newton Abbot - Fillet Steak

The main dish was then quickly served after the starter was removed from the table. Is this now not the best presentation of carrots ever in the history of dining! After I had got my initial giggles out of the way, did my small worship to the devil, I then began to eat. The steak was lovely and “Rare” as requested, was seasoned really well as also. It was the star of the plate how it should have been, but the potatoes lacked some flavour but the mushroom jus more than made up for this.

IMG The Thatched Cottage Restaurant - Newton Abbot - Tiramisu

The Tiramisu was not bad, lots of cream and coffee flavour with the layers clearly visible, I’m not sure if the chantilly cream was needed with the amount already in the dessert. The chocolate sauce added a great element and went well with the coffee flavour. Though half way through I really was just lacking in any flavour and it seemed to be killed by the amount of cream.

The Thatched Cottage Restaurant - Newton Abbot - Petit Fours

Petit fours were then served, my one true annoyance with these things is, if there are 3 diners then there should be 3 items of each, or the items large enough to split to share! We all want to sample these find looking things and not fight (if dining with family) over who is having which. Needless to say though these were very very good, the fudge was lovely, but the star had to be the white chocolate coconut truffle.

The Thatched Cottage Restaurant - Newton Abbot - Petit Fours Close Up

Had to take a photo of the strawberry just to show attention to detail!

The service on the night was good, with the 2 waitresses doing a good job and being chatty, while keeping the atmosphere relaxed.

Overall 6.5/10

I don’t think I would be in a big rush to come to dine here again soon, nothing was particularly bad, but nothing really jumped out at me either. There was a slight wait at the beginning of the meal for the starters, but then speed of the mains made up for this.

The Thatched Cottage Restaurant
9 Crossley Moor Road
Kingsteignton
Newton Abbot
TQ12 3LE
Devon
Phone: 01626 365650

Email: enquiries@thethatchedcottagerestaurant.com
Website: www.thethatchedcottagerestaurant.com
Open From: 10am – 3pm. 7pm – Late.
Closed Sunday Evening & All Day Monday.

The HH Restaurant – Broadclyst – Exeter – Restaurant Review

This well known restaurant has been situated in the village of Broadclyst for many years, many more than I have been blessed with on this earth.  It has taken different names and themes over the years and changed with the times, but not always with great success.  Most recently it has been known as the “Coachman’s Rest” which was known for serving “international” based cuisine from old British favorites to the odd curry dish etc.  Although successful in its final days it did struggle with very little business, which from the location of this restaurant should not be a problem based directly in the centre of town and on a very busy through road.

The restaurant was then purchased by new owners with the intension of completely rebuilding and refurbishing the tired looking building, bringing life and freshness back into its history.  The refurbishment took from September until the restaurant opened at the end of November/Start of December, they had also decided of the name of the establishment which would be based on the owners surnames and hence the “HH Restaurant” was opened.

I had to hold back from rushing to the telephone upon opening as I do think no matter how experience head chef you have (Thiers coming from a well known back ground of “Jack in the Green – Exeter), it takes time to familiarise yourself with the menu and your new surroundings.  I decided to wait until they did a menu refresh as I thought this would give them enough time, and through the wonderful world of Twitter and speaking to Darren who is one of the owners he kindly informed me the menu would be updated on January 8th, so I quickly booked a table on the evening of 13th January at 7pm.

Upon arriving the external of the restaurant does have a very fresh look with clean white walls and a large dark brown sign indicated the name and details of the restaurant, the conveniently placed car park is right on the side of the building and saves the annoyance of hunting a car parking space on the small streets of the village.

Upon entering we were immediately greeted by the front of house team and with our coats taken shown to a small sitting area and menus provided, our drink orders were then quickly taken and served.  Darren was then kind enough to come over and chat for a small time about the refurbishment and general chit chat etc.  First impressions of the internals of the restaurant are good with clean white walls, dark brown and black leather chairs and small bits of structural wood placed around the area, which all make for a pleasing environment.

Looking through the menu which was presented in a very large and I must say unneeded wooden folder, it is a mix of traditional English with a slight French influence thrown in for good measure.  I was quite glad to see there was not an abundant use of different mousse’s/gels/foams etc which can show a chefs need to show off in this sort of place, gladly though each dish was described well.

After making our selections and a short wait we were then asked to the table, where we were then greeted by a young waitress.  Any long term readers of my blog will know there are 2 real loves of mine when it comes to dining out, 1 being the dessert (It is the best part…. Period), and the second would be the offerings of different flavour/types of bread.  Luckily the HH restaurant did not fail on the bread front with our young waitress presenting us with a large basket of bread rolls, of which there was 3 different types which were:

  • White Buttermilk Loaf
  • White Poppy Seed Loaf
  • Country Fennel Seed Loaf

These all looked great and were served lovely and warm, my first selection being the White Buttermilk roll which was in a shape of a spiral, which as you unwound it released large amounts of steam which and just emphasized how fresh it was.  Being the child like person I am I could not decide how to easily cut the roll as it being in a shape of a spiral it would have just fell apart, so I proceeded by carefully unwinding the bread which allowed me to lather it with ample amounts of butter, then I was easlier able to roll it back up into the original spiral shape, this made for one of the nicest pre-dinner bread eating’s I have had, with the bread being soft and flavoursome, the milk and butter flavours being strong and complimented well with the butter, unfortunately at this time I was so enticed by the now dripping roll filled with butter my camera seemed a distant thought.  Next was the fennel seed loaf which had a strong hard crust but being nice and firm on the inside, the fennel came through well but I found it lacked some flavor and some additional salt could be used here, but this was resolved easily due to the ample use of butter! Unfortunately I did not make it to the try the final bread offering as the small loafs were quite a large size.

Amuse Bouche – Celeriac and Truffle

Just after the bread was presented a small bowl of soup was given to us, this had a wonderful rich flavour with the sweet, creamy flavours of the celeriac coming through which mixed with the taste of truffle made for a very very good soup.  This was indeed very rich and a small portion is only needed.

Starter – Ham hock terrine with seared foie gras, apple gel and black mustard seed and turmeric dressing

When Darren brought me this dish and his first words were “Ah sorry need to move your cutlery due to the different sized plates your having this evening”, now I am all for having different styles of plates etc and do appreciated how these add to the impression of the food, however if you are going to do this, please make sure you have spaced your table settings appropriately as it gives a feeling that the meal no matter how well done is just pretentious.  Onto the food, the presentation was good with each of the elements spaced out on the plate, on first glance I was disappointed at the size of the serving of the terrine, but this turned out to be a lot thicker than I had expected and quite filling.  The flavour of the terrine was good with the strong flavours of pork coming through, and surprisingly this was not salty at all as is the case when using ham hock, it was nice to see a good selection of root vegetables packed densely into this square and made for pleasing textures.  The apple gel I found paired perfectly with the ham hock adding the sweet element which tied and partnered these 2 different items perfectly, there was just the correct amount as well of this to allow for the gel to be tasted with every bite of the terrine.  The foie gras was very very lightly seared and placed in a pool of oil which I found gave to abit of a overally slimy texture to the entire piece, and due to the very light searing and the already “soft” centre of the liver, I found this texture just to much and slightly dampened my enjoyment of this.  The mustard and turmeric dressing which was dotted around the plate did not add anything special to the dish at all, and due to the very little amount use was very hard to sample on the palette, in the end to try and get the taste I used my knife to sample this individually and although the flavour was good, it was just overpowered by everything else.  I would say the dressing is used as more of presentation item than a item of substance.

Main – Fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef with braised shin faggot, dauphinoise potato and baby carrots

This dish was presented in my opinion perfectly with a slightly rustic approach that this countryside retreat from the city of Exeter needs, there were gladly no small dots of jus or mousse’s etc, everything was plain to see and easy to identify.  The steak was obviously the first item I sampled and asking for the meat to the be “rare” this was cooked just to my liking, the meat was incredibly tender with a wonderful taste and good sear on the outside, the accompanying sauce also added a wonderful taste and balanced the seasoning perfectly.  The dauphinoise potatoes were very densly packed thin slices and had a dense texture, with the rich garlic and cream flavours given a great sensation, however it would have been nice if this was abit more moist with the addition of more cream.  The shin faggot on this plate though stole the show with such great strong flavours of beef, and a very rich binding sauce making for a wonderful item to try, I only wish there was more of this on my plate, the meat within the faggot casing was moist, tender and succulent without being too salty and the seasoning balance was wonderful.  I did really enjoy this main course and really approve of the slightly more rustic approach to the plating of the dish, the flavours all worked well and complimented each other, being not too overpowering and ending up fighting on your palette.

Dessert – Hot chocolate fondant with salted caramel and praline ice cream

Now don’t act surprised that I ordered the chocolate dessert, it was bound to happen.  When Darren took our order for this dessert he was kind enough to let us know it was fresh and that would take up to 20minutes to prepare, not being in a rush and having thoughts of gooey chocolate on my mind, I really did not mind the wait.  As the minutes slowly ticked by my tapping feet got faster and faster the dessert arrived, the plating of this was gorgeous with the simple pudding easy to identify, everything look fantastic, my only disappointed thought at this time was that surely the salted caramel was not this small scraping on the plate.  Moving on to the pudding through both myself and my dining partner held our breaths as we cut into the cake to see if this was a true “Hot Chocolate fondant”, needless to say I think a picture tells a 1000 words.

The inside was incredible with the chocolate being moist, gooey, liquidy, and very runny, the outer cake had a slight crust which combining the 2 different texture was brilliant.  At this point I will say this was the best chocolate fondant I have every tasted, with the rich dark chocolate working well on the palette, and when combining this with the praline ice cream which was surprising light and refreshing it just made for a fantastic combo.  I can safely say that if you order this dessert you will not be disappointed, it was that good!  Overall I loved this dessert (if you didn’t already get it… I really did like this), my only disappointed however came with the salted caramel, as sampling this on its own was amazing with the sweet taste of caramel offsetted with the strong salt flavour work well but where was the rest of it? There was such a small amount on the plated unless you actually made a point to only pick this item up alone on your fork you couldn’t get the taste with the other items.

Petite Fours – Home Made Fudge, Chocolate Ganache and a Chocolate filled cylinder

When coffee arrived these items were also presented, and again the question instantly comes into my head…. Why give 1 item of each to a table of 2 people? This means only 1 person is able to sample an item, we attempted to cut the chocolate ganache in 2, but this failed and resulted in a mound of disfigured chocolate.  All of these were good (except for the fudge which my partner sampled and I cannot comment on) with the chocolate cylinder having a good thick shell and having a great crack upon biting upon.

Service – This was brilliant and considering they are still learning the ropes of the restaurant everything went smoothly, with both the owners being present on the evening in question im sure everyone was trying to impress.  It gives a great impression though for the whole team and our young waitress really looked after us well, and supplied me with ample amounts of bread.

Overall – 7.5/10

I did really enjoy the food here on this visit, and would love to give a slightly higher score, but there are some small little things which im sure over time will be address by the team.  A slight disappointment of the evening was the price of the starter and main course being £8.95 and £21.95 respectively this is quite a high amount and certainly for the starter would have expected abit more.

Personally I would love if they kept their food plating and styling like the main course I sampled tonight, the location of the restaurant, decoration and warm interior gives for a great rustic clean feeling, I didn’t feel there was a great need for the different size and styling of plates and gave abit of a over pretentious feeling to the evening.

I will be returning in the Spring for sure, hopefully to sample a new menu when it is released and knowing that this place has only been open for a little under 2 months, im expecting fantastic things to come.  I think it would be good to see maybe a mid week 3 course dinner special with a set price of £30-35 as this im sure would tempt people to visit and sample the wonderful food.

I would recommend the “HH Restaurant” for a intimate gathering with a partner, or makes for a great first date sort of environment as its very open and gives a fresh feeling without being too overbearing and fussy.

 

Gemelli Restaurant – Torquay – Restaurant Review

This small establishment is based right in the Town Centre of Torquay, just above the main high street.  From the exterior it is minimalist styled and unless you were looking for it, you would pass it right by as the front is the same size as all the other shops/operations which are on this street.  They advertise them selves as an authentic Italian restaurant, for me this instantly gets shudders of fear in my bones as the thought of deep pan pizza’s, pasta which is saturated in sauce and watery minestrone soups instantly comes to mind.  The owners of Gemelli’s are a complete family team with Lorenzo being based in the kitchen and his wife as head front of house, this is then combined with the kids staying upstairs which im sure are the future chefs of the establishment.

The table booked was for Wednesday lunch time at 12:30, upon entering the restaurant I was slightly disappointed to see the place completely empty with no sign of life from owners/staff or diners.  I guessed this was due to the pre-christmas detoxes and everything else going on, however standing waiting in the room, still no life was to be found to show us to our table or anything, I decided to take a look around the the Deli counter which has a very good range of items.  The small glass windows shows various marinated olives and vegetables, a good range of meats and also a wide range of cheeses.  Now at this point over 3 minutes had gone by with no sign of life what so ever, 3 minutes on paper seems no time at all, but when you are waiting for something or in an awkward unknown location it can seem like a life time.  At about this time I thought that was going to be it, but then I noticed by the door entering the restaurant a small bell and upon banging the dong, the head of front of house immediately popped out and offered a very warm welcome.

She was very friendly and kind to talk to and made you feel immediately at ease and due to being the only ones in the restaurant this was needed, we were shown to our table at the front of the restaurant with the large windows allowing you to people watch and the goings on outside.  The tables are all cleanly dressed with white table cloths and glasses and cutlery placed, with small flower pots placed around.  The entire dining room is airy, bright and offers a lovely calm atmosphere even at this time with few people around.

Menus were then presented to us, being lunch time they normally offer a special lunch time offering which is :

Main course + soft drink / coffee £ 6.45

Starter + Main Course + soft drink / coffee £ 8.45

However on this occasion I really fancied having the goats cheese starter which was on the evening menu, Lorenzo was more than happy for my to not go off the lunch time menu and switch to the full evening menu instead.  The menu is a great mix of authentic pasta dishes combined with a mix of main courses which suit most tastes, also due to the nature of the chef/cooking he is happy to alter these dishes to suit other tastes or preferences.  There is also an extensive pizza menu here which has all that you would expect to find.

With orders taken a small pot of olives and marinated sun dried tomatoes was placed on our table with small tooth picks, these were lovely and fresh and offered a great light snack to prepare us for our meal.  I am always surprised when Italian restaurants provide you bread and oils as a pre starter, as most of the starters/mains are carb based pasta and with this added bread it is just so easy to fill up too quickly and become bloated.  So this was a nice alternative and allowed you to snack without the concern of being to full to get through your main.

Starter – Caprino con ortaggi grigliati (v)  Grilled vegetables with goat cheese on  toasted crostone

When presented with the dish I loved how it was very rustically styled on the plate, with the produce not trying to made into something that they shouldn’t be. Everything could immediately be identified on the plate and simply sampled without the need to go routing through the dish to find that certain flavour.  The toasted bread was lovely and had a light helping of oil, which was added to by the grilled vegetables which were lavishly coated in a very good olive oil.  The large disc of goats cheese atop of the stack of bread and vegetables was gloriously gooey and melted on the outer edges, with the centre still having a good texture to it.  The cheese was extremely rich and had a slight hint of salt at the end of the palette which I did enjoy, particularly pleasant was the use of the oil and pesto which was actually melted into the cheese and provided such a great mix of garlic and herb flavours infused into the entire slice.  With all the flavours combined of the stack this made for a fantastic dish with the oil providing just enough moisture to compliment the cheese.  The small added salad was used well to provide a slight crunch to the entire dish and lightened the dense cheese.

Main Course – Paglia e Fieno salsiccia e porcini White & Green tagliatelle with sausage & creamy porcini – Starter Portion

Now due to the fact in my past experience of Italian restaurants it seems no matter what you ask for when you order a dish of pasta, not only do you get an extremely large and deep bowl, this bowl is usually piled high with dense filling carbs which is one of my pet annoyances when it comes to UK italian restaurants as it is so just too filling for one person to eat.  So with this in mind I decided on asking for a starter portion for my main dish, knowing that this is normally what I consider a main dish size.  When Lorenzo brought this to the table I must admit, I let out a sigh of relief as not only was the portion perfect but it was served on a plate and not in a deep bowl.  The presentation again was very similar to the starter, being very rustic and having that home style cooking look, with all items being simply found and no frills added to the plate, the only addition being a slight sprinkling of parmesan cheese which had already started to melt into the pasta.  On first taste I was very found of the seasoning which was perfectly balanced with the salt levels being on a very even level, which with the use of Italian sausage I normally find is a little off in these types of dishes.  The sausages added a lovely element to the dish with a great taste and a different texture to the pasta which was tender but not to hard, I would describe it as just have a “bite” and I was still able to easily wrap it around my fork.  The main praise here however is the perfect portion of sauce used, there was no cream dripping from the stands of pasta yet it just coated it lightly and allowed for all the flavours to merge together without feeling like you were eating more of a stew than a pasta, which again I found it alot of Italian eateries the sauce is outweighing the actually pasta portion.  I loved this dish and found the whole mix of sausage, earthy and juicy mushrooms and the perfectly cooked pasta a fantastic combination.

Panettone Bread & Butter Pudding with Pistachio Ice Cream

Having now fooled my mind into thinking that i’ve only eating 2 small starters I immediately set my eyes on the lovely dessert menu.  Unfortunately Lorenzo informed me that he was still making his Tiramisu so this was off the menu, however upon seeing the words “bread pudding” the thought of this stodgy dessert had my excited.   Again Lorenzo was kind enough to bring this dish to the table him self, and it was a lovely portion size with the pudding being a good 2×4 inches.  When I started tucking into the dish my immediate surprise was a Brulée type topping with sugar which had been glazed/burnt ontop of the bread to form a sort of gorgeous crunchy topping, this provided a sublime change in texture from what this normally stodgy dessert provides.  The panettone was great quality with juicy raisins and different fruits place densely throughout the entire section, the desert was served quite hot but not steaming, this was a nice touch as this allowed for the ice cream to start to slowly melt and not just form a pool of liquid immediately.  The ice cream was very good and had a good flavour, however it would have been nice to actually find some ground pistachio pieces in the ice cream but this is of personal taste.  This has got to be one of my favorite puddings of recent, the whole rustic no frills serving style is brilliant and allowed you to enjoy exactly what you saw on the menu.

Overall – 8/10

I really enjoyed my lunch at this small Italian eatery, and have very very few complaints here.  The food was all sublime with everything cooked, tasting and feeling fresh and not pre-prepared, the flavours and combinations used provide for a great authentic Italian experience and the whole in house family team only add to this. The service was also very good with everyone being pleasant and talkative without being to in your face etc, also it was very good service to be able to have 3 freshly cooked courses in the space of 1.5hours and can only praise Lorenzo for this.

The value is excellent as well with my entire meal costing between 15-17 pounds with water, and considering if I did have a main instead of a 2 starter portions this would still be under £25 per head, I think this is good value for money.

My only mine gripe being here is the lack of welcome upon entering and it would be nice to see someone permanently outside in the main dining area to great you, or a sign next to the bell asking you to ring to get attention would be nice.

I would recommend this place for a relaxed lunch for families, or would be fantastic for a close romantic meal for couples.  I have since returned to this restaurant as I enjoyed it so much and I am ashamed to say had exact same dishes as previous, this in my opinion is only a praise for the cooking as I enjoyed it that much.

 

Cary Arms – Torquay – Devon – Restaurant Review

The Cary Arms has been a firm establishment set in the history of Torquay for many years, it is set right on the beautiful beach of Babbacombe.  Years ago it was more known for a Summer drinking location which serves your standard pub grub, and would be a place to go for your sunday afternoon drink and then attempt to stumble up the HUGE! hill, which it has also become known for.  The restaurant was re-launched 18months-2 years ago, since then it has been becoming more and more known as a Gastro-Pub style restaurant serving fine dining in a calm and relaxed environment.  This has been shown only recently when at the start of November (2010) it was awarded “Gastro-Pub Newcomer of the Year” from the “Top 50 Gastro Pubs” association.

Having seen this award was given and hearing from a few people different reports, I had it set in my head that I must get down as soon as possible.  My chosen evening however they had a special event on, with the famous saxophonist “Greg Abate”  playing and a special set menu was to be served.  Considering that this would be a special event I thought this would be a great chance to get down and try out some of there offerings.

Unfortunately the Saturday evening turned out to be wet and absolutely freezing, and leaving the house to walk to the pub I was really questioning should I go……. However being brave I wrapped up and managed to get to the start of the long and STEEP hill down to the pub, at this time both myself and dining partner was questioning the worthiness of such a trek.

After much complaining and “sighs” we both started down the hill avoiding the extremely slippery drain covers, by the time we made it down we were both absolutely freezing.  Upon walking in to the pub we both have never been so delighted with the pub absolutely glowing with heat, the internal wood surfaces just giving that feeling of warmth.  Upon entering the pub it is very inviting with a good sized bar stretching right the way through the main restaurant,with seating located both around the bar and in the restaurant area.  The area is very relaxed and not pretentious at all, it puts you completely at ease with small sea-side nik-naks dotted around, the atmosphere it creates is very relaxed.

The waitresses are all young and dressed in relaxed clothing, with jeans and hoodies/sweaters with “The Inn On The Beach” printed on the back, again adding to that relaxed feeling.  Due to the dress and their mannerisms they are incredibly approachable, polite and create a chilled out atmosphere the pub is aiming for.

Having now being seated at the back of the restaurant, near a great wood burning fire crackling away, we were very happy to warm up from the walk down the hill earlier.  The tables were very solid wood, with wooden benches/chairs used.  I will not comment too much about the entertainment on the evening but suffice to say the band was incredible with Greg being a particular delight of the evening, the staff had managed to positioned all the tables to allow for everyone to get a great view as well which was a great plus.

The menu was then presented to us, which on this evening was a set menu priced at £38 and formed of 3 courses.  The menu had some really tempting choices and with only 3 starters and 4 mains, it took me a good time to finally come to my decision.  The style of cuisene was really pushed towards classic/modern british, with famous classics you would expect such as belly pork, chicken breast and the famous sticky toffee pudding.

The young lady waitress kindly took out orders and as the band began to play, I suddenly realised that no bread was insight and then it dawned on me that we had no bread plates……….. my heart suddenly skipped a few beats as this is normally what I look forward to the most in these gastro-pub style places.  I know they say simple things for simple people but something about that still steaming soft chewy homemade bread with lashings of butter just makes my spirit lift!  After 15mins myself and dining partner finally came to the conclusion that no bread or amuse bouche would be appearing tonight.

Starter : Pork, Ham and Smoked Bacon Terrine

Immediately this dish jumped out at me due to the stunning colours and how everything jumped off the plate, even the neutral colours of the Brioche and terrine blended so well with the great glossy dressed salad, and stunning blood red plum compote.  The brioche bread was lovely and soft with only the slightly of toasting on the outside of the slice but with a good crunch in the crust, it had a great sweet taste and this melded very well the other elements of the dish.  The salad was your standard mixed leaves with a light olive oil dressing, standard item really here but were fresh with a good bite and the olive oil added the needed texture to the item.  The terrine it self was excellent it was served ice cold, but was not too loose and allowed for a good slice to be cut away from it, due to the lovely amount of bacon rind  wrapped around this the flavour on the outside was gorgeous with a strong smokey flavour.  The ham in the terrine really did have a kick and could easily over power many items, however the plum compote worked so well with its sweet plums it added such a wonderful additional element and I just couldn’t get enough of this.  I really did enjoy this starter, to a point I would travel down the enormous hill just to pop in and grab this as a light lunch.

Main : Mushroom, Blue Vinny and Butternut Squash Wellington

I am still foolishly aiming to keep trying different out of my normal comfort zone dishes and avoid the usual selections I make, such as the Belly Pork or Duck etc etc.  When I saw this item on the menu I thought this would be a good chance to swing away my normal narrow minded selections and for once step into the dark dark corners of vegetarianism.  Again the dish was presented well with the wellington being not as I had expected.  In my head I envisioned a large cylinder of puff pastry, and inside would be many chopped mushrooms with tones of cheese, then a small touch of butternut squash, this would be served as a single slice on the plate.  However what was presented instead was a more refined dish with a large portobello, placed atop a thin slice of butternut squash and then a very small amount of blue vinny cheese placed on the mushroom, all wrapped in puff-pastry. The puff-pastry was the first element to be sampled, the top pastry was incredibly crisp and airy, with the layers all giving different flavours due to the mushroom and cheese leaking into the internal layers.  The base was very soft and soggy, but being the heathen I am….. I loved this as all the flavours had soaked/absorbed into the pastry and seemed to have the most intense flavour!  The mushroom provided a great earthiness when combined with the strong cheese and without this, the cheese would have just been too overpowering.  The whole wellington worked well apart from the butternut squash which I found the flavour didn’t really come through in the dish, this element was not missed though and if it was not named on the menu I would have said it was not needed.  The cranberry sauce was great with a really sharp acidic taste which complimented the wellington well, and worked well to lift the entire dish up in terms of strong flavours.  This dish was also served with your standard side dish of buttery vegtables.  The dish all worked well and every element from the internals of the wellington to the sauce and side veg, all seemed to blend exquisitely.

Dessert : Slow Baked Lemon and Lime Tart

Now comes the favorite part of any meal for myself…… dessert.  I was brave again here and resisted the urge to go for that good old favorite sticky toffee pudding and pushed those voices in my head aside and decided to go for the “heathy” option of a tart (I think I actually fooled my head into thinking this was healthy to get away from the pudding!).  I was immediately impressed when served the dish by the size of the slice with a large spoon of Chantilly cream with a raspberry coulis.  The tart it self consisted of the main filling being very well set and great to slice with the edge of the spoon, it had a great strong lemon flavour but being sweet at the same time with no element of sour at all.  The topping was a lime jelly with strips of lime rind spread throughout the topping, this added a very strong sour kick to the dish and would be slightly overpowering if it was not for the tart pastry being very sweet.  The pastry was great and crisp with your spoon snapping through to the base of the plate with a bang.  All three of these elements of the tart made for a great combination, however, with the addition of the cream and the slightest bit of coulis  just lifted the entire thing to the next level, you would need to ensure you did not over power the tart with the coulis as this was extremely sweet and took away the sour kick of the lime.  After consuming this I can safely say I was full, with this being a particularly filling dish, but being a perfect end to the three courses.

Finally served with the bill was a small sweet which was a slice of Devon “Rock”, which is a lovely sweet suckable sweet, it even had the name of the restaurant printed and was a great memento to take home.

Overall – 9/10

This was a particular favorite meal of mine, with all the elements just blending so well.  When thinking back to the meal, not a single dish jumps out at me, and for once they all do! with every dish being a delight to remember.  Everything from this evening was great from the relaxed service from the young (and very very attractive) waitresses, to the speed at which everything was served with a good break between the courses as I didnt find myself looking at my watch wondering how long since my last course.  The food here was a delight with the starter being the favourite dish of the evening and makes the whole trip of the steep hill worth it.  I would love to give this a mark of 10/10 (my first), however the only complaint that comes to mind was the lack of bread at the start of the meal, as this has become a real highlight of visiting Gastro-pubs and sampling some great home cooked bread.  I hope this would be changed in the future, and when I next visit would love to find this addition.

I would recommend the Cary Arms to my friends and family.  I cant wait to return to try their standard menu and will be interested to see how that fares compared to this special set menu.

Also for those watching their waistlines, just make sure to park at the top of the hill and not be temped to get a taxi up to the car, as the walk will really help burning off some of those consumed calories!!

Rodean – Kenton – Near Exeter – Devon – Restaurant Review

I have heard about this establishment a few times from different circles, however nothing really came from it, it was always “Oh I know someone that went there” or “I have drove past that” and no one seemed to have firm reports.  Having noticed this trend I started looking around and found their website with a small sample menu, the website did seem very outdated.  Once I started digging around though I found an updated website, but finding this is no easy task, so to help anyone the address is:

http://www.rodeanrestaurant.co.uk/wordpress/

Having now found this site the sample menus were impressive with such dishes as

  • Darne Of Hake & Prawn Served On Roasted Bok Choi & Pommes Sautee
  • Duck Leg Confit Coated In A Cider And Apple Sauce

The food is mainly French based with small hints of modern English cuisene from the online sample menu.  Also looking through the website I immediately noted pictures of freshly made/baking bread in the oven, for me this immediately shows abit of class when a restaurant make the effort to serve home made bread.  This would need to be tested though, as previously seen in other high class establishment this can sometimes be a sin rather than a blessing with some of the poor samples I have experienced of late.

The restaurant is located in the small village of Kenton which is a 10minute drive from Exeter, and easily accessible from the M5, and is on one of the main roads leading to Dawlish.  I managed to book the table through their Twitter page, this is becoming more and more common at the moment and is such a easy way to book etc and I do encourage other restaurants to get on Twitter asap to spread updates etc.

From the externals, I would immediately pass this due to thinking it was your local “Ale House”, however just turning around the corner from the main road you notice a large glass window showing the internals of the restaurant and dining area.  Parking is very easily found with on street and pay and display just opposite the restaurant.

Luckily enough arriving at 7:15pm I found parking directly outside the front door which was brilliant as it was extremely cold and frost already starting to form.  When entering we were immediately greeted by “lizzie” who is head of front of house, and Matthew Tilt’s (head chef) partner.  We were asked if we would like to sit in a small lounge/bar area before going through to our table, we declined the offer of a pre-meal drink due to one of my other dining partners needing to be up early the next morning.  We were then led through the dining area, which is extremely dim lit with only a few small wall lights providing a subtle background and the use of candles everywhere.  Unfortunately this is a bloggers nightmare as no matter how much you play with camera settings you will get that awful orange tint unless you use artificial lighting and the flash, which I refuse to do in a restaurant, due to other people.  So I do apologise now for the poor picture quality which I doubt does do the food justice, however my nice new DSL c/w Macro lens its winging its way on Santa’s Sled so not long to go.

Lizzie was very talkative and instantly put you at ease considering we were the only diners in the main restaurant area, and had a good chat about general life.  During chatting the other out of house waitress brought to our table a small pot of olives and took our drink orders.  Within minutes our drinks were placed onto the table and menus handed out.  The small olives which were slightly different than you average fare, were black and already pitted and soaking in what seemed a very sweet chutney/oil based chutney.  These were lovely and soft and extremely sweet with a light kick of chilli towards the end, and a great way to start the meal.

Looking through the menu’s you are offered the “House” menu which had offers such as “3 courses for £19” which on first glance seemed great value for money.  Having seen the A La Carte though we all decided to go for this choice, having such great diversity and different combinations on offer.  I noticed on the base on the menu that the chef is also advertising the restaurants twitter account, which I hope means in the future they will have some great offers and maybe some theme nights coming up.

Lizzie soon returned to take our orders and again was a great highlight to the calm dining room which at this time only had 1 other couple who had now been seated.  With starters and mains ordered, soon appeared a small “Amuse Bouche” of Broccoli and Blue Cheese Soup, this was extremely thick and for the more lady like diners, maybe a spoon could be a useful addition.  This had a deep strong flavour of blue cheese, but this was not overpowering due to the subtle flavours of the broccoli calming the flavour, and with the use of good seasoning was a brilliant start to the meal.

The table was then quickly cleared, the front of house are very good at being out of sight yet still knowing everything that is happening within the room, they stay within the bar area but are forever keeping a keen eye on the diners through the small walkway, this works well and due to the small area if they were based in the room it would be abit too much.

A few moments went by and a sense of worry was quickly dawning that no bread was in sight!, now having followed the head chef on twitter for a while, I was always very amazed by the large amount of different bread he is constantly baking and posting photos etc and was getting more and more worried that this would not appear….. However these worries were short lived as the waitress then appeared with a wonderful basket of homemade bread complete with a small plate of butters.  A large sigh was released when these did appear and I was thankful I had built my hopes up regarding this.

We were served 1 slice of bread which was cut from a small loaf for each diner of each flavour of which there was 3.  The three breads on offer were:

Granary – Lovely and served warm this bread very dense and had a great chew yet still being light to eat and not like a heavy stone hitting your stomach, the crust were not crusty and instead chewy which I love for my granary bread.

Pesto – This lightly green tinted bread was sampled next, again this was so fresh and warm it was excellent with the pesto flavour being subtle but still evident.

Sun Brushed Tomato – This was the star of the offering with the crust being crunchy to eat and a particular highlight, this red tinted bread was the best on offer with the strong tomato flavours exploding in your mouth and partnering lovely with the butter.

The above went brilliantly with the selections of butters which three were your standard fare, but the other three balls of rolled butter were each rolled in separate items which were –

Poppy Seeds

Sesame Seeds

Chopped Chives

I found the chopped chives worked brilliantly with the granary and I quickly used the whole amount of this one on my single slice and was brilliant.  If I could base the score of this meal on the bread alone it be an instant 11/10, and the bread is easily on par with the “Walnut and Raisin” bread I sampled at “The Square – London” a few months back.  I only wish Matthew Tilt could mail order this stuff as I would be first in Line.

Unfortunately however I will note that when the bread was served the starters were then served, within the next 2 minutes so myself and my other diners had not enough chance to even butter our first slice by the time our starters were served.  This made for the bread experience to be abit downgraded as the flavours of these beautiful loafs need to shine for them selves and would have liked abit more time between this course.

Starter – Warm Goats Cheese & Hollandaise Sauce, Resting on balsamic roasted vegetables.

Normally I will very rarely go for a starter which does not have a meat element, I do not know why this is but I will always tend to go for a duck/pork starter for no apparent reason other than my brain being lured by crispy cracking etc.  This evening though I went with a firm purpose of trying something different to start with and I can happily say I will be doing this again!.  The dish looked great with the pale goats cheese which was a large stacked portion, which was smothered in sauce and resting on a small toasted piece of bread with the vegetables placed around.  The goats cheese was great and smooth to cut, and when placed in the mouth it was just warm and incredibly dense, at first I was slightly worried about the richness of this, however due to the acid in the balsamic vegetables and the hollandaise sauce having a strong base of lemon, it worked brilliant to cut through this rich cheese and was some of the best I have sampled.  The vegetables were a mix of onions and aubergine and still had a good crunch, which combined with the good crunch of the bread on the base added a great change of texture which the clogging cheese can cause.  This dish however was incredibly filling but was worth it as the flavours were brilliant and strong.

Main – English Beef Fillet & Beef Bourguignon with Lavender scented creme potato with Pancetta & Morels.

The presentation of this dish was superb with the large fillet placed on a small mound of creamed potato with the beef bourguignon placed around the sides.  Firstly I sampled the brilliant and crisp pancetta which was so brittle it was hard to pick up, this had a lovely salty taste and provided an almost crackling flavour with the hint of dense fat.  The beef fillet itself was large and sliced directly through the centre horizontally which when moved showed the lovely perfectly cooked rare meat, this was very tender and provided good taste.  The creamed potato was slightly disappointing due to the lack of flavour however this was due to the incredibly strong powered bourguignon, which had an incredible flavour with chunks of beef that just melted on the tongue.  Due to the use of Pancetta/bacon again this did have a very strong salt flavour which unless paired with the potato would have been overpowering.  This was a great dish with everything cooked excellent and I truly find it hard to find fault with any element, the only thing that comes to mind is the dish which it was served in made for cutting the meat quite difficult and a slightly shallower bowl would have been more convenient, however this is really trying to find fault.

Also vegetables and more starch was served in a side dish if the potato on the plate was not enough!.  The vegetables were great with good flavour and although I didnt sample the new potato’s and sweet potato was told by my other diners were great.

Dessert – Chocolate Two Ways, Chocolate Pyramid filled with a dark chocolate mousse, with Homemade chocolate ice cream.

When this dish was served this is one of the most dramatic use of sugar art ive seen and when the waitress was walking to the table, it instantly caught everyone eyes with small whispers are aspiration at this stunning looking dish.  When placed in front of me I was stunned with just not knowing where to start with everything looking pristine on the plate, the sugar art globe which was made from 2 half’s I quickly dismantled and sampled, it had a lovely toffee apple taste which will bring back your child hood memories.  The ice cream which lay below was sitting on a small base of shortbread/biscuit and had a great texture with small lumps of biscuit spread throughout, this had a great flavour, however the chocolate didn’t come through as strong as I had thought but when looking at the pyramid placed next to it I think I can understand the reason for a subtle flavour.  The pyramid which at first glance I thought was just a moose with alot of gelatin used to allow such a wonderful mould, I was soon impressed to find this was a true solid chocolate pyramid which upon cracking revealed a thick chocolate moose.  The pyramid it self had a very strong flavour due to the dark chocolate used and complimented great with the ice cream and sugar.  The moose it self I think was a mix of Milk and Dark as the flavour had a great sweetness to it and lacked the bitter tastes normally found in high percentage dark chocolate.  Overall this is the most striking dish visually ive sampled of late and was a great end to the meal.

Coffee and Petit Fours were then served which were the form of –

1No. Lemon Tart

2No. Chocolate Truffles

1No. Caramel Tart

Now unfortunately due to being 3 diners I could not sample the lemon tart due to diner A quickly taking that, diner B being quite full settled for the chocolate truffle and allowed me to sample the remainder and the caramel tart.  The chocolate was great with a crisp external and deep chocolate truffle ganache inside.  The caramel was also good with a good base of pastry and small biscuit shards placed on top.  I would like to see 3 of each petit four’s served as this would allow all diners the chance to sample them, and this is normally what I would expect.

The bill was then provided which came to £102.00 with no automatic service charge added.  I think for an A La Carte menu selection complete with drinks, 3 courses for 3 and coffee is great value for the standard on offer

Overall – 9/10

This was a great meal with some excellent service, brilliant food and set in a great location for a good price.  I was pleasantly surprised with this as I was not expecting such high class food from such an unheard of place.  It is difficult to find any major faults at all, with only small niggles remaining such as the lack of time to sample the bread and the serving of only 4 petit fours between 3 people not allowing us all to sample.  These are such minor things though and don’t detract at all from the overall experience.

I would recommend this place for anyone who wishes to spend a lovely evening with their partner in a romantic environment and also for any celebration.  If you can try and sneak out a loaf of bread when you go as I wish I did!!! (Yes I did think the bread was that good!!).

Hopefully I will be returning for one of their 5 course dinner nights shortly.

Jack In the Green – Exeter – Restaurant Review

Having read in the recent “Good Food Guide 2011” about the this small pub/restaurant I was eager to pay a visit.  At first glance the online sample menu is a mix of Modern English with some Gastro-Pub elements, they also have a “Bar Menu” which is the old traditional pub fare.  This restaurant again is going with the local produce approach and shows alot of willingness to use the most seasonal produce with a changing menu etc.  The establishment in recent years are really moving up the ladder in terms of food, with various awards being awarded and the most recent change, being moved from 80th place to 52nd place in the top 100UK restaurants.  The chefs individually also won various awards with chef “Matthew Downing” being awarded “South West Chef of the Year”.

Also within recent months they have added a Tasting Menu, I believe this shows the amount of effort these chefs are showing, in a attempt to move up the ladder of restaurants and really make this a well known place.

Here is an example of the tasting menu taking from November 2010.

Tasting Menu

Appetiser
*****
Confit Duck Leg, Spiced Plum Chutney and Smoked Duck Salad
*****
Shellfish Bisque
*****
Saddle of Venison with Slow Braised Shoulder, Smoked Bacon
Risotto, White Onion Puree, Chicory Jam and Liquorice
*****
A plate of our favourite regional Cheeses
*****
Jasmine and Green Tea Delice with Pistachio and Lime
*****
Coffee and Petit Fours
*****
£39.50 per person

The restaurant is located on the outskirts of Exeter and is very convenient for travelers using the M5, as it is only 5minutes from the main Exeter turn off.  It is not in a built up area and is placed in a green belt of lovely fields, guessing this is where the “in the Green” comes from in the name.  From the external the building is what you would expect for any traditional country pub, with large signs and good located lighting.

Upon entering you immediately walk into the pub/bar area, where a member of staff who is behind the bar greets you and shows you to available seats within the bar area.  Drink orders are then taken and menus provided, this is a welcoming area to sit and relax while browsing through the menu with a good atmosphere.

Usually if a tasting menu is offered this is the direction I would always go, however looking through the menu I noticed “Sticky Toffee Pudding” from the A la Carte.  Immediately I had my mind made up that I would be sampled this dish no matter what, so the tasting menu was moved to one side for the A la Carte.  They offer a “Totally Devon” deal at the moment where they have highlighted items within the menu which if you combine these they form a deal of £25.00, unfortunately my main/dessert selections this evening were not on this offer.

Within a few minutes our waitress returned and took our orders for the meal, she was extremely polite and well mannered, also when ordering our main she did well to enquire how we were happy with the meat cooked.  After another 10minutes we were then invited into the main dining area, which is through some narrow passages and is decorated in much of the same way, with photos dotted around the walls and tables spaced well apart, but not to far apart to make a lacking of atmosphere.

The bread and butter was already awaiting on the table.  Bread on offer was standard white roll slices, with similar wholemeal granary slices, these were both good with excellent texture but nothing really jumped out to the flavour.  Butter on offer was extremely thick and creamy and cooled to a good room texture.

An Amuse Bouche was then served of “Chicken in a Thai Broth”, this was presented well with the chicken being on a small cocktail skewer.  The chicken was moist and succulent and just fell apart when bitten into, the broth was also extremely flavoursome with excellent oriental flavours and abit of chilli kick on the back of the throat.

The starter was then served of “Confit Duck Leg, Spiced Plum Chutney and Smoked Duck Salad”, however when presented with the dish I was rather surprised and had to even re-read the wording of the menu.  The “Confit Duck Leg” was more of a terrine which had been wrapped in thin bacon/Parma ham, and had an extremely strong and good flavour, however this was not what I was expecting and was confused not to see crisp confit leg.  Also the “Smoked Duck Salad” element was thinly sliced duck breast which lay beneath the terrine with the salad being your standard micro-leafs placed on the side.  The final element being the “Spiced Plum Chutney” again was very small dots placed around the plate.  Overall I was left quite disappointed with the dish, not because of the lack in flavours from the duck as this was strong on both accounts, I found myself disappointed due to the chutney being more of a thin sauce and dotted around making it almost impossible to get any flavour.  If the chutney was served in a side pot to allow a good quantity to be used I think this could be a very pleasing dish.

The main of “Kenniford Farm Pork ‘Three Ways’” was then served, this was presented very well and looked pleasing to the eye with vegetables served in a side dish.  The first style of Pork served was a croquette, which I am assumed Ham Hock however unfortunately the waitress did not know, this had a brilliant flavour with a good crisp breadcrumb outer coating.  The second cut was a pork loin which was served pink and again was extremely tasty, and very tender to cut.  The final cut was the belly pork, which was the biggest disappointment as the fat was not rendered down enough, and was left soft and rubbery with what should be a crackling topping, this was not a good taste at all with the abundance of still white/un-rendered fat.  Unfortunately the sauce provided placed beneath the loin, was a thin apple sauce, again this was only provided in the smallest of volume and this would have been nice to have more to get the true pork/apple flavour as the dish did seem to lack some sweetness.  The mix vegetables provided were extremely well cooked with a good bite to them, and a good mix provided.  Overall I was left disappointed with the dish mainly due to the belly pork, however I found the croquette extremely good.

Dessert was then served of “Sticky Toffee Pudding with Butterscotch sauce and Clotted Cream “ I was immediately shocked by the size of dish, however this was not a disappointment as a large smile drew across my face.  The sponge it self was lovely and dense, but without being too stodgy/clingy within the mouth and had a lightness about it, it was well formed and fully packed with lovely sweet and chewy dates.  The butterscotch sauce may be one of the best I have ever tasted, it was not thin and could easily coat the back of a spoon, with the deep butterscotch smells/flavours radiating throughout.  The large thick scoop of clotted cream also was brilliant, and had just started to melt and ooze down the side of the pudding when served.

Coffee and Petit Fours were then served, my black coffee was deep and strong with a great flavour.  The Petit Fours of Turkish delight, Ice Cream Coconut Chocolate, Vanilla Fudge and Strawberry Macaroon were all very good with the Macaroon being light as a feather and a small piece of strawberry jam/jelly placed in the centre.

Service was very good for the entire evening with the meals being served with a good amount of time between, and also plates cleared accordingly.  The staff were all very polite and worked well and not once did I a single one stop to chat to one another etc.  A very welcoming addition as well which is rare to see in these times is a large jug of tap water already placed on the table without request.

The total cost of the meal came to £69.58, which I believe to be slightly higher than what I would have liked to paid considering the above thoughts.

Overall – 6/10

I was slightly shocked to see at the end of the evening quite a low score on the bottom of my pad, as I had expecting this establish to score highly.  I think due to the disappointment with the wording of the starter, which led my immediate disappointment when presented with it.  Then followed by the main course which was also a slight let down with the pork being not cooked with a good crisp topping etc and the lack of flavour coming from the sauce etc.  The highlight of the meal was dessert with a very well done pudding.

I expected abit more from such a fast rising restaurant within the UK restaurant scene, with maybe just abit of “Wow” factor needed.  I left the restaurant feeling full but underwhelmed, I would return however I will wait until a new season menu is produced to see if the worded is slightly more detailed.

Pizza Cafe – Newton Abbot – Devon – Review

Having read about “Pizza Cafe” based in Newton Abbot (Devon) several times, throughout many different local food providers, it has been a place that has been on my list to review for a while.

Any establishment I feel that cares and takes pride in the fact, that it goes that little bit extra and shows willingness to find and source the most local produce it can, is a great way to show what a quality establishment it is.  On the Pizza Cafe website it is full of mentions of different suppliers from where they source Dairy to where their smoked salmon is sort from.

The pizza cafe does not seem like your regular local pizza eatery, from there website they pride them selves on quality, and take pride in that they are a family business, which also sponsor many different charities/appeals such as the “Helen Foundation”.  The restaurant is located on the main street of Newton Abbot, but luckily in the part which has parking local to it, and even directly outside.  The building is painted in not the brightest of colours, however the pizza cafe logo is enough to make it standout.

Upon entering the establishment you are presented with a light and airy dining area, with nice wooden tables and laid out well.  We were greeted by a young waitress, who showed us to a table.  The waitresses here are all quite young and dressed in smart black shirts and trousers, and are well suited to the restaurant.  Upon being seated we were then shown the menus and drinks were ordered.

Looking through the menu, I was immediately surprised at the size and some of the dishes here.  Most of the normal pizza place fare is on offer, however some very different things such as “Prawn and Crayfish Salad”, “Peking Duck Wrap” and “Moroccan Tagine”, there are many different elements of the menu with Jacket Potatoes, Pasta, Wraps, Tex Mex, Salad and a host of different starters and then on top of this the Pizza selection, it really is a vast menu.

Having scanned through we decided to go for a starter of “The Pizza Cafe Combo”, followed by a “Big Trouble in Little China – Snack Pizza – Plum Sauce, peking duck, spring onions and pineapple” and a “Porky’s – Sanck Pizza – Westcountry pineapple and onion chutney, slow roasted westcountry pork, caramelised onions, crispy bacon, chorizo and fire roasted yellow peppers” with the idea on splitting each pizza and sharing.  My choice immediately was the “Porky” having such local produce on offer, and from the wording on the menu they make the pizza sound like a work of art.  With my mouth water just at the thought of what was to come.

They offer 3 different sizes here 7” (Snack), 9” Regular, 12” Large.  These sizes are good however it would be good to have a size board on the wall somewhere, just to give customers an idea of size of what they are ordering.  Being an engineer by day I had a good idea of the size and 7” seemed good, however the table next to us at the time ordered regulars each and half of these were taken away in pizza boxes.  However this is a good time to note that you are allowed and encouraged by staff to take home doggy bags etc, this should be shown more willingness to do in restaurants and is a good thing.

The restaurant at the time of entering was quite empty with only 3 tables taken, however by the time our food arrived, within about 15minutes the restaurant was now full with the exception of around 4 tables, which is impressive for a Monday night.  This shows the popularity of the place.

The first dish arrived, which we immediately divided between us and ill break the dish down here.  The chicken wings, were beautifully cooked and spiced well with a small after taste of heat, the chicken was really succulent and tasty.  The Criss Cross fries, had a great flavour and had a small hint of cheese, they were not crispy however had some small pieces which the taste was amazing (Crispy Bits).  Onion Rings, these were pretty standard and im not sure if 100% fresh but again your standard fare on this one, but good non the less.  The only real let down of dish for me was the potato skins which were just as describe, skins with about 4mm of potato, and nothing else as the menu stated, however I feel a small bit of melted cheese of maybe abit of tomato added would give these the edge.  My sharing partner however thought they were perfect and just used alot of dip. The dips added well to the whole event with the BBQ being sweet and not a spicy sauce by any means, however good flavour and quite a musky aftertaste.  The Garlic Mayo, was great and really thick, not watery and had a strong garlic taste, needless to say I quickly stole this pot to myself.

Now onto the Pizza’s

“Big Trouble in Little China”

The pizza arrived and I was very pleased we ordered the 7” versions.  Immediately I was impressed how the pizza based was nice and thick around the edges, but surprisingly the centre of the disk was incredibly thin and had a good crisp bottom.  The filling was certainly PACKED full, and the plum sauce was very sweet and not the traditional chinese, however it worked very well with the base.  The duck was incredible, and if I didnt know better this was from a chinese shop somewhere, the skin was so crisp and crunched in the mouth.  The spring onions had a good slight crisp, and the pineapple added a good sweet element but all this was all brought down to earth with the good base and deep taste of chinese duck.

(Camera decided to Corrupt this, Will get on next visit and update).

“Porky”

Now first I have to try and just describe the smell form this, it was a cross of amazingly crisp pork, mixed with the sweet smell of sugar coated onions and sweet cooked pineapple.  Again the base was well risen around the edges and had even more filling on top than the previous, with the base coated with what must be spoons full of chutney.  The chutney which was incredibly sweet and moorish was the star of the pizza, and I will certainly be asking them for where they source this from in Devon as it was AMAZING!.  The chorizo added a new element to the pizza with a strong taste but mixed so well with the pork and cheese topping.  Overall I could describe very moist, succulent and crispy parts of different pork elements, but I am so far just making my Mouth Water again.  Overall this has to be one my top pizza’s ive had and has even taken the place of which once was the top of the list “Domino’s BBQ Texas pizza”, but this is the new favourite.  The locally sourced and quality of ingredients really did show on this, and I really cant describe how nice it was.

By the time I had eaten above I was needless to say stuffed, and just couldnt eat anymore if I wanted to.  I had my heart set on the amazing “Sin City – Folded sweet pizza with nutella and mascapone, served with vanilla and chocolate ice cream”, however I just couldnt and will need to save this for my next visit.

The service here on this evening was brilliant the waitresses are polite, charming and do their jobs well and dress for a small restaurant very well, and is where the restaurant shines with good personal service.

Overall – 8/10

This is the first meal in a while which has not been at a fine dining establishment, and for once it is a nice change to see a menu which has good hearty food without foams/mouses/foie Gras (Even though I love it so!).  This was a brilliant meal with some truly great local food, the service was great and shows what a good small establishment can do.

The bill came to a respectable £31.00 with drinks 2 Starters, 2 Snack pizzas and a Regular Pizza (Not mentioned about as was not allowed to sample these), this was without service and I payed £36.00 believing that this was very much deserved.

I will definitely be returning to this restaurant, and in a way im glad my camera decided to corrupt the photo as its a great excuse to return quickly.  The only criticism of the evening being the small disappointed with the potato skins but this is nothing to go on about and overall was a great dish.

Look forward to returning.

The New Angel ( Angélique ), Dartmouth – Restaurant Review (Update Jan 2011)

Update – January 2011 – The restaurant has now been fully re-opened under the new name of “Angelique”.  When I visited in October this was under the new management/head chef of the “8 in 10 Group” and under its “Soft Launch”.  Due to this I have updated the name in the title to reflect the visit, as of the time of dining it was under the new management/chefs and still applies.

Well after not hearing about the well known chef “John Burton Race” leaving his pet restaurant “The New Angel” located in Dartmouth to concentrate on his TV career. I was surprised when logging on to the restaurants website to find that it had now been closed for some time and had now re-opened under the “10 in 8 Group”, it had also a title of “Michelin dining on a budget” with a tasting menu of 7 courses for £49, having seen the online sample menu I was impressed and decided to book a table.

Having booked the table for 7pm and running slightly early I decided to enter at around 6:50pm, the front of the restaurant is very open with large clear windows for outsiders and diners to get a clear view of everything. When entering we (mother and me… Note must find foodie friends) were greeted by the head of front house, who was smartly dressed and seemed pleasant and was a rarity to find someone English of Origen, as front of house considering the style of restaurant. With our coats taken we were shown to our table and drinks order immediately taken. The front of house proceeded to give us the set tasting menus and having already asked for this over the phone previously he knew this is what I wanted. However out of curiosity I enquired about the “a la carte” menu, to this I was fed a large speech. The speech basically explained how the taster menu is the only current menu and if you did want it you must choose 3 courses from it, this is because when the restaurant opened they struggled with the different  menus so have gone down this route for now. I’ll leave people to make their own views of this, as personally I think a restaurant should offer more than desert etc.

An amuse Bouche of crisp whitebait and a salsa-Verdi was then served, this was a nice light bite, with the crisp fish having a good fresh taste. However the salsa-Verdi was very underpowered with little flavour even when sampled solo.

Half way through sampling the above dish, butter was also presented on the table. At this point I’ll point out the main down fall of this restaurant which is the service but I’ll do a full report later below, but this is a small sample. I asked the foreign waiter who I believe was French from his accent if the butter was made “In House” or local? The response I got is as follows…. “(large laugh) the butter? Ofcourse not! (confused and slightly aggressive look on his face)”. Now I was slightly confused by this and not sure if he was just trying to be clever or not, so asked again where he then confirmed it Is not. More on service later.

With plates now removed, a bowl of warm home made bread was presented. This consisted on 2 White hard crusted rolls and 2 fennel flavored thick slices, the white bread was good to cut with a nice dry and crisp exterior, however the interior bread was undercooked with this being very chewy and having no bounce or spring to touch. The wholemeal slices however were very good with good aniseed flavours. I will refuse to comment on the butter here as for all I know this could be Lurpak, with some shards of sea salt scattered on top.

In between picking up my first roll our second amuse Bouche was placed before us of a “Wild Mushroom Foam”. This was very good and light with the entire cup being made of foam and not half with a pool of liquid on the bottom. This tasted exactly how it should, plain mushroom and nothing special here.

Crab salad, lemongrass jelly,Mango puree & tempura of soft shell crab.

Now from reading this I noticed that some strong flavours were on the plate only to be further surprised when presented with the dish that the crab was dressed with a wasabi dressing and also had a fennel salad. Firstly the plate did look great with the small dots all working well and adding colour. When tasting the dish however my happy thoughts of how it looked quickly disappeared, my initial worries were confirmed with the amount of flavours trying to fight each other was just too much. The fennel immediately overpowered the lemon grass jelly and the wasabi just destroyed the crab to the point it could have been any protein and I would have not known. However the individual flavours were good, but this was in essence a poorly designed dish. The tempura soft crab however was brilliantly crisp and strong flavoured.

Ballotine of smoke ham & foie gras, Butternut squash chutney & potato crisp.

This dish I was really looking forward to as anything with foie gras in I’m a big fan of being a particular favourite of mine, although when reading through the menu i was again slightly concerned with the marriage of flavours. Again these worries came true here, due to the ham being smoked the flavour was just so intense that if there was any foie gras the flavour could not be found which was a major disappointed. Overall the taste was pleasant, and If the menu had not stated frai gras I would have enjoyed this more, not having to look for that flavour.  The ham was strong flavoured and smokey with the mango provided the sweetness, the crisp potatoes provided a good texture and were required to add some crunch.

Pan fried scallop, Sag aloo & cauliflower carpaccio.

The dish smelled brilliant, and also was pleasing to the eye, i let a out a sigh of relief as when the waiter served this he did not add any additional elements of the dish except which was said on the menu.  The cauliflower carpaccio had a good crunch but not so much you knew the item was completely raw, and also had good flavour.  The Sag-Aloo was brilliant with the potatoes having a slight crunch, but the flavour was great and very intense.  The Scallop is one of the best i have sampled of recent, it was incredibly sweet and cooked excellent.  This was a simpler dish of what  have seen so far and was great to see and so far was the only memorable item.

For main course I choose Venison, and my Mother chose Sea Bass.

Roasted loin of venison, Spiced red cabbage, braised beetroot & peppercorn jus.

The main course of the 7 courses was then served, immediately I noticed how rare the meat was and luckily I am very happy with meat cooked in this manner, however some might not be but this was mentioned when ordering.  The Venison was cooked well and good and tender, however you just couldn’t find the flavour due to everything else on the plate, the spiced red cabbage below was something truly special with thoughts of Christmas coming to mind with the warm spices.  The beetroot was extremely good and worked well, with the starch elements and the various dots of beetroot puree were great, but why oh why….. the peppercorn jus was just not needed and just added another element again which confused and meddled with flavours and would have been better left off with a little extra beet root puree, noting the red cabbage added its own beautiful liquid texture.

Pan fried sea bass, confit fennel,Baby artichokes & liquorice sauce

My mum rated this a 6/10, she loved the liquorice taste but this was not that strong.  The fish was cooked brilliant with a great crisp skin but let down with the partnership of the vegetables.

Apple and Blackberry Compot, with White Chocolate Foam and Lime Crumble

The moose was extremely light and had an extremely mild taste so much you could hardly tell it was there, the crumble placed atop of this might as well been left off as this was practically tasteless and provided no addition to the dish. The major let down of this was the compot in the base which was so full of blackberry seeds and so chilled my mother asked “Is this just for looks or can you eat it”, after calming from that amusing comment, I proceeded to taste and it was true it was solid, the taste was there however it was just to chewy to eat and more like a large placement of seeds at the bottom.

Sticky Ginger Cake, Ginger Pannacotta & Carrot Sorbot

Safe to say this was the star of the meal, i have never eaten such a lovely sticky, moist and light cake before this night, it was brilliant with strong stem ginger shining through, only could be made better served slightly warm.  However the Ginger Pannacotta was no where to be seen, and was not worth mentioning on the menu.  The Carrot sorbet was good but i feel a more strong flavour to compliment the ginger would have worked better such as a good Clotted Cream ice cream or something else with very rich/deep flavour.

At this time coffee and petite fours were served, coffee priced at an extremely high cost of £4 each for a straight black coffee which I feel is extreme.  The petit fours were coconut ice which was very good and not to sweet and served chilled, the other was a Vanilla Fudge which was melt in the mouth and again very good.

Total Bill was £123.50, with 2No. tasting menus, 2No. Coffees, 1No. Water and a 12.5% discretionary service charge which if this was by choice I would have not paid, more on this below.

Overall – Im going to split this into food and service.

Food – 6/10.  The food here shows alot of promise and the presentation of the plate is certainly high up there with the best, however I get the feeling that everything is just trying very hard to impress with more and more flavours hitting the plate it just becomes too much.  I think the head chef needs to try and reign back his ingredients slightly and maybe try to have 1 dish on the tasting menu which he can experiment with.  The food was all well cooked and good quality but seemed just to not all merge together at all.

Service – 4/10.  Service here is where the restaurant completely fails, and here are some example of things experienced on this evening.

Waiters/Waitress – While not serving this would just be standing, and Hovering and staring waiting eagerly for your next move, it was just too much and not needed you felt almost rushed to finished to give them something to do.

Clearing of Plates – This is something we experienced on every course, we would put the last fork full in our mouth and while still chewing we placed our forks on our plates, by this time the waiter was there taking them so quickly, we could not even thank him because we still had our mouth’s full of food….. They need to slow up and take some time.  This is not a fast food restaurant and this is not needed.

Food Speed of Service – Due to the fact the head chef is based in the dining room he is constantly watching the diners and awaiting for the next dish, which then causes him to race it seems.  So you experience the speed of light clearing of plates, then by sooner than you have finished your mouth full, your next course is sat in front of you!.  This is demonstrated by the fact we finished the entire 7 course tasting menu with the various additional samples, in under 75minutes!!!, are they turning tables or something here? as the restaurant was only half full and not needed.

Due to the above do please make the service charge optional and not automatically added as its going to be questioned very soon.

Overall Score – 5/10.  Food quality good but needs work.  Service a complete failure.

I will try this restaurant again in a few months and maybe by then the service might have been sorted out.  I am also very curious to see if “The New Angel” can retain its Michelin star in the future as with that service I am doubtful.