Category Archives: Devon

La Petite Maison,Topsham (Exeter) – Devon

This is my third visit to this lovely little restaurant located in the small area of Topsham, being my third visit this review will be a combination of all my visits.  On first glance walking past this restaurant in the main busy street of Topsham you could easily mistake it for a large town house, very minimalist signs locate you to the main entrance.  Once inside you are immediately in the main dining area with a small corridor in front of you leading into the kitchen, and 2 small lounges to the left and right with tables and chairs.  The restaurant seats about a maximum of 26 and inside is cleanly decorated with white walls and small warm lighting placed throughout.  Tonight I am also dining with my family of Mother and Father.

You are greeted by front of house “Sara” who is brilliant and very welcoming, from there your coats are taken and you are shown to your table.  The tables are dressed in clean white clothes with nice silverware, and a small pot of green olives in the centre.  Once seated and drink orders taken, menus were handed out.  The menus are printed on standard A4 paper and are clean with around 4-5 selections for each course.  La Petite Maison only offer a set menu with the choice of 2 Courses @ £29,95 and 3 Courses @ £35.95, both come with bread to start and coffee/tea and petite fours.  I do like how this works as it makes the menu look clean with only 2 simple price schemes, and the cost conscious of us are pleased due to they can select any dish of their fancy without having to worry about the cost as its set.

The menus are printed on simple A4 paper due to the fact the menu changes every day and this is due to what produce comes in on that day, this is great and I admire restaurants who do this as it shows their ability to adapt and change with the seasons, and proves the chef cares about local produce.

On this occasion I was immediately drawn to the Seared Pigeon Breast with Bacon, Foie Gras on toasted bread.  Bread was then served on the table which comes in the form of a home made cheese straw, white hard crusted roll and a wholemeal soft roll.  This was served in a small basket and was 1 item each for each person.  The bread is well made and is all done in house, with the cheese draw being very light with a strong cheese flavour.  However the accompanying butter is a let down and does not have a strong taste at all, im not sure if this is home made or not.

Within only 20mins my starter was served, my initial impression was shock at the shear size of the Foie Gras, used to the very minute portions served at previous restaurants.  This had such an amazing taste and flavour its hard to pin point the exact reason for this, if it was the quality, cooking process or just the combination of the jus etc, the toast added a pleasurable difference in texture but this was unfortunately not crisp and had a slightly soggy bread element.  The Pigeon was well cooked and served rare, myself being a fan of meat being cooked like this, however I can see someone else could find this a problem, I did however find that this lacked a great deal of flavour, and really did need the added Foie Gras and bacon to really provide the flavour elements.  The small crisp salad was a needed light element to the powerful and heavy Fois Gras.

My main dish of Roast Duck Breast, Confit of Duck, dauphinoise potatoes, Apple and Summer Greens, arrived only moments later.  I requested my duck to be served Rare and this was perfectly presented as you can see from the photos, the whole dish was presented well.  The apples provided a nice sweet element to the duck and help cut through the fatty duck taste at times, although the duck was very lean by all accounts, however I would have liked the apple ever so slightly more cooked as a crunch was present.  The dauphinoise potatoes were good, but I found it lacked some cheese intensity although plenty of good buttery flavours exploded within the mouth. The confit of duck was brilliant with the crispy skin provided great flavour and the meat just falling from the bone.  The service at this time also needs to be mentioned with Sara in constant eyes views just asking if everything is ok and constantly topping up of drinks, but without her presence being to much.

My mother at this time at Fillet Steak with Sliced Potatoes, Summer Greens, with Caramilised Red Onion and Bacon.  This rated this 10/10 with the Steak being a perfect medium and the asparagus being lovely and still having a slight bite.

Now onto the favorite part of the meal…. Desserts.  Having chosen the Warm Apricot and Almond Tart with Mascarpone Ice Cream, I couldn’t wait to see this as it sounded wonderful.  15 minutes later the dessert arrived and I was not disappointed with a very good portioned size slice of tart, with a large spoon of the ice cream placed on top which at this point had just started to melt from the heat of the warm tart.  The accompanying apricot sauce was a great side and worked well.  The tart itself was very light with a good crisp base of pastry which was sweet but not over powering, the sponge was quite light with large whole and half apricots spread along the base, and a thin layer of preserve in there also.  The Ice Cream was great and a good rich taste to go with the light tart.

My Father had the Lemon Posset, he rated this 8/10, it was extremely light and not sour at all to the point where abit of tang could have been quite a good addition.  This was also a good size portion.

My Mother had the Plate of Rhubarb, the Crumble was great with a good crispy topping and a tartie rhubarb base to it.  The shot of Rhubarb to me was extremely tart and to much for me, however my mum being a love of all things Rhubarb was an immediate lover.  The great ginger ice cream mysteriously found half of its portion on my plate, now how did that happen?, this was great with whole pieces of crystalised ginger placed throughout.  9/10.

Coffee was then served and was good quality, with some home made chocolate truffles also being placed on the table.  These were deep, dark and rich and having just been removed from the fridge you only needed to touch them for the slightly moment to have a runny stream of chocolate pour down your hand.  Very good chocolates indeed.

Overall as mentioned before this was my third visit to La Petite Maison, and im going to give a score of –

9/10

The food is presented well with it not being to fancy or complicated, but still provided the visual shock of a very good plate of food.  The front of house are great and the food is quick and speedy throughout with the food being great value for money.

Will defiantly be coming back for more.

22 Mill Street, Chagford – Devon

Tonights restaurant visit is to 22 Mill Street located in the small town of Chagford. One thing which amazes me about some locations is how they seem to attract high value and good quality restaurants, for example “Bray” the location of such places as “The Fat Duck” and the “Waterside Inn (Soon to be visited)” not mentioning the other 1 or 2 well known restaurants. Chagford it seems is no exception being home to the very well known “Gidliegh Park” home of Michael Caine’s Michelin star restaurant, which amazes me how such a small village houses both of these amazing places, where some local town of “Newton Abbot” etc have no real spectacular places to mention.

The restaurant is located just off the main village square, and Unfortunately as I found out has no dedicated parking and the village is not luckily enough to have plentiful local parking, however a 5 minute walk away is a small car park. Women should note though that the walk to this car park is not something that should be braved in heels.

Upon entering you are greeted by the lovely “Chantel”, who is the head of front of house, and on this quiet Tuesday night was also the only waitress having only 2 other tables booked. “Chantel” is also the partner of head chef “Dave”, to me this is a great partnership of front of house and kitchen.

After introductions and greetings you are invited into a small lounge area to sit and relax, drink and view the menu. Having previously spoken to Chantel over the phone I already knew the tasting menu would be my immediate selection. After this myself and dinner partner (mother…. Being single sometimes one needs company, and beggars cannot be choosers) were shown to our seats in a lovely bright eating area with around 8 tables housing about 18-20 seats. This was a quiet evening with only 1 couple currently dining, this however was great as it allowed me to chat with Chantel and discuss the food.

Immediately after being seated a small Amuse Bouche was brought over of “Parsnip Crisps & Parmesan Disk”, being not the greatest lover of parsnip I was not sure how I would find these, however I was surprised as these were lovely. They were lightly spiced and light as a feather, I only wished I could have hid these from the person sat next to me…  The parmesan disk again was very light and strong flavored and reminded me of cheese and toast I used to eat as a child especially the very crisp edge bits with that slight burnt cheese flavour.

The bread was then delivered which was a selection of fresh White loaf and a tomato brown loaf, both of these being served warm. These were fantastic with my favourite being the wholemeal tomato bread, the accompanying salted butter was also good being very creamy but surprisingly mild in flavour. The dips/pastes as well were also well done, and were nice to be served along with the butter for a good choice.

The second Amuse Bouche was then delivered of Cauliflower soup with truffle, this was so fantastic I can’t even begin to describe, and extremely rich. Using the delicate spoon to slowly and carefully sip the soup it was great, however the large bit of brown loaf was just calling to be dipped into the small pot. Now being in a fine dining restaurant I was resisting the urge to “dunk”, however Chantel came over and encouraged me to “enjoy the food how you want to enjoy it”, which to me is how it should be and I proceeded to “dunk”…. I was in heaven.

Cider Glazed Pork Cheek, Ham Croquette, Greengage, Tarragon

When the dish was presented I was immediately impressed by the presentation, the small leaves used to dress the glass plate with the smears of sauces showed things off well.  I was very surprised to find the “Crisp Pig’s Ear” rested on top of the dish, as this was not stated on the menu, however I did find this was not crisp and the outside cracking was very soft and extremely chewy, however the taste was superb.  Moving onto the Pork Cheek, this was the most tender piece of meat with the most intense flavour I have sampled in a while, with the meat just melting in the mouth and the cider really punching in your mouth.  The Ham Croquette, was also very good however with the sauce been poured over this, the crisp exterior had now been replaced with a slight soggy bread crumb effect.  Overall the dish blended well with the textures and flavours all resulting in a very good dish, and a extremely good start to the main event.

Cornish Turbot, Saffron, Chorizo, Risotto, Basil, Bouillabaisse Nage

The dish had the most striking yellow colour, which would impress anyone on first glance.  The fish which was cooked to perfection just fell apart, which showed the risotto placed underneath, this was executed well however I found the Chorizo overpowered the delicate flavour of the fish and was too pronounced on the tongue.

Dartmoor Beef Fillet, Slow Cooked Blade, Wood Mushroom, Crisp Shallot

Having requested my Beef “Rare” I was pleased to see this was cooked as I requested, however my Mother’s beef which was requested medium was still slightly under for what I class as medium, this is down to personal interpretation though.  I was surprised to find Barley placed under the beef blade which is a rarity to see on todays plates, and provided the starch element of the dish, this was a good surprise and proved to be one of the most well executed part of the dish.  The shallot puree however I found extremely salty, which then continued to overpower even the most dominant of flavours of the beef etc.

Selection Of Cheeses – Sharpham Brie, Exmoor Blue, Godminster Cheddar, Vulscombe Goats Cheese, Charwood Smoked

Unfortunately I will point out that I am not the greatest cheese lover and if a cheese course is optional I will normally avoid, this could be due to the fact I am unsure how to taste cheese and find the flavours all to dominating, which reminds me to try and find a cheese tasting master class.  The board was well presented on a wooden block, with home made oakcakes which were truly amazing and crisp, fresh grapes, and small squares of the above cheese.  I tried all the cheeses on offer and did enjoy this as much as any cheese reluctant person can, however upon trying the Exmoor Blue this tipped me over the edge with the burning in the throat sensation still strong in my memory and I called the cheese course a day there.

Plantation Rum Crème Caramel, Caramelised Banana, Cinnamon Doughnuts

This was one of the main disses I was looking forward to, being a desert lover. The Crème Caramel had a subtle flavour of rum which personally I think this could be given an added “Umph” to try and show what this flavour really can do.  The banana was slightly disappointing as this was quite undercooked, and only had the most slight hint of caramelisation.  Now being a very big kid at heart the crisp doughnut was saved until last, I was extremely happy I took this approach as this was fabulous, not greasy at all, very dry but still ever so slightly moist inside.

Clotted Cream, Amaretto Affogato

Now due to the way this dish is served (Hot Amaretto Coffee poured over Ice Cream) I was too excited and also concerned about the ice cream loosing all structural stability to wait and grab the camera.  This dish however was brilliant with Chantel, pouring on the hot coffee at the table and leaving the coffee/amaretto filled jug on the table to allow for additional topping up of hot coffee.  I was amazed how well the clotted cream ice cream was done, with the rich and deep flavour being very pronounced and was a brilliant and light ending to a very large meal.

Coffee was then ordered and a brilliantly hot black coffee was served and this was enjoyed, however I was slightly disappointed as no petit fours were served.  This is myself being greedy as my belt was bursting, however I always think its nice to be served something small even if only to request for it to be taken home to be enjoyed the next day and continue the fabulous dining experience.

Overall – 8/10

An extremely good meal was had at 22 Mill Street, made even better by the wonderful front of house team of Chantel (Only).  It concerns me slightly that if all of a sudden many off street diners did decide to come and dine that evening and Chantel being the only server, things could get slightly out of hand, but im sure a plan is in place to allow for this.  The food was carried out well, with only some small down falls and with only such small down points there would be not worth mentioning to most, however I do feel the biggest let down for myself was the Crème Caramel which I believe does still need some work.

The Bill came to a total of £128.64 which for 2No. taster menus, 2 Coffees, 2 Large bottles of water I think is very good value.

Cant wait to return and sample the new November Menu, and look forward to seeing Chantel and hopefully meet the chef Dave on my return.

The Elephant Restaurant – Torquay

Well here we are first review of the new blog. Firstly I should add that I’ll mostly be dining alone as to be honest I do not know of any other foodie’s that are nearby, hence finding someone to join me can be difficult….

Anyways a lovely warm wednesday night at a table booked for 7pm at the “Elephant Restaurant”, this  is quite a well known restaurant with a single Michelin star to it’s name. The establishment is split between two separate floors the ground being more of a brasserie serving well known traditional dishes with a modern twist and the upstairs being the restaurant area with the Menu being full of mouses and foams etc, this is the known as the “Room Restaurant”.

Well entering the front door which is quite plainly decorated with small menus either side of the door and nicely shown signs as well. You enter the downstairs area of the building which is more of the brasserie type area which is still very nicely decorate. However when you do enter you are not greeted by a dedicated member of staff, I had to stand for a good 2-3minutes waiting for a waiter to finish serving a table to finally come to see me, I know 3 minutes does not sound a long time however this can seem like a lifetime.

Once seated I was offered both a wine menu and the full menu. Having a quick look through the menu I thought most tempting selection seemed to be the ‘tasting menu’ which was shown as:

  • Golden beetroot and Vulscobe goats’ cheese with elderflower dressing
  • Paignton crab lightly bound in chive mayonnaise with watermelon and fennel
  • Hand dived Bay scallops on cabbage and lemon risotto with mussel foam
  • Rump of Cornish lamb with summer peas, roasted artichoke and a thyme jus
  • Selection of the Westcountry’s finest artisan cheese (optional course £7.00 per person supplement)
  • Petit pot of coffee and Baileys mousse with warm chocolate foam, pistachio madelaines
  • Glazed lemon tart with creme fraiche sorbet and minted raspberries

This was priced at a what I thought was a reasonable £55.00 per person, this however do not include for Coffee or tea with petit fours @ £4.00 per person this is always an annoying thing for me, I do think the coffee should be included in the tasting menu costs as these are all part of the experience.

Well having ordered and the menu been taking away. I started to access my surrounding in slightly more detail, I did this this was very pleasant. A very nice area with a relax feeling and the view was truly stunning. Behind my seating area though was a slightly lower area which consisted of large lounge chairs which was a bar area, this was completely open through arch ways into the “The Room” which then made the calming feeling fade slightly with business men being very loud which I can only guess is after a long day on the golf course from what I could hear which was a lot. I found this overall very lowering to the atmosphere of the room.

I was then served what stated to be warm olive bread, however this was more just plain ciabatta without a olive in sight, this also came with oils and a pork and duck rillette (chunky pete) with pork cracking on top which was very pleasant and a nice addition to the normal butter etc. However where is the butter? it was a nice to have a change but I am firm believer in some things should not be changed and a small pot of butter I think should be also served.

Golden beetroot and Vulscobe goats’ cheese with elderflower dressing

Within 10 minutes my first course was serve, which is quite quick and did not even give me chance to get through half of a first slice of bread. However upon viewing this stunningly colourful plate of food and the aroma of such sweetness that came from it I was pleased it did. The golden beetroot which is new to me was ever so lovely just tender and easy to cut, complete with the Elder flower dressing this wa made very sweet indeed and need the goats cheese to add the earthier flavour to the dish. I thoughouly enjoyed this and would order again.

Paignton crab lightly bound in chive mayonnaise with watermelon and fennel

The second dish arrived in minutes of the first being taken away, presented again was a a beautiful colourful dish. I get the feeling the chefs garden must be constantly stripped of flowers as a pattern is starting to form. Tasting the dish I have mixed feelings the crab it’s self was lovely and had a great strong taste, however it seemed the fennel over powered the crab and both elements over powered the watermelon, still a lovely dish with the separate elements, but combined seemed to lack balance of flavours which blended

Hand dived Bay scallops on cabbage and lemon risotto with mussel foam

The third dish which I have been looking forwarded to, being a major fan of scallops arrived, this did take slightly longer than the previous dishes due to the hot elements I would think. However this was a welcome break and was appreciated. This dish was lovely, normally I find that chefs are trying to hard with scallops with adding very strong flavours and to often over power the star which is the scallops. However on this occasionally the balance was perfect with the scallop sweetness shining through from the lovely cabbage and lemon risotto which I thought would be over bearing but gladly was a joy. The muscle foam also added a lovely element when enough was tempted onto your fork. Overall very happy with this.

Rump of Cornish lamb with summer peas, roasted artichoke and a thyme jus

On to the main dish the lamb. I was very interested to see how they cooked this dish as I love very rare meat however lamb is too often over done. Upon cutting into the rump I was a glad to see the lovely pinkness shining through, this sadly was short lived as the deep I dug into the slices the more darker the meat got. I found this entire dish to very bland and under seasoned the roasted artichoke was not season at all it seemed also the mushrooms seemed watery and tasteless. The lamb however was tender and smooth to eat but again seem to lack any depth. The only saving grace was the lovely smooth and creamy mash potato. I was not impressed by the single main dish of the tasting menu at all.

Well the end of the main courses and starters and onto the desserts which is my favourite part.

Petit pot of coffee and Baileys mousse with warm chocolate foam, pistachio madelaines

First up which I have been looking forward to was a small pot of loveliness. And this is the only way to describe this. I almost was to dissect the individual layers of this pot just as the tastes were Devine. However when combined it all matched well with the earthy espresso calming the whole sweetness coming from the white chocolate and baileys. I was a very fond of the added space dust which anyone will admit brings back great child hood memories and was great. The small pistachio madelaine was also again very good, with s soft sponge texture and subtle flavour. This dish is a particular fond memory for me.

Glazed lemon tart with creme fraiche sorbet and minted raspberries

Moving on to the lemon tart, I was glad to see the small size portion as by now I am getting very full. I was particularly interested to see how the sorbet tasted and this was lovely and light and creamy. The tart it’s self smelled amazing with strong lemon scents. The strawberries again were lovely and fresh and not soft to eat. Very good dessert, with the creme brûlée topping of the tart being a very nice not mentioned surprise.

Coffee and petit fours were then served, these were all fudges of varying types, being white chocolate and passion fruit, white chocolate and pistachio, and dark chocolate with salt and sap. These were all very good with a good range of flavours and good sweetness and texture, I only wish my local shop brought fudge was this good. My americano coffee was also very good, very hot and strong with a good depth of flavour.

Ok well thats the meal over with the bill below.

Not bad for a tasting menu, however I would like to see the coffee included.  Also a very nice stick of Rock from a local Bon Bon shop to take home.

Final thoughts:
Service – 7/10
I have mixed views on the service within the restaurant as although plates were cleared quickly and with a smile, when you glass was empty/nearly no attempt was made to fill this. I witnessed one couple even leave their seats to acquire their bottle of water stored in the chilled bar area to fill their own glasses. However when asked about the food my waitress seemed to have good knowledge of what was served, and was more than happy to stop for 2minutes and chat about the dishes and also just general conversation.  Also I was witness to the waitress given an explanation of the various local cheese to a near by table, and I was very impressed with her knowledge and explanations of cheeses.  I think it would be a great benefit to have someone more dedicated to the restaurant however to ensure attention is given.

Food – 7/10
Now this was very difficult to score, mainly because of the whole meal was very pleasant, and enjoyable.  The main let down being the main course, to have a taster menu to be full of starter courses, you should ensure the main course be an absolute star of the show, but the lamb was a real let down on this menu.  If this dish was altered or changed I would instantly score the entire meal 8/9 however due to the lamb and the slightly unbalanced crab dish this will be marked a 7.

Value – 8/10
Overall I think this is quite good value with some very fine food served and not over the top prices the qunaity was good and I leave feel fulfilled.  However normally I have come to expect some little extras from taster menus in the form of Amuse Bouche or a palette cleanser between courses.  The elephant however made sure not to give anything anyway, this was demonstrated by what i believe to be a very high price of £4 for a standard blank coffee and 3No. cubes of Fudge.

Overall – 7.5/10
I would definatly return to “The Elephant” however next time I might try from the À la carte menu.