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.