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noticed this trend I started looking around and found their website with a small sample menu, the website did seem very outdated.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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.