Gidleigh Park

“Will we ever get there? When, oh! When are we going to get there?” I felt all of 10 years old again. Onithe bright side of things (no pun intended), it was a beautiful and sunny day in Devon. We’d caught the train to Exeter St. Davids from London and were now in a taxi, transporting us to an idyllic gem of a place tucked away on the moors. Add to that a chef known not only for his food, but also his die hard perseverance to his career, following a serious car accident that took away his right arm. Nonetheless, Michael Caines not only rose to the top of the game, garnering 2 Michelin stars, but also a prestigious MBE from the Queen.

Winding through narrow country roads and some incredible old estates and properties in the stunning Devonshire countryside we finally entered the 107 acre estate of Gidleigh Park. What a grand entrance! Wow! And look – a helicopter in the grounds! Apparently, if you so wish, you could fly there from London or anywhere else! Next time I’m doing that. And descending whilst still in the air on a red rope ladder to a crowd of admirers, champagne and lavish party. At this point, M roused me from my reverie. Hmmm. Just stick to dinner then.

We were ushered into the lounge for pre-dinner drinks and canapes by a very friendly and chatty manager who later narrated to us how the property dealt with snow a couple of years back – “70 staff, 70 shovels!”. Brilliant! Head and hands treatment all the way!

We decided to have the tasting menu with matching wines (it was only fair!). Our canapes came to us by way of

Smoked aubergine, provencal vegetables / salmon tartare, wasabi, soy and honey / quail egg, herb  puree (me), mackerel & mussel (M).

All quite nice, however, M laughed and I cried when I saw the quail egg. It seems that eggs are for allergy sufferers what goats cheese is to vegetarians. You can’t get away from it and I’m really falling out of eggy love. And that there was no seasoning on the egg or puree didn’t help. Big sad face.

The restaurant itself was small and very formal – as you would expect from a property of this calibre. Beautiful wooden panelling along the walls, quirky paintings dotted the room and almost pin drop silence.  The breads were unusually light and fluffy and ever so nicely warm – Pain de campagne, black olive, honey and poppy all of which we happily nibbled on until our first course of

Red mullet, thai puree – oooh! what a pretty dish and ahhh! crunchy crisp skin (how much butter did that take!?!). The thai puree and foam stood up to the mullet without overpowering it. Lots of lovely ginger, lemongrass, garlic, shallot flavours, very zingy, very light.

Veal raviolo, watercress puree, broad beans, mousserons Our waitress did say it was a pea puree, but it was definitely watercress. The raviolo itself was fabulous – lemony, herbiness accentuating the braised veal filling. Usual summer suspects for garnishes. Green puree number 2 so far.

Brixham turbot, leek puree, peas, wild mushrooms Almost identical to the last dish. Green puree (number 3!), mushrooms. However, luckily the taste was very different and the pungency of the leeks stood up well the meatiness of the turbot. Beautiful fish, well complemented by leeks and leek puree.

Cornish lamb, braised shoulder, boulangere potatoes, fennel puree Green puree number 4! Wild mushrooms, peas and broad beans again. Slight repetition? Hmm. However, and this I have to stress, SENSATIONAL lamb. Been a while since I’ve had lamb this flavoursome and even though the braised shoulder was a bit too salty, it tasted amazing – the saltiness was really off putting though.

Cardamom caramel, milk chocolate mousse Anything with cardamom I will happily eat. I love that spice and love just chewing on cardamom pods – had a fresh pod once, straight off the bush and it was divine! And one can’t really go wrong with the classic combination of caramel and cardamom. Lovely dessert, if a little too sweet with the milk chocolate mousse.

By this time we were rather stuffed and had had some lovely wines along the way.

When our petit fours and coffees arrived, I had a silly grin on my face from the selection of petit fours. More of a combination of petit fours and pre-dessert as along with truffles we had hot salted caramel fondant, lemon pannacotta with cassis jelly, berry doughnut and custard.

All of them yummy, even with the flavour repetition of caramel. This time we really couldn’t even make an attempt at the truffles. Something was clearly wrong – I needed to train my stomach harder, although in all fairness, the food was quite rich and we were going to have to walk it off!

Oh and lest I forget – fantastic service throughout! But then if you can’t get fantastic service at this level, then what hope do others have? What I really liked was that as soon as I told them I had a shellfish allergy, they didn’t just say ‘oh, you can have this without this…blah blah blah..” they took away my menu and brought me one that was suitable for my allery! How cool is that and how personal is that?! Kudos!

Overall Experience: 8
Recommend you to go? 7
Food: 7
Wine: 9

Square Meal