Food cooking and eating – stories and ideas from a passionate foodie

Archive for October, 2013

Gidleigh Park Birthday Lunch

About a year ago, we visited Michael Caines’s 2 Michelin-star restaurant near Chagford on Dartmoor in Devon.  It was so good, I decided to take Jane there again for her 2013 birthday.  Gidleigh is a magical place – you don’t really need an excuse, just a wallet…but a special occasion fits the ambiance and level of service and luxury rather well.

Firstly, if you want to see more go to .

Before we get to the food Jane wanted to tell you about the style and feel of the place: “it’s not just the exquisite food – it’s the whole experience.  You wend your way along what can only be described as a track for about 2 miles and then as you turn the corner suddenly the Swiss-style Victorian ‘lodge’ is there standing on the hill overlooking beautiful Dartmoor and the river.  There is no grand entrance, just a discreet side door where staff will be waiting to greet you and attend to your every need over the next couple of hours.  You are an honoured guest from the moment you arrive until you depart and return to reality.”

Welcome back!  Here’s our lunch:  I will describe it in picture order:  The top item is just an extra starter from chef – an appetiser.  This is a goats cheese mousse with beetroot and candied walnut.  After the first spoonful, we both went reverentially quiet.  It was, as ever here, exquisitely separate in flavours, but they all live beautifully together.

In reverse order...

P1050029 P1050030 P1050032 P1050033 P1050036

And so it continued.  My starter was Nettle Risotto (the bright green photo!) –  an amazing conflation of wild mushrooms, watercress (although not too peppery) with a tarragon foam.  I just had to have it for the foraged nettles, really.  Jane’s is a shellfish bisque – a crab raviolo in basil oil (raviolo is singular – but Jane had plural – two little ones – chef was feeling generous!).  The theatre of this is the raviolo arrives in its dish, then the bisque has a separate jug, which is poured over at the table.  This means you both get to taste the beautiful bisque through your sense of smell as it is poured.  Wonderful.

My main is next – Dartmoor lamb.  You can see the olive crust, and I bet you can smell the roast garlic (always enhances lamb).  The Fondant potato means you do have the perfect way of mopping up the tapenade jus, without resorting to the beautifully flat sauce spoons provided.  (I don’t think even I would ask for a slice of bread to mop up, as I would at home!).  You can see what you are paying for here.  It’s not just the presentation – it’s the fact that there are at least 15 different visible items – and how many ingredients in each?  I think Mr Caines only employs people who love food.

Janie’s was Grey Mullet – which I note is now often called Silver (sounds less ‘grey’?)  Again – 12 different items, including cauliflower (sadly unfashionable now, but presented here in crunchy style with other veg and herbs like lemon thyme, and looking like a vegetable kebab in it’s snakiness on the plate).  And a cumin veloute? A very slight indian feel – which I have had with mussels before, and it can take over a bit.  But not here.  Separate again, and adding to the feel, not overpowering.

We both had the Plate of plum – plum tart tatin, vanilla mousse and a greengage sorbet.  No photos.  We just forgot ourselves and tucked in before I even thought about it!

The last photo is a Happy Birthday chocolate with what they describe as petit fours.  Look, it is three extra puddings.  And you can still manage it.

A proper 2 hour lunch.  A proper celebration.  We loved it.

The Golden Lion, Tipton St John

This is a real find.  Tipton St John is in East Devon, on the road between Sidmouth and Ottery St Mary.  The pictures below give you a feel for the place – and the style

Golden Lion

(from their web-site – )

We were there for lunch the day before a big birthday lunch (see later!).  We didn’t want to go to mad, saving ourselves for Gidleigh Park the next day.  But a bit mad – well, you judge.

The chef patron is French – and you can see the influence on everything they do.  The level of fish on the menu is more extensive than you would expect in an English pub.  One speciality is Fish Soup.  Plenty for a lunch time treat.  It is heartily beyond the famous Bouillabaisse, Loads of stock, but it is more stew that soup, in a very good way.  There is a spiciness (which suits hot summer and damper autumn well) and real depth.  A hunk of bread and you are well catered for.  Croutons and a garlicky aioli like sauce add to the dish. There were a few mussels involved, and langoustines as above – but I went for the Moules Frite.  Yes, done n the traditional way – shallots rather than onion, celery, single cream, loads of garlic.  And plenty of mopping up bread to satisfy the gourmand in me.

We were very full, and very satisfied.  We had noticed a nearby diner ordering the fish soup followed by fish and chips.  He managed to eat it all – but we assume he had to have a siesta afterwards!

Seek out The Golden Lion of Tipton St John.  They are on the  River Otter, and serve local Otter ales too.  The pub can really help a village to stay alive, I think.  Tipton St John also has a village shop.  The pub makes more visitors come to the place – so the use it or lose it mentality I mentioned in the last blog is aided and abetted by a thriving pub restaurant.  It is well worth the finding.

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