Review: Gidleigh Park - Spear's Magazine

Review: Gidleigh Park

Emily Rookwood’s trip to Gidleigh Park was almost rained off, but the food was well worth braving the risk of flash floods

FOLLOWING ON FROM our Food Friday guest edit from Michael Caines, I went to sample the food at Gidleigh Park for myself. With a family home in the west country, it should have only been a short drive down to the beautiful country manor, however, we were fighting against extreme rain and flooding. Not easily discouraged where good food is concerned, we set off and just about made it there in one piece. But only just.

Just before Christmas, Gidleigh looked beautiful, decked out with Christmas trees, shimmering sashes of red and gold and big open fires. The beautiful views were on this occasion rather blighted by the heavy rain and the usually tame stream had turned in to a torrent of angry, farmy water.

I sensibly decided to have a glass of champagne in an effort to forget the horrible weather and settled into the all-enveloping couch in the sitting room as we waited for our table.

Amuse bouche were a parsnip soup, served in a little heavy bottomed glass and a wild game terrine topped with a hazlenut, a little puree and some wisps of green. Both were expertly executed and one’s bouche was amused.
 
Read more from Food Friday
 
Read Michael Caines’ Guest Edit from Food Friday

  
This was nothing compared to the meal that followed, however. We were sat by the window, which was helpfully looking out over the swollen ‘stream’, calming my designated driver’s fears of not getting back home no end, when the bread arrived.

If the bread is good, generally you’re in for a good meal in my opinion. Freshly baked, soft and not at all claggy, it was a positive start: nothing hugely elaborate, just simple, well-baked rolls with local butter.

Due to the weather pressure, we sadly had to have the three course menu rather than the eight course one, but as you’d expect from a two Michelin-starred restaurant we got a few extras, including a beetroot mousse with sliced beetroot, apple and caramelised nuts.

Beetroot seems to be the ingredient of choice at the moment, featuring in similar form at Le Manoir, and it does bring lovely winter colour to any meal. It was delicate, earthy in flavour and was complimented wonderfully by the contrasting texture and sweet flavour of the nuts.

To start I plumped for the quail’s egg tartlet. A delicate rectangle of pastry topped with tiny fried quail’s eggs and thin slices of black truffle sat next to a line of the babiest of leeks, onion confit, perfectly cooked soft quail, deeply smoked bacon and a spiced quail jus.
 
Quail’s egg and truffle tartlet
 
I’m not always a fan of complicated dishes with long lists of component parts, but this was very well thought through. No one flavour took over, even the truffle melted beautifully in to the overall blend of flavours. In short, it was perfectly balanced and exquisitely cooked.

I followed this with the salted cod: a fist sized, translucent piece of salted cod, cured first and then cooked, I believe, sous vide. Coated in a vibrant dusting of paprika, it had a little quenelle of dressed crab-meat and a few feather-like leaves of green resting on top.
 
Salted cod with crab meat, lemon and tarragon puree and chorizo

The plate was dressed with an intensely flavoured lemon and tarragon puree and small cubes of spicy chorizo. It was wonderful, everything was cooked to perfection —the cod flaked at the slightest touch of the fork. Very possibly the best fish dish I have had, and certainly the best I had in 2012.

The pudding was a banana parfait, little slices of parfait layered between wafer thin chocolate and topped with a lime sorbet. Fresh, not too heavy and very pretty on the plate. Everyone knows that I am not a massive pudding fan, but it was lovely, not too sweet, but certainly sweet enough.
Banana parfait finished off a near-perfect meal
  
As the stream continued to turn rapidly into a white water rafting course, I had a quick chat with Michael Caines. A lovely, quiet man he told me how he feels it is his duty to champion local produce and the local area. For example, the lamb they use is from Dartmoor, and if it isn’t available, lamb won’t be on the menu.

Working in a hotel environment, he doesn’t have the option of only serving one elaborate menu — he has to offer choice. Nonetheless, as a kitchen they are constantly evolving and innovating and – I’m told – aiming for a third star this year.

Michael Caines certainly deserves all the praise he currently gets and more. The meal was genuinely fantastic — every single course was exceptionally good and demonstrated the very highest levels of skill. Had it not been raining quite so biblically I would have happily stayed well in to the night, enjoying the wonderful views and fantastic hospitality. It’s very much worth the drive.
 
Read more from Food Friday

Read Michael Caines’ Guest Edit from Food Friday


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