Thursday, 10 February 2011

Gidleigh Park, Chagford, Devon - Restaurant Review

I realise that I may have to change my profile description that says I enjoy eating at 'unpretentious' and 'good value' places.  Gidleigh Park does not exactly fulfil either of those criteria.  This was an incredibly special treat - a gift to my husband for his fortieth birthday. I said I wouldn't blog about it, but then out came the camera and, yep, in true food blogger style, I wasn't taking pictures of my husband (attractive as he may be), but of the beautiful food.

Gidleigh Park is a posh country house hotel par excellence: two Michelin stars, Executive chef is Michael Caines MBE, and number one in the Sunday Times Best Restaurant List 2010 - it feels as if you're eating in a National Trust property.

Drinks in the lounge....oops before we knew it, no we weren't sticking to our 'local food' credentials and ordering some Luscombe apple juice or Camel Valley sparkling wine.  For me a glass of Champagne (NV, thank the Lord) and for him, a Vodka Martini.  I almost guffawed.  So not a Peroni then. 
The service was wonderful - not at all stuffy.  The staff were friendly, chatty, knowledgeable and so enthusiastic about the food and wine.  Special mention to the cheery 'cheese waiter'  (apparently they're called cheese sommeliers in the States) who brought round the fantastic cheese trolley resplendent with many Devon and Cornish cheeses, plus some oozing French ones.

We chose the five course Seasonal Tasting menu with a couple of glasses of appropriate wines.  My first taste of the amuse-bouches and I was in heaven:  a crispy morsel of Cornish sea bream with a Thai froth on the top (far right of picture below).  It was a riot of flavours and made me smile to know that I was going to have such a gourmet evening.  The middle one was an aubergine mousse and on the left a piece of foie gras with a Sauternes jelly.

Matthewsfoodblog has asked me to comment on the bread (one of his fave things about eating in high-end establishments.)  A basket of three types of home-baked , incredibly fresh bread:  a small rustic French-style roll with pointed ends was delicious, my favourite was a small brown round roll containing honey and burnt 'bran' or 'prawn' or 'brown'- (after asking the waitress to repeat the phrase three times, I gave up), and a slice of sun-dried tomato bread which was very nice on its own but so full of flavour that it wasn't good to accompany the delicate food.

The food was superb:

Confit of Salmon, followed by Boudin of pheasant with foie gras, couscous and bouillon (pictured below)

.....then Langoustines with leeks and truffle, Lamb with Boulangere potatotes, Chocolate and Orange Three Ways, Coffee and Petits Fours.

The food was exciting, full of flavour, beautiful on the plate and felt like a culinary adventure.  I could go on about the individual dishes but will just mention the highlights:  the sweetness of the langoustines with the backnotes of a truffled sauce, the melting tastiness of the tender, herbed lamb, the bitter orange sorbet served in a dark chocolate shell and the caramel chocolates served as part of the petits fours.  

My Dad joined us for coffee and petits fours in front of the fire in the lounge (thanks for the lift home, Dad!).  The entire bill came to.......ahem..... £352 (without tip) which is the most I have ever (and will ever) pay for a meal in my life.  We will need some post-traumatic counselling to deal with that.  The coffee and petits fours cost £6.  And there's the 'good value' part of my review.  You get three mini desserts on a wooden platter, plus a handful of chocolates and a pot of coffee or tea, that you don't have to strain your wrist to pour for yourself, for six quid.  A superb end to a memorable meal.  It wasn't just a meal, it was an event that we will remember.  


Christine Kaltoft said...

Sounds fantastic Kate! I think that with a price tag like this you do have to really count it as a whole 'experience', rather than a meal. It's a great thing to do every now and then, and does give perspective to other meals.

What were the staff like (apart from the failure to describe the bread roll intelligibly)? Did they measure up to the ideals in the MIchel Roux programme?

I don't suppose you can just go along and have the petit fours and coffee in the lounge for £6 can you?!

Liz said...

Yes I agree with Christine, you're not just paying for the food, but for the whole evening and for your future memories. I love the sound of that Sauternes jelly...

Jill Colonna said...

Sounded a super meal, great ambience and clever idea getting the driver to pop in for coffee ;-)
Will take a note of this place, thanks!

neil said...

A wonderful evening, with gorgeous food, fantastic service, and a wildly overpriced wine list.

My wallet was left feeling as wrinkly as I was.

Just as an aside (and whilst talking about money), it was interesting to see that there was a 'voluntary' charge of £1 for charity added to the bill. Now, I know it would be obscenely churlish to begrudge a £1 donation after paying £350 for supper but my points would be:

1. If I want to donate money to charity I will. I don't like having my arm twisted, or be put in a position where I would feel uncomfortable in the extreme to question it.
2. If the chef/organisation wants to donate money to charity, then charge an extra pound on the meal - I can then choose whether to buy the meal or not, and the money can be donated as seen fit. No need to shout about it.
3. The ostentatious display on the bill of a charitable donation would appear to be a case of the chef indulging in a bit of 'good chap' PR, at my expense.

That's all, no biggie, and it was only £1. It just didn't sit easily with me - I like to choose my own charities, not pay for someone else to feel good after my coerced donation.

Lovely langoustine though...

Christine Kaltoft said...

@neil: I'd agree with that - I hate being guilt tripped into charity donations - very irritating - wouldn't sit easily we me either!

Grazing Kate said...

Christine - the staff were wonderful. Really chatty and welcoming, and passionate about food and drink. Perfect. V tempted to see if you can go along for just the coffee and petits fours! I bet they do a mean Devon Cream Tea too.

Liz - yep, special memories for sure.

Jill - yes, it's a great place - I love the look of your macarons btw!

Neil and Christine - I'm not so against the charity donation as you. I think it's good to add on another quid. A quick and easy way to raise some money for charity, and one that I don't mind.

Northern Snippet said...

What a treat and such a beautiful location,one of those places Id love to visit.
Hefty price tag though...

Lisa-Jane said...

Sounds wonderful! I've been to Le Manoir a couple of times and I agree that as a special treat you just cant beat it if you love the whole experience and it certainly helps to give a broader picture of what you want, expect and are prepared to pay for, when you eat out.

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