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.