Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Devon's GIDLEIGH PARK gives you the greatest local Michelin fare (8-5-13)

On our second night in Devon we traveled just several miles over the Dartmoor to the nearby two-Michelin starred Gidleigh Park (www.gidliegh.co.uk) where a Tudoresque manor awaits with gorgeous gardens and a babbling brook.
As we arrived in the sitting area for our drinks, the maitre d' explained that everyone must take the same menu (there were two set menus and the a la carte option). I explained that while our child is adventurous, he would not care for a number of items on the tasting menus and preferred to have two a la carte dishes or so while we like tasting menus. There was a frown, a hesitation and he departed to "check on this."
We began to worry that this very adult and formal setting might be too much for anyone with a child of any age (and there were none around save Samuel), but the gentleman returned and said all would be fine. Breathe a sigh.
We enjoyed our Pierre Gimmonet et fils 1er Cru Blanc de Blanc Chardonnay Champagne while Samuel enjoyed a "Sicilian effect: made from cranberry lemon, raspberry and Sicilain lemonade. Small amuses arrived in the sitting area with our drinks in the form of Tomato Gazpacho, Roast Monkfish with Saffron Sauce and a Beef Fillet with Onion Puree and red wine sauce on a crunchy round piece of bread.
Samuel tasted the monkfish, but again all fish seems to allude him these days. All three were delish and got us excited about the food.
We proceeded to one of the three intimate dining rooms (each has no more than half a dozen tables) and started our "Signature Tasting Menu." Breads arrived in the form of Pain de Compagne, Honey Burnt Bran and a yummy Sundried Tomato with Black Olive along with Cornish Sea Salt and the always amazing local Devon butter.
Samuel's next drink arrived which was a "Cinderella" made from Pineapple, Orange, Lemon, English lemonade and Grenadine. We asked for the wine pairings and started with Domaine Comte Abbatucci Cuvee Faustine 2011 from Ajaccio, Corsica which SImone, our sommeileuse, explained was Fermentino grapes from Old Vines (Vieilles Vignes) and really excited our palate. This was paired with Warm Salad of NATIVE LOBSTER, Cardamom Gelee, Lime and Mango Vinaigrette and a light Shellfish Curry all topped with Caviar. Go ahead-MAKE MY DAY! Here the chef has taken local lobster to new heights.
Next came Terrine of FOIE GRAS with Madeira Jelly, Truffled Green Bean Salad, Micro Greens and Baby Mushrooms served with toasted Pain de Campagne seasoned with truffle and chives. The truffles on the dish were Italian summer. The wine was the same we had at The Ledbury with Foie Gras two nights earlier: Johannes Josef Prum 2011 Riesling Kabinett from Mosel which was even better with this complex dish.
CORNISH SALT COD was steamed and served with miniature French beans, Beesands CRAB, CHORIZO, SAMPHIRE (which is local seaweed), tarragon and a lemon puree. Another superb mix of these divine local ingredients all from less than 50 or so miles away! The Chiaroscuro (Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling blend) 2009 from Marlborough in New Zealand is a find not only as a red blend but a perfect barrel fermented organic meritage with only 1200 bottles (100 cases) produced. How did they get this divine nectar?
CORNISH DUCK also comes from right in the neighborhood and was braised with cabbage, smoked bacon, roast garlic, turnips and spice jus. The duck had a superbly crunchy skin and the I adored the gorgeous fruit forward Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2010 from Planeta in Sicily which Simone explained was a blend of Frappata and Nero di Avolo grapes (Will did not care for this wine).
The next course was a small portion for us but a full portion for Samuel which he promptly devoured what must have been half a DARTMOOR LAMB with a beautifully layered Boulangere Potato and Confit Shoulder that was a genius of creation in itself. The dish had a mild delicious fennel puree and tapenade jus (always a hit with Sam since he discovered tapenade two years ago). Domaine Henri Milan Le Clos 2005 from Les Baux de Provence had a naked lady with grapes on the label and combined 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 5% Cab for a superb blend with a hint of acidity.
SOUTHWEST CHEESES were next and it was a treat for them to ALL be local (well almost) with a triple creme SHARPHAM ELMHIRST from the isle of Jersey, WEST COUNTRY CHEDDAR from Quicks Farm, LITTLE STINKY which was a brined cow from Bude in Cornwall, and the Nottinghamshire BEAUVALE BLUE (the only non local) all being really exciting and novel as well. SOMERSET POMONA is a 20% alcohol Apple cider brandy form the region that is barrel fermented for 15 months yet is lighter and refreshing than port and really makes a fine change.
The EXOTIC FRUIT SALAD included Passion Fruit Sorbet and Crystalline of Pineapple and was the perfect palate cleanser.
"Plate of APRICOT" was the dessert on the menu and I loved this Apricot with Almond Nougatine Parfait, Apricot Mousse and Sorbet, but Will asked to switch to the TRIO of CHOCOLATE, which Samuel also enjoyed. It was a Hazelnut & Milk Chocolate Parfait think decadent Belgian chocolate in a cup), Dark Chocolate Mousse on Chocolate Sable Biscuit and White Chocolate Ice Cream. My fruit filled treat came with Mulderbosch Noble Late Harvest Sauvignon Blacn 2009 from Stellenbosch in South Africa and was again a perfect pairing while Will the California Elysium Muscat.
Raspberry mousse was followed by yet another trio of treats: Vanilla Panna Cotta, Milk Chocolate Parfait and Passionfruit Mousse with Lime Foam. That was it and we taxied back to Bovey Castle sated and thrilled.
While the meal was a true treat in every way, we were a bit set off at the start, but that was quickly remedied. Indeed, my only complaint was that the men's room had no tissues!