So after roaming the beautiful grounds of Gidleigh Park, we waited for our two Michelin-starred dinner to begin in the sitting room. We were given menus to peruse in the sitting area, and we decided to both go for the eight-course classic tasting menu. Soon after, a trio of entrées (not part of the menu) were served.
The salmon roulade with honey and soy vinegarette, as well as the chicken liver parfait, were delicious, but what really impressed me was the mushroom soup. Cleverly served in a shot glass, this earthy liquid was really the essence of mushrooms, very smooth, very velvety, surprisingly thin and full of flavour at the same time. We knew we were off to a good start.
After sampling the entrées, we were ushered to our table in the dining room. Furnished in dark and light wood, I thought it was cosy, welcoming and warm. This truly felt like a country house. Minutes after we were seated, we were served some warm bread, and to our delight, the tomato bread that we so loved at Abode Exeter was served here too!
The first course was a tartar of tuna, scallops and lime, with Oscietra caviar, soused turnip and beetroot, wasabi cream, honey and soy vinaigrette. This was beautifully done; the tuna and scallops were so sweet and fresh, the use of Asian-inspired sauces complimented and highlighted this very well without overpowering the produce.
I was very excited about the next dish, as I am very partial to foie gras. The terrine of foie gras was smooth and thick, and paired beautifully with the Madeira jelly and truffle green bead salad. It was my first time having Madeira jelly and I loved it with the foie gras; it was a powerhouse of sweet and savoury flavours compacted into soft gelatinous cubes that exploded in the mouth (kinda like ikura, but way more delicious), and this was perfect served with the warm bread on the side.
We moved on to one of the mains, Brixham turbot served with leeks, wild mushrooms and chive butter sauce. I’ve never really cared for fish cooked in Western styles, I always felt that fish should either be served raw or gently steamed in Asian styles to showcase the wonderful flavours. But this turbot dish changed my mind. I would single this out to be one of the most beautifully cooked pieces of fish I’ve ever had. The flesh was so smooth and tender, moist and cooked to perfection. The gentle butter sauce lent a subtle creaminess and was a perfect accompaniment. I was told this is one of the most popular dishes at Gidleigh Park, and I must say that I am in total agreement.
The Cornish duckling was really well done too. It was very tender and the flavours were brought out well with honey, spices and the apple galette that the slices of duck were sitting on. If I am not wrong, bak choy and shallots cooked in the Chinese style were used as sides for this dish. I thought it was interesting, but I would have preferred the duckling to be paired with something else.
Next up was the confit Dartmoor lamb shoulder served with boulangère potato, fennel purée and a tapenade jus. I thought it was nice, but not mind-blowing. But I must add that I was stuffed by the time this course came along (this is the third main course!), and this would probably have sat better with me if I wasn’t so full. I also had very high hopes for this one because the lamb was sourced from Dartmoor itself.
The next course was a selection of Southwest cheeses (Sharpham Celeste, Quickes mature Cheddar, Sloe Tavy and Harbourne Blue). We were recommended to sample them with the ‘preferred partners’ such as celery, dried apricot, hazelnuts and what I thought was quince. I’m not a huge cheese fan (but I do love Manchego), but I was still impressed by the pairings. They actually work!
Moving on to a palette cleanser (always one of my favourite parts of a meal because it’s always something refreshing), we had the orange tartlet served with the orange confit sauce. Hands down, the best orange tarts I’ve ever had. I wish this was served in a bigger portion, but okay okay, I know, this is a palette cleanser that paves the way for the grand finale.
The last course of our meal made my heart flutter. It was a caramel and cardamom parfait with a dollop cardamom foam on top, served with a milk chocolate mousse nougatine. It was so incredible, I couldn’t believe my ears when a gentleman at the next table told the staff not to serve him the dessert on the tasting menu. I wanted to reach over, give him a good smack on the head, and tell the staff to serve it to me instead. How could anyone not love this? The sound of the dessert’s name makes my ears bleed. Period. The spicy, herbal flavours of cardamom were very subtle, and yet pleasantly noticeable through the chocolate and caramel. The chocolate mousse was perfectly smooth and it was fun to bite into the fragrant and caramelised nougatine pieces that were hidden within.
The meal wasn’t cheap, but it was a quintessential dining experience for us. The grounds are so achingly beautiful, the food was generally top notch, the service was so attentive and personal, there was nothing much to fault really, except that we had a four-hour drive back to London in the middle of a Sunday night. This would count as one of my top travel experiences, and I hope to have the chance to visit again.
By the way, that’s Gidleigh Park at night, it’s really that dark because it is in the middle of nowhere. How magical is that?
Gidleigh Park is located at:
Chagford, Devon TQ13 8HH