I will admit that I’ve started this review about three times, and this will be the fourth time. I’m pretty good with words generally, but this event left me trying to find the words: the right words. Jamie Raftery is better known as The Holistic Chef, and we were super excited to be invited along to The Salutation Inn, where a couple of Fridays ago he was preparing a superb menu of fine dining vegan treats.
Jamie’s website says “The term holistic became part of my mission statement with the underlying ethos of doing good and elevating consciousness under the mantra “Let food be thy medicine”. Flavour comes naturally when you have good quality ingredients. Mother nature speaks for herself. Holistic for me means an all-around natural approach to food, as well as to life in a general sense.”
But the vegan label wasn’t bandied about as the main word that encompassed the evening. Healthy, holistic, ethical and delicious were a few words that we all uttered to ourselves as we were presented with course after course of mind-bending beautiful food. The evening was all about sustainability and healthy eating with many of the ingredients being superfoods.
The food Tori and I were tasting was crafted and created by Jamie Raftery and the Chef-Owner of The Salutation Inn, Tom Williams who runs The Salutation Inn with his wife Amelia Williams. Present on the night was the dedicated team of FoH and BoH staff who help make The Salutation Inn one of Exeter’s fine dining ‘must-go-to’ places.
We were invited along at the last minute (those are the best events!) to experience Jamie’s food and to have our minds expanded beyond what you might imagine is possible with just plants.
We were also joined by Debbie Warner from Bibendum who had created a beautiful bio-dynamic wine flight to accompany tonight’s tasting meal. It contrasted beautifully with the local ingredients and super-foods that Jamie was including in the evening’s selection.
The wine flight was nearly all from Chateau Maris. Based in the Languedoc region, Chateau Maris produces fine wines from a 79-acre estate. The chateau was the first estate in the AOC Minervois La Laviniere region to be fully certified biodynamic. Wine-maker Robert ‘Bertie’ Eden believes wholeheartedly that the holistic, ‘supercharged organic’ approach to biodynamics vinification brings out the true quality of the wines.
Tara from Tara’s Busy Kitchen was also at the event. Read her review which features lots of gorgeous photos from Nick Hook Photography who really captured the essence of the event.
Each course was given an introduction by Jamie, followed by an introduction to the wine from Debbie. It was great to have the context of each dish before it was served.
But before the meal, diners were able to congregate with a canape and some bubbly. The canapes included:
‘Mock’ foie-gras, five spice, apple, radish sprouts –
Red Chicory, pecan chilli, black garlic, avocado and Brazil Parmesan –
Carrot, ginger and turmeric soup shots
For me, I was really taken with the soup shots. Annoyingly I couldn’t get a good photo of them but they really packed a punch of taste with the ginger and the turmeric being less prominent as you might imagine, but the combination of the two gave a gentle warming to the tongue.
It was really nice to see all the chefs serving canapes as well as FoH staff. We were able to have a chat with them and talk about some of the intriguing things we were eating!
After a little while, we were all called through to our tables within our dining groups. Some of us were on larger tables, others were on smaller tables with new people, but as with these sorts of events we were dining with fellow diners who were new to us.
We were lucky enough to be on a table with two lovely ladies who made our evening go swimmingly, Polly and Tamara were both excellent dining partners and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves thanks to them.
Waiting for us on our tables were slices of Sunflower Seed bread with Oat Butter. This was the first mind melting part as the Oat Butter was nearly indistinguishable from normal butter in this uncanny way that took me by complete surprise when Jamie revealed this.
Jamie’s enthusiasm for this holistic type of cooking and the revelation that we were, in fact, eating butter made from oats, now grasped my attention, up to now I had gone into this with a quiet preconception in the back of my head – plant-based? really?
My encounters with vegan dishes had, up to this point, been mostly unimpressive. The most amazing thing that I have ever eaten that was completely vegan was a vegan brownie which was created by Bryce Dumont formerly of the Epicentre Cafe in Paignton (RIP, it was an amazing place) much of what I had had in between had nearly always been bland and uninspiring. But already, with the soup shot and now this, I was impressed.
The first course was a salad. Rainbow beetroot, walnut ricotta, quinoa tabbouleh, hibiscus kvass and fennel.
This was a colourful course with strong tastes and that satisfaction as you break into the tabbouleh. The taste of the kvass and walnut ricotta was a fascinating combination of flavours and one that I won’t forget easily.
The starter was King Oyster ‘scallop’, spring peas, seaweed and hemp.
The ‘Scallops’ were actually a large breed of mushroom that Jamie had obtained from Devon’s very own, and local foodie favourite, Forest Funghi in Dawlish.
Seaweed and hemp are known for their many health benefits. The bitterness of the hemp contrasted with the smoothness of the spring peas and the scallop, yet my brain kept on telling me it was actual scallop, the texture was pretty much identical!
Our main course was ‘Chicken-of-the-woods, Jackfruit and celeriac lasagne, purple brocolli and mushroom gravy’
Unfortunately, due to camera gremlins, I only managed to get photos pre-gravy, but trust me, it looked amazing with a glaze of the gorgeous covering of brown mushroomy umami!
At this point in the meal, I was honoured to be invited out back to see Tom and Jamie at work. The kitchen at The Salutation is larger than some but smaller than others and the heat was exceptional (and yes, I forgot to take off my jacket!).
It was a real treat to see the kitchen at work, the organisation and meticulous attention to detail as the plating happened only goes to show the absolute passion these guys have for what they do.
After saying hello and taking a few snaps, I got out of the way and returned to my seat to tuck into the Chicken-Of-The-Woods lasagna.
Jackfruit is a strange one but its comparative texture and taste of meat make it a perfect common replacement for meat in vegetarian dishes. I’ve heard of it being a replacement for pulled pork, but I’d never tasted it until tonight. The celeriac sheets and the gravy gave this course a real savoury ‘roasted Sunday’ feeling, as I call it. It is a filling satisfying feeling, and with that classic taste of purple broccoli as well, it really added a balance to the course.
The refresher course was an interesting blend of flavours that I wasn’t completely taken with. After the savoury gravey flavours, my palette metaphorically said ‘hang on a sec, I need to sit down on this nice bench and get my breathe’.
Matcha green tea, amazake, goji berry, black sesame and kombucha granite combined to create a very different palette that I’d experienced. It wasn’t unpleasant, in fact it enlivened my tongue! But it was definitely an eye-opener!
Our dessert was accompanied by my top wine of the evening. I will list the wines we had across the evening at the end of the post, but this stood out as an excellent desert wine. A full bodied Sake with a beautiful plum-like taste, Niizawa Kishinamien Umeshu produced by the Niizawa Sake Brewing Co. had us ordering an extra bottle from Debbie after the evening had finished.
Our dessert was a Vanilla cheesecake with an aronia berry sorbet, pistachio and chia seed jam and of course it wasn’t really ‘cheese’ cake.
This was an incredibly pleasant finale to one of the highlights of my food writing, foodie, food loving career. But it wasn’t the end. No – there was still more!
The smoothness of the cheesecake and the tartness of the aronia berry sorbet made the contrast of flavours really something to indulge in, and then add the sweetness of the sake it really complemented each mouthful.
A selection of sweets were brought to our table after the dessert course. Including
Carob, date, argan and tigernut amlou
Fig, almond, cardamom and saffron barfi
Lemon, baobub coconut ‘bounty,
The evening was finished with a pot of Ayurvedic herbal tea that had been blended especially for this event by Charlotte from bornwildtea.com – its called ‘Find Your Balance’ and was a way to round off this eye-opening event.
The wines for the evening were as follows:
Llopart Brut Reserva Cava 2014 produced by Cava Llopart who are 100% certified organic from their vineyard in the Can Llopart de Subirats
Vin de France Rose de Nymphe Grenache Noir Chateau Maris 2016 produced by Chateau Maris
Chateau Maris Grenache Gris 2014
Chateau Maris Minervois 2015
Niizawa Kishinamien Umeshu (my favourite of the evening)
I really enjoyed tasting the wines and wiggling the glass around with my nose in it, pretending I knew what I was doing. Debbie was a font of knowledge and gave us so much detail about each wine and the producers.
It was a great honour to also share a dining room with Michael Caines, a local and national foodie legend. I always like meeting Michael, he’s very friendly and willing to chat with people, especially those who share his passion for local and delicious food.
I always like events where I take something away. What was the takeaway value for tonight? It was big for me, it wasn’t just food for thought, it was a seven-course feast of things to mull over mentally.
Jamie’s website contains a really compelling interview which I urge you read. It gives this amazing background and context to the man and the mission. Holistic eating isn’t just a fad, but it stems back to thinking about what we actually input into our bodies and that those things have consequences on our health, on the environment and what happens when that balance falls over.
Each dish contained one or more ingredients that were particularly good for the body. Not only were we eating things that were good for us, but they were delicious and expertly crafted.
We all need to take care of our bodies and avoid eating Lemon Drizzle cake for breakfast. After this evening, I’m going to find my balance and work on it.
The Salutation Inn is an exciting dining venue which is making a name for itself as Exeter’s favourite fine dining venue and boutique Bed & Breakfast.
Keep abreast of the latest from Tom & Amelia
and visit Jamie’s website too for more events and holistic cuisine