“I have wandered over Europe, have rambled to Iceland, climbed the Alps, been for some years lodged among the marshes of Essex – yet nothing that I have seen has quenched in me the longing after the fresh air, and love of the wild scenery, of Dartmoor”
It’s only fitting that I start this review off with a quote about Dartmoor by the man who really helped form Lewtrenchard Manor into what it is now. The famous Victorian vicar, writer, historian, and all-around polymath inherited the estate and rebuilt much of the original house, creating a beautiful mock-Jacobean mansion from the previous iteration.
Baring-Gould was a big admirer of Dartmoor, and Lewtrenchard Manor’s close proximity amongst the geographic crescendos of the moors makes this a great starting point for anyone visiting Dartmoor who wishes to stay in comfort amongst it’s cozy wooden clad surroundings.
We were invited over to Lewtrenchard Manor to experience an overnight stay and a meal in the Purple Carrot – the innovative restaurant’s private dining experience. It was an eye-opening adventure into this little world that exists just along the A38.
I’m going to divide this review into two parts. Part One covers the dining experience of The Purple Carrot, and Part Two will focus on the stay itself and a bit more about the hotel.
For me, this hotel is a must-go-to destination for any foodie. Head Chef Tom Browning has recently taken the mantle from previous Head Chef Matthew Peryer, under whom Tom has been Sous Chef. Before that, Tom had worked under great local names such as Michael Caines, Tom Williams-Hawkes and Tim Bouget. Lewtrenchard Manor has an extensive Kitchen Garden at his disposal which provides many key components of the seasonal ingredient-led menu.
Part of Lewtrenchard’s food offering is The Purple Carrot, a unique journey into the beating heart of the kitchen via CCTV. For me as a foodie, this was fascinating as we watched not only our own meals being prepared but other meals too.
Purple Carrot diners are welcomed with canapes and a complimentary glass of champagne. After being led into the kitchen, they personally meet the chef and the team before being shown to their seats in a room just off the main kitchen area.
The tasting menu was strong and relatable. It managed to be exciting and delicious without relying on theatrics and showcasing some of the delicious local ingredients that our region has to offer.
From our high-backed hot seats, we could hear the bustle of the kitchen. Occasionally a waft of something or other would creep through the door, giving an olfactory dimension to what we were viewing on the screens. It was a fascinating experience to watch a well-oiled kitchen team at work – what a fantastic gift experience for any foodie.
Our dinner was matched with a carefully selected wine flight which we shared (because ultimately I am an alcoholic lightweight, and not wanting to embarrass myself) this was most certainly the right decision.
We were treated to some home-made butter and home baked rosemary and sea salt topped focaccia. Tom humbly said that bread wasn’t his specialty but we beg to differ.
The menu was as follows:
– Whipped Vulscombe Goat’s Curd, charred apple, tea-soaked raisins and walnuts. This was paired with a Simonsig Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa
– Cornish Red Mullet on a Shellfish Bisque and spinach
– Cider Glazed Pig Cheek with pumpkin, granola, and nasturtium
This was paired with a Beaujolais Villages, Chateau de Grandmont, France
– Curry Roasted Cod Loin with cauliflower, caper and raisin dressing
This was paired with a lovely greek wine Gaia, Wild Ferment Assyrtiko, Santorini.
– Pot Roasted Breast of Partridge with celeriac, black pudding and a beautiful viscous sauce made from Pedro Ximenez rum.
Paired with Sacchetto, Pinot Nero delle Venezie, Italy
– Tarrogon Dust and a Yoghurt Sorbet
– Apple and Whiskey Cheesecake with oats, apple sorbet
Paired with an Essensia Orange Muscat, Quady, California USA
Our sommelier Jacob Knight had done a fantastic job in matching these wines perfectly. Our favourite of the evening was the Simonsig Chenin Blanc which was brought over by the owners who live in South Africa when they returned to the UK last.
For me, the combination of the Chenin Blanc and the Cornish Red Mullet was a beautiful match. The mullet was perfectly handled and the shellfish bisque spoke for itself amongst the flavours of the mullet and the wine.
Of course it is wrong for me to have a favourite given the craft and provenance of such a dining experience. The Pedro Ximenez sauce was sticky and alluring with the dark warm flavour of the Black Pudding and Partridge, the whiskey and apple combination of the cheesecake was sweet and smoky intertwined with a silkiness with traditional cheesecake base – it all sung the song of homegrown and local ingredients showcased in the best way possible.
The curiosity for the evening was the Tarragon Dust and Yoghurt Sorbet which, as Jacob and Tom brought it out, was described as a bit of a divisive dish. Some diners loved it and others couldn’t get their head around it. Using ‘Maltosec’ to mix in with the tarrogan, it creates a beautiful fluff with almost no firmness at all. It stays put for presentation, but once you pop it in your mouth it dissolves like a cloud.
We both loved it, it was funky and experimental, the curve-ball in this really stable tasting menu was a bit of fun and for us, that balance was a winner.
Tom’s team are young, but they’re passionate and they strive for a gold standard. Tom talked about how good the dynamic is in the kitchen, which had a strong sense of family. From my observations and conversations throughout our stay, I felt that there was a unique synergy between front-of-house and kitchen that I hadn’t felt anywhere else.
Retiring back to the drawing room, we were treated to petit-fours and a coffee. It was at this point that I started to imagine myself as the Duke of some large estate, and without losing too much sense of journalistic perspective, you could get carried away with the fantasy.
Tom’s attention to detail and craft sets Lewtrenchard apart from many other similiar country house hotels. Their website gives a flavour of what to expect.
But the excellent fine dining isn’t the only feather in their culinary cap. Why not take advantage of their reasonably priced bar menu, or visit for a Champagne afternoon tea?
Read Part Two, to be published next week, for details about the hotel, stay and our tour of the splendid rooms by Duncan Murray – Director, and General Manager.
This meal was hosted. The opinions expressed in this review are in no way influenced by the restaurant.
Categories: Dining Devon Blog