Tickets to this event were gratis. Views expressed are independent of the business and is not seen or approved before publication.
Gara Rock has been on my radar for since the news broke of it opening and I had yet to make it down to the clifftop venue in Salcombe, so when an invite came for a Luxury BBQ over the first May Bank Holiday weekend, I couldn’t say no to what sounded like a perfect alfresco event for the long weekend.
This was a special one-off event, pre-Salcombe Crabfest, with an aim to raising funds for charity; I believe there were a few events going on locally with a similar ethos.
Gara Rock Website states:
Easy-going and down to earth, Gara Rock is a place for families, couples, good friends and great memories. Dogs are very welcome. Come for lunch, the day, a well-earned break. Stay for the sunset, the week or for as long as you please. When the sun shines, the beach is right there. Just below the pool. When it rains, and it does occasionally, there are games to play and films to watch. Maybe a little treat in the spa.
We don’t do formalities, dress codes or awkward silences at Gara Rock. In fact, there’s really only one rule: Make yourself at home.
Gara Rock had invited Bristol-based chef, Freddy Bird, to be in charge of this foodie feast as he was also involved in the main Salcombe Crabfest demos the next day. Freddie had given his time for free, in aid of the fundraiser for this public ticketed event.
Freddy’s food is know as ‘Bird Food’:
Bird Food is a unique take on Moorish and Mediterranean cooking with a strong focus on provenance. Primarily cooked over fire and in wood ovens, it’s truly characterful cookery… relaxed, unpretentious and designed for sharing – put simply it’s food cooked to make people happy.
If I’m honest, as I write this blog, I’ve only just looked on Freddie’s website to find out more about him. Having found the above information and, looking back, Freddy lived up to his ethos. He worked his socks off to provide a truly delicious BBQ feast for everyone, his children even helping to serve. He was so smiley throughout, and produced some delicious ‘bird food’ for us to share.
In addition to the scrumptious fayre below, we also enjoyed almonds, olives, chicken thighs, flat breads and a welcome accompaniment of skinny fries (all not pictured).
Moroccan crab on toast
Grilled asparagus, crushed boiled eggs and mayonnaise
Grilled mackerel on a bed of harissa
Whole grilled crab, cracked ready to eat at the table
Scallops in butter
Tabouleh, carrot and orange blossom dip, houmous drizzled with olive oil and spices
The view and some lovely music!
It was a wonderfully sunny, but chilly day sat out on the grass bank on the picnic benches, and Gara Rock itself had some teething problems with service and organisation, after what appeared to have already been a busy lunchtime.
Thankfully we had our coats for warmth, and with some good company (shoutout to the lovely Melissa Stewart of Crumbs Mag) and of course the lush food, we were distracted from the chill and service flaws.
That bring said, they mustn’t rest on these laurels just because of the beauty that surrounds them.
Gara Rock is an interesting ‘luxury’ venue. Due to its location, it has almost a ‘secret’ vibe to it, where the fairly well known or famous could escape to, and indeed also the ordinary every day guest. Speaking of famous – we realised our fellow lunch guests were none other than Made in Chelsea’s Millie Mackintosh and Hugo Taylor, who were also staying as invited guests of the hotel.
But, because it is National Trust land with beautiful walks around it, it is accessible by anyone. I think the venue realises this, hence its casual ethos (dogs, kids, walkers welcome) but maybe that takes the ‘exclusive’ shine off for those spending good money to stay. That said, with the facilities they have, you can certainly indulge in the cocoon of their offering during a stay and Millie and Hugo seemed to enjoy themselves as an unknown entity with no fuss from other guests. It’s an interesting dynamic that needs looking after carefully.
For me, Freddie was the star and hero of this event – thanks for the selfie chef!
Even though Gara Rock is not an independent (owned by Aria Resorts) I hope to be able to visit again to try the venue out in a normal scenario and see if it lives up to their ambitions. It only opened last Summer, but with a large backing like Aria, it shouldn’t be hard to rethink a few things and tweak some of the operations side to make the service and offering of the venue really sing.
The location is truly spectacular, I’d certainly recommend the surrounding South West Coast path and popping into the venue for a drink and a bite to soak up those glorious views.
Gara Rock, East Portlemouth