Swine and Cheese

A passion for Pigs and Food

Gidleigh Park

without comments

Sanders Cottage, Lettaford

Sanders Cottage, Lettaford

We went to Dartmoor last weekend to stay in a wonderful Landmark Trust cottage. In fact we had booked to stay in a Landmark cottage up in Scotland but sadly the housekeeper rang the day before we were due to go to say that it was inaccessible because of the snow. We normally plan our stays by researching the area and working out nice walks and pubs etc.. However with only 24 hours notice of our new destination we were unable to check out the area as much as we would have liked to. Having said that Neale was very excited to learn that our cottage was only a few miles away from Gidleigh Park, the two star Michelin restaurant and hotel run by Michael Caines. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss so as consolation for not making it to Scotland I decided to try and get a reservation. The lady I spoke to was absolutely lovely and when she heard about our cancelled stay in Scotland (hence the very last minute request for a table) she squeezed us in on the fully booked Saturday night.

Unfortunately our cottage had a useless open fire which kept spewing smoke into the main room every now and then. As it was our main form of heating with a few night storage heaters we persevered but ended up choking and smelling dreadful. Neale did make the comment that Landmark are a bit up their own ! when it comes to preserving these properties authentically. Certainly when it reached -10′C I couldn’t help but wish for some discreet central heating. At least we’d taken our dogs, Sydney and Otto, and our dog-cat Gus (who thinks he’s a dog) to use as body warmers. Nevertheless we managed to present ourselves at the hotel the next night in a reasonable state. To be met outside reception on a freezing night for the chap to park our car was the first nice touch. I thought the guy was going to tell us to park our muddy Nissan X-trail round the back out of view but he was friendly and charming without being sycophantic! The drawing room was lovely, welcoming and warm and I rather liked the fact they had three separate, cosy dining rooms which they filled up according to your reservation time so you weren’t left with a lot of empty tables around you at the start and end of your meal.

The food was fab. We had the usual flourish of yummy canapes to go with our aperitifs. My starter was pigeon salad with foie gras and hazelnuts which was exquisite but Neale’s starter of quail with truffled egg yolk and potato gnocchi produced such groans of ecstasy from him that he ended up doing a very realistic re-enactment of the famous scene from “When Harry met Sally”! My main course was beautifuly cooked but I realised I should have ordered something lighter. The lamb with boulangere potatoes and a red cabbage creation was unctious and rich with so many clever flavour explosions but I was very full by the end. Nevertheless the pudding of prune and Armagnac souffle was to die for, Mr Creosote eat your heart out.

The staff were all really friendly, informed and discreet. The sommelier was particularly good and a really interesting chap to talk to. His recommendation of a delicious Cote de Nuit was superb and the iced cider to go with Neale’s pudding was a revelation, delicious. It is made in Canada by using apples on the tree that have been frosted (iced) for three consecutive days, before picking, pressing and cold fermenting them. It is so rare to go anywhere in the UK where the service is just right. So often they can be supercilious, rude, too eager, intrusive, sycophantic, indifferent etc. but at Gidleigh Park they were all excellent. A wonderful, albeit expensive, experience but at least here you could see exactly where your money was going. Far too often we have had the misfortune of eating in various restaurants locally in Shropshire and the menu is predictable (too ambitious), the staff hopeless and the cooking poor and consequently the bill unpleasant. I don’t begrudge the Gidleigh bill one little bit but I might frame it!! If ever you get the opportunity to go DO.

Alternatively if your budget is tight there was a delightful pub nearby called the “Ring of Bells” at North Bovey which I would highly recommend. A lovely, welcoming bar, roaring log burners, nice staff and locals and a very nice evening meal. Don’t bother with the separate dining room (too cold) and Sunday lunch wasn’t so good (they had run out of roast anything) if a traditional roast is what you’re after, but all in all a great find. Apparently owned by Jennifer Saunders brother?!


Written by Sarah

January 18th, 2010 at 1:24 pm