Thursday, May 3, 2012
Review: My Trip to Gidleigh Park!
• Nights stay and dinner at a 5* hotel (there was a choice of about five hotels but we chose Gidleigh as it was the closest one/ the nicest sounding restaurant)
• Meal at their restaurant (in Gidleigh’s case this was a 2 Michelin starred restaurant!)
• A luxury picnic hamper, with champagne, to enjoy on the grounds of the hotel. Also a cheeseboard/knife set with a big chunk of Tickler cheese.
• Complimentary breakfast in the morning.
I mean, how amazing is that!? I was utterly shocked, I couldn’t believe it. So In the morning, we began our 2 hour drive to Chagworth, Devon (which is where Gidleigh is located)- on the way (OK I know this is chavvy but it was actually sooo nice!) we stopped at a Little Chef, and upon Nick’s recommendation I ordered their “Olympic Breakfast”. OK, all right, it was big- but I’ve seen bigger! Really hit the spot though(This pic is Nick's- I had one without eggs with extra potatoes/tomatoes), y’know I thought it was so stupid when they got Heston Blumenthal in to try and change Little Chef and make it posher, that’s such a stupid idea- it is what it is, a nice basic place to stop for a filling bite to eat. Nuff said.
We were received very cordially from the hotel, and taken to our room, which was really really nice. I noticed a little sign in the wardrobe that said Gidleigh had upgraded us from another room, which was super nice of them. The hotel is quite small really- there are only about 25 rooms I believe? Even the cheaper ones though were £450 a night though- mental! There was complimentary Madeira in the room (nice touch- and so delicious!) which we helped ourselves to.
First of all we got given the menus and wine list by a woman who explained both of these documents to us. Gidleigh basically has the best wine list in the south west- over 1100 different varieties of wines, with over 30,000 bottles kept in their cellar. Had a look through this and noticed there were bottles of champers selling for£2,500 a bottle! Jesus, some people have more money than sense! To be fair if I won the lottery I might get a bottle of it, but for no other reason than that. This wasn’t part of our prize I guess, but we decided that since we would probably never get the chance to eat at a two Michelin star restaurant again, and that the rest of the meal was being paid for, that we would get a nice bottle of wine. We spoke to the sommelier who came next, and we told him (as we had decided on our main course by then) that we would go for a red, we told him our price range (£60ish), he asked us whether we wanted a rich earthy red or a lighter one (we wanted lighter) and he suggested the most beautiful French burgundy, with a pinot noir grape, for £55, that ended up going perfectly with our meal choices. What a talented young man, to know such a huge wine list so well, and to be able to match it so perfectly to the flavours in the menu- I heard that in some hotels the sommelier can get paid more than the manager of the hotel, which I’m not actually surprised about!
The menu was simple, with about 5 choices for starter, 5 choices for main and 4 choices for dessert. Had a few issues with the menu though if I’m totally honest. First of all, not a vegetarian choice in sight- not on starters or the mains. And unlike many Michelin starred restaurants currently, they did not have a set gourmet vegetarian menu either, so I find this particularly unfair and snobby of them. I may not be vegetarian but I feel strongly about offering vegetarians decent food, and not having the lazy French attitude that vegetarian food is not as tasty nor as gourmet as meat or fish dishes. I also felt that the menu was a little drowned in fish and seafood too. On the starters, and the mains, 3/5 of the choices involved fish or seafood, giving me only 2 choices in each section to choose for really. And with the starters, there wasn’t anything that really made me think WOW that sounds amazing, I’m definitely choosing that. There was a foie gras option (which I know it’s controversial, but I love it) but it was served with “3 types of rhubarb”, which sounds a bit gross to me. So for starter I chose the Quail egg and onion confit tartlet, with roasted quail, mushrooms, roasted shallots, broad beans and a game jus. For main It was a close choice between a nice sounding rose veal dish, and the lamb- but I had to go for the lamb dish- Roast rump of Dartmoor lamb with a herb crust, served with Boulanger potatoes (with a layer of slow cooker shoulder in-between the potatoes) , confit fennel, pea puree, and a tapenade jus. We figured we would choose dessert later, when we fancied it.
Anyway, the chefs quickly whipped me up something else (didn’t get a pic of it, to be fair with every course Nick was sneakily trying to take photos of the dishes without anyone noticing, because it was such a posh place we didn’t want to be too obvious with taking photos) which was a soft goats cheese terrine, with micro greens, honeyed walnuts, apple, and a sweet dressing/sauce of some sort. This was amazing, delicious, and beautiful. See- Michelin starred restaurants shouldn’t be so frickin “ashamed” of serving veggie options!
Next comes the most embarrassing part- OMG I SPILT SOME OF THIS WINE!!! It wasn’t my fault really, and it was only a teensy little bit (because the waiters only pour you a small amount into the glasses, at regular intervals) but still I swear it was the most embarrassing moment of my life. It’s because they served the wine in stupidly massive glasses (like three time the size of a normal large glass we would have at home. I understand this is the norm for red wines, so it lets them breathe more) and Nick was fussing over me telling me I was eating my bread wrong, which is why I ended up knocking it over. I kinda hate how he made this meal uncomfortable for me I guess…..
I realise however amazing this meal was, I don’t think I like Michelin dining. I’ve got a good enough palette, and I know how they make these dishes, what ingredients they use, but I felt so uncomfortable in that restaurant. It wasn’t the staff’s fault, they were all super friendly (and all French interestingly enough) but it was the whole feeling that everything I was doing was “wrong”. That I wasn’t sitting right, not talking right, not eating right, not drinking right. And I shouldn’t feel like this, because fuck it, I’m the guest, I’m the person they need to impress, and “theoretically” I am the one paying for it all, so why should I feel like I should behave abnormally just for them? Anyway, rant over, the starter was AMAZING! Best part of the meal I think, even though I can’t stand egg yolks, lol. They were only little though, the onion confit underneath the eggs were amazing and the quail was so beautiful. This was my favourite course.