Thursday, May 3, 2012

Review: My Trip to Gidleigh Park!

This is one of the best prizes I’ve won so far, and me and Nick had the best time ever! This was just a strike of luck really; I won a prize draw held by and Tickler cheese, the grand prize of which included:

• 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.
So we continued our drive to Gidleigh….and it started to rain. To be fair Nick’s iPhone said there was a 99% chance of it “raining bucketloads” on the day, but I was still silently hoping. Got a call from Tickler as well, with a little screw-up I guess- they had forgotten to deliver the hamper to Gidleigh Park for our arrival, like I had arranged months ago! Slightly annoyed I guess, but they got Gidleigh to make us up a hamper themselves for our arrival, and then I got the Tickler hamper a couple of days after coming back home, so it worked out all right in the end. It was so funny, when we got parked up at the hotel I was like “Nick…..we definitely have the most rubbish car in this car park” which was so true! To be fair it wasn’t Lamborghinis left right and centre, but I still thought it was funny.

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.
Soon enough we heard a knock on the door “Room Service!” and our hamper arrived. To be honest, I was already excited by the room service thing- I have ALWAYS wanted to order room service from a hotel but my parents have never let me because of the price, so that was pretty awesome. The hamper was basic, but pleasant- some sandwiches, some VERY nice cold cut meats, coffee, wine, fruit and salad.
We had such a nice room, with a cool balcony with a beautiful view- but as soon as I got out on to the balcony it started to hail! Seriously I’m not even joking, here is photographic proof- fricking hail in mid-April!!!
After the weather got a little better (but to be fair the weather was acting so weirdly the whole day, hailing one minute, then really warm and sunny the next, and then raining heavily again) we decided to have a little walk around the grounds and check the place out. It’s a very beautiful place, I even loved the chef’s garden- just like its sister hotel, The Priory (in Bath), it has got a fab veg and herb garden, to use fresh local ingredients in their dishes.
I kinda wish the weather had been a bit warmer, because then we might have seen a few more of the nice spring flowers that normally would have been out by now, but there were still plenty of pretty flowers along the way, these being a few of them.
We stumbled across their adorable mini-golf course; I was so annoyed that I hadn’t bought any suitable shoes! I so would have had a little game of golf if I wasn’t in my heels (even though I am actually so rubbish at golf, I still really really enjoy it).
Gorgeous woodland walk though, and a nice little nature trail as well- but we turned back soon after getting onto the trail because it started to rain loads and the water levels were definitely rising, making the trail (which was all over little streams and slippery rocks) a little dangerous. Once we got refreshed back at the hotel, and got dressed for dinner we figured it was time for *Gin and tonic o clock* and we knew we’d soon be ready for our appetisers soon after that! Now this is when things start to get interesting, and a little bit delicious….

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.
Once the menus were taken away, the amuse bouches were served to us in the lounge- from the left langoustine bisque, smoked aubergine mousse with red pepper and basil, and duck confit with orange. I tasted the langoustine bisque, as it did smell delicious (as lobster always does) but my taste buds fail me again- with the sip I take, I think, WOW, this is delicious, but then as soon as I’ve swallowed it all I can taste is fish and then the after taste disgusts me. I’ve always had that with lobster and crab- I know they are delicious, and meaty too, but I just can’t get over the fishy aftertaste. The other amuse bouche were absolutely gorgeous though. We got taken to the main dining hall, where we were poured our wine and given a pre-appetiser “compliments of the chef”…….and I didn’t like it!!!
I can’t believe I sent back a plate of food, in a 2 Michelin starred restaurant- how many people in the world have dared do that! Lol! It’s because when it arrived it was obvious I was not going to like it- Nick accepted it, but I was like no, I can’t eat this. It was made of salmon mousse, with two types of caviar, croutes, crème fraiche and little mini balls of apple. Beautiful isn’t it? Nick enjoyed it anyway. When I said I cant eat this, I don’t like fish or seafood, they all started apologising loads, being really sorry, as if it was a mistake they had made or something- I was just thinking, guys it not your fault I don’t happen to like fish! Lol!

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.
Fairly soon after that our main course arrived, which of course was gorgeous and stunning as well. Presentation-wise it was really interesting, because our plates were put down, and then a waitress came over with the tapenade jus and poured it from a gravy boat for us, which I thought was a funny way of doing it- perhaps the sauce separates too quickly from when it’s taken from the pass, which is why they do it at the table? Everything tasted really rich and beautiful, could’ve had my lamb rarer than this definitely, but it was still very pleasant.
Me and Nick then looked at the dessert menu- Nick was kinda tempted by the cheese board, which we had seen coming out for other customers- as a whole trolley, where you would tell the waitress what you want from the trolley and she would silver serve it to you with whatever accompaniments you wanted. None of the cheeses looked like my cuppa tea really so I went for the passion fruit mousse, with pineapple confit, mango sorbet, freeze dried pineapple and coconut foam. Nick went for the “Trio of Chocolate”- Dark chocolate mousse, milk chocolate and hazelnut parfait in a chocolate teardrop (in fact I knew a chef that did a 24 hour shift at a restaurant ONLY making chocolate tear drops for a food festival- mad! Lol!), and white chocolate ice cream. My dessert was gorgeous, fresh and zingy, whilst Nick’s dessert and very rich, sweet and smooth. The chocolate and hazelnut parfait was amazing!
Was so funny, when the main waiter came back he said to Nick “and did you let Madame try any of your chocolate sir?”- I think most women choose this dessert I think!! I asked him a question at the table actually, because he seemed really friendly, talking to all the other dinner guests, I asked him whether Michael Caines (the head chef there- who is SO amazing and inspiring, he’s a 2 Michelin star chef/ celebrity chef, but he only has one arm!) actually spends much time chef-ing in the restaurant (because I know once a lot of chefs get onto TV, they spend much less time in their restaurants that made them famous in the first place) and the waiter said that yes, he always spends 4 days a week in restaurant, which I think he is impressive, considering how much else he does on tv/ gourmet food events/festivals/ cookery classes as well. Nice to see a “celebrity” chef that hasn’t lost his catering roots *cough* Gordon Ramsey *cough* Jamie Oliver *cough cough*.
So we were asked if we would like any coffee or after dinner drinks, Nick said no and I asked for a coffee, and we practically both got given ANOTHER dessert! We got given loads of delicious homemade chocolates, generous petit fours, and I had some beautiful coffee with them. Was so stuffed after the meal (which I was surprised about as I thought it being Michelin that there would be very small portions but I thought they were very generous actually) and to finish the luxury night all off, I had a big bubble bath in the amazing double sized bath in our hotel room, with a glass of the complimentary madeira….ahh! How the other half live ey??
In the morning we had our complimentary breakfast, which was really pleasant actually- cold cereals and cold cut meats and hams, delicious croissants, as we had some cooked breakfast as well (I don’t know who their meat supplier is but the sausages were stunning). When they served us the hot food they asked us “any sauces Madame, sir?” and there was a pause and I was like awkwardly “…..ketchup?” and he came over and silver served us “red sauce” (what you’re supposed to call it in posh circles I guess??). We thought we would do something else with the day, instead of just driving back- we were going to visit this “Castle Drogo” which we had seen loads of signs for on our way there, but we couldn’t find it, so we decided to go and see Exeter Cathedral instead. OMG what a beautiful cathedral, but (and I apologise if any of my followers are from here, but it’s just my opinion from being there for a day) Exeter is such a shithole!!! Literally! We had a rip-off terrible lunch there; it was really hard to find any nice looking restaurants anyway because they were all either tea shops, pubs (that served “freezer food”- not proper pub grub) or places like KFC/MacDonald’s. All the people looked really chavvy and most of the buildings did too. What a ghastly place. Shall never go to Exeter again, unless dragged by force! Gorgeous Cathedral though, so it is worth a visit for that, but bring a packed lunch or something, lol!
Had such a wonderful time at Gidleigh Park, and got a gorgeous hamper and some Tickler cheese, and a cheeseboard + knife set when I got home, so I would really like to say thank you to Tickler- for giving me and my boyfriend a well-deserved, amazing luxury break to two really hard working people that needed it.

No comments:

Post a Comment