Since this week has been all about the big ‘M’ word (Michelin, not Manning) and debates over where the best food in the country can be found, I thought it was high time I shared with you our experience of what the marvellous Mr M has described has the best meal we have ever eaten.
You might remember that earlier this year we toddled off to the Roseland Peninsula in Cornwall for some R&R, plenty of seaside walks, and a general food-filled few days. We visited The Nare Hotel as a bit of an unexpected find and tried, but failed, to visit the famous Hidden Hut. But the special treat of the trip was our visit to the restaurant at The Driftwood Hotel in Rosevine, just outside Portscatho.
It’s had rave reviews from the press and the public, it’s in a picture-perfect setting, and Chef Chris Eden and his team have just retained their hard-earned Michelin star. In short, I’m not quite sure why it’s taken me so long to tell you about it!
I’ve mentioned the setting but I think this is one of those times when a picture speaks a thousand words. We’d actually stumbled on Driftwood on our way back from a hefty coastal path walk to build up an appetite for our dinner, and the sight of its gorgeous gardens and light, sophisticated seaside feel just made me more excited than ever that we’d booked in for dinner.
We returned later slightly more appropriately dressed for a fine dining haven and though it was a bit chilly out on the deck, we couldn’t resist enjoying a drink out there taking in the views which are, quite frankly, rather magical. And if you’re ever trying to work out how to take your mind off feeling a bit cold, I can thoroughly recommend perusing a good restaurant’s menus as a distraction.
After much deliberation, we finally decided to blow the budget rather hugely and go for the 10-course tasting menu. I know, I know. Over-the-top, indulgent, ridiculous. And equally magnificent, marvellous and worth every penny.
In fact, we knew we were on to a good thing before we’d even gone inside. I mean, good views are great and all that, but it’s canapes like this that steal the show. Look at that. Food artistry. The gorgeous pink creation is a beetroot meringue with cream cheese, the croquette-looking ball a kind of donut with spicy lamb that reminded me a bit of kofta but a thousand times more delicate, and the third offering was a rice cracker with smoked salmon mousse. Again, not much I can write here is going to do it justice, so just feast your eyes on that beautiful bowl.
Inside we found ourselves in a restaurant that just oozed calm. Light and bright yet relaxed and peaceful. Even if you weren’t treated to the same views as on the deck through glass windows that allow the glorious vista to come right to you, you’d know you were by the sea thanks to the simple yet elegant decor.
It’s peaceful and quiet but in Mr M’s view (and he looks out for this kind of thing) not stuffy in the slightest. It’s the kind of place where you feel a tiny bit self-conscious for snapping pictures of your food but the beauty of the courses and their sheer number meant I just couldn’t resist so swallowed my nerves and have managed to give you a peep of every single morsel we wrapped out lips around – even the homemade bread.
I’ve decided I’m not going to give you a full-on lowdown of every single course. There’s lots of them and it will mean I end up writing the War and Peace of all blog posts. Be assured, they were all great and my words will simply not do them justice. And so here is a brief look at each of the stunning courses we enjoyed during our magical evening.
1. Heritage tomato salad, fowey crab, gazpacho jelly, basil oil.
Locally-sourced, beautiful presented, packed with fresh tastes of summer and the sea.
2. Porthilly Rock oysters, Heirloom Beetroots, Fennel, Cucumber & Nasturtium
I think this was one of my faves. Oysters two ways – one as part of this artistic rainbow arrangement. The second with a tiny Borrower-sized cheese tart.
3. Curgurrell Corner Salad, Raw, Cooked & Pickled, Herbs, Flowers & Fresh Chamomile Curd
Another simple, locally-sourced (from just down the road apparently) course. The great thing about tasting menus is you’re forced to go out of your comfort zone, which is exactly what this did. A mixture of raw, cooked and pickled herbs and flowers isn’t anything Jamie or I would ever choose – and might not again – but great food is all about trying new things and pushing the boundaries, whether that’s you pushing your own or a chef trying something different.
4. Seared Plaice, St Austell Bay Mussels, Parsley, Runner Beans & Violet Artichoke
The plaice was, as you know it will be, perfectly cooked – tender with a slight crispy edge and well matched with the runner beans and artichoke.
5. Pan fried Turbot, Pea Puree, Spring Vegetables, Gem Lettuce, Potato Crisp & Hollandaise Sauce
Now this was definitely one of my faves. Maybe because it’s all quite classic, who knows. I like turbot anyway but I just thought the colours, the textures and the flavours were a winning combination.
6. Honey Glazed Duck Breast, Duck Leg Croustillant, Hay Baked Carrot, Plum, Dukkha & Kohlrabi
This course, with a slight hint of the oriental, was the point that Mr M started getting excited because we moved off fish and onto some slightly more carnivorous courses.
7. 40 Day Old Fillet of Ruby Red Beef Cooked Over Coals, Smoked Bone Marrow, Garlic & Spinach
One Mr M had been waiting for all night. Can you go wrong with a beautifully-aged bit of fillet? No. Especially not when it comes with a deep, dark smokiness, bone marrow, and tangy garlic.
8. Cheese from the Board, Cider Caramel & Fresh Honeycomb
We’re so used to having dessert followed by cheese that it always throws us a bit when it’s served the other way round. Years ago we went to the Loire Valley where the cheese boards were as impressive as they come, but Driftwood’s certainly gave them a run for their money. I’d love to say I wrote down the exact ones we had but I was far too down the path of food heaven by this point to stop to do sensible things like that.
9. Curgurrell Corner Lemon Verbena Sorbet, White Chocolate and Macadamia Nuts
With so much indulgence down the hatch – and all full of what must have been hundreds of different delicate flavours – by this point it was questionable whether we would make it to the end of all 10 courses. Many guests had left, the wine was nearly gone, and the beautiful views had faded into a black night sky.
Fortunately for us, the lemon sorbet was just what the doctor ordered. Palate cleansing and light after such a lot of richness, yet packing a lemony punch that you wouldn’t have thought could be contained in such a delicate dish.
10. Driftwood Chocolate Bar, Salted Peanut Honeycomb & Milk Sorbet
And so to the finale. If we’d just about recovered, we were pushed right back into digestive oblivion by the final course. Never again will the words ‘chocolate bar’ be taken so lightly. But it wasn’t just classless gluttony. This was a precision operation of carefully-balanced layers to create a denouement that put the full stop – no, an exclamation mark actually – on what was an absolutely unforgettable meal.
Fortunately for us, we’d walked to the Driftwood so managed to drag our bodies out of what could easily have become a food-induced coma to get back to our tent (in case I hadn’t mentioned before, we stay in a tent because that way we can spend more on food. Cunning huh?).
The walk along the coast path (in the dark – not to be advised) took about half an hour and in that time we talked of nothing else but the different courses and how mind-blowingly great the food was.
In the wake of the latest Michelin guide, I found myself talking to a fellow food fan and blogger this week about how we can get swept up in stars and find ourselves raving about meals that were great – but not glorious – just because they’ve been awarded a star by that acclaimed publication. I have to admit, I worry I do this. I love food and I can get swept up in waxing lyrical about something when a few weeks later I come to the conclusion that, yes, it was good, but it probably wasn’t quite as amazing as I thought at the time.
We went to Driftwood back in July, so I’ve had time to let my thoughts simmer – to get a bit of distance and to think about how good our meal really was. And yes, it really was that good.
We paid in full for our meal at Driftwood. They didn’t know I was a blogger.
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