Archives Month: September 2014

Yesterday was another of those delightful days we have so enjoyed this year – clear blue skies, warm sunshine and not a breeze.

The day promised to be very special as we were sharing it with long-term friends to celebrate her 50th birthday and her recovery from serious illness.

Meeting up for coffee at our beloved Darts Farm in Topsham was a sure fire way to set a good tone for the day.

I was not put off by the girly chat in the back of the car as we travelled to the pretty market town of Chagford and then I really had to concentrate as the lanes got really narrow with moss cover dry stone walls which lay in wait for the inattentive or distracted driver. After a further few miles driving into Dartmoor we arrived at the double Michelin starred Gidleigh Park Hotel.

Valet parking and the welcome outside the front door was a good indication of the attention and detail you receive throughout your time at Gidleigh.

A glass of wine and an aperitif to wake up the palate while relaxing with the menu and catching up made sure we were very ready to experience our five star lunch.

Our table in the window, overlooking the gardens and parkland, was a perfect setting for the food put before us. With Michael Caines as executive chef and Ian Webber as head chef what could go wrong.

The opening gambit was Foie Gras Terrine with Truffled Toast followed by Dartmoor Lamb, Boulanger Potatoes and Fennel Puree. Does it get any better? You bet it does, an Assiette of Apricots to finish, or so we thought!
The presentation of the food was stunning, the flavour superb and the service, attentive, friendly and relaxed. The wines complimented the lunch which ended with coffee and petit fours on the terrace.

Hats off to Michael Caines and all the staff at Gidleigh.

The only blemish of the day was seeing a fellow diner getting too friendly with a granite wall on the way back to Chagford in his new, shiny, black BMW.

If you can manage to get to Chagford this week, visit the Chagford Film Festival and enjoy free screenings in their mobile cinema. If you are too busy this week make a point of visiting soon. The town is fascinating, the autumn colours are magical, Gidleigh is a treasure and you can also visit Drogo Castle, the last castle to be built in England.

There is so much to enjoy in Devon and the South West, just slow down and take a staycation.

Do you watch DIY SOS The Big Build – Thursday night + a large box of tissues and be prepared to be choked and inspired.

Daily, at Armada, we are presented with propositions for people who are determined to make a future for themselves. Folk who put their savings on the line and commit their destiny to hard work in order to run a new venture.

Gone are the days when banks put up all the money and if the business failed you dropped the keys on the bank’s mat. Now if you can’t swim nobody throws you a lifeline, you drown.

Duncan and Luisa are the new breed of entrepreneurs. They were both disenchanted with their previous careers but refused to waste their lives carping and dragging their feet.

In 2013 they decided to jump in the deep end and opened the Grazing Shed, a new burger joint, in Cardiff.

Like so many entrepreneurs these days, Duncan & Luisa focused on making their restaurant the best. All their produce is sourced locally, packaging and waste are kept to a minimal and they understand that quality and service are critical.

Their commitment, hard work and thoughtful approach has resulted in The Grazing Shed being voted the best burger joint in Wales within 12 months of opening.

Being able to support folk like Duncan & Luisa every day is a privilege and an inspiration. Break open another box of tissues mother!

What a stunning summer we have enjoyed in the South West this year – wall to wall sunshine and next to no rain (sorry gardeners).

Just the other day we decided to drop in on Mitch Tonk’s renowned restaurant in Dartmouth. To break the journey we stopped at Dartington Cider Press shopping village for coffee in the Cranks restaurant. The date slice was perfect as always.

I should have made a run for it then but “the boss” wanted to look around the jewellery department and before I could hide, the plastic got bent on the grandson’s Christmas present – a wooden train track, trains, bridges, a coal yard, the Jewson lot and it’s only September.

After a stroll around Dartmouth, which we know well, we took our table at the Seahorse, overlooking the river. Fortunately Mitch’s partner, Mat Prowse was leading the brigade so we knew it would be special.

Crab gratin pour moi and fresh burrata followed by two plates of chargrilled monkfish accompanied by courgette fritti and buttered lettuce. We couldn’t resist the dessert menu though we should. Her ladyship chose the caramel and espresso pannacotta and her driver made do with the affogato.

Hats off to Mat and Mitch, we’ve travelled a bit but this was probably the finest cooking ever with a perfectly balanced menu and friendly staff that complimented the whole experience.

After a little more window shopping we drove to nearby Blackpool Sands and watched the families swimming and playing on the beach until 6.30 pm.

A perfect ending to a perfect summer.