I don’t know about you, but a typical Tuesday night never normally comprises of anything majorly exciting, does it? There might be a little exercise involved, followed by the never ending question of “what do you want for dinner?”, cooking said dinner after a lengthy decision making process, before getting comfy in front of the television with a blanket ready to watch a particularly popular baking program (if it’s the right time of year). I imagine no one can guess which classic Great British show I am sarcastically hinting about? Even Paul Hollywood himself is totally oblivious. However, it’s not every Tuesday evening you have opportunity to dine at a brand new North Devon fine dining restaurant. Not only is it one of the finer restaurants around, it is based at one of the areas most popular hotel destinations. The Seacliff Restaurant at Sandy Cove Hotel, Berrynarbor, gave me that Friday feeling three days early.
Stylish and Scenic
Everywhere in North Devon is beautiful, in my biased opinion, but the setting of The Seacliff Restaurant is second to none. Perched proudly upon a cliff top, the whole hotel stares across the ocean with views that make time stand still for just a second. With a wall of glass doors fronting the restaurant, those same panoramic views can be drunk in like their Rhubarb and Raspberry Mimosa. A cocktail on a Tuesday? You bet! It’s lucky I have visited Sandy Cove Hotel once before for a family wedding in the middle of summer because it was now 7pm at the beginning of November and the view was, well, darkness, but that did not matter in the slightest.
Walking through the main restaurant-bar area, you are greeted by large glass doors, proudly etched with the restaurants name. Before the door was opened by their wonderful staff member, Natasha, the slick and stylish restaurant décor shone through like the sun on that delightful family wedding day, if it were light outside. The black and grey theme with low lit lighting was clean, crisp and made me feel like I was somewhere really special and that was before the food started arriving. Every table was laid ready to be dined at and enjoyed. Happily tucked away in the corner, it felt personal and private. With my outfit choice also being black and white, I blended in perfectly and was surprised Natasha didn’t lose me. Thankfully, she found us in our camouflaged bubble to bring amazing service and, of course, the dishes; all six of them.
Six Course Taster Menu
Nothing says fine dining like a carefully constructed taster menu and the intricate details of stunning presentation. I am a huge fan of fine dining and just love the whole experience, not just the food (although, that is the main attraction) and The Seacliff restaurant gave us just that: a full fine dining experience.
Artisan Bread and Amuse Bouche
Acquainted with my blush pink bubbling glass of Mimosa and Rob his large glass of Merlot, the taster menu began the only way it can and should; with bread, butter and a small morsel to get the taste buds excited. If I am honest, my taste buds had been excited for a good few weeks! Served slightly warm, the Raisin and Walnut bread was perfectly formed, soft and had a wonderful chew to it. With a pop of raisin sweetness every so often, it contrasted the two savoury butters: Chicken Skin butter and Marmite butter. I will be honest here and admit I am a hater when it comes to Marmite, but add that rich, savoury flavour to creamy butter? I slathered it over my petite loaf; a background note of the famous flavour, rather than the strong punch in the face you receive when spooning it straight from the jar. Strange people who do that, however, I cannot comment as I do the same with peanut butter all too regularly (no regrets). Moving over to the second perfectly quinellaed butter, I once more coated my ever diminishing homemade loaf with the distinct taste of chicken skin. It really does blow my mind the things chefs can combine. With pieces of crispy skin mixed into the butter, it was like eating the best roast chicken sandwich, ever. Totally contrasting the creamy, savoury bread and butter was the light and refreshing Pea, Mint and Fermented Turnip tartlet. Pastry so thin it crunched and melted, before experiencing the layers of garden freshness: pea and mint puree topped with a cloud like fermented turnip foam. Delicious.
It’s always exciting when you read a menu and you don’t quite know what something is. It’s the perfect opportunity to experience an ingredient that could potentially knock your socks off. And if not, well, you gave it a shot at least. This was one of those moments of having no idea what Natasha was going to serve us and it came as no surprise that is was a triumph. Dumpling, Guinness and Winter Truffle; three simple words that created, and I quote my own words, “an English version of a boa bun”. A pillowy soft dumpling that when cut open, oozed with Baron Bigod cheese, which was mild and creamy, whilst swimming in the deep depths of a Guinness based sauce, which tasted like the best hoisin sauce you have ever swallowed. Finally, a heavy dusting of winter truffle that speaks for itself. A big bowl of these dumpling delights would make anyone happy.
The fish course; the one I always most look forward to thanks to a love of fish. Tag onto that the word ‘curry’ and you’re basically my new best friend. The ever recognisable white, flaky flesh of cod was transformed by Head Chef, Carla, into a delicately intricate plate. The cod itself was shaped into a cylinder and marinated over night to produce a firm, yet surprisingly soft, piece of art. A coating of sesame granola provided a much needed crunch against the delicate fish as well as a earthy hit of nut. A definite elevation on the traditional crispy batter. Small dots of cured egg yolk topped with off-white piece of cod and provided the beloved curry note. If that could be served in a small polystyrene container (you know the one), that would be great to dip future chips into. Throwing all visions of mushy peas out the window, the split avocado sauce made its way around the plate like actual fish in the ocean. I was unsure about avocado element when reading the menu, but once more, there was obviously no reason to worry. The sauce added freshness and a slight creaminess, all at the same time and the vibrant avocado colour made the cod shine bright like a diamond.
I will cut straight to the point on this course; with no pastry in sight, every single bite tasted like a big forkful of warming winter pie. Mind. Blown (I know I use that phrase a lot, but seriously, my head was almost rolling on the wooden grey floor). Under the amoretti sprinkled pastry that actually wasn’t pastry (head still rolling around), lay the most comforting and rich rabbit meat filling with the added red sparkle of sweet popping pomegranate seeds. The deep brown rabbit filling was melt in the mouth and lean. When eaten altogether with the pasty-not-pastry (head now almost rolling out of the restaurant) and the crunchy amoretti crumb, I wanted to hop out of my seat with happiness and to also retrieve my head.
I first learned of wagyu beef many years ago, probably watching some form of weekend cooking program, and honestly thought that it would be an ingredient I would never have the privilege to experience. This legendary marbled beef was made to sound almost like a fantasy, so this tasting opportunity had me literally moo-ing (terrible pun). Perfectly rested and served medium rare, this very much real life wagyu cut like butter and melted like it too and with outstanding accompaniments, it was the star of the tasting menu. The bone marrow hash brown was intensely crispy on the outside, encasing the soft and slightly fatty, but in a very good way, potato filling. The velvety smooth black garlic was deliciously mild in flavour and made its way onto every forkful. The Roscoff onion provided a charred bitterness that cut through the marbled wagyu, before the slightly sweet barbeque sauce rounded off the dish with a hint of hoisin flavour, similar to that of the Baron Bigod first course. It’s safe to say that real life wagyu is much much better than the fantasy portrayed by our television boxes.
Key Lime Pie
Paul Hollywood would most definitely not be oblivious to this dessert as he has stated many a time on said famous British baking show, it is his all time favourite dessert (if that sentence has just confused you, re-fresh yourself with paragraph one) and I can see why. Once more the attention to detail by Head Chef Carla and her team was second to none. The dessert was deconstructed, which can be risky and unimaginative if I have learned anything from watching Marcus Wearing tear down talented chefs on another evening slot cooking competition. Marcus wasn’t available this particular Tuesday evening, or Paul for that matter, and I love a dessert, so whatever Natasha was going to put in front of my eye was more than likely going to be happily eaten. And guess what? This deconstructed key lime pie was more than worthy of a Hollywood Handshake. You would be fooled into thinking that the awesomely bright lime was real; the smoothness and tiny dimples would leave Marcus speechless. It was in fact a palette cleansing, silky lime, that wasn’t a lime, encasing a vibrant lime gel. Laying on a bed of biscuit crumb, the lime that wasn’t a lime, was given texture before a sticky and sweet meringue ending. What does Marcus know anyway?
Pear, Chocolate, Hazelnut and Ginger
With our palette’s cleansed by a lime in disguise, what better way to end a stunning six course tasting menu than with a splattering of our good friend, chocolate. Following in the footsteps of its fellow fruit, the white chocolate pear mousse tried to fool our minds once more with flawless detail and yet another encased fruit gel (pear, obviously). Hints of fiery ginger were subtlety flowing throughout the whole dessert, cutting through the sweetness and creaminess of the pear. The ginger cake was just that, and who doesn’t love cake? Probably lovers of Marmite. As always, nuts added an earthy quality and I loved the crushed hazelnuts sprinkled around the plate. Amongst the cool, chocolatey mousse and fiery ginger was a super sweet treat in the form of shards of honeycomb. My eyes lit up when the sixth and final plate was place in front of me. Full of air pockets, I dived right in with my eager fingers and crunched down on the golden nugget; oh how joyfully sweet it was. All of my sweet tooth’s were extremely happy; not just with the honeycomb, but the whole dessert. Plus, who doesn’t want their evening to consist of not one amazing dessert, but two stunning desserts? Again, probably those Marmite lovers.
Definitely a Lover, Not a Hater, of The Seacliff Restaurant
Whether a random weekday evening, or a special weekend treat, spending your time surrounded by stylish décor, amazing views as far as they eyes can see and, most importantly, food so detailed you don’t want to ruin what your eyes are drinking in, is what you will experience and more at The Seacliff Restaurant. More? Welcoming, attentive and knowledgeable staff; enjoyable background music (I want the playlist); and deliciously drinkable handmade cocktails. Enjoy the finer side of life from Carla and her team that makes you want keep enjoying it again and again, just like me.
I would like to thank Carla for inviting me to The Seacliff Restaurant to taste and experience their Autumn taster menu.
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