Local fans of nose-to-tail eating no longer need feel jealous of Londoners who can indulge at St John restaurant at Smithfield because the concept has come to Dartmoor.
The setting is the Edwardian Grill at the rather fabulous Bovey Castle, and it achieves something St John can never hope to – access to beef that’s reared just a slow bovine amble from the kitchen door.
Breeds such as black angus, south devons and galloway cattle (chosen for their good eating qualities) are reared in the traditional manner on the upper reaches of the rugged Dartmoor terrain, then gradually brought down for finishing on the lush lower pastures of the moor. It never leaves Dartmoor where it’s born, reared and slaughtered to order for Bovey’s chef Marc Hardiman.
If that sounds rather rustic and bucolic, don’t make the mistake of expecting the food to be similarly hearty; Marc’s confident skill brings the beauty out of the beast in dishes such as an elegantly retrained tartar served with panfried quail’s egg, potato mousseline and caviar. Similarly, the home smoked sirloin is a delight to the eye as much as the palette with its accompaniments of hog’s pudding, cauliflower and horseradish pomme puree. Other nose-to-tail morsels include sticky braised oxtail, and ox cheek with celeriac mash, garlic and snails.
It’s very accomplished cooking for a chef who’s still only 30. A prótegé of Stuart McLeod, Marc’s been at the castle for ten months and this brand new menu sees him putting his personal stamp on the restaurant.
It’s not all about beef however. There are excellent fish and vegetarian dishes on the menu and Marc’s signature Plymouth Gin-cured mackerel starter with deep fried soft shell crab, daikon, crushed hazelnuts, and cucumber sorbet provides a serious foodie experience. Similarly the desserts are exceptional, particularly a lemon tart that’s a perfect example of the genre.
You don’t have to be a resident to dine at the grill so dinner also provides the opportunity to delight in the storybook architecture, beautiful grounds, coffee by a crackling log fire and the relaxed, unstuffy ambience. Highly recommended. JR