Alexandra Hall enjoys a local menu at The Wildflower Restaurant in Yelverton
Bruce Cole, the Moorland Garden Hotel's head chef of just ten weeks, sums up his style as: "about putting our neighbours on the menu". Local is a trendy word in contemporary cuisine, but Bruce really sets the bar high: the fish is from Plymouth, poultry from Ashburton, beef from Dartmoor's Greenwell Farm and he drives past the sheep destined for his kitchen on his 15-minute commute to work.
As we peruse Bruce's thoughtfully selected menu we enjoy gin and tonic in the lounge, which is full of colour, rich fabrics and pictures of Dartmoor landscapes. The Wildflower Restaurant has an airy feel, created by the floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the flat, meadow-like, south-facing garden.
I start with the ham hock terrine, which is delicious and well-portioned – enough to whet the appetite for the main event, yet not enough for one to question the need for a dessert. The succulent terrine is crammed with fine-quality meat and peppered with whole grain mustard. The apple cider brandy chutney bears just the right sharpness to cut through its rustic flavour, with the home-baked slices of ciabatta bringing a crisp texture to the dish. My husband's scallops are perfectly cooked and the accompanying ingredients add flavour without being overpowering. The pancetta crisp gives texture and saltiness, the soft butternut an earthy tone, and the beetroot carpaccio and vermouth broth bring a delicious twist.
My main of pork belly has caramel hues, the crab apples and glistening crackling all amassing to a treat of a main course. The meat is perfectly cooked, the apples sweet yet subtly sharp, complemented by the decadent cider jus and sage dumplings.
My husband's fillet steak – produced barely two miles away from the hotel – is excellent, almost crisp on the outside and so succulent it could be cut with a spoon. The flavour is rich with an almost chocolate-like aftertaste.
Our meals conclude with a chocolate pot for me and the treacle tart for my husband. The chocolate dessert clearly represents Bruce's French training – it has a thick, mousse-like consistency, made from very dark chocolate but without any bitterness. The fresh berries and Bourbon vanilla ice cream prevent the dish from being too heavy, while the tuille biscuit provides a satisfying crunch. Dan's treacle tart is more subtle than expected: the tangy combination of rhubarb and ginger has been toned down in the ice cream, so all the flavours build to create a carefully considered sweetness.
The service is friendly, attentive and never intrusive, sparking the perfect balance for a decadent yet relaxed evening. Bruce's philosophy to 'get the most out of each ingredient' is apparent in every dish and when he has sourced the menu so carefully, it's no surprise that the end result is of excellent quality.
Published 3 June 2013
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