Restaurant review: Great Western Restaurant at Bovey Castle, Dartmoor in Devon
Sat in the belly of Bovey Castle is Great Western Restaurant, the hotel’s main eatery and hub of decadence and glamour on Dartmoor.
Named after previous owners, Great Western Railway, who acquired the hotel in 1930 and ran it as a golfing hotel for 30 years, the restaurant has seen recent redecoration and updates to bring it to the level of the hotel.
On a previous visit a few years ago, I had felt that the food didn’t quite match the grandeur of the hotel so I was really looking forward to a second visit after hearing that renovations had taken place. My fellow guest, Nick, and I got dressed up for an evening of indulgent food and luxury at the Art Deco inspired, Great Western restaurant.
Before our dining began we took a seat in The Oak Bar for an aperitif of Prosecco and amuse bouche of cheese and mushroom breadsticks, beef carpaccio in a cone and Gruyère puffs. The bar, with its wood panelled walls, luxurious drapes and comfy armchairs set the scene for an exciting evening ahead. We made our dinner choices from the seasonal menu and made our way to the large glamorous restaurant.
The décor was sumptuous; deep purple velvet cloths sat under crisp white linen table cloths, soft cushioned dining chairs matched the long, purple, luxurious curtains, which hang from tall windows while large chandeliers hang from high ceilings. Mirrored pillars and silver candlesticks match metallic wallpaper and truffle coloured walls to celebrate a bygone era of glamour and opulence. We took our seats and enjoyed an appetiser of beetroot panna cotta with apple jelly and oats on top as well as a mini loaf of warm bacon, cheese and onion bread. We enjoyed the sounds of a piano tinkling away with the pianist playing a great selection of songs to enjoy.
For my first food choice of the evening I had gone for the ‘South Coast Rock Pool,’ which consisted of seared hand dived scallops, cockles, clams and oyster emulsion. This dish was perfection from the minute I first set eyes on it; the predominantly white food contrasted beautifully against a black plate and the delicate textures and delicious flavours made for a winning start to the meal. Also on the plate sat some sea vegetables and a sprinkling of breadcrumbs, which added a lovely crunchy texture. The scallops were plump and juicy and cooked to perfection while the cockles were prepared in batter and were gorgeous. The oyster foam added a luxurious flavour, while a glass of Argentinian white wine complemented it all brilliantly. Overall it was a sweet, light and flavoursome dish, which brought the tastes of the sea together on one plate.
Nick’s choice of starter was the roast quail with pine nuts, pears and dandelion, topped off with a blackberry sauce. The elements of the dish were well presented with each item being fanned out on the plate. Nick said the bird was well used, the pear added the right amount of sweetness and the pine nuts were lovely pockets of tastiness, all contributing towards a fantastic plate of food.
My main course option was just as pleasing for me as the starter, with a range of flavours and textures as well as eye-catching presentation. I chose a smoked rump of Devon Red beef, which came with beer braised cheek, maple roast squash, violet potato gnocchi and wild mushrooms. A nest of crispy cooked grated onions also sat on the plate with green leaves, which offered more colour to an already appealing dish. Combinations of sweet and salty, rich and light, crunchy and smooth and tender and rough all married together well. The rump was delightfully tender while the cheek was rich and delicate with a melt in the mouth texture and great crunch on top. A lovely glass of Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot accompanied this and I feel that the wine pairings on both dishes were perfect for me. The squash was sweet and the purple coloured gnocchi was nice, if not a little stodgy. There was a lot going on with this plate of food but I liked that. So far, this is Michelin level dining in my opinion.
On to Nick’s main course option of Old Spot Pork with salt caramel carrots, baked turnips and a roast apple purée. He described the flavours as divine and he said the pork was beautiful, tender and full of flavour, especially the braised pork, which sat inside. The caramelised carrots were moreish for him and he said it was a deep and flavoursome dish with fantastic presentation.
To end our dining experience with panache, Nick decided to sample the warm banana soufflé while I liked the look of the 9th hole chocolate tree stump. My ‘tree stump’ resembled its name and was made of dark chocolate with lime sorbet piped inside. The cold sorbet made the thin chocolate cool and crispy, which I loved, and the sharpness of the flavour expertly cut through the richness of the chocolate. Also on the plate sat delicious chunks of milk chocolate whisps with white chocolate ‘toadstools’ sat on top. The woodland theme continued with dark chocolate curls on top sprinkled with green ‘moss’ (cardamom). Overall this dish was exquisite, the abundance of chocolate, prepared in varying ways, was rich and velvety and presented in a really fun way while the refreshing and sharp sorbet opposed this, making it a varied and delicious plate of food to consume.
Nick’s banana soufflé with corn ice cream and malt toffee sauce looked very appetising. He said that the soufflé had a nice soft texture and strong banana flavour while the toffee sauce was very sweet and the subtle flavoured ice cream was a nice cooling element of the dish.
It is safe to say that every course has been a great success for us both and I know that if we had chosen other items on the menu we would have been just as pleased. Perhaps I was lucky to have my favourite food combinations right in front of me but either way, this is award-winning food packed with flavour, finesse and damn fine presentation. I urge you to visit and try it out for yourself.
In a nutshell
This first-rate restaurant does its hosting hotel proud. We were looked after so well from the minute we arrived in the bar to the minute we left. The ambience is wonderful while the food has been very carefully thought out. I enjoyed this evening a lot, and I was lucky enough to stay in the luxurious hotel as well.
Address: Bovey Castle, Dartmoor National Park, North Bovey, Devon TQ13 8RE /01647 445000