Restaurant Review: The Gallery at Boringdon Hall Hotel, Plymouth in Devon
This is my second visit to Boringdon Hall in 8 months and things are certainly changing. New chef Scott Paton has been installed, the waiting service has improved and a luxurious spa is launching in August ’16.
The four star manor house hotel was basking in glorious sunshine when my dining partner, Nick and I arrived. Standing on the edge of Dartmoor, the hotel, which has one thousand year old origins, is elegant and grand with a sumptuous, classic interior.
We enjoyed a drink in the Great Hall, which serves classic cocktails and has light pouring through the large windows, before being shown to our table in the gallery restaurant space. The head chef came to greet us and explained the changes he has started to implement since his four week start date, including the retraining of the restaurant staff to extend their knowledge of the food being served. He explained that he has brought a few signature dishes with him and has crafted some new seasonal plates as well. Since my last visit I would certainly agree that the service has improved, with all staff members who visited our table at various points in the evening keen to pass on their knowledge.
After we perused the menu our sommelier, Alexandra, chose some wines with us to pair with our food choices and I was happy to try anything she suggested. She checked in regularly with us and we were very pleased with each pairing. Before our first course arrived we enjoyed a canapé of a four cheese sablé, which was a delicate, crumbly biscuit packed with goat’s cheese, Parmesan, Pecorino and Cheddar flavours. Next up was an amuse bouche of layered pear jelly and Roquefort panna cotta topped with walnut pieces and chives. This was gorgeous – I don’t love the intense flavour of Roquefort cheese on its own but here it was calmed with the refreshing pear and earthy walnut and chive tastes. We greatly enjoyed this dish agreeing that it was tasty and well put together.
During this we enjoyed some breads, while chatting about the relaxed atmosphere of the place. The restaurant space itself is small and would be quite enclosed if not for the gallery style layout looking down to the Great Hall below. String instrumental music guided us through our meal with interesting and upbeat tunes such as Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean and the Indiana Jones theme tune serenading us.
For my starter I opted for a dish that I had actually sampled at Scott’s previous restaurant as I was intrigued to see if, or how, it had changed. The signature dish consisted of seared Orkney scallops served with spiced peanut, watermelon and lime. Alexandra paired this with an old world white from the German/Spanish border that had tastes of stone fruits and red apple and also possessed determination like me, I was told! I am not a fan of watermelon but the refreshing fruit certainly works well with the light satay flavours here. I think the combination of juicy scallops and peanut – the flavour and texture – are an incredible combination, however there weren’t a lot of scallop pieces on my plate. For a £12 dish I would have hoped for a little more, however it didn’t take anything away from this delicious plate of food. I was thrilled with my choice and certainly saw in improvement since the last time I tried it.
Nick had requested the smoked pork belly with peas, mint and parliament sauce for his starter and, upon arrival, it smelled delightful with its meaty, smoky scents. He really enjoyed this, commenting on the good balance of flavours throughout. The peas and mint added a lighter, summery element to the dish, while the sauce (a version of HP sauce) offered smoky, rich and fruity flavours. His only gripe? No crackling! Both starters were presented beautifully, elegantly and were full of colour, and our wine selections (Nick had a glass of South African Chenin Blanc) were a spot on pairing for the food.
Next up for our main courses and I opted for a fillet of turbot with lobster and tarragon blanquette and garden vegetables with a side of rustic cut chips and selection of spring greens to share with Nick. I was impressed with this dish – the food looked so summery and colourful, the smells were divine and the light, sweet flavours complementing the fish were delicious – I wanted to savour every bite. I love the meatiness of turbot and this portion had a lovely crispy layer on it, the lobster in the pasta parcels was the best way I have sampled the shellfish and the selection of vegetables (carrot, spring onions, tenderstem broccoli) made this a very well put together dish. It was fresh, fruity, sweet and colourful with delicate textures and flavours and the chips on the side were deliciously crisp and chunky. I mentioned my love of red wine to Alexandra so she chose a Tasmanian Pinot Noir (2014, Devil’s Corner), which was slightly chilled and divine in its silkiness.
Nick described his main course of dry aged Devon lamb with boulangère potato, basil, aubergine and courgette as “a celebration of lamb.” There were two chunky pieces of the meat with a bit of flavoursome fat as well as a rich, dense meatball and there was also a textured shoulder of lamb between layers of the potato. Nick commented that the potato was very tasty and soft with the vegetable soaking up the rich lamb flavour well. He had some crunchy greens on his plate and a basil drizzle added a refreshing flavour to the meat. We both thoroughly enjoyed our main courses and agreed that the presentation, again, was great.
For dessert I couldn’t resist the winning combination (in my eyes) of mint and chocolate so I opted for the milk chocolate mousse with peppermint sorbet and mint chocolate creameux. This dessert had lots of interesting things going on including small chunks of brownie, crisp dark chocolate swirls, the smooth mousse and more dense and less rich delicious creameux, all lifted nicely with the fresh and tasty sorbet.
Nick’s dessert was a raspberry mousse with pistachio and a raspberry sorbet and the chef made full use of the berry here. A round mousse with a thin gelatinous layer on top sat on a large pretty swirl of raspberry coulis, while juicy berries and the light sharp sorbet were sat next to moist, dense pieces of pistachio cake, while little pieces of crunchy meringue and silver leaf finished off this fantastically presented dish. Nick loved it.
After this we were brought a pot of loose leaf tea – camomile for me and Darjeeling for Nick – chosen from an extensive menu, along with some earl grey macarons, rose water and raspberry jellies, dark chocolates and white chocolate and Champagne balls. A wooden box was brought out with the glass teapot on, which was poured for us into a glass jug and then a drinking glass. I like the extra efforts that have gone into this, and throughout the evening, to extend a dinner to an evening’s dining experience.
In a nutshell
The food and presentation of ingredients is really creative and colourful with an emphasis on British dining and showcasing a single ingredient. I love the introduction of the tea course at the end and though I would say I enjoyed the food just as much on my previous visit, the quality of service has improved with the waiting staff giving it their all. I’m certainly looking forward to my next visit.
Address: Boringdon Hall Hotel, Boringdon Hill, Plymouth, Devon PL7 4DP