The Giant Club is hands down one of the most bizarre places I’ve ever eaten. But it’s also one of the best…
When I used to think about the Axminster food scene, the only place that came to mind was River Cottage Canteen. So, when I kept being told about this ‘great little restaurant that I needed to try’ in Axminster, I had no idea what people were referring to. Cut to Saturday night and as I’m standing across the road from The Giant Club, I’m still a little perplexed about whether or not I had arrived at the right place.
For starters, the restaurant only opens it’s doors to guests twice a week (on Friday & Saturday evenings) and advanced booking is essential. This almost makes you feel like you’re in on some sort of secret club and the mystery doesn’t stop there either. The windows of The Giant Club are completely boarded up and onlookers are met with quirky mannequin hands and painted clouds. Standing there I was immediately put in mind of something straight out of Diagon Alley and I was more than a little intrigued as to what awaited within..
Step inside and things don’t get any less quirky. The irony of the name The Giant Club was not lost on me, as the restaurant is a very humble affair with around 30 covers.The place is run by chefs Gideon & Dan (front of house) and their eclectic taste in art and design plays a large role in the interior layout. The restaurant is lit almost exclusively by candlelight and neon signs, while eccentric artwork adorns almost every inch of free space. I won’t go into too much detail about the decor, because I’ll let you discover it for yourself, but there’s everything from Victorian death masks on display to waxwork heads of famous boxers in drag!
Dinner is a set 6 courses priced at £30pp. Everyone is seated and served at the same time and diners are asked to make their dietary requirements known at the point of booking. Personally, I have no problem with allowing the chef to chose what they serve and I found this price to be outrageously good value when one considers the quality of the ingredients. The Giant Club is all about local, seasonal food and at £5 a course you really can’t go wrong.
The drinks menu features a variety of organic wines and cocktails, including a Whiskey Sour, a Black Cow Vodka Martini and a curiously named Corpse Reviver No.2 (which I learned contained a potent combination of Gin, Cointreau & Absinthe). We ordered a bottle of red wine priced at £23 (Abode Reserva, Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile) and received a bottle of sparkling water for the table.
Goat Buns + Pork Taco + Mackerel & Kelp
The first of 6 courses came in 3 separate stages and were designed as little tasters to enjoy as you catch up with your friends. The night got off to a great start with some fabulous goat buns. These Asian style steamed buns were a very generously sized and were served with a hoisin dipping sauce. All of us loved this dish and the goat (sourced from Childhay Manor) was melt-in-the-mouth good.
Next we were served 3 Pork Tacos that were liberally topped with avocado, coriander and achiote.
These were just the right side of spicy and packed with lots of tangy flavours. I probably wouldn’t order these myself, but my company polished them off in about 2 bites and everyone else seemed to really enjoy them.
To bring together the first course, we were also each presented with a small bowl of kelp and lightly smoked mackerel. This mini plate was incredibly fresh and packed with the flavours of the sea. The kelp was slightly salty, which provided a nice amount of seasoning, and the addition of smoked sesame was lovely.
Hake, Parsley and Courgette
The next course was a fish dish and we were each presented with a lovely piece of hake, along with a parsley sauce and courgette. The hake was meaty and plentiful, while the sauce was subtle and complimented the fish perfectly. My dining partners had nothing but praise for this course and if I had any criticism at all, it would have to be that I would have preferred my fish to have had a crispier skin. Having said that, I highly commend Gideon for being able to prepare so many quality plates at once!
Lamb cooked in coal with runner beans and mint
As a rule, I don’t eat lamb. After bottle feeding a couple of lambs at the Country Living Spring fair, I just can’t get over how adorable they are and I vowed to stop eating them. However, I thought it best to just keep quite about this and enjoy the dish, and despite my initial reservations I loved this course. The lamb tasted like tender tandoori lamb (probably because it was cooked directly in the charcoal) and the runner beans were soft and flavoursome, having been slow cooked in white wine. I’m not saying that lamb is permanently back on the menu for me, but this dish was superb.
Green Rhubarb and Lime Sorbet
From the decor alone, I should have guessed that there would be a touch of theatre to the evenings proceedings. Oh boy, was I correct. As well as receiving a delicious lime sorbet for our fifth course, we were also served a very drinkable alcoholic rhubarb juice from the most unlikely of decanters. I’m not quite sure how to describe this experience, but I’m sure the photo below will give you an idea of what to expect…
Strawberries, Peaches and Meringue
Dessert was an absolutely brilliant end to what is only fair to describe as a fantastic showcase of local food. We received a sort of ‘deconstructed Eaton Mess’ for this course, complete with the softest of meringues and sweet strawberries. If The Giant Club had a menu, I can safely say that I would be ordering this dessert every week.
You simply must give The Giant Club a try. Every dish in our 6 course set menu was exceptionally well-balanced and the value for money is undeniable. The decor is certainly not to everyones taste, but it’s the overall experience that makes this restaurant a real gem. Gideon and Dan are clearly very knowledgable about food and the restaurant is a marvellous place to enjoy dinner with friends in a relaxed and unpretentious environment. Give it a try and let us know your thoughts below!
The Giant Club
14 Lyme St, Axminster EX13 5AU
Open Fridays & Saturdays.