Review & Photography by Gaby Dyson
From the outside, it would seem that Hamiltons Club is going for something of a 1920s vibe. There’s the stylised signage, the pineapple motifs and even the signature prohibition-style spotlights either side of its entrance. Rather mysteriously, Hamiltons describes itself as a bar, restaurant and ‘venue’; and with a website still currently undergoing a revamp, we weren’t quite sure what to expect when they invited us along to sample their evening menu…
Indeed, Babbacombe’s newest eatery is quite the enigma. Not only has it relied solely on word-of-mouth marketing since opening its doors in March 2018; but when one hears the term ‘club’ you can’t help but think of exclusivity or the need for membership. However, we learned on the night of our visit that this is far from the case. Hamiltons are treading a careful line between fine dining and casual eating. Step inside and you’re met with brand new parquet flooring, a lit fire, and an extensive well-stocked bar. The staff are nicely dressed and go about their business to a soundtrack of laid-back jazz. However, there is very little pretentiousness. Rather, Hamilton’s is the sort of destination that’s ideal for date nights and grown-up family dining.
On the evening we visited we were treated to a complimentary gin cocktail, which started the evening off nicely. Keen to show us what their kitchen team could do, Hamiltons Club put together a tasting menu of their most popular dishes and we were provided with two little sample ‘intro’ plates to whet the appetite.
One of these intro dishes was a rather unusual little morsel of Devilled Baked Scallop (£4). This was charmingly presented inside a scallop shell and was topped with a delicious, spiced crumb which included marmite among its many components. The scallop was perfectly cooked and – whether you love it or hate it – the very subtle marmite flavour added a lot of depth to this miniature plate of food.
Up next were the starters, the first of which was a Gin Cured Salmon served with radish, lime & pickled cucumber (£7.95). This was a very dainty plate of food and arguably a touch too small for the price. However, it was very well executed. The salmon was cured in local Salcombe Gin and it worked beautifully with the lightly pickled cucumber. The dish made for a particularly pretty picture and should you be in the mood for something a little lighter, I would definitely recommend ordering it.
We also tried a plate of Panko Scotch Egg, soft boiled and served with fresh piccalilli (£6.25). Unlike the salmon, this dish was very generous in terms of portion size and it was also very well executed. The freshly made piccalilli had plenty of crunch to it and the meat within the scotch egg was delicate and tender. I admire anyone who can get soft boiled scotch eggs just right and this one was perfectly done.
In between our starter and main course was a fish course which was brought to the table whole for the purposes of photography. The John Dory (purchased fresh from Brixham Fish Market that morning) was drizzled in what I can only describe as a pesto. The flavours worked well together and the fish was expertly cooked. I would gladly order the dish again, but I can’t seem to find it on their online menu; leading me to believe that their fish offerings must change regularly to reflect the daily catch.
For our main course, we were once again presented with two dishes. The first was a Malaysian Prawn & Monkfish Cream Aromatic Curry served with rice noodles, crispy shallots, coriander & spiced hazelnuts (£13.95). I would definitely have ordered this if I’d seen it on the menu and I was not disappointed when it arrived. Chef clearly understands the components of an authentic Malaysian curry and cooking seafood is clearly their forte. The prawns and monkfish were excellently cooked (not at all rubbery, thank goodness) and the heat of the curry was just right for my British palate! There were hints of lemongrass and coriander throughout the sauce and the addition of hazelnuts worked surprisingly well.
We also sampled the Roasted West Country Pork Belly with crispy crackling, potato and fennel dauphinoise, pickled apples and tender stem broccoli (£14.95). Again, this is a plate of food that I would definitely have chosen myself had I spied it on the menu, and I know many other foodies who would do the same. As expected, the dish was very rich but all of the elements worked well. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with this plate of food if you’re a fan of pork belly.
Our final course was a Passionfruit and White Chocolate Cheesecake with orange and mascarpone ice cream (£6.95). What can I say? This was a very nicely presented cheesecake and the addition of micro coriander leaves was surprising but very enjoyable. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this dessert and it showcased chef’s skills nicely.
Should you visit Hamiltons Club?
On the basis of our visit, Hamiltons Club is a fierce contender for one of the better eateries in Torbay. They’ve managed to achieve a good balance between stylish and unpretentious. The food we sampled was made to a high quality – both in its flavour and presentation – and we felt that the varied menu would appeal to a range of diners. The ambience at Hamiltons was relaxed and the staff we encountered were polite and smartly presented. Overall, our experience of dinner at Hamiltons Club was enjoyable and I have no qualms recommending the restaurant for your next meal out in Torbay.
To view a sample menu, visit their website. To book call 01803 316300.