Review by Collette
Having recently completed our tour of the wonderful Michelin restaurants in Devon, you can imagine our delight when we first heard the news that chef Thomas Carr of The Olive Room in Ilfracombe had earned himself a converted star.
Ilfracombe is a little bit of a trip for us (as we’re based in East Devon) so we chose to pay The Olive Room a visit on a lunchtime. This allowed us time for a walk on the beach beforehand, where we got to check out Damian Hurst’s sculpture Verity as well as take in the fresh sea air and build up quite an appetite.
The style of the Olive Room restaurant is a cosy seaside cottage with a contemporary twist. The staff are friendly and attentive and the whole affair is decidedly more laid back than one might imagine service to be at a Michelin Starred Restaurant to be. After ordering drinks, we were brought a small selection of homemade seeded wholemeal bread to enjoy as we made our decision on what to have for lunch.
I opted to start with the Local Brill with Crispy Oyster, Brown shrimp, Cucumber& Horseradish. The oyster was quite something: a light and crisp batter cocooned the deliciously tender oyster which was perfectly cooked. This came on top of deliciously tender brill with flavourful shrimp, delicate cucumber and a subtle hint of horseradish. I must say, this was a beautiful dish and we were off to a brilliant start.
My husband – the carnivore – chose the BBQ Belly Pork, Crispy Pig Cheek, Cauliflower, Crackling, and Fried Egg. For all you meat lovers out there we would definitely recommend this starter. The pig cheek just melted in the mouth and the little croquet was packed full of flavour. This was all brought together with a fried egg, tasty cauliflower and a silky jus. This was arguably an unusual combination of ingredients, but it was certainly one that worked.
For my main course I chose Cod with Hand Dived Scallop, Bacon, Lentils, Jerusalem artichoke, Hogs pudding and Hazelnuts. This was another fabulous dish for me. Again, everything was cooked perfectly and it all melted in the mouth. The flavours were once again unusual but perfectly balanced – what else can I say? Top marks for chef.
My husband’s choice was Charred Mackerel, Langoustine Tortellini with Fennel, Orange, Basil and Scampi. After a quick consultation with the waitress he also ordered this with a a side portion of chips, which I think even he would admit is a little unusual for a fine dining establishment! However, he assures me that he loved every mouthful of this dish. The little zesty bursts from the fresh orange paired wonderfully with the fish and as for the tortellini filled with langoustine, I was afforded a tiny taste and we both agreed it was quite lovely. If we had any criticisms of our mains at all, it would have been the side order of chips. Although the chips themselves were well cooked (crisp with a fluffy centre) the rapeseed oil that they were cooked in wasn’t particularly tasty.
After such a wonderful lunch neither of us wanted a full blown dessert, so we opted instead to have tea and coffee with petite fours. While my husband ordered an Americano, I tried the Himalayan Rose tea and I was so glad I did. It was very drinkable and had a flavour not dissimilar to Turkish delight.
As for the homemade treats from the kitchen, these consisted of three lovely bitesized pieces of carrot cake, doughnut with passionfruit, and a chocolate truffle. We both agreed that they were the perfect way to finish off lunch – light, tasty and just the right size.
If you’re seeking a fine dining experience without the need to act on ceremony then this is certainly an ideal spot for lunch. Overall, we really enjoyed our visit to The Olive Room and there is no doubt in our mind that Thomas Carr and his team certainly deserve their Michelin Star.