A decade or so ago you would have been hard-pressed to find much in the way of dining innovation outside of The Big Smoke. But in recent years the West Country has been redefining your average meal out. With an abundance of award-winning restaurants and Michelin Stars throughout the region, it’s no surprise that eyes – and appetites – are turning to the South West and its new wave of culinary talent. One such establishment at the forefront of foodie innovation is Lewtrenchard Manor and when we were given the opportunity to try their Purple Carrot Dining Experience, we were curious to find out more…
When one thinks of Lewtrenchard Manor and it’s beautiful 17th Century facade, flat screen televisions and nouvelle cuisine may not immediately spring to mind. But ‘The Purple Carrot Dining Experience’ is an innovative chef’s table unique to the region. The Purple Carrot offers a private dining experience with a twist: guests are invited to take a seat in their own exclusive dining room and are treated to a bird’s eye view of the hotel’s state of the art kitchens during service. Everything is captured on camera and live-streamed to several flat screen televisions; while two special vantage points offer diners the opportunity to interact with Head Chef Tom Browning and his team.
An evening at The Purple Carrot starts with a glass of champagne and canapés in the bar, followed by a specially designed tasting menu with the option of a matching flight of wines. Diners are invited to step through the kitchens before entering a room of televisions, which is strikingly modern in comparison to the rest of the manor house hotel. Guests take their seats in some of the heaviest throne-like chairs imaginable before Tom Browning and Lewtrenchard’s Head Sommelier briefly talk you through the evening ahead. The whole affair is certainly unlike anything we’ve experienced in Devon before and it’s certainly an experience that diehard foodies are bound to enjoy.
Our first course was Whipped Vulscombe Goats Curd, Charred Apple, Grapes & Candied Hazelnuts. This was a dainty dish filled with delicate flavours and it was a wonderful way to start off the evening. Once again, Tom reappeared from the kitchen and explained the provenance of each ingredient as it was served. This added titbit of culinary knowledge really enhanced our enjoyment of the course, as it gave the plate a sense of place and seasonality.
Next, we were presented with Pan Seared Sea Bass, Roasted Fennel & Shellfish Bisque. The shellfish bisque was rich and intense, yet it surprisingly did not overpower the more delicate flavours of the fennel and crab meat. Once again we were wowed by chefs presentation and attention to detail. Although, having said that, the presentation wasn’t entirely a surprise because we had been able to watch them carefully plate up the dish from our private television screens.
Up next was a delightful dish containing Sous Vide Breast of Squab Pigeon, Toasted Grains, Picked Blackberries & Nasturtium Leaves. I once enjoyed a plate of food that was not too dissimilar to this at Gidleigh Park Hotel (back when its kitchens were headed by Michael Wignall) and I then remarked that it was one of the tastiest dishes I’ve ever eaten. Well, I can safely say that Tom Browning’s pigeon almost superseded this. The pigeon was tender and worked beautifully along with the tart blackberries and nutty grains.
The star course of the whole evening had to be the Loin of Local Venison, Poached Pear, Parsnip Puree & Potato Foam. Sadly, I didn’t get a good photo of this dish, but I can safely say that this was hands down one of the most delicious dishes I have eaten in a long time and I do not say that lightly. Venison is by far one of my favourite ingredients and this particular loin was excellently cooked. Its pairing with poached pear was a match made in heaven and the potato foam, sat atop a rich venison ragu was just delicious. I’ll honestly be heading back to Lewtrenchard Manor for this dish alone!
Dinner was finished off by two dessert courses; the first of which was Whipped Pistachio Ganache, Compressed Cherries & Cherry Sorbet. This dish was a light palate cleanser of sorts and you can rarely go wrong with a flavour combination like cherry and pistachio. This was followed by Iced Lemon Parfait, Blueberry Crémeux & Lemon Sorbet. If I’m being brutally honest, I was too full by this point to truly appreciate the finesse of these last two dishes. However, I do recall being very impressed by their nouvelle presentation and technical elements.
Overall, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend The Purple Carrot Dining Experience at Lewtrenchard Manor. The evening does not come cheap, but the overall quality of food, wine and service are arguably well worth the expense. Add to this the sense of ‘exclusivity’ that comes with being seated at the chefs table and The Purple Carrot will undoubtedly be a talking point amongst yourself and fellow guests for quite some time!
*I (Gaby) visited Lewtrenchard as Editor of FOODLOVER Magazine and originally posted about my experience in our magazine, which you can read online here. We were kindly offered a complimentary meal during our visit.*
To book The Purple Carrot Dining Experience call 01566 783222 or visit www.lewtrenchard.co.uk