The Grand Hotel features in my daily routine and yet I’ve never been inside. I walk past it every day – sometimes twice – either en route to the kids’ school, or to the beach, or to walk the dog along the seafront.
For Torquay residents like me, this imposing, handsome-looking Victorian building is part of the furniture of life here. But, to me, it’s always seemed like a place where other people go, the holidaymakers or the weekend visitors.
Up until recently, I never really considered having dinner there. But that could all be about to change. My husband, Luke, and I went to try out The Grand’s evening menu at its 1881 Restaurant – and it was awesome. The whole thing: the food, the look of the place, the views, and the staff (especially Karen). We felt as though we’d gone somewhere really special, even though we were still in our hometown, albeit looking at it all from a slightly different angle.
I chose cured ham to start, served with pickled cucumber, rocket salad, soft cheese and a port reduction. It was simple and a great combination of texture and taste. Luke had scallops and black pudding with a pea purée and citrus dressing. We asked for extra bread (freshly made in-house every day) to mop up our remaining reductions and purées.
There was just enough time for a people-watch out the window before our mains arrived. Devon sea bass fillet on a seafood and potato broth with samphire for me, and lamb rack with pommes purée, peas and lardons with a thyme jus for Luke.
My sea bass broth was seasoned just right, allowing the salty samphire to bring the flavour. Luke’s lamb must have been good. He ate it in silence, then said it was amazing. Luke is a great cook and is often politely underwhelmed when we go out for a meal. The adjective “amazing” from him is a good sign.
The positive descriptions continued with dessert, with a “very enjoyable” Eton mess for Luke and a super-smooth, velvety chocolate mousse with gingerbread biscuits for me.
We left just as more and more diners were arriving. Apparently, there were around 100 covers booked in on this night, with the previous evening having 120. To get such fresh, delicious food, perfectly served by a team that was clearly working very hard was impressive.
We headed upstairs to the bar for one before we hit the road, well, pavement. A short walk back up the (long) hill and we were home. Fancy that. A top-class dinner was hiding in plain sight, right on our doorstep.