Never mind FOMO. In restaurants, I’m much more likely to be struck down by FOOB – fear of ordering badly. Not only does it mean I take an age to decide what to have (so much choice!), but I then spend a large portion of the evening casting envious eyes at my companion’s plate as well as any within gawping distance.
Thankfully, all such anxiety can be headed off at the pass with a tasting menu, which at the Sandy Cove Hotel’s Seacliff Restaurant runs to five courses, with an accompanying wine flight if that’s your bag.
Served in the fine dining addition to the hotel’s existing restaurant – with an astonishing view across Combe Martin Bay – the menu makes the most of wonderful local and seasonal ingredients. As a result, Head Chef Carla and her team present a meal with robust flavours and surprising textures, as well as a little theatricality on the plate.
There’s visual flair from the off, with amuse-bouches of pea and coconut foam cups, and pink and green macarons filled with chicken liver parfait and blackberry gel. A lean to the sweet continues with the glaze on a mini brioche loaf – fab with the savoury marmite butter.
The first course is a trio of delightful goat’s cheese cappelletti with porcini mushrooms, all floating in a broth that’s an umami smash. Paired with a bone-dry Chablis, it’s a winning combination.
For the fish course, the perfect amount of ginger and yuzu bring out the delicacy of otoro slivers. Paired with a zingy Albariño, this fresh-tasting treat is the standout dish of the evening for me.
Having said that, a perfectly pink slice of Exmoor sirloin, coupled with a beefy Châteauneuf-du-Pape, is hard to beat. The smoky glaze of black garlic purée, parsnip purée and salted caramel combine to make this an intense central piece of the menu.
Next up, what’s billed as a ‘palate cleanser’ – a visually striking key lime pie on marshmallowy toasted meringue – is the only misstep for me, in that it’s rich, heavy and staggeringly sweet, and practically finishes me off. Which is a shame, because I have little room for the actual dessert, a delicious ‘naked’ pear mousse that trembles glossily atop a nutty, crunchy base. Matched with a Sauternes, it’s a delicate delight.
What’s clear, though, is that the kitchen team are brimming with skill, and the menu allows them the platform to shine, as well as showcasing the best of North Devon’s produce.
Whatever you do, come hungry!