Su Carroll visits a neighbourhood restaurant that pays attention to detail
25 June 2019
The simplest things are often the best. The Fig Tree @ 36 in Plymouth’s Stonehouse area is so-called because this terraced property is at number 36 and, yes, there is a fig tree in the garden. The menu, at first glance, looks equally simple – mussels, mackerel and fishcakes under the starters and familiar mains like duck breast, pork belly and fish. But don’t let appearances fool you. The flavours here are intense and complex, the dishes are polished and beautifully presented, and the attention to detail includes an emphasis on food that is sustainable and local.
In the kitchen is Ryan Marsland who has been head chef in a number of popular Plymouth restaurants, including the last three years at Quay 33. But he and partner Tanya, who has an MSc in Learning for Sustainability, have long wanted their own restaurant and The Fig Tree @ 36 fulfils that dream. Their efforts have been recognised with a Michelin Plate this year, and a Taste of the West Gold award for two years running.
While looking at the menu, we tried Ryan’s house-baked bread with smoked butter and fig leaf oil – which he makes himself from the tree in the garden. For starters, I had a monster of a fishcake made from Plymouth-landed hake, accompanied by a Devon crab and celeriac mayo. My other half had the smoothest of Devon duck and pork rillettes.
His Cornish fillet of pork mains was wrapped in parma ham and served with a slow-cooked pork belly, a black pudding crumb, potato terrine and summer veg with a perfect apple purée. I opted for Creedy Carver duck breast with a duck leg croquette, a fabulous squash caponata, which was packed with flavour, and a pea and fig leaf dressing. All in the interests of research, we had a silky-smooth scoop of Ryan’s ice cream with the thinnest sliver of biscotti you’ve ever seen and chunks of honeycomb.
The service is friendly and the atmosphere relaxed. Tanya plays her part too – calmly whisking away my husband’s flaming napkin when he plonked it down on a candle!
Su loves: the wonderful fig leaf oil, silky-smooth ice cream and friendly (and fire-fighting!) staff
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