It’s not often you can say you have been cooked for by the same chef who has prepared meals for Gordon Brown and 50 Cent. I am sure Alex Pereira, Head Chef of The Ness in Shaldon, was thrilled to add me to his list of celebrities! Joking aside, both Alex and his wife Katie, who is the General Manager of The Ness, have brought their style and charm to this popular hotel and restaurant.
I first encountered The Ness when I was meeting my future mother-in-law for the first time. It was a hot day and the view towards Teignmouth – The Ness is perched at the edge of the promontory – was enticing. I was late and my now wife and her mum had been there a while I must admit, and guilty as I felt, they didn’t seem to mind too much as it is a perfect spot for soaking up the sun and views.
On the evening my wife and I returned, however, mist and cloud had descended. It didn’t matter – we ate our food in the conservatory and the atmosphere was welcoming, even if the weather wasn’t that night. Candlelight, wooden tables and the huge, Georgian windows framed what we know can be a perfect view of the estuary.
Drinks ordered – our red wine was the Juan Gil Monastrell, served at a good temperature with a spicy, long-lasting finish – we chose from the à la carte menu. My starter of a jar of duck and herb pâté and a fig relish came served on a wooden platter. The salad was finished with a tasty walnut dressing and the bread, a mixture of brown and white, was freshly baked. The creamy goats’ cheese my wife had was served on a bruschetta, with tomatoes, pine nuts and a selection of leaves. Both starters could have made a light lunch.
Our mains, my Stargazey Pie filled with crayfish, monkfish, new potatoes and prawn and my wife’s fragrant Moroccan-style vegetables with couscous were all you’d expect – nicely presented, good-sized portions and well cooked. We didn’t really need to share the sticky toffee pudding that followed but we couldn’t resist the rich, buttery sauce and dense, spiced, cake-like dessert.
Katie describes the menu, which changes twice a year, as: “Simple food cooked well with a little eccentricity.” It’s certainly popular as we were amongst a number dining that evening: a family taking their grandma out for her birthday, while another couple and young family were all enjoying the laid-back atmosphere and great service. In the bar area, a few businessmen had gathered for a post-work drink – it is a place for everyone here.
There are also nine en-suite bedrooms upstairs and The Ness caters for birthdays and weddings and other parties. “We want everyone to feel welcome to The Ness and be a part of the local community,” Katie says. “We like to try and get involved in local events like Shaldon Regatta Week and the Waterside Carnival. This is a place for the locals as well as visitors.” It’s a good job we live nearby then.