Dining at The Deer Park Hotel
Originally published on The Devon Foodie Blog
It has been almost two years since we last dined at The Deer Park Hotel and it’s fair to say that we were less than impressed on our last visit. We felt that the previous kitchen team had been a tad overly ambitious with the menu and at one point we feared that our food had been forgotten altogether. So, when we were recently invited to experience firsthand what changes the country house hotel has made, we were more than a little bit intrigued and happy to oblige…
Before taking our seats for lunch we were given a quick guided tour of the Deer Park’s kitchen gardens and a sneak peek of its newly refurbished bedrooms. We were impressed to discover that The Deer Park is genuinely committed to growing much of its ingredients onsite and constructing its menus around fresh, seasonal produce. While wintertime had left a thin coat of frost on the vegetable patches, the gardens were still very much alive and a functioning part of the hotels kitchens.
The decor of the hotel itself is very tasteful and sympathetic to the buildings age and grandeur. The Deer Park’s owner is a real art and sport aficionado – as is evident from the many paintings adorning its walls and the impressive collection of classic cars, located nearby in the hotel’s specially constructed conference building.
For lunch we were delighted to be dining in The Orangery, overlooking the Deer Park’s lovely grounds. Again, this space was tastefully laid out and there was a real relaxing ambience to the room. Since lunch wasn’t usually served at the time we were eating, Head Chef Richard Still constructed a three course menu for us to enjoy.
To start, I opted for Pan Fried Lyme Bay Scallops, Black Pudding Purée with Apple Compote and Bacon. The plate was nicely presented and the scallops were caramelised, yet soft. They worked beautifully with the black pudding and the saltiness of the bacon. The apple elements helped to further the sweetness of the scallops and all in all I thought this was a lovely starter.
My dining partner had Pan Fried Pigeon Brest, Celeriac Fondant, Blackberry and Garden Chard. The pigeon breast was beautifully cooked, together with buttery celeriac and a fruity tang, courtesy of the blackberries.
Overall, these two plates were a lovely start to our meal.
My main was Roast Brill, Herb Gnocchi, Samphire, Confit Fennel and Lemon Butter. The brill was soft and tasty, while the classic flavours of the fennel and lemon butter worked well with the salty crunch of samphire. I really enjoyed this dish and wouldn’t hesitate to order it again.
My dining partner chose the Roasted and Braised Venison, Picked Red Cabbage, Pomme Gratin, Glazed Carrots, a Fig and Date Puree with Venison Sauce. His venison was perfectly cooked and the red cabbage had a lovely seasonal flavour to it. The fig and date purée worked well with the venison sauce and once again, we were impressed by the execution of these dishes.
For dessert, I went for the Pressed Apple Terrine, Calvados Baba, and Blackberry Ice Cream. Meanwhile, my dining partner chose Tonka Bean Cheesecake, Cherry Doughnut and Cherry Sorbet. Both of these were nicely balanced desserts and we felt that they were a lovely end to an accomplished three course meal.
Our Thoughts on The Deer Park Hotel
It’s fair to say that we were very impressed by what we experienced at The Deer Park Hotel this time around. The county house hotel has really upped its game. The conference facilities and the hotel decor have clearly been well thought out and without a doubt everything we were served for lunch was beautifully cooked and presented. The hotel staff are a real asset (our server Mark was brilliant) and we will most definitely be heading back to The Deer Park again soon.