I love food. I am without doubt a foodaholic, although I have never considered myself a foodie. According to Wikipedia a foodie is “a foodie is a gourmet, or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out for convenience or hunger. While gourmet and epicurean can be used as synonyms they have fallen out of favour and bring to mind a stodgy or snobbish attitude.”
I don’t define myself in this manner because it’s too restricting and it sounds like a lot of effort.
But having said that I love good food and so was pleased to go and test drive the menus of the five star hotel Berwick Lodge’s new chef Ross Marshall, a semi-finalist of MasterChef the professionals. Berwick Lodge itself is set off the beaten track on the edge of Bristol. It’s a large foreboding gothic building privately owned by Sarah and Fevzi Arikan. They have dressed the hotel in large flamboyant pieces, with a style that would not be lost on the Hollywood Hills in the 1950s creating a unique, luxurious, boutique feel. The staff add a soupcon of punk serving customers in various styles, colours and shine of Doc Martens boots. With large sumptuous bedrooms, the hotel is warm cosy and friendly. It seemed rude not to make the most of the large bath, with lots of bubbles and a fresh glass of Viognier before dinner.
Now as non-foodie food lover, I have never really eaten the sort of gourmet food where science and art are combined to create dinner. I have always opted for more robust and hardy eateries in the past. It was a new experience for me. The starters alone took me into new territory, but at the same time felt simple and straightforward. I could have eaten them all. Goat’s cheese cannelloni with shaved walnut, honey and mix beetroots or hand-dived scallops with pumpkin and pine nut praline, volouté of black and wild garlic with Aylesbury snails, pan-fried mullet with bouillabaisse sauce, handmade linguini and squid rings. I was pretty sure I was going to have the scallops and then at the last minute I opted for Torchon of duck liver with rhubarb, pain d’epicas crumb and champagne vinegar. I have to say that it was divine. The toast was light and crunchy, the pate airy, creamy, not too rich beautifully accompanied by the fresh sour sweetness of the rhubarb. It was superbly light; a delightful opener. I washed it down with a glass of chilled Espirit de Chevalier.
To follow there was a choice of Madgett’s farm free range chicken, truffle potato, wild leeks and spring onion, or slow cooked veal Osso Buco with potato boulangere and shallot marmalade. Perhaps a Pan fried Atlantic cod, octopus carpaccio with kohlrabi and sauce noir, or even Royale of carrot, served with risotto cake, salsify chips and tarragon emulsion. But in the end I opted for Charcoaled lemon sole with pork cheek, purple sprouting broccoli and hazelnut dressing.
I have never eaten pork cheek, also known as chaps and I was keen to try it as I have some in freezer begging to be cooked. We have been keeping pigs for the last three years and my latest butcher prepared the cheeks for me. The sous chef popped out for a chat and apparently, pork chaps need to be slowly cooked in brine for up to 6 hours. I am quite excited about test driving them now that I have been given some top tips.
The lemon sole was incredible. The combination of flavours and textures catapulted me into a new eating experience. On the whole I like robust, cobbled together food, wholesome and hearty. Eating scientifically created food art was like opening the gates to food heaven. The entire dish was constructed as a whole entity, which required no extras. Each mouthful was an individual taste step on the overall journey. Pork cheek melted into the sole, with the fresh crunch of the perfectly cooked broccoli and the crisp nutty after bite of the hazelnuts.
I had barely any room for pudding, but the eating could not stop as Bacchus dominated my instincts. Should I have a pave of chocolate, blood orange and rapeseed gel and caramac? Perhaps a tarte fine of Granny Smith apple with yoghurt ice cream and caramel or a roast pineapple, parfait and coconut mousse. But in the end I had the banana and honeycomb soufflé with chocolate ice cream. It was dreamy pudding heaven. The tangy creamy bitter-sweet ice cream with the airy, cloudless finesse of honeycomb and banana soufflé which evaporated in your mouth.
To sleep perchance to dream. Replete. It was time for bed in the cavernous expanse of the colossal bed in the luxurious bedroom.
Of course, the morning came far too soon and although, I knew I shouldn’t because I had already consumed enough calories for the week, I just couldn’t resist the eggs benedict for breakfast.
Just one more wafer thin mint.
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