18:21 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

Bearslake Inn, Dartmoor




Last night, my Dad took us for a Last Night on Earth style meal, his reasoning being that if Cameron gets in, we will spend the next 20 years eating gruel made from benefits cheats.

We drove to Sourton near Oakhampton to The Bearslake Inn which is walking distance from Dartmoor and really, really pretty. The photo I have really doesn't do it justice, shame on me for only remembering to take one after it had got dark. It's a beautiful old Devon longhouse, and they've just given it a makeover and a new thatch. Check out the website at www.bearslakeinn.com for some better pictures and information about the area. It's well worth staying if you aren't local, accommodation rates look very reasonable.


We arrived quite late on in the evening, and had a drink in the bar before moving through to the restaurant. It was very quiet, being late on a Thursday, but it didn't feel graveyardy like some empty bars can, the atmosphere stood up. You could easily while away a few hours in the bar area on the leather sofas, playing the provided backgammon or chess with a glass of wine that comes served in an enormous bucket of a glass (luckily they measure every serving, else you'd be over the limit in a matter of minutes). Moving through to the restaurant has a different feel, while the rest of the pub has had a very successful and sympathetic modernisation, this room isn't really sure what it wants to be. Horse brasses mix with organza curtains and a very loud floral carpet. Still, the bits that matter were good, beautifully laid tables and white linen with comfy chairs. We skipped the starters, having drawn a sharp intake of breath after seeing the menu prices. It is fairly expensive. This isn't £6 fish and chips, but it's really worth it.

I ordered a roasted duck breast which came with a chive sauce and a little tower of mushroom risotto, It was so perfect I can't think of anything to nitpick about at all. The duck had been roasted after a salt rub, so it's skin was perfectly crispy-soft. The chive sauce surprised me by turning out to be a really clever and unusual compliment. It made a great change from the more normal sharp-fruit jus or sauces, designed to cut through duck's sometimes fatty flavour. This sauce just enhanced the richness and texture of the meat. I was impressed that the waiting staff asked me how I wanted my duck cooked, it's so fashionable to serve duck pink but in my opinion a well-roasted duck is yards ahead in flavour, particularly off the bone like this was. The risotto served here was a masterpiece and again such an inventive accompaniment. The earthy flavours matched the duck well, and gorgeously creamy arborio made this both a serious foodie meal and great soul food at the same time. I ate it with a side dish of kale and tenderstem broccoli shared with my Mum, who was eating a very elegant piece of Cornish megrim sole and homemade tartare sauce. Perfect fish, served plain so you could savour it's subtle, almost lemony flavour. Megrim sole is at it's best from Cornwall, and is fast becoming the new fish of choice in gastro-circles.

Dad ate a sirloin steak, expensive at £16 and probably the only disappointment in our meal. The steak itself was a fantastic example of how good a sirloin can be, particularly if, like me, you are a confirmed fillet lover. It was perfectly chargrilled, dense with no hint of marbling and fantastically flavourful, that intensely meaty hit of a good sirloin. It came served with button mushrooms which had sadly just been dumped on the plate with tonnes of sliced red pepper. A proper side salad and grilled field mushrooms would have been a much more satisfying side. In a separate bowl came the ubiquitous chips. They were frozen, which I think is a little unforgivable for a restaurant of this calibre. Sort it out Bearslake, how much does it take to peel a potato and fry it?

Pudding next, which I didn't need, but I felt I owed it to you lot to test. I ordered a white chocolate and raspberry brulee which I was expecting to be excrutiatingly sweet. I have a problem in that I order brulee often, and forget that I actually don't really like it until it is there in front of me. Luckily my Mum was on hand to help, and she ate the brulee topping to get it out of the way for me (it did crack, by the way) The white chocolate wasn't too sweet at all, it was gorgeous, custardy-creamy and tasted exactly like really, really posh white chocolate should, with hints of caramel and vanilla. Mum swore she detected almond, but I didn't. The raspberries gave the expected fruity hit to cut through the sweetness, but they weren't fantastic flavour wise. Although, if they had, I would have accused the chef of alchemy. Raspberries are not in season, so I wasn't expecting them to be dreamy. As it was they weren't bad.

We had a great evening at Bearslake and all of us felt spoiled upon leaving. I was so impressed with the food, and really think it's worth the money. We paid about £25 a head for 3 mains and one pudding with wine, the final bill coming to around £70 which is what this kind of food is worth. High end food at a mid range price can't really be argued with. Just don't order the pub options, try something a little left of field and they'll surprise you.

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