A creamy rich onion cappuccino served as an aperitif before the seven-course tasting menu at Paschoe House has identity issues.
Presented in a delicate espresso-sized cup with saucer and spoon, is it a soup to be taken with a spoon or an aperitif to be sipped like a
fine, aromatic coffee? However consumed, the soup is as silky smooth as the Lee & Perrings butter that accompanies the sourdough bread.
Chef Craig Davies has learnt much from the “Who’s Who of Great British Chefs”, that he has trained and worked with. He has created a menu that constantly asks questions, challenges the conventional and frequently surprises.
Way south of the Scottish Highlands, a mini haggis, captured in a crunchy shell brings a Pacific Rim touch to the aperitifs. Moreover, the succulent interior is Davies’ home-made black pudding – prompting you, next morning, to order the full English breakfast, complete with black pudding.
No surprise then that enthusiastic foodies are heading for the restaurant of this boutique hotel set in a quiet green corner of Devon. So much so, that manager and co-owner, Tabitha Fern, even has
plans for a helipad for easy access. Nor is it just hungry diners who are arriving, sometimes flying it to Exeter Airport, to be collected by Tabitha’s husband, Robin, in the hotel’s Land Rover Discovery. The AA’s inspectors have just awarded the restaurant a third rosette. Michelin Inspectors are checking in too, tasting judiciously as chef Craig Davies and his kitchen target a star.
Aperitifs and canapés are served in either the Morning Room or the Library Bar. Many of the books – mainly farming, finance and science – were owned by Tabitha’s father who originally bought Paschoe House as a family home. Eventually, in 2016, Tabitha persuaded him to let her restore the Tudor Gothic House built in the mid 19th century, as a luxury boutique hotel. A real strength of Paschoe is that it is only open from Wednesday evening to Monday morning. Working a five day week, albeit with an unorthodox weekend, keeps the team on the same page, builds esprit de corps and does wonders for customer service.
The menu begins in earnest in the dining room. There’s a stone fire-place saved from the original 13th century Paschoe House. A crystal chandelier elegantly nods to Paschoe’s origins as a country
gentleman’s home. But an indigo wallpaper with a golden-line irregular geometric pattern is distinctly, stylishly contemporary. Black-and-white prints of the Two Moors region firmly place Paschoe House in its peaceful rural setting.
Alongside, the seven courses, which can increase to eight, if you opt for a selection of artisanal cheeses slipped in between the Red Deer course and first dessert – there’s a wine flight on offer too, light and predominantly white. Though there is champagne to match a supremely tender lobster tail, briefly sous-vide cooked. Then surprisingly, another white is paired with a Pig Cheek, cooked
sous-vide for 6 hours and 45 minutes – at 85 Centigrade – for a mellow flaky deep meatiness more usually found in slow-cooked prime beef.
Seasonality – and freshness – are key to a menu that will change.Preliminary plans for Davies’ menus are complete for the year ahead. The original walled garden had been reclaimed from beneath a landslip. Every season the garden will produce 25 fruit, herbs and vegetables for the heart of the menu.
This year, in winter, the Red Deer course, epitomised seasonal spirit with both Red Deer en-croute and a loin of red deer: they were accompanied by Jerusalem artichoke, Trompette Mushrooms, Chesnut and Truffles. For those with smaller appetites, there’s always the a la carte menu, on which the very local Creedy Carver Duck, from Crediton, is a firm favourite.
A light Snow Egg of Tahitian Vanilla Brûlée with plum and quince is the penultimate dish before the arrival of Manjari chocolate accompanied by a glass of 10-year-old Madeira. Golf leaf tops a decadent pud, as rich Manjari – the Grand Cru of chocolate, houses a circle of whisky jelly.
Although the Tasting Menu is the jewel in the crown it’s worth dropping into Paschoe House for afternoon tea uniquely served on a vertical wooden trellis or for the Casual Dining Menu served in the Library Bar and Morning Room. For guests staying overnight, the surprises continue at breakfast. The buffet comes to them: small bottles of juices in a milkman’s mini crate and pastries on one of
those wooden trellises. But don’t become so distracted by the quirky charm that you forget to order the traditional English Breakfast – with that home-made Black Pudding.
Tell Me More About Paschoe House, Tasting Menu
Paschoe House, Bow, Crediton EX17 6JT
T: 01663 84244
7- course tasting menu: £80 Wine flight £55.