Features editor Rosanna Rothery reveals her favourite discoveries of 2023. Read on to find out which south Devon restaurant and Somerset-made chocolates made her year
Circa, Sandridge Barton
I keep reading in the press that foodies have fallen out of love with small plates and tapas. According to commentators, we all now long for big portions and plates so we can smugly hoard our well-chosen menu choice to ourself.
How naïve – big plates never did solve a thing. Have you ever tried dining with a bunch of curious foodies? Going large doesn’t avoid unseemly cutlery skirmishes across the table or surreptitious snaffling of fellow diners’ rations due to FOMO.
Inquisitiveness is healthy, variety is satisfying, surprises are delightful and sharing is a desirable social skill. One of the newest places I’ve found to practise the latter is at Circa, the restaurant at Sharpham Wine’s new home at Sandridge Barton in south Devon. It’s located inside an old stone milking parlour and has a lovely alfresco terraced area. The menu showcases the best produce from the estate and local area which you can enjoy with a glass of wine – made even better with the knowledge that the grapes were grown only a stone’s throw from your seat.
Chefs are not only inventive and able to craft creative dishes from available seasonal produce but also talented. They handle the likes of Spanish, Italian and Japanese flavours with aplomb. Dishes such as fallow deer carpaccio with beetroot, black garlic and Westcombe Caerphilly are quite superb.
Harth Winter Solstice hot chocolate
I’m always on the lookout for the next rich, dark and smooth paramour to knock me off my feet. And, should they turn out to be a little spicy, even better. I am, of course, talking about chocolate.
My latest fling is with Harth’s Winter Solstice hot chocolate. Made in Somerset from organic and ethically sourced cocoa it’s guilt-free yet tantalisingly good. The signature blend of warming spice is perfect on a dismal cold day, and best accompanied with a good book.
PiQi kefir water
This year I’ve found a soft drink sip which is light, delicate and crisp – and looks glam in a glass to boot. I recently came across PiQi’s Butterfly Pea sparkling kefir water: a lilac (yes really) pour that’s not too sweet (it tastes a bit like tart soda) with herbal floral notes. Made with organic butterfly-pea flowers from Thailand, it’s brewed at a fermentary in north Devon using only organic and sustainable products.
Experts always admonish us to drink plenty of water because it’s good for our skin, hair and joints but what about our guts? Kefir water (also known as tibicos and japanese crystals) is probiotic and fermented using water kefir grains. In actual fact these aren’t grains at all but a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) and this beneficial bacteria is said to be great for gut health and general wellbeing. Each bottle contains up to 30 billion of these live cultures.
The drink is low alcohol (it does contain trace amounts due to the ferment) and is a pleasing alternative to sugary soft drinks. It can also be used to replace artificial cocktail mixers and comes in grown-up flavours including grapefruit and cardamom, and ginger and lemon.
Like Rosanna Rothery’s favourite discoveries? Check out Jo Rees’ here.