Jo Rees revisits a fledgling country house hotel and finds it all grown up – and ready to make its mark on the world
Gidleigh, Lympstone, Endsleigh, Boringdon … the names of Devon’s distinguished country house hotels with serious restaurants are well known. But Paschoe House?
No need to feel uncultured if you’re not au fait with Paschoe: it only launched as a hotel three years ago. When food first visited – a couple of months after it opened its doors to the public in 2017 – it was yet to master the self-assured ease of the big hitters. However, three years of busy activity have seen the interiors, gardens and kitchen seasoned to create a hotel to rival the big names.
A significant element of this blossoming was the appointment of head chef Craig Davies last year. Having spent the last decade working in some of the best kitchens in the country (Northcote in Lancashire and The Atlantic Hotel in Jersey, for example), the 32 year old has hit that sweet spot where youthful energy and ambition dovetail with experience. It’s the time when interesting things start to happen for chefs who are going places.
VISIT for extremely complicated cooking executed with verve and style. Embrace the Paschoe House tasting menu to experience this in all its glory. From the exquisite canapés proffered from a lacquered Chinese box filled with hot stones, to the ceviche scallop with salt cod brandade and yuzu curd, and lamb saddle with sweetbreads, gremolata leeks and black garlic, it’s an exercise in precision and beauty.
DON’T VISIT with the tasting menu in mind unless you’ve fasted for an entire day beforehand. A no-holdsbarred approach to rich ingredients alongside the sheer volume of exquisite morsels to consume make this a marathon not a sprint. And, like any endurance sport, it’s all about the mind game, so make the decision in advance to eat only one slice of homebaked sourdough with curry butter and don’t overdo the sparkling water.
WE LIKE the pleasing juxtaposition of traditional country house setting and youthful vibe. Stuffy this ain’t. Stuffed, however … that’s another matter. And not just as a result of the tasting menu, as the lounge, bar and staircase all feature a taxidermied menagerie of creatures. Be prepared to sip a G&T overlooked by an ostrich, and to find a red squirrel guarding the cigar humidifier.