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Restaurant review: Thomas Carr at The Olive Room

Published on December 5, 2016
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The 14 cover restaurant has gone from relative obscurity to holding the South West’s newest Michelin star – with a three week waiting list for a Saturday dinner, says Jo Rees

The Olive Room

Many of us were a bit late to the party on this one, because it was clear from Thomas Carr’s cooking at Nathan Outlaw’s Seafood and Grill and Kentisbury Grange that he was a talent. He’s spent the last two years grafting at his own tiny restaurant, under the radar of everyone other than a small band of local followers.

Anyway, you might not have managed to slot in a visit, but happily Michelin did, and awarded the restaurant a star. Which is a fairytale ending, as Thomas says that he’d probably have jacked it all in by now otherwise.

VISIT FOR the cooking. It’s all about the food, as the setting is so simple that it’s a blank canvas for Carr’s culinary feats. And real artistry is at work; each dish is an adventure with exquisite elements which surprise and delight. Remarkably it’s all crafted by just Thomas and his right hand man John Cairns (they even wash up).

Of our tasting menu, it was venison loin with rich oxtail fritter (OMG), crisp red onion tart, perfect little wild mushrooms, black cabbage and smooth garlic mash that earned the biggest grin. But dammit, the new dish of charred mackerel with sweet langoustine scampi and black raviolo was thrilling, as was a passion fruit parfait where all sharp, sweet, crisp, doughy, soft and crunchy boxes were ticked.

DON’T VISIT for sumptuous surroundings.

WE LIKED the inclusive, conspiratorial service by Thomas’ brother Kevin and restaurant manager Ellie who know how good the food is, and are chuffed that you’re in on it too. Also the focus on local seafood landed nearby.

INSIDER’S TIP The wine is great value, especially the southern Portuguese white (2014, Pe Branco) which is linked to Portuguese Winemaker of the Year, David Baverstock and £15.95 a bottle. Bang on for those rich seafood dishes.

What we ate (tasting menu)

Hand dived scallops with cauliflower, hazelnuts, curry, grape
Local brill with crispy oyster, cucumber, brown shrimp
Charred mackerel with saffron shellfish sauce, scampi, samphire, black raviolo
Venison loin with oxtail fritter, red onion tart, wild mushroom, garlic mash
Frozen passion fruit parfait with doughnut and frozen yoghurt
Warm chocolate tart with fruit ‘n’ nut and praline ice cream

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