Rosanna Rothery visits this year's winner of the Best Restaurant at the North Devon Food And Drink Awards.
THE giant stiletto which greets you when you walk up the path to Broomhill Art Hotel and Sculpture Garden, on the outskirts of Barnstaple, gives you a somewhat surreal feeling — it's all a bit Alice In Wonderland and if a white rabbit suddenly crossed your path, it wouldn't look at all out of place.
Greta Berlin's wonderful seven-metre high funky shoe sets the scene for this arty hotel with its quirky sculptures and tastefully decorated Terra Madre restaurant.
It comes as no surprise that so many of you voted for the restaurant in this weekend's North Devon Food and Drink Awards. Terra Madre is an uplifting and unusual place to take visiting friends and family and makes for a worthy winner of this year's Best Restaurant award.
Creativity, inspiration, quality of life and art are not just prevalent in the stunning surroundings – the food showcases these qualities in abundance too.
I felt instantly pampered by a pre-starter, compliments of the chef, of goat's cheese, piquillo peppers and baked-on-the-premises sour dough bread. It was followed with a tasty, warm baked goat's cheese bake while my fellow diner had thinly sliced belly pork offset with crisp fennel. Both were excellent starters.
For mains, my eating companion found himself in complete comfort food heaven with a stunningly tender, slow-cooked venison casserole with spicy red cabbage and dauphinoise potatoes. A hearty autumn day warmer.
I had a somewhat lighter, more summery dish, of cold beetroot cured salmon, which was excellent.
Terra Madre is a great place to dine if you take an interest in what you are eating, where it came from and how food choices impact our environment. Just look on the website for full details of its Slow Food ethos and the names of all its local suppliers. There is always a great choice for those who prefer veggie food too.
Of course, all that is very admirable, but most importantly: don't miss out on the puds! They are heavenly. My eating accomplice had a dark chocolate brownie with cherries, which oozed with baked chocolatey goodness. I was instantly jealous and tucked into his first (girls can be so annoying, I know). Then I took a spoonful of my own White Bake: a crusty sweet case hiding a light luscious sponge that contained a sprinkling of pineapple and other fruits; all offset with a tangy mango sorbet. Jealousy gave way to smugness.
For those of you who don't have a sweet tooth, I highly recommend the excellent cheese board. Served with figs and port it's a triumph of tasty contrasts: cumin gave a spicy kick to sheep's cheese from Capscott farm; a cheddar was offset with a tasty quince jelly and a runny ripe brie was gorgeously rich and gooey.
Despite not having a chocolate pudding, my fairy-choccie-godmother bestowed a gift in the form of a complimentary dark truffle which superbly complemented a good strong coffee. The perfect round-off.
Cost: A three-course meal at Terra Madre costs £24.95.
Where: Broomhill Art Hotel, Muddiford, Barnstaple, North Devon, EX31 4EX.
Bookings: 01271 850262.
Website: www.broomhillart. co.uk.
For the results of the North Devon Food and Drink Awards visit pages 34 and 35.