The next chapter 6 December 2019 Lexington managing director Julia Edmonds on taking the helm at the boutique caterer and her people plans for the future
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A station in life

01 January 2000
A station in life

It was something of a novelty for David Jones when he became head chef of Lewtrenchard Manor, at Okehampton in Devon, because the kitchen did not move: Jones had previously worked on the Royal Scotsman train, catering mainly for tourists travelling around Scotland.

Jones says that the whole experience on the train was "brilliant" but, because of the tight space, he had to be very organised while cooking dishes such as whole baby monkfish gremolata and linguine.

Good organisation is a skill he has brought to the 378-year-old manor's 35-seat restaurant. The house has nine bedrooms, and each evening around 25 diners feast on food "simply prepared" by Jones and his four-strong brigade.

The menu offers five dishes at each course. Among the starter options, a dish of seared Cornish scallops with parsley mousseline, roasted leeks and truffle oil is a customers' favourite. Jones says the dish is a hit because people like to eat locally produced food. Using the parsley, he says, gives the dish a freshness which, mingled with the chargrilled vegetables, creates "a very rustic flavour".

Local ingredients are also in evidence in another best-seller from the starters, West Country cheese tart with crushed aubergine and a tomato and coriander relish.

At main course, too, customers prefer a regional touch, says Jones. A spiced loin of Tiverton pork with garlic potatoes, smoked ham hock and sage buerre blanc is the number-one choice. Another favourite is the baked fillet of cod with asparagus, broad beans and a morel cream. The most popular dessert is rum and vanilla pannacotta with orange shortbread and cardamom syrup.

Because so much regional food is used, it changes with the seasons, about every three months. So intent is Jones on using local produce that next year he plans to grow all his own vegetables. He already uses his own herbs, such as lemon verbena.

The wines offered by the manor have a far more global slant than the food. They are mainly New World varieties, served by James and Sue Murray, who head the four-strong front of house team.

Lewtrenchard Manor, Lewdown, Near Okehampton, Devon EX20 4PN. Tel: 01566 783256

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