Robust flavours and south-west produce are the focus of the menu at this country house hotel in South Brent, Devon. Amanda Afiya reports
Set in three beautiful acres of gardens and woodland, Glazebrook House may look like an archetypal old country house, but step inside and guests are instantly transported to a make-believe world inspired by the adventures of Alice in Wonderland.
Situated in South Brent, Devon, on the edge of Dartmoor National Park, and just a 40-minute drive from the affluent coastal town of Salcombe and the historic maritime port of Dartmouth, the hotel was bought by Pieter and Fran Hamman in November 2013, transformed (with the help of leading interior designer Timothy Oulton) and reopened the following year.
The Hammans also managed to recruit south-west-born Ben Palmer, a quarter finalist in BBC TV’s MasterChef: The Professionals in 2011. In addition to his role as chef-patron of the restaurant at Glazebrook House, Palmer, a protégé of Chris and James Tanner, is also chef-proprietor of the two-AA-rosette Greedy Goose in Plymouth. This summer Palmer scored a hat-trick with the opening of the 60-cover Sardine Factory in his native Looe. Both restaurants are owned in partnership with the Hammans.
“Having worked up and down the country in various top restaurants [during his formative years Palmer staged at the Hand & Flowers and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay], I’ve always headed back to the south-west to my roots,” explains Plymouth College-trained Palmer, who says his three talented brigades enable him to split his time between his restaurants.
Heading up the kitchen at Glazebrook House is Josh Ackland, who also worked at the Tanner brothers’ Barbican Kitchen in Plymouth alongside Palmer before moving to the boutique hotel in 2014. “I first met Josh when I was head chef for the Tanners and I saw his potential back then. He’s a hugely talented young chef with immense drive and passion.”
In keeping with the design of the 45-seat dining room at Glazebrook House, which is stylish with eclectic design details, the seasonally changing menus boast robust flavours, the “best south-west produce”, and herbs and vegetables from the kitchen garden.
Palmer and Ackland offer a lunch menu (£16 for two courses, £20 for three), six- and eight-course tasting menus, bespoke tasting menus for roups on the private chef’s table and an à la carte. There are lighter “nibbles” (crab nacho with chilli and ginger; fish bonbons with tartare mayonnaise; whitebait with Marie Rose), available outside on the patio or in the bar area.
Glazebrook House is popular for afternoon tea as well as weddings, catering for up to 80 sitdown or 150 buffet-style. “The decor and vibe of Glazebrook is like no other – a bit of London in the country – so couples really want to show the place off on their special day,” explains Palmer.
Like many chefs in the south-west, Palmer and Ackland source their meat from Philip Warren in Launceston, Cornwall – “the beef is simply outstanding” – and the guests seem to agree, as the best-selling dish is chateaubriand for two (£70).
The prime cut is marinated in rosemary, thyme and garlic and kept in an air-tight container for two days before service, when it is sealed in plenty of butter and roasted in the oven. It’s served with pickled and roasted shallots, thyme-roasted new potatoes, greens, chilli, ginger, maple-glazed carrots and a variety of seasonal sauces and butters, such as peppercorn sauce or Devon blue cheese butter.
Among Palmer’s current favourites is slow-cooked, pressed lamb shoulder, served with charred cabbage, sheeps’ milk ricotta and haggis. Inspired by a dish Palmer enjoyed at Jason Atherton’s flagship Mayfair restaurant Pollen Street Social a few years ago, he says he is compelled to bring it back onto the menu every autumn and winter. “The flavours work so well together and it’s perfect coming into this time of year.”
A Looe boy, Palmer is a huge fan of fish and is fortunate to receive up to two deliveries of fresh fish a day at Glazebrook House. “We are so lucky to be in this part of the country and have the produce right on our doorstep.” Pan-fried market fish (£14-£18), such as fresh sardines, are typically served with griddled fennel, heritage tomatoes and dill, and white-wine battered fish (£14 and usually haddock) is served with triple-cooked chips and traditional condiments.
The dessert menu includes mascarpone cheesecake, lemon and lime, and Bakewell tart with cherry sorbet and granola (all £8).
From the menu
• Slow-cooked duck egg, king oyster mushroom, Parmesan crisp £9
• Chicken and chorizo terrine, spiced tomato chutney, quail’s egg, chorizo powder £9
• Dressed crab, compressed cucumber, lemon gel £9
• Braised lamb, tenderstem broccoli, shallot purée, creamed potato £26
• Maple and soy-glazed duck breast, won ton, sweet potato fondant, pak choi £26
• Curried cauliflower fondant, garlic polenta, onion bhaji, coriander yogurt £16
• Buttermilk panna cotta, hibiscus-poached rhubarb, lemon curd £8
• Dark chocolate moelleux, buckwheat ice-cream, salted caramel £8
Glazebrook House, South Brent, Devon TQ10 9JE