Head chef Scott Paton has high aspirations as he introduces a more classical approach to the menu at the Gallery restaurant at Boringdon Hall, near Plymouth, Devon. Amanda Afiya reports
Sitting equidistant between Plymouth’s coastal city centre to the south-west, and the breath-taking splendour of Dartmoor to the north-east, is the Elizabethan manor house of Boringdon Hall.
Acquired by the Nettleton Collection eight years ago to create a wellness destination for Devon (the south west-based hotel group also owns the Fistral Beach hotel and spa and the Esplanade Hotel, both in Newquay, Cornwall), the Grade II-listed, 40-bedroom hotel and state-of-the-art spa radiates history.
While Boringdon Hall was converted to a hotel by a previous owner, much of it was destroyed by a fire in 1989 and, since 2011, the Nettleton family have invested a considerable amount of time and money restoring it and making it one of the most prominent hotels in the south west. It was awarded five-star status by the AA in 2016, and in 2018 was named Condé Nast Johansen’s Best Destination Spa in the UK and Ireland.
Overlooking the Great Hall is the 40-seat, fine-dining Gallery restaurant – one of three restaurant offerings at the hotel, all run under the watchful eye of Stafford-born but Exeter-raised head chef Scott Paton, who scooped an Acorn Award and south-west food and drink publication Food Magazine’s Chef of the Year in 2017.
Although Paton’s best work is found in the three-AA-rosette Gallery restaurant, open Wednesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner, guests can also experience all-day dining in the 50-seat Mayflower Brasserie, which opened a year ago, and the Gaia Spa’s light and airy 50-seat Spatisserie, which offers spa-goers nourishing soul food to complement treatments.
In addition to a table d’hôte menu, Paton serves five-course and seven-course tasting menus in the Gallery, with vegetarian and vegan alternatives available – which is no mean feat, given that Paton heads up a brigade of just four. Featuring the finest south-west produce – although Paton will source from further afield throughout the UK or from France when required – the menus offer diners a choice of dishes for the second and fourth courses.
While Paton has had a relatively modest career, working at Exeter’s Jack in the Green for nine years across all sections of the kitchen before taking on his first head chef’s role at the well-known Horn of Plenty in Gulworthy, just outside Tavistock, where he earned three AA rosettes, he has challenged himself throughout his career by securing placements at Guy Savoy, with pastry chef Pierre Hermé and with Michael Caines at Gidleigh Park.
As a result, Paton’s ambitions for the Gallery restaurant at Boringdon Hall are not insurmountable. “For me personally, the aspirations are all for this restaurant. I would really like to achieve four rosettes up here and obviously a Michelin star, as many chefs do. Then, possibly, if we can achieve four rosettes in the Gallery, it might be nice to have two in the brasserie.”
Paton says the menus in the Gallery restaurant are now leaning more towards tried and tested techniques and dishes. “We’re going back to classical techniques a bit more – that’s our next progression, to go backwards. We’ll be looking at more traditional sauces, more traditional plating styles, more traditional cooking methods. I have a duty to my team to train them in the basics and the classics so that they can hold their own in future kitchens, and I feel that our guests want to see more classical techniques and influence.”
A dish of lemon sole, for example, typifies everything Paton is trying to achieve with his food. He prepares an “old-fashioned” potato terrine infused with smoked fish stock, fennel and tarragon. The lemon sole is butterflied and the smaller fillet put inside the larger, seasoned with dried seaweed and baked on top of the potato (à la boulangère) so the juices run into the potatoes. The dish is finished with dill emulsion, caviar, fennel and a chive beurre blanc with some dashi running through it, “to give it a bit of smokiness and bring it all together”.
With a passion for pâtisserie – in 2008, Paton won dessert of the year from the Association of Pastry Chefs – diners are guaranteed to leave Boringdon Hall on a high. Recent desserts have included carrot cake, cream cheese ice-cream and cinnamon, paired with Ice Cider from Sandford Orchards in Crediton, Devon; and milk chocolate, “liquid gold” and salted peanut, matched with PX sherry from Bella Luna, Jerez.
From the menu
• Brixham crab, curried emulsion, mango, cardamom, lime
• Citrus-cured halibut, lime, mint, brown butter, cobnuts
• Terrine of duck confit, fig, chicory, Sauternes
• Aged beef, tarragon emulsion, oxtail, café de Paris
• Venison, quince tarte fine, Gewurztraminer sauce, pickled pear
• Turbot, celery root, truffle, oyster
• Raspberry mousse, pistachio cream, raspberry sorbet
• Lemon meringue, marshmallow, sorbet, “infinite vanilla”, white chocolate, pear
£55 for three courses
Boringdon Hall, Colebrook, Plympton, Plymouth, Devon PL7 4DP www.boringdonhall.co.uk