Devon restaurant ODE manages to combine good food with excellent green credentials, including a stamp of approval from the Soil Association. Joanna Wood went to check it out
ODE, Tim and Clare Bouget's restaurant in Shaldon, Devon, is tiny: a 24-seater with cream-washed walls and, in early summer at least, a Springwatch-style view from its window tables of fluffy gull chicks strutting their stuff on the roof ridges across the road.
The wildlife seems apt, as the restaurant is green par excellence, with an ethos grounded in all things sustainable, organic, local and recyclable - and Soil Association certification to underline the fact.
Green credentials aside, as soon as you read the menu it's obvious this is a serious restaurant and the hand that cooks there is a skilled one. Tim Bouget's early culinary training was at the Waterside Inn in Bray, Berkshire, and over the past two decades he has refined his craft around the world.
SHORT AND SWEET
With only one chef helping him in the kitchen, Bouget sensibly keeps his seasonally shifting menus (an à la carte and a set-price lunch menu, the latter offered Thursday and Friday) short and sweet.
Tweaked daily, you might see Dawlish asparagus and pea shoots with a coddled egg dressing (£8.50) offered one day, only to find it replaced 24 hours later with a dish of locally caught squid.
As ODE is located in the small coastal village of Shaldon on the west banks of the Teign estuary, freshly landed local fish features heavily on the menus. When I dropped in last week, in addition to the squid there were dishes built around sea bass, lobster, mackerel and sea trout.
I tried two fish offerings. Both were grounded in classic flavour matches, but were finished with a modern finesse. A plate of tender, grilled squid came with a delicate mound of salad leaves spiked with flat leaf parsley, slivers of hot radish, crunchy morsels of pork, a hint of lemon and a feather of fennel, plus a saffron aïoli on the side: a perfect summer starter (£9.50).
Succulent, pan-fried sea trout (known locally as salmon peel) had a satisfying crisp on its rock-salted skin and came perched on a bed of petite capers and finely chopped parsley (£21.50).
Typical of the meat dishes is a lunch starter of locally shot venison from nearby Ugbrook Park.
"It's a bit out of season, but the gamekeeper is culling a few of the roe bucks to keep the numbers down," Bouget explains.
As with much of his cooking, there is an Asian influence in the dish. The ultra-tender venison is rolled in toasted sesame seeds and served with a sushi-esque roll of grated carrot and miso leaves. The final touch, a sauce made with local Harbourne Blue goat's cheese, adds a Westernised element but may not, concedes Bouget, be to everyone's taste.
The alternative end to a meal at ODE is one of the clever takes on comfort puds, such as the seasonal rhubarb compote, which tops a wobbly circle of soft meringue and is crowned with a crunchy tuille (£6.50). The rhubarb comes from ODE's rooftop kitchen garden, which also supplies an impressive array of vegetables and fruit.
"We have to augment it, obviously, but it's great to have," says Bouget. "Generally, most of our produce is sourced in a five or 10-mile range, but we do go out of that area when we have to."
In a place as seasonal as Devon, covers are notoriously difficult to predict. Weekends are usually booked out, but weekday reservations vary.
"We pray for a sunny Monday and Tuesday to bring people out, then for a wet end to the week," jokes Bouget.
Nevertheless, in just two years, ODE has attracted a loyal following (spending an average of £50 per head) and a raft of food awards, testament to Bouget's craft skills and the implementation of the philosophy behind the restaurant. And probably to the attraction of ODE's own label ale brewed in a local microbrewery.
21 Fore Street, Shaldon, Devon TQ14 ODE
Tel: 01626 873977www.odetruefood.co.uk
WHAT'S ON THE MENU
- Chilled potato and broad bean soup, £6
- Sweet chilli and tamari glazed Lyme Bay mackerel fillet, rice-paper wrap with pickled carrots, £7.50
- Oakdown Farm goats' cheese mousse with butternut squash, caramelised red onion and aged balsamic, £8.50
- Keen's butter poached Start Bay lobster with thyme, local asparagus and lobster sauce, £24.50 per lb
- Slow-cooked rump of Pitts Farm spring lamb, potato terrine and wet garlic sauce, £21.50
- Pan-seared, line-caught sea bass with roasted globe artichokes, potato and parsley sauce, £19.50
- Lemon posset with candied lemon and hazelnut praline, £5
- Devon strawberries and Riverford clotted cream with shortbread and pink peppercorn syrup, £7.50
- Montezuma chocolate in three ways: mousse, flourless cake and cracknel, and Cabernet sauce, £7.50