Torquay is one of those places that I have heard of for many years but never managed to visit. For the past few years, I have also wanted to visit The Elephant Restaurant every time I visited Devon and Cornwall in March, but as the restaurant is always closed in the winter season, I have not managed to do so until this year, when my annual visit down to this part of the country has been postponed to the latter half of April. I have heard a lot of good things about the head chef and owner Simon Hulstone also. So I made a detour to Torquay on the way down to Cornwall and paid a long-awaited visit to The Elephant.
It was one of those really nice warm April evenings that I visited The Elephant. The restaurant was light and airy, with signed menus of various chefs across Europe adorning the walls, and the windows providing beautiful views of the Torquay harbour and marina. It was a shame that the music was on the slightly loud side (but maybe I am getting too old!).
For the starter, Russell opted for the Bay Scallops (Dived scallops with cabbage, lemon confit, risotto) – it was cooked well, more on one side, and risotto not heavy at all. Th dish was nicely accented by the flavour of the lemon confit. If there’s one criticism of the dish, maybe there was slightly too much foam and hiding what’s underneath – a presentation issue that’s easily fixable. For me, I had the Devon Crab (Brown and white, cucumber, watermelon, fritter, ketchup, lovage) – The white crabmeat with the watermelon was very light and refreshing, and contrasted well with the heavier and more flavoursome brown crabmeat fritters which were on a layer of crab tartare.
Russell’s main course was Duck (Roasted breast, celeriac puree, pak choi, spiced honey, pain d’epices) while I chose the Halibut (Parsnip, lardo, verjus, spring onions, golden sultanas, flower). Duck and quince worked well together: the roasted breast was soft and tender with a magnificent crispy skin topping, and the poached quince in spices complimented really well with the duck. My halibut was nicely-cooked also – it was a nice combination with all the ingredients but not outstanding compared to the duck.
I have been trying to avoid chocolate-based desserts and especially anything with salted caramel for a few months as I had a few less-than-pleasant experience (inferior chocolates and ultra-salty caramel) in the past. However, having checked the types of chocolates used at The Elephant, I decided to take a risk and tried the Chocolate (Chilled fondant, feuilletine, salted caramel, banana) – I was so glad that I tried this, as the mixture of chocolates worked well together, and the banana puree decorated the side of the plate formed an integral part of the dish both in terms of taste and presentation. The salted caramel was not too salty either and I liked it very much. Russell opted for the Treacle Tart with marmalade, milk, clotted cream: The treacle tart was light, and the orange marmalade was bitter but went very well with the tart.
Service was warm and friendly enough, but for some reasons the waitresses seemed a bit nervous? I was glad to have visited the restaurant and finally tried Simon’s cooking. I even loved the sense of humour when we got the seaside rock with the bill, with the tag saying “Wish you were here” – I could certainly think of a few people that I’d give the rock to.
Address: The Elephant Restaurant, 3 & 4 Beacon Terrace, Torquay, Devon, TQ1 2BH, United Kingdom
Tel: 01803 200 044
Food = 9/10
Ambience = 4/5
Service = 3/5
Total = 16/20 [Based on visit in April 2011]