When I returned from America, I was eager to continue the travels to cure my travel bug. But I was fed up with catching planes, changing up currency and paying extortionate exchange fees so I decided to head to the West Coast…but a different West Coast that I had been in.
So I headed to Torquay, also known as the English Riviera and I can see why…
The last time I visited Torquay was back in April 2007 so it had been almost 11 years since my visit so I was eager to return. I decided to take my dad with me seeing as he shared fond memories of Torquay with me.
We took the train to Torquay which took five hours each way. You may be reading this and thinking FIVE HOURS!? But after 11 hour train journeys across the States this was nothing! Plus I really enjoy travelling by train. I can totally zone out and listen to music or use my time wisely (I did try) and blog.
I mentioned in blog posts last year that I was eager to see more of the UK and I had a good mix of travel in 2017 with trips to Rome, Dubai and the US as well as Dorset, Worcestershire, Glasgow and I continued to explore London and I plan to continue this throughout 2018.
Our train arrived in Torquay at 3pm, just in time for check in at John Burton-Race Hotel & Restaurant (previously named The Grosvenor hotel during my visit). The station is a 10 minute walk from the hotel and it’s a lovely walk too along the beach.
We checked into our Superior Double room at John Burton-Race Hotel & Restaurant, to freshen up ahead of our six course dinner at the hotel that evening. The room was extremely spacious with sea views. The room featured a flat screen TV with freeview, complimentary wifi, tea & coffee facilities, and complimentary still water. Our en-suite bath room came fully equipped with robes, a hairdryer, and luxury Gilchrist and Soames toiletries.
I made myself at home as I sipped on a glass of bubbly.
We visited the hotel (which was known as The Grosvenor hotel at the time) just before it was about to undergo its biggest transformation to date, a re-brand. John Burton-Race Hotel & Restaurant now offers award winning fine dining and guests the opportunity to check in, dine, and relax in luxury.
Ahead of our dinner, we decided to go for a walk along the beach and into the town centre. We timed it well and was able to see this absolutely stunning sunset. I’ve never seen a sunset like this in the UK, it was incredible!
We stopped in The Cider Press, a quaint pub serving a large variety of very reasonably priced local ciders. So we took advantage and tried a few before our short walk back to the hotel for dinner. Unfortunately this was all we saw of Torquay as after our lavish dinner we were too full to head back out, and we just felt way too relaxed at the hotel. But it is a reason to go back!
Back at the hotel, it was time for us to experience John Burton-Race’s restaurant and the indulgent six course tasting menu (£60 or £100 with wine pairings). The restaurant was cosy with a roaring fire keeping us warm. The decor is homely but elegant and there is a very welcoming and friendly atmosphere about the place, with absolutely fantastic staff who were so helpful and so knowledgable.
We weren’t quite prepared for what came next. It was a culinary experience like no other.
Our first course was Raviolo of crab and scallop with shellfish bisque. A very indulgent dish which was extremely rich in flavour, and one of the highlight courses of the six.
The delicious freshly baked bread was perfect for mopping up the shellfish bisque, and making sure our plates went back clean. Thankfully the bread was topped up regularly so we didn’t go without.
Our second course was Pan seared foie gras with clementines, pain d’epices and gingerbread puree. This was absolutely delicious with an explosion of flavours which complemented each other perfectly.
With a nod to the coastal town and nearby Cornwall’s local produce, our third course featured roasted Cornish turbot with mild curry sauce, bok choi, seaweed and lemon puree. Another wonderfully presented dish which was bursting with exciting flavours. By this point we were absolutely blown away.
Every thing was served to us within good time and the staff made sure we were attended to well without being too much. They explained each dish to us and were able to answer any questions we had.
For our main course (course number four), we indulged in Beef fillet with cep puree, Jerusalem artichoke, foie gras, truffle and red wine sauce. A truly luxurious and indulgent course which was the star of the show. This was washed down with a perfectly paired glass of Portuguese wine – Casa Ferreirinha Esteva Douro 2015.
By this point my dad and I were starting to become very full but I could not resist the cheeseboard. Cheese is my absolute favourite thing.
We were asked what our favourite cheeses were – soft, hard, mature, pungent, blue etc. and from this our hostess chose the appropriate cheeses for us, so that each cheeseboard is bespoke to the guest. I was very impressed at how personal the service was and how they took the time out to create the board just for us. When serving the cheeseboards, she described each cheese to us – where its from, its flavours and even a brief history on some, which was really interesting.
Each board came with four different cheeses and orange and passion fruit jelly. Our cheeses included:
- Lancashire Bomb – a creamy and full flavoured cheese, it comes in traditional a black wax bomb and has to be scooped out to be served.
- Westcombe Cheddar – a Somerset cheese with a tangy flavour and citrus, hazelnut, and caramel notes.
- Epoisses – A very pungent smelling cheese which not many actually people like, except for me, I was a huge fan! It has a complex flavour but it doesn’t taste as pungent as it smells.
- Maroilles – a smooth and creamy cheese which used to be dipped into coffee by the locals in Picardy and Nord-Pas-de-Calais where the cheese is from.
- Fourme D’Ambert – a semi-hard French blue cheese, very creamy and flavoursome. It is one of France’s oldest cheeses and apparently dates to the Roman times.
- Sharpham Elmhirst – A local cheese from South Devon, it is an unpasteurised triple cream, mould ripened cheese, with a light texture with a delicate flavour.
- Valencay – a creamy and smooth goats cheese with citrusy notes, my favourite of all the cheeses because I absolutely adore goats cheese.
- St Maure de Touraine – a mild and rich goats cheese which has the highest production of any goat cheese in all of France.
I enjoyed each cheese so much that I even finished off my dad’s cheeseboard because it was just SO good.
For the final sixth course we were presented with an espresso and chocolate cannelloni, ice coffee sorbet and yoghurt foam covered in gold. My dad isn’t too keen on coffee so didn’t think he would enjoy this dessert but we were both very pleasantly surprised. It was absolutely delicious and we both thoroughly enjoyed it and agreed that it was the perfect finale dish. The coffee flavour was light and the yoghurt foam added a refreshing taste to the dish.
I can see this restaurant receiving a Michelin star very soon. It wasn’t just a dinner, it was an culinary experience with the beautiful dish presentations and the out of this world flavour combinations. We left feeling very satisfied and extremely impressed.
Surprisingly, after that very full on dining experience, I was definitely up for breakfast the next day and we had high hopes after last night’s dinner!
The continental breakfast offered everything you could wish for and more, with a large selection of cereals, toast and spreads, cheeses, meats and pastries. Looking back at these photos I highly regret not eating more – especially more of the cheese. But I think I was all cheesed out after the night before!!
We went for Smoked haddock with poached egg with Hollandaise sauce and my all time favourite – Eggs benedict which came served with a very generous chunk of ham.
Our breakfast experience was as wonderful as our dinner the night before. The food was absolutely delicious with nothing to fault, and the staff were so friendly that we stuck around after breakfast hours just chatting about our stay and the hotel and restaurant.
We had an absolutely wonderful stay at John Burton-Race Hotel & Restaurant. The whole stay was perfect from start to finish. The hotel has a very relaxed and laid back vibe and offers a top notch, luxury fine dining experience. It’s so good that Toff visited for dinner just a few days after us!
I highly recommend a visit to Torquay for it’s amazing views and for the fantastic local seafood, cheese and cider which I manage to try in just the few hours that I was there. Although I know it has a lot more to offer than that, so I’m definitely considering a revisit!
John Burton-Race Hotel & Restaurant