Damien Hirst's Restaurant 11, The Quay, Ilfracombe, Devon - Restaurant Review
PUBLISHED: 20:51 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 14:32 20 February 2013
11 The Quay<br/><br/>The harbour at Ilfracombe was in darkness when we arrived - all except one place that lit up the whole area like a beacon. As locals will know, that place was 11 The Quay, which draws nightlife like moths...
The harbour at Ilfracombe was in darkness when we arrived - all except one place that lit up the whole area like a beacon. As locals will know, that place was 11 The Quay, which draws nightlife like moths to a flame. Quite an apposite simile really, since the wallpaper in the bar is a creation designed from butterfly wings and based on artwork by Damien Hirst, part owner of The Quay. It doesn't bear thinking about the intrinsic value of the artwork which adorns the dcor, but it's all part and parcel of the whole dining experience at this most unlikely of eating establishments in the once exclusively family seaside resort of Ilfracombe. Exclusivity takes a radically different direction here now, as Damien Hirst and long-time friend Simon Bousquet Browne were quick to recognise when they established the restaurant three years ago. It not only transformed the dining spectrum of the town into something pretty classy, but also provided the impetus for moving Ilfracombe a notch upmarket too.
Stephen Cave is general manager at The Quay and is suitably enthusiastic about the effect that The Quay has had on the town, culturally as well as environmentally. There's an extensive bar menu in The White Hart Bar, which opens out onto the pavement during the summer months, with a very continental feel about it - there were even people sitting outside for tapas when we were there in the middle of March on a pretty dismal night, which says a lot for the buzz here. Upstairs in the Atlantic Room, the la carte menu appears a little more restricted on first sight although it is certainly more exclusive, with the emphasis very much on fine dining and the presentation skills that complement the artistic values of the establishment. However, when you consider the range of different menus available - there is the la carte, a number of set menus for tables of ten and over and a Taste Menu, comprising six different smaller dishes with, or without, a different wine to accompany each course - then there's plenty of variety. Top marks for me went to the ham hock cannelloni starter and the rhubarb crumble, rhubarb compte and cinnamon doughnut dessert - a new one on the menu and unequivocally the best I have tasted. The Atlantic Room is fashioned in the shape of an upturned boat with an aquarium at one end and French doors at the other, which look out directly over the Atlantic - a fabulous view at any time of the year. There were a few other couples dining when we were there, obviously enjoying what was a very special occasion and the ambience is nothing if not comfortable and welcoming. The Quay caters for all tastes with the expanse of menus available, even down to private dining and children who have their own small choices, so it is little wonder that it is so popular. They even give you a postcard to send back with suggestions for improving the dining experience, but I wonder how many they get back, because the design on the front is a Damien Hirst butterfly-wing creation and you'd be torn between posting it and keeping it for posterity.
Scallops with black pudding, mash, capers and salsify pure
Ham hock cannelloni, crushed peas and summer truffle
Pressed duck and foie gras terrine with apple and cherry chutney and fig sorbet
Rump of lamb with tomato couscous, harrisa fondant and saffron oil
Halibut 'Wellington' with red onion confit and cauliflower pure
Slow roast fillet of beef, Dauphinoise potato and pepper sauce
Bailey's creme brle with pistachio biscotti
Chocolate fondant with hazelnut tuile
Pineapple carpaccio with champagne sorbet