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REVIEW: TQ9 at The Royal Seven Stars

PUBLISHED: 10:13 23 January 2018 | UPDATED: 10:13 23 January 2018

Andy Cooper enjoys a fantastic dining experience in new surroundings for him at a familiar spot

It was a hotel restaurant with a Torquay postcode, it was an invitation to sample gourmet night and our waiter was from…Barcelona. Hard to credit and yet that was the scenario which greeted us at TQ9, the restaurant which sits at the back of well-known Totnes hotel The Royal Seven Stars.

Thankfully, there was nothing ‘Fawlty’ about our dining experience, enjoying as we did a splendid meal in stylish surroundings. And our waiter provided excellent service and was a strong advocate for the locally sourced menu too – so no need to reach for the soup spoon to hammer home any kind of ‘training’ message.

The TQ9 restaurant is situated in former stables at the rear of The Royal Seven Stars and is a classy and relaxed room in which to enjoy the full-on gourmet dining experience which head chef Dan Archer and his team provide.

The hotel itself was busy, busy, busy out front when we arrived and it’s a great idea to separate out the more formal dining from the always popular bar area. I’ve used this bar at the place a lot for drinking and dining over the years but hadn’t, until now, ventured into the formal restaurant space.

To start I opted for port braised pork cheek, Jerusalem artichoke crisps and purée with crackling. The promised combination of tastes and textures had intrigued me and it didn’t disappoint…a lovely blend of the tender, flavoursome meat and its crunchy accompaniment. A cracking start.

My dining compadre went for the smoke-cured mackerel fillet as his opener, eagerly anticipating its partnering with ceviche, kohlrabi purée and charred orange segments. Reports from across the table suggested it was a winner, its sweet and savoury blend proving to have just the right mix.

Moving onto the mains this was no time for me to avoid my usual option of choosing fish, especially when the first course my eyes alighted on was pan-seared wild halibut fillet, cauliflower couscous, Romanesco cauliflower, pickled cockles, sea vegetables and herb oil.

It didn’t disappoint. Local sourcing is taken seriously at TQ9 and this flavoursome, simple fish was expertly complemented by the action taking place around it. Again, another triumph for textures on a plate…often overlooked by chefs as a factor in a successful combination for a dish, but not in this case.

The braised blade of South Devon beef was too difficult for my pal to resist, coming as it did with Duchess potato, caramelised onion purée, sautéed girolles, shaved black truffle and red wine jus. He was rapt at the tenderness of the beef and positively delighted with the taste sensations brought forth by the accompanying elements on his plate.

We were done after two courses to be frank so manfully avoided a suspiciously tempting looking dessert menu. I think I might have to detour my way back to TQ9 soon though to try it…and once enjoy again a fantastic dining experience in elegant surroundings.

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