but the type of 4.5 that is pretty much a 5
Type of cuisine
Fine dining with a largely seafood presence, this restaurant’s chef really knows his way around getting exciting flavours out of food, including the local produce on offer in Devon.
In a word
Tucked away literally one street from Plymouth’s rising Royal William Yard, this gem appeals to anyone who likes a friendly and intimate setting for fine dining, and skilful cooking skills mastering their seafood. Cosy, intimate and refined, I’d guess it was more of a place for couples than families. Saying that, I would take my discerning nieces in a heartbeat.
I was interested in dining at The Samphire Bush as soon as they came up on my twitter feed. Their name appeals instantly to my foraging heart, and the images of their food are stunning. Getting the chance to join them for a tasting menu was tantamount to being invited to dine with Raymond Blanc! Better yet, the night included wine tasting from the restaurant’s wine supplier Wine in Cornwall, and a talk from the Padstow Lobster Hatchery about conservation of our ‘pinchy’ friends. In fact, I was so impressed with the work the lobster hatchery do that I’ve yet to make a special trip to write about the fantastic work they’re doing to replenish lobster supplies.
The Samphire Bush support the ethical and sustainable charity by opting into their “Buy one, set one free” scheme. Diners who order lobster are encouraged to donate to the hatchery, enabling them to carry out important conservation work.
…in the best possible way. This restaurant seats 40, and operates on a single setting policy, so people can relax and enjoy their meal without needing to be rushed out afterwards. This gave it a lovely relaxed feel, and the restaurant was lit with low lighting to create ambiance.
When you get canapés as lovely as this, it’s a pretty good sign about the rest of the meal. I couldn’t fault any of the seafood starters, which kept being topped up, with a lovely light prosecco. Mackerel escabeche that was so soft and melted in the mouth, leaving a clean slightly sharp rhubarb taste was presented in neat diamonds, whilst oysters fresh from the River Yealm were perfect in red wine & shallot vinegar.
A sea trout gravadlax canapé, with mango and beetroot had all the flavour of a cured salmon and delicious sweetness to balance the salt. Of course, the lobster, apple and fennel tartare was the dish of the day: delicate, sweet and with sustainable lobsters! I could have spent the evening eating these alone, and drinking fresh, light prosecco.
More Salcombe crab
I may have mentioned before that Salmcombe crab is delicious. So seeing this on the menu was another score on the Charlie Sheen WINNING at life card. This appetiser was possibly my favourite crab dish ever. Served with a light gazpacho, melon, mint and cucumber, delicate flavours complimented the delicious taste of crab, and gave the whole thing a really clean taste.
That crack(ling)’s really moreish
The starter of lemon sole had so much soul it even lulled me into enjoying pork crackling for the first time in my life! Admittedly I wouldn’t have ordered this, solely (see what I did there) because of the pork cracking veloute, but I would have missed out on the delicious saltiness that opened up the taste of the sea perfectly. What I was less sure about was why ‘Bistro Wine Man’ felt the need to ‘mansplain’ everything that Doctor Carly Daniels was telling diners about the fantastic work of the lobster hatchery.
That said, he had previously owned the restaurant and regaled us with tales of when Lauren Bacall had dined there after a show one night! I’m sure the food was good back then, but Chef Martin really showed different ways of presenting seafood, which for someone who eats it all the time was no mean feat.
As I’m writing this, each dish becomes ‘my favourite’, but I think this one really did stand out. The memories of this food are calling me back up and across the border.
All about the bass
The main was wild seabass with sweet red pepper and a cauliflower purée. This was served up with a mango tagliatelle, and a sweet orange, fennel and star anise cream, which was so lightly flavoured, it really just brought out the natural sweetness of the rest of the dish. It was playful, clever and really delicious. I’ve eaten a lot of sea bass, and this was certainly stand out as some of the best I’ve had.
Catch the pigeon
When we were staying at Glazebrook House, just 20 minutes away from Plymouth; chef Dan had told us about all of the wonderful game caught on Dartmoor. So when I saw pigeon as part of the tasting menu, I was pleased to see The Samphire Bush making the most of the locally sourced game. But also nervous because when I did eat meat, I even found lamb too gamey. It’s just a very strong meaty flavour, and I am a seafood girl through and through. However, the dish was presented perfectly, with the deep and rich flavours of fondant potato, butternut squash purée and balsamic dressed greens. The point of this course was to demonstrate Martin’s flexibility as a chef, and it did its job.
However, it turns out that pigeon is still too gamey for me, and so I wrapped up the second piece in my napkin.
And found it in my purse the following day. Ewwww. (Sorry Martin. It was beautiful: just not my ‘thing’)
Not just the one dessert, but a range of four were served to finish off the meal. The rosemary pannacotta was delicately fragranced as opposed to heavily seasoned with the rosemary, which complimented the mint chocolate ganache perfectly. A thin almost carpaccio of roasted rhubarb gave the bittersweet fruity cleanse which perfectly rounded off the meal, and matched the ruby red pomegranate sorbet. These assorted desserts demonstrated further creativity, skill and flavour, and somehow all worked together.
The Samphire Bush is one of my favourite restaurants, for the food and wine, but also the amazing friendliness of the staff, and the ethos of working to conserve seafood stocks. Clearly, if you’re a seafood fan, you should go, but I also recommend a visit to anyone who likes to eat a fine dining setting and enjoys restaurants who have a demonstrable passion for food, ingredients and sustainability. A really lovely evening.
The Samphire Bush
36 Admiralty Street
Plymouth PL1 3RU
Tel: 01752 253247
Wednesday – 12pm-14:15 (last food order)
Thursday – 12pm-14:15 (last food order)
Friday – 12pm-14:15 (last food order)
Saturday – 12pm-14:15 (last food order)
They will open at 5 upon request
Tuesday – 18:00 – 21:00
Wednesday-18:00 – 21:00
Thursday-18:00 – 21:00
Friday –18:00 – 21:00
Saturday- 18:00 – 21:00