The Olive Room in Ilfracombe is the jewel in North Devon’s foodie crown. Thomas Carr’s culinary genius is guaranteed to deliver a very special meal.
Why it’s on my list
Fine dining is fun and for me a fairly novel experience. I’ve certainly had my share of posh dinners out, but a Michelin-starred restaurant is a whole new unexplored level. There is now a restaurant in Ilfracombe that has reached this height of achievement – Thomas Carr @ The Olive Room earned its first Michelin star in 2017.
Growing up in North Devon, it would be fair to say that Ilfracombe has not had the best reputation, but with the likes of The Olive Room starting up in the town and becoming a stupendous success, perhaps its fortunes are changing. So when my husband offered to take me to a Michelin-starred restaurant for my birthday, I knew at once that it would have to be The Olive Room.
Location: 56 Fore Street, Ilfracombe
Opening times: Tuesday to Saturday, 6.30pm-9pm
To book: Book online or call 01271 867831
This was the best meal of my life, hands down. Everything tasted incredible, and the most amazing thing was that when trying a mouthful of everything on the plate combined into one forkful, you could taste each individual part of the dish. The ingredients were perfectly balanced and complemented each other like lifelong friends who haven’t seen each other in years. Unforgettable.
What I had
We went for the six-course tasting menu, which was £75 and included:
- Fennel cured salmon, with oyster cream, crispy salmon skin and slices of apple
- B.B.L.T – brill, bacon and lettuce with tomato ketchup
- Sea bream with curry brown shrimp, leek, potato, curry oil and slices of grape
- Hake with crab, samphire, a shellfish bisque, basil oil and pieces of orange
- Exmoor fillet of beef with a crispy oxtail bon bon, pickled onion ring, carrot purée, onion jam and red wine jus
- Rum and raisin ice cream on a chocolate crumb, chocolate mousse with honeycomb, chocolate parfait and chocolate tart
And before all that we had an amuse bouche of mackerel with a cauliflower veloute.
Please note – the above may not be completely correct. There was so much to remember!
As you can imagine, deciding what was the best about this meal is a tricky business. So I’m going to pick my favourites from a few different dishes.
The brill with the bacon, lettuce and tomato ketchup tasted like an intricate and delicate version of the classic B.L.T. – eye-opening.
The potato from the sea bream dish with the curry oil was as comforting as chips and curry sauce, a post night out staple, but so much more refined.
What could be better than perfectly medium rare fillet steak? Well, that steak paired with the unique punchy flavour of a pickled onion ring and a gorgeously glossy red wine jus.
The chocolate selection of desserts demonstrated great respect for chocolate, which is often so sweet in desserts, and great skill in delivering such a beautiful dish with so many textures and flavours. Fabulous dish to end the meal with.
Not the best
We spent about three hours in the restaurant. This was absolutely fine for us, with adequate time between courses to prepare yourself for the next course and for the chefs to do it justice. It’s all part of the experience. I’m glad we arrived when we did (6.30pm) as if it were much later, taking into account travel time, I think it would have been quite a late one.
Fore Street is a delightful street – a steep hill, pretty strings of lights, quiet but still with a bit of life to watch passing by.
The venue inside is just to my liking – uncluttered, unpretentious, spacious, light and airy. There were close-up photos of fresh ingredients on the wall. Chunky wooden tables had just a single tealight as the only form of decoration, letting the food demand all your attention when it’s in front of you. There was room for around 14 diners in total.
The hand soap in the loos was lush – so nice that it’s worth mentioning!
If you’re wondering whether to go for six courses or eight courses, don’t worry about being either too full or not full enough. Six courses left me feeling full but comfortable.
The key thing to remember is that it’s all about the taste, not the portion size, so if you like the sound of those two extra dishes on the eight-course menu, go for it! If I were to go again I would go for the eight-course tasting menu because the two extra dishes sounded really exciting and I now know I could just about manage it.