As many of you will already now, we disappeared down to Devon for a fun-and-food-filled weekend, courtesy of the lovely Johnny and Allan. Just to give you a bit of background, the DDC was originally pop up restaurants in London. But, moving with the times, they have extended their reach to the Great Barn in Devon, where they have set up shop (or home, in this case) and for 2 days, you eat drink and be merry in the wonderful rolling hills of Devon.
Johnny is the ringleader. He cooked for Hix and has various other very impressive credentials under his belt, so the real emphasis on the weekend is obviously the food. All we ate was sourced locally and cooked there at the Barn for the weekend, in front of your very eyes & Johnny helpfully demonstrated to us in any processes in steps if we showed the interest.
Our first night, after a low journey trundling through the West Country, we finally arrived, and sat down to the delicious dinner. It was a salad of warm beetroot, walnut and mixed leaves topped with goats cheese. This had fresh zingy dressing and contained three types of beetroot (obviously the uneducated as I thought there was only one type of beetroot – the ignoramus that I am!). There was the classic red, white and golden. All were fabulous with the fresh goat’s cheese, which was excellently complimented by sharpness of the fresh salad leaves.
Main course was venison stew, with the most heavenly baked potatoes, rubbed in the highest quality olive oil and flaked sea salt. The oil was refined to such a high standard that it had a almost silky consistency, and was divine drizzled over the fluffy potato’s centre.
The stew itself was hearty, with bold winter seasoning which warmed your whole body. This was accompanied by perfectly cooked brussel sprouts. Everyone knows that an over-cooked brussell sprout can ruin someone’s whole dining experience so it was a delight to see them keep their composure under a knife.
Pudding was chocolate tart. So rich it was almost the nail in my coffin at the end of a three course supper. Luckily, it was served with crème fraiche otherwise it would have been too much.
I was sad that I couldn’t finish it but after a day’s work and 3 hour train journey, it was the duck-down-duvet covered bed in the guest room looking over the valley and down toward to the sea (all this I was to discover in the morning), that was the main focus of my attention.
The following morning began with a boiled egg and some homemade sourdough toast with homemade marmalade This was of particular interest to me, as having attempted marmalade a couple of times, I still have not managed to get it to the correct temperature so it is either very runny or won’t move from the jar. Johnny’s marmalade was delicious, fluid but not to a point of dripping off the bread. It just sat calmly on the butter and waited for you.
After a brisk 2 hour walk to the Branscombe beach front, uphill and down dale, a brief stop at the local pub – The Fountain Head – in the village for some moule mariniere with crusty bread, we arrived back at the Barn weary but content, and ready for the evening ahead.
We dressed for cocktails at 7pm and were greeted in the kitchen with a choice of White Ladies or French Martinis. White Ladies have always been a favourite of mine, but always too much of a faff to make myself, so I took great pleasure in having them in made for me. This was followed by some little nibbles.
Dinner was a starter of ceviche. I am always a bit suspicious of ceviche, even though I eat sushi like it’s going out of fashion. The bream had been marinated in lemon juice for an hour before serving, which made it deliciously tender. It was served with a medley of fresh vegetables in a multitude of colours making it one of the most appealing dishes to tuck into.
This was followed by a confit of duck leg, served with potato dauphinoise, artichokes and red cabbage. In essence, I am basically a fruit/vegetable bat so this array of vegetables just brought such a smile to my face. These two are never ones I pick up for the weekly shop just out of habit, so it was a real treat to be spoilt like this. The duck was cooked to perfection.
It had a crispy skin and the meat slid off the bone as soon as the knife touched it. The artichokes were roasted in oil, and really lived up to their reputation of the most gas-inducing vegetable – but delicious all the same.
Red cabbage is always a winner in my book; braised in wine, it added colour and a sharp flavour to the plate.
Pudding had to be my highlight – Baked Alaska. I have never had this before in my life (this should be a compulsory part of food education!) I watched with intrigue as Johnny put the ice cream on the base, and covered with wet meringue, and baked for 7 minutes. The result was astonishing (or astonishing for someone who has never had this retro classic before) The meringue was light and warm on the exterior and got squishier, the deeper you delved. The ice cream was still firm and cold, with a layer of marmalade between it and the sponge base. I had two slices of it and could have easily eaten two more.
After drinking far too much delicious wine and after a couple of games of balderdash and the Celebrity Name Game (Jane Street Porter featured twice which really baffled me…says a lot about your friend’s drunken thoughts), we hit the day after a deliriously happy day in Devon.
The next morning, there was lots of rubbing of heads and grumblings about not drinking again-(its Christmas so purely wasted sentences there…) but this was quickly rectified by the most impressive cooked breakfast I have ever been presented with. Crisp rashers of bacon, deep golden-yolked eggs, small yet perfectly formed, sweet, baked cherry tomatoes atop freshly baked sourdough bread, crusty on the outside and cloudy soft on the in. This was washed down with orange juice and freshly brewed black coffee: the perfect solution to any hangover.
And so our weekend of delicious dining came to an end and very sadly, we climbed about the train again and headed back to the smoke. I thoroughly recommend this little excursion to Devon for any 6 people, whether they be couples or just close friends; it’s a wonderfully refreshing experience of how living in the English countryside is meant to be.