A romantic dinner at The Elmfield, Ilfracombe
HOW do you solve a problem like Valentines Day? My problem is that I like to think I'm a bit of an old romantic at heart and while Sex In The City's Carrie Bradshaw might tell you that this is a lost quality in men these days, it causes me no end of problems — I just like things to be perfect.
I was lucky in some respects that I had met my girlfriend around this time last year, shortly after Valentines Day, thus alleviating any pressure from cupid and his band of nappy-clad cronies. However, as the months in our relationship flew past, I knew I could only avoid the inevitable for so long.
Chef Tom Frost
For the daytime I planned a romantic walk at Heddon's Mouth followed by an afternoon of pampering at a local spa, perfect. But where to go for a meal? That's always a tricky one.
I opted for the Elmfield in Ilfracombe, a child-like decision based solely on their pretty pink logo and eye-catching advert. Pitching itself as a trendy, boutique-style hotel and restaurant, I decided that I liked the look of this place – modern, fashionable and quirky – all things I would like to be.
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We arrived at the restaurant and were shown to the cosy yet eclectic bar for our free Champagne cocktails. We sipped our drinks, perused the menu and took in the mismatched splendour of the walls surrounding us – adorned in Toulouse Lautrec style posters and that flowery wallpaper that Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen seems to favour.
We were then shown through to the dining room which was small but equally eye-catching with yet more flowery wallpaper.
Amuse bouche tickled our taste buds while we waited for our starters: artichoke veloute for me and smoked haddock fish cakes for the lady, both of which were delicious. The veloute was rich and creamy while the fish cakes were crisp and complemented with fresh celeriac and a parsley puree.
For our main course we both opted for the fillet of Spreacombe beef on a bed of mashed potato with spinach and beetroot sauces and a horseradish foam.
This was a novel, innovative and tasty approach to a classic dish which worked superbly to complement the feel of the establishment.
Still reeling with delight from our main course, dessert was soon to follow. Again we decided on the same dish – chocolate fondant with Devon clotted cream, cooked to perfection and every bit as mouth-watering as it sounds.
It's worth mentioning that the alternatives to our choices also sounded delicious.
Pan roasted fillet of Blakewell trout with a balsamic glaze was on offer for a main course while apple jelly with cinnamon cream lurked temptingly on the dessert board.
We took our coffee in the lounge and curled up on the comfortable sofas, stuffed to the brim and both grinning like Cheshire cats.
In the words of Madness: 'It must be love!'.