|Tuna carpaccio with chilli & mango salsa|
One of the things I love about the Marlborough Tavern is that they’re always switching it up – as well as a delicious regular menu, they love to host theme nights highlighting different great produce. When I saw the board outside advertising a South-West seafood night, I just couldn’t resist. Is there anything more summery than fresh seafood? With their beautiful walled beer garden, draped with rambling vines, the Marlborough Tavern is fabulous on a summer’s evening – but the bar and restaurant are equally cosy in the winter, with fat votive candles burning, a gently worn parquet floor, and intimate alcove tables for the perfect date night.
When we arrived just before eight, the restaurant was already buzzing with plenty of happy diners – unsurprising, since the smells floating from the kitchen were absolutely mouth-watering. To start, I ordered the seared tuna carpaccio with poached lobster and a crab bon bon, all served with a fabulous chilli and mango salsa. It was almost too beautiful to eat, a fabulous rainbow of fresh colours – but I couldn’t resist. The flavours were light and bright, the sweet mango perfectly balancing the richness of the seafood. On the back of the menu was a handy guide to wine pairing for each course, so I washed it all down with a glass of Viognier de l’Hospitalet, a lovely sweet and spicy white. I couldn’t help cleaning my plate, but I have to admit that I think I liked my dining companion’s choice even more – scallops, Parma ham, smoked bacon foam and Stornoway black pudding. It’s certainly a flavour combination that I’ve had before, but when it’s done this well you can see why it’s become a favourite – the rich, smoky black pudding, the salty Parma ham, and the sweet, delicate scallops are a match made in heaven.
The main course was definitely my stand-out dish for the evening – roasted Cornish brill, with crab & chervil gnocchi, crab bisque and fennel. The fish was perfectly cooked – light and flaky, with crispy skin – and the gnocchi was a great touch, the chervil making the perfect counterpoint to the crab. As far as the bisque was concerned, I had to restrain myself (with difficulty) from licking the plate – it was that good. With all those rich flavours, the dish could have been overpowering, but it was nicely balanced by fresh touches – from the delicate, floral flavours of the braised fennel, through the tangy sharpness of pickled fennel, to bright, citrusy coriander. It was all beautifully put together, and went down fabulously with a glass of Petit Chenin Ken Forrester. My dining companion’s dish was a little safer – Lyme Regis megrim sole, herb crushed potatoes and noilly prat cream, with samphire, asparagus and pickled grapes. Although it was a little less summery, the flavours were still gorgeous, and the pickled grapes were an especially nice touch.
For dessert, I couldn’t resist the dark and white chocolate brownie, with cherry sorbet and praline. I’m not usually a fan of chocolate and cherry, but in fact this was fabulous because the cherry flavours were completely natural. I must admit I couldn’t find the white chocolate in my brownie, but it was still gorgeous fudgy and rich. The whole thing went beautifully with a glass of Els Pyreneus Maury Grenat – a fortified red wine full of big, juicy, fruit flavours. My dining companion chose a buttermilk panna cotta with ginger cake and rhubarb – not really my sort of thing, but he assured me it was absolutely delicious.
As you’ve probably gathered, we had a fabulous evening and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Although these dishes aren’t on the regular menu, the care taken to match flavours and textures, to pair dishes with the perfect wines, and to present everything beautifully, all speaks to how good the Marlborough Tavern is. Keep an eye out for their next themed menu and in the meantime, pop in on a warm evening and enjoy their gorgeous beer garden. Cheers!