WAITROSE FOOD ILLUSTRATED. October 2007. Green dining. Percy's * * * * * £ £ £
It's not every day you get to greet the animals who will make a vital contribution to your dinner. But then Percy's isn't an everyday place - it's and organic food-lover's dream. Before lunch, we tramped through a little of the 130-acre estate meeting owners Tina and Tony Bricknell-Webb's happily rooting piglets, gambolling lambs and pretty, inquisitive geese along the way. The Bricknell-Webb's dogs came along too. Tina's sure touch with the livestock was as spot-on in the kitchen. Homemade potato & cumin bread and a split-pea soup pre-starter warmed us up nicely, while starters of gentle, grilled goat's cheese with chutney and a warm salad of tender Cornish scallops were light and delicate. "What you have here," pronounced Tony, as he set down our mains, "are two platefuls that have travelled zero food miles." And it showed. Roast loin of lamb with rosemary jus was packed with incredible flavour, and ruby-red bacon-wrapped pigeon breast - shot on the estate - was meltingly tender and powerfully gamey. This was confident, unfussy cooking that let its top-notch ingredients shine; and a smooth bottle of 2003 Greek Tsantali Merlot Organic added a little extra glow. For pudding we chose rhubarb and blackcurrant crumble with ice cream and custard - a perfect balance of sweetness, creaminess and acidity - and a fruit meringue with toffee sauce. A healthy dose of fresh air (and those indulgent puddings) led to some deep slumber in our pretty room, but after a hearty breakfast with outstandingly good bacon, we were ready for more of the great outdoors. In fact everything here - from the welcoming wellies you're encouraged to borrow for a walk, to the beautiful food - feels open, balanced and honest. I'm glad this green dream has become such a well-judged reality. Dinny Gollop.
Saturday August 25th, 2007 The Independent: 10 GREAT ORGANIC RESTAURANTS
The 130-acre West Country estate is home to organic black pigs, organic sheep, poultry and game, and boasts its own orchard, forest fruits, vegetables and herbs. Produce is picked two hours before being served, and anything missing from the pantry is provided by local organic suppliers. Chef Tina Bricknell-Webb offers a three-course menu (£40) including starters such as ham hock terrine with caper berry vinaigrette, a main of oven roast home-reared lamb with rosemary jus, and cheeses including the ewe's milk Shepherd's Crook and goats' cheese Harborne blue. David Taylor
Sunday August 19th, 2007 OBSERVER FOOD MONTHLY: three of the best country house hotels and restaurants in Devon
If you are driving around Devon on a Sunday, looking for a traditional roast with all the trimmings, then don't go to Percy's. Who needs roast beef when what arrives on your plate consists of Percy's freshest organic vegetables and salad plucked from their vegetable garden, seasoned with their own fresh herbs, served with organic meat reared on their farm, perhaps sprinkled with a few mushrooms picked from their woodland? Lunch can often turn into a day out. There are 130 acres of stunning hills to explore, you can visit the pigs, help with bottle-feeding during lambing season, or just sit at a table watching the chickens and the grazing horses. They serve only the most exceptional quality ingredients and it's totally organic. The peaceful, pretty hotel is set away from the restaurant in a 17th-century former granary. Lucy Siegle
GREENER LIVING. June 2007. honeymoon in green style.
Percy's is an award-winning organic hotel and restaurant tucked away on the Coombeshead Estate in Devon. Not just carbon-neutral, the hotel rooms all come with a jacuzzi, TV, DVD player, Egyptian cotton sheets, cafetiere and real china tea pot, not forgetting the chocs and champagne that await a honeymooning couple. After dinner, prepared with local produce by the renowned resident chef Tina Bricknell-Webb, there is the 130-acre estate to explore with the resident sheep and free-roaming pigs and horses. And if you're planning a winter wedding, there are the real log fires to keep you warm. Rooms and dinner cost from £300 per person for a three-night midweek break. Alison Shepherd.
Alastair Sawday's green places to stay eco travel special June 2007
Fresh air, restorative food, tranquillity. The Bricknell-Webbs don't fuss or boast, they just get on with looking after you - beautifully. Wherever you are on these 130 acres - organic conversion now complete - you can be sure that Tina and Tony have been working sympathetically with the land. A huge kitchen garden provides fresh herbs, salad leaves and vegetables all year round, a recently planted 60-acre woodland has a 'food from the forest' theme and a Bramley apple orchard. Game, lamb, pork and venison, goose, duck and chicken eggs come straight from the estate; wild mushrooms too. Once ingredients are harvested, Tina works her magic in the kitchen; expect food that is worth travelling far for. Bedrooms in the converted granary are smart, with huge comfortable beds, chic leather sofas, flat screen TV's and harlequin-tiled spotless bathrooms (some with whirlpools). Grab a pair of wellies - and maybe a labrador or two - and discover one of England's lovliest spots.
20 UK Foodie Weekends. OLIVE. May 2007. Percy’s
This rural hotel offers organic food and field-to-fork dining at its best Fancy a slice of The Good Life without the heavy digging and dungarees? At Virginstow on the Devon-Cornwall border, Percy’s hotel and restaurant sits in a 130-acre working estate, full of rare breed sheep, ducks, hens and horses. Working up an appetite is advised because as the sun sinks over Dartmoor, you’ll be sitting down to four healthily sized courses of food sourced from the land around you. Named after the London restaurant they opened in the 1980’s, Percy’s belongs to Tony and Tina Bricknell-Webb, a couple who combine commercial nous with the grow-your-own commitment of Tom and Barbara. At Percy’s, it’s a case of what you see is pretty much what you eat. ‘We don’t do heavy, classical French cooking, just good, clean, modern British,’ says Tony. Dishes can include rabbit from the estate, scallops from nearby Looe, organic beef from Cornwall, as well as Percy’s deep-red, marbled lamb served with freshly picked herbs and vegetables. With sheep fed on grass and pigs that roam in woodland, Percy’s hens are no exception. Their eggs have rich, dark yellow yolks, which helped Tina win a gold medal at the Organic Food Awards for her tarte au citron. Raymond Blanc declared it was the best he had ever eaten.
Sunday March 18 2007, Eating out: STELLA MAGAZINE. three more plates of perfect pork
Percy's Virginstow, Devon EX21 5EA (01409 211236) Vegetables, herbs and Large Black Pigs thrive on the woodland of this 130-acre estate, before being reunited in dishes such as roast loin of pork in a mushroom, sage and juniper glaze (three courses for £40)
Saturday March 17, 2007 FIVE BEST SPRING BREAKS The Guardian Travel
Percy's is famed for its food, much of which comes from the Soil Association-approved estate. Use it as a base to explore local gardens - Lanhydrock, Heligan, the Eden Project and the Garden House are all a short drive away. Three nights with dinner, B&B cost £300pp.
Saturday March 24, 2007 THE GUARDIAN
Exeter Festival Of South West England Food and Drink Exeter
If there's a foodies' equivalent to Glastonbury Festival then Exeter would be a good contender. The picturesque seven-acre site in Exeter has been expanded to include Rougemont Castle, which hosts the festival's live cookery theatre. This is the place to check out the likes of Michael Caines from nearby Gidleigh Park, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Tina Bricknell-Webb, the latter from the gem that is Percy's Hotel. The Ashburton Cookery School-sponsored Food Is Fun marquee boasts interactive cookery including a session called Tales From The Pig Farm. Northernhay Gardens hosts a colossal marquee showcasing south-west produce. Healthier options include organic veg from Linscombe Farm or Riverford Field Kitchen. A number of cafes and restaurants in the city have also joined forces to present the Food Trail. John Mitchell
GAMBLE ON A WINE BAR SET CHEF UP FOR THE GOOD LIFE 24 January 2007
Looking at her surrounded by pigs, chickens and geese, you would assume that Tina Bricknell-Webb was born to farmers. After all, the co-founder and award-winning chef for Percy's restaurant in Devon is passionate about country issues, such as buying local and cooking to the strengths of your regional produce. In fact, her path to Virginstow in deepest Devon was long and winding, and it started in London. Tina's family were entrepreneurs. In the 1920s her grandfather started breeding and selling white mice. He made enough money to set up a credit betting business in London's Cheapside, near St Paul's Cathedral. His son, Tina's father, followed in his footsteps, opening a chain of betting shops. "I started early," said Tina, recalling that at 14 years old she was drafted into learn the business. "I didn't know it then, but it was good preparation. The hustle and bustle that goes on in betting can be like a kitchen when things get manic. "Tina was assigned Tony Bricknell-Webb as a mentor to learn her first trade: horses, handicaps, odds and betting. Over the years the pair fell in love and began to yearn for a different life together, one which allowed them some artistic flair. In 1988 this came about in the form of a wine bar. Taking a huge loan, they opened Percy's in Harrow, North London. Tina recalled: "We had several false starts with chefs who were hopeless cooks. I thought, I can do this. I can do this better." Tina taught herself to cook and was doing a hundred covers most days. Tony picked up the front-of-house duties, and as he described it, did a "speed course in how to charm" when things went wrong. By the end of the first year the Bricknell- Webbs were thriving and had gained an enviable reputation throughout the area, both for the atmosphere of their restaurant and for Tina's freshly cooked food, unspoilt by over-salted rich sauces. But Tina could not face the prospect of the London rat race without the vision of an occasional escape. "We needed someplace else to go where we could recharge our batteries," she said. "We wanted a hideaway for two days a week or so, where we could go with the dobermans, maybe even keep a couple of horses. "Plus I wanted to grow fresh produce that I needed so badly for the wine bar. "A long search culminated in the purchase of Coombeshead Farm, a 500-year-old rundown Devon longhouse near Okehampton, on the northern edge of Dartmoor. The 30 acres included barns and a huge dismantled glasshouse; it was just what Tony and Tina had dreamt of, and they secured it with a daring pre-auction bid. At first Tina and Tony used the farm as a refuge from city life. But gradually, they began to develop it as the site of their future business. They applied for planning permission for rooms and a restaurant at Coombeshead. Building works started and the money poured out of their bank account. "It was a difficult time," said Tina. "It was vital for us to keep up the success of the wine bar. It was our only source of income. In 1995 we had to divide and conquer, with Tony overseeing the building works here and me running a busy kitchen 200 miles away. "Although Tina's efforts were still earning regular accolades in London (including a Michelin Red M), the two mortgages and the travelling were a big strain. Tina was looking forward to moving out of London. She said: "I thought, once we move down permanently, it will be a different pace. It will be no hardship for me to cook the odd breakfast and a few dinners a week. Little did I know. "Eventually, the mellow farm became a business. Tony and Tina had had to borrow more from the bank to overhaul the rooms to the right standard, but Percy's soon gained popularity among couples seeking a rural getaway. Crash-course farmers, Tina and Tony made excellent use of the land and learnt how to grow and breed most of their produce on their estate. In addition to vegetables, many of them quite unusual, they nurtured chickens, ducks, geese, pigs and sheep. There was even venison, supplied by a farmer who shot in nearby woodland. "We made all the classic townie mistakes," laughed Tina. "Like putting a poly-tunnel on top of a windy hill, where it blew off. We got caught trying to shift a pig pulling both snout and tail at the same time - that gave the locals a few laughs ."Finding it difficult to attract properly qualified staff, Tina even grew her own chefs. She founded "The Academy of Regional Culinary Excellence", a training ground for budding chefs. The result is that not only is Percy's one of the top restaurants in England, but the kitchen is almost entirely staffed by local teenagers learning their trade. Having finally disposed of Percy's in London, Tina no longer has to divide her attentions. She concentrates on Percy's Restaurant and Country Hotel and its garden, often priding herself in being able to say to her guests that every thing on their plates has been grown on the farm.It was a long haul, but Tina's dreams have come to fruition, as "Mr and Mrs Percy" (as they are known locally) live the good life among their thoroughbred horses and assorted animals. Percy's has attracted many accolades over the years, but the one that Tina holds most dear is the review from Giles Coren, food critic for The Times, who wrote "Percy's is a very rare place indeed...I ate like I never thought I would". He awarded Tina nine out of 10 and telephoned prior to the article being printed to say that it was the most endearing article that he had ever written about anyone. Tina said: "That made me smile. It also gave me the energy to drive Percy's even further."Percy's Country Hotel is on Coombeshead Estate in Virginstow, Devon. For more information call 01409 211236 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
THE TIMES The Knowledge January 6th 2007
10 Top Spots for healthy grub - Percy's Country Hotel Warm hospitality from the Bricknell-Webbs is as much a feature of this renovated 16th century longhouse as the deep commitment to grow & source organically. It means that guests are treated to seasonal goodies with an emphasis on herbs & clever spicing – seafood from the fish market at Looe, game, home-reared lamb & pork, homegrown eggs (from hens and geese), organic beef, duck & chickens from Exmoor, & organic homegrown vegetables, herbs & salads. Treat yourself to a night in one of the whirlpool-fitted guest rooms. It is totally smoke and child free – bag a spot on the teak patio breathe in the fresh air & drink in the peace & tranquillity. Lunch by prior arrangement. www.squaremeal.co.uk