Der Feinschmecker: percy's (EUROPE'S MOST POPULAR & WIDELY READ GOURMET MAGAZINE)
A loud noise cracks through the peaceful scenery surrounded by high green hedges and weather-beaten wooden gates in the middle of nowhere in South West England. Tina Bricknell-Webb is rubbing her sore knees and pulling a face. The black and white sheep ram with nicely curved horns, which she bought from a neighbour, stands stamping his hoof with a threat on the trailer. He does not think of getting off but has pushed his new owner of her feet. He might have recognised that his new master is not only a farmer but a chef as well. But despite his fear a paradise is waiting for him at the Coombeshead Estate in Virginstow. 200 sheep feeding on vast meadows and waiting that he makes sure Tina’s lamb in Percy’s stays the best in Devon. On the border to Cornwall and three and a half car hours away from London Heathrow, where the air is so fresh and clean that it makes one comfortably tired in the early evening, Tina and her husband Tony have created a space in heaven on more than 50 hectares for guest who treasure live close to nature. Eight rooms without marble luxury but instead with country comfort and a cosy atmosphere are welcoming the guest with juicy ginger homemade bread. 60 000 trees have been planted: common juniper, wild cherry, and sweet chestnut - the forest as a natural repertory. Fruit, vegetables and herbs are cultivated and grown strictly organic. The sheep graze on rich fields, big black pigs feast on chestnuts and acorns and roots in the woodland. Several kinds of poultry are providing fresh eggs for breakfast. “The only supplier I can trust absolutely, is myself”, says Tina, she doesn’t accept any compromises concerning quality. Early in the morning, when the fog is covering the landscape, Tina is driving over the estate and feeding the pigs and sometimes she patches up a sheep. She does the butchery herself and cures the hams. In the kitchen she only works with one kitchen hand and every dish is being prepared a la minute, which sometimes means the dinner guests have to be a little patient. But this is worthwhile. Intensive pure flavour enthrals the taste buds when marinated goat cheese and aubergine, zucchini, capers and spring onions, fresh home-grown salad, high quality olive oil and scallop from Devon’s coast. Simple dishes with an outstanding taste. The star of the evening is the lamb: thinly sliced, rolled up in bacon and grilled slowly until pink. Unbelievable tender and with a natural tastefulness it comes to the table, perfectly accompanied by thyme, oven roasted slices of carrots, zucchini flowers and a wonderful fluffy potato-mousseline. Here at “Percy’s” one starts to sense why Devon and Cornwall are called the culinary treasure box of Great Britain. HARDEN'S UK Restaurants: Percy's.
THE PEOPLES VERDICT.
"Avery good restaurant with comfortable rooms, close to Dartmoor and the North Devon coast"; reports all attest to its all-round charms, not least its "excellent and imaginative" cuisine.
Tina lives the good life...with a gourmet twist DEVON TALK, SUMMER 2008
Tina and husband Tony moved to Devon from London to set up Percy's Country Hotel and realise the dream of offering customers the very best quality food, a dream that started in her teens when she worked in Europe. "My passion for the best quality ingredients began when I was working in the kitchen of a very wealthy German businessman, who always dined on prime cuts of beef and the highest quality salmon. I realised early on that to create the best tastign dishes for your customers, you had to have a real eye for quality and an understanding of how to achieve it." This desire for top quality is the very bedrock of the farm, hotel and restaurant, and the almost self-sufficient operation has been described by some as the BBC 70's sitcom The Good Life with a gourmet twist. Tina knows the complete linege and breeding score of all her animals, right back to great grandmothers, and believes that this total understanding of her lambs, pigs and geese leads to a finer dining experience for her customers. "I believe that the additional knowledge I have as a farmer means I have total reassurance of the welfard and quality ofevery animal. My pigs roam free in the woodland, foraging for natural food, which means they are able to exhibit natural behaviours. Like many Devon farmers, the time we put in caring for our animals is an integral part of the process and this is what adds the value to our end product." Tina is just as passionate about Devon produce and whether we shoudl still be eating ready meals. "Devon and the South West is one of the best larders in the UK. We have it all on our doorstep from organic vegetables to luxury ice-cream. There are a huge number of high quality food producers with some of the best food fairs around, and it is important that they continue to be supported by local people. Obesity and reliance on redy-prepared meals is a huge problem in this country but it's not too late to do something positive and Devon is an ideal place for this. Take your children at an early age to see the colours and textures of fresh food and buy them a couple of plants to look after. Its fun to get them involved and will help them understand that you can put together simple, delicious and nutritious food for the same or less than it costs to buy a reay meal." Tina faces the universal farming problems of rising fuel prices and the price of feed, commenting that it often costs more to raise the animals than the market price. "Hopefully things will improve but local producers need support through this time if we want the British industry to survive." As we say goodbye to Tina, she's off to see if her boar has caught scent of her roaming sows in the woods. She leaves us with one final thought: "I believe that to give my animals the best start in life, you have to feed them the right stuff. Wherever we can, we should do this for ourselves. Buying locally-grown fresh food and cooking it simply can give us the best start too." The knowledge: 10 top ethical restaurants The big eat: percy's country hotel june 2008 £££ Coombeshead Estate, Virginstow, Devon. square meal Warm hospitality from the Bricknell-Webbs is as much a feature of this renovated 16th-century longhouse as their commitment to grow and source organically. Guests are treated to seasonal goodies with an emphasis on herbs and clever spicing - seafood from the fish market at Looe, game, home-reared lamb and pork, organic beef, duck and chickens from Exmoor and organic home-grown vegetables, herbs and salads. A three-course meal might consist of lightly spiced seafood chowder with fresh coriander, followed by loin of home-reared organic pork with sage and juniper glazer, and then mixed berry meringue with clotted cream ice cream, toffee sauce and toasted nuts to finish. Lunch is by prior arrangement.