Visit: 3 March 2023, dinner for two people
Award: 1 Michelin star
The Elephant restaurant is located by Torquay harbour. Run by chef proprietor, Simon Hulstone and his wife Katy, it was awarded a Michelin star in 2006 and has retained it since.
There was an a la carte menu or tasting menu (£95) with optional matching wines (£45). We chose the tasting menu. We started with sourdough bread, with a small dish of goats curd, elderflower honey, and pickled mooli (a mild-flavoured winter radish), as well as whipped salted brown butter.
The first course was citrus cured bream, served with the “tiger milk” (the citrus-based, spicy marinade used to cure the fish in classic Peruvian ceviche), tapioca crisps, smoked oyster emulsion, and an avocado puree. The ceviche was exceptionally tasty and refreshing.
Next, Brixham crab was served with a verjus dressing (the pressed, unfermented juice of unripe grapes), in a Jerusalem artichoke skin shell. Using the skin of the artichoke as a shell for the crab and dressing was something new for me. It was a superb dish, packed with flavour, with the sweetness of the crab being balanced with the acidic sweet, tart flavour of the verjus dressing.
The roasted quail breast was served with crispy potato, confit leg, parsley cream, pearl barley, fermented sweetcorn puree, quail egg, and jus. The quail was perfectly moist. One of us didn’t like quail, but we were able to order a substitute which was wild garlic gnocchi, with parsley cream, parsley salad, pearl barley, and charred sweetcorn.
Next, Skrei cod (a type of Norwegian Cod, in season from January to April each year), was served with a burnt hay cream, roasted cauliflower, cauliflower puree, and crispy kale. The cod was precisely cooked and worked well with the cauliflower and smoky cream. Another excellent dish!
The main course was South Devon beef fillet served with roasted turnip puree, and a smoked eel and shimeji (a variety of Asian mushrooms with a crunchy texture and nutty, savoury flavour) jus. The beef was perfect, melting in the mouth, accompanied by a wonderful slightly smoky and earthy jus.
We chose the artisan West Country cheese option (£15 pp) that was served with house pickles and jelly. The selection included Dorset Blue Vinney from Woodbridge Farm, Sturminster Newton, Dorset; Miss Muffet Cornish cheese made from pasteurised cow’s milk at Whalesborough Farm Foods near Bude; and Driftwood ash coated, goats cheese made by White Lake in Pylle, Somerset. These were served with medlar jelly, quince pâté, and green tomato chutney.
The pre-dessert was an excellent caramelised white chocolate, elderflower sponge, sea buckthorn sorbet, and a sesame tuile. The citrusy, tart sea buckthorn sorbet balanced the rich chocolate perfectly, and the sesame tuile added an interesting texture with nutty, sweet flavours. The main dessert was forced Yorkshire rhubarb, blood orange tart, goats curd ice cream, and lemon balm.
Finally, petit fours of passion fruit jelly with cherry gel, and a plum and coconut chocolate, were served with coffee or tea.
This was exceptional cooking. All the courses were very enjoyable. The service was attentive, and the waiters very knowledgeable and helpful. This is a restaurant I want to visit again!
Outside the restaurant:
Inside the restaurant:
Inside the restaurant:
Simon Hulstone’s career was greatly influenced by his father Roger, who was executive chef at the luxury Imperial Hotel in Torquay when he was growing up. From the age of fourteen he was working alongside his father in the kitchen at weekends, and accompanied him when he took chefs to train at the Ecole Lenôtre (a professional French culinary school in Paris).
Simon apprenticed at Selsdon Park Hotel in Croydon, working under Freddy Jones – a top competition chef. From the age of sixteen he was cooking competitively.
After his apprenticeship, Simon moved to Hanbury Manor Hotel in Hertfordshire, then onto Ston Easton Park Hotel in Somerset. After achieving success at the European Culinary Championships, he competed in the Youth Skill Olympics in France. This required considerable training from a senior chef. Michael Kitts of the Swallow Royal Hotel in Bristol provided the training and support, with Simon worked full time in Kitts’ kitchen. Competing in 1995, Simon achieved Gold.
He spent time in New Zealand working in Stamford Plaza Hotel in Auckland, while also winning New Zealand Young Chef of the Year.
On his return to England, Simon worked as Head Chef at the Bailiffscourt Hotel in Sussex. In 2000, he moved to Cotswold House as Head Chef, before moving onto Cheltenham’s Bacchanalian as Head Chef.
Simon first entered the Roux Scholarship in 2001, and took part in the finals. Then, in 2003, he re-entered and won this prestigious competition. The prize was a stage in any three-Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, and he chose to train with Martín Berasategui at his restaurant in the Basque Country, Spain.
Five years after winning the Roux Scholarship, Simon won the National Chef of the Year 2008. He has twice represented the UK in the Bocuse d’Or, the world’s most challenging and prestigious culinary contest. He was captain of the British team in the Culinary Olympics and was also captain of the English Culinary Team at the Culinary World Cup in 2010 and 2012, as well as representing the UK in competitions in South Africa, Luxembourg, Malta, Canada, South Korea and Australia as an individual competitor.
In 2005, Simon and his wife Katy returned to Torquay. The Elephant won a Michelin star after just one year and they have retained it ever since.
His respect for using quality ingredients inspired him and his then business partner to establish a farm in Brixham, not far from Torquay. Covering 100 acres, they grow the fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers that supply the restaurant, with produce often used in dishes the same day it is picked. They also raise free-range pigs, turkeys, chickens, geese and sheep.
Since 2016, Simon has been a judge for the Roux Scholarship, bringing his expert knowledge, culinary talent, and extensive competition experience to this prestigious competition.