Review: The Angel Dartmouth
by Melissa Stewart
07 December 2018
This iconic location on Dartmouth seafront has been given new wings thanks to the introduction of a fresh head chef, as Melissa Stewart discovers
Following in the footsteps of a pioneer of the UK restaurant scene is never going to be an easy task, but it’s one that young Devon-born chef (and MasterChef: The Professionals runner-up) Elly Wentworth is embracing with gusto at The Angel in Dartmouth. Formerly known as The Carved Angel, the restaurant made its name back in 1974 with Joyce Molyneux at the helm.
Soon regarded as one of the best restaurants in the country, Joyce was amongst the first women to win a Michelin star. It’s an accolade that Elly clearly has in her sights too, having spent the last three years working with Hywel Jones at Lucknam Park.
We visit The Angel just ahead of October’s Dartmouth Food Festival, where Elly is set to host her first solo chef demo, as well as cook lunch for the festival’s patron – yup, Joyce Molyneux. Situated on Dartmouth’s stunning seafront, The Angel has an impressive black and white Tudor frontage, and inside there’s a classic vibe with wooden tables, brown leather banquettes, mirrored walls and some classic American Songbook tunes emanating from the stereo. The only thing lacking is a bit of intimacy and cosiness, owing to the bright overhead lighting.
The evening menu offers five mains, five starters and five desserts. Starters average at £9, mains between £20-£25, and desserts £8. As you’d expect, the focus is on championing Devon produce, using native breeds like Ruby Red beef and Greyface Dartmoor lamb, as well as fish fresh from the coast. Elly’s aim is to launch a tasting menu in the coming months for those who are after the full fine dining experience.
I start with quail two ways, with caramelised shallot and grape purée, goat’s cheese and golden sultana. The tender quail meat has a rich depth of flavour and is perfectly balanced with the sweet, fruity purée. A meaty croquette rounds off the dish, and makes for a filling starter. Across the table, an elegantly displayed dish of Loch Duart salmon with squid ink mussels, fennel, smoked taramasalata and citrus is effortlessly devoured, the citrus proving a worthy counterpoint to the intense flavour of the salmon.
For main, I’m recommended the turbot served with a lobster and lemon verbena veloute and sea vegetables. I’m partial to a meaty piece of fish, and this fillet doesn’t disappoint. Although mild in flavour, it’s brought to life by the velvety sauce and salty sea purslane. The showstopper, however, is a handmade parcel of lobster tortellini topped with Exmoor Caviar. Divine. My dining pal opts for the Dartmoor lamb with smoked apricot jam. As someone more at home with steak and chips, he’s bowled over by the perfectly tender cuts of lamb served with mash potato, spring onion, kale, lamb jus and that classic pairing of apricot to give it a sweet edge.
Two courses down and we’re seriously impressed but, for me, it’s the dessert that takes this experience to the next level. I opt for a plum soufflé that’s unlike anything I’ve had before. It’s sharp yet also sweet and fluffy like a cloud, and comes with a dollop of Greek yoghurt to freshen it up. It’s not too heavy on the stomach, but tastes warming and autumnal. My partner goes for the exotically named yuzu cream. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit and comes with a burnt coconut meringue, mandarin and coconut vanilla sorbet. It’s a plate of contrasting tastes and textures, and a pleasing palate cleanser after the rich lamb main.
A special mention goes out to the young front-of-house team who were smiley, chatty and kept on their toes with plenty of unbooked guests popping in. Kudos, too, to Elly’s young kitchen brigade, who really are stepping up to the plate (dodgy pun intended). Yes, there are a few little niggles – the lighting being the main one – but it would be unfair to be overly critical. I’m sure as more customers visit, the restaurant, like the menu, will evolve. What’s nice is to have a top chef once again in this iconic Devon location, and a female one at that. We’re sure she’ll do Joyce proud.