Fit for a king
PUBLISHED: 09:00 01 August 2013
It's always had a reputation for excellent food and innovative chefs, but is the Castle Hotel at Taunton still the place to dine out in Somerset? Andy Cooper pays a visit to find out
A fine dining experience is a three-pronged experience for me.
Good food yes, as a prerequisite. But good service and good conversation have to be in the mix too for me to truly consider a restaurant visit to be a truly memorable experience.
Restaurateurs may cry foul at their inability to control the latter – after, all that’s down to my choice of dining partner – but they can at least assure themselves the food and the service are top notch.
So, trust the Castle Hotel to not only tick boxes one and two, but to also take great steps to ensure my third wish list requirement – conversation – was catered for superbly too.
This came in the form of the hotel’s welcoming and warm general manager Marc MacCloskey, who took the time out of his evening to join us for our meal with his charming wife Hilde and thus managed to entertain us royally while we dined.
Indeed, the experience had me wondering, for once, whether one can have TOO much good conversation over dinner. So wrapped were we in swapping stories and experiences with Marc and Hilde that there was a slight danger of us overlooking the food served to us at the hotel’s Castle Bow Bar and Grill.
I say ‘slight’ because, frankly, this was food of the finest order and one couldn’t help but be diverted from conversation to revel in it.
Chef Liam Finnegan, like Marc originally from Ireland, is truly a Celtic tiger when it comes to roaring from the kitchen and here is a man who knows what he is doing with fine food.
Exquisite and delicate presentation complemented the cornucopia of flavours on offer and as much attention and detail was paid to the vegetarian requirements of the GFP* as it was to the carnivores at the table.
Indeed, despite me waxing in wonderment at the lasagne of wild Quantock Hill rabbit, wood blewits and chervil cream sauce which melted in my mouth, the GFP was quick to counter that her version, with a veggie twist, was just as breathtaking.
Food and Beverage Manager Giancarlo Marino and waiter Tom Watters were attentiveness personified and, from glancing at the service offered to other tables in the busy restaurant, it was clear we were not just being singled out for such treatment because The Boss was with us. I calculated it had been some 10 years since I last dined at The Castle and for the GFP her experience had been even longer, working as she had as a student chambermaid there. As we both made our way contentedly into the evening air through that magnificent entrance porch, we both avowed we would not leave it too long before a return visit.
* The Glamorous Fusspot accompanies me on all my food reviews.