Set over three floors in the impressive 15th century Prysten House, Tanners restaurant provides a beautiful setting for a romantic dinner. All stone walls and oak beams, it has the air of a castle but without any intimidating grandeur. It is renowned as one of the finest restaurants in Plymouth and, having now sampled it myself, I must say its reputation is well-deserved. The service is smooth and although my dining partner and I were waited on by at least 4 different people over the course of the evening, we still felt well looked after. The wine list is a delight – one of the few I’ve encountered that really endeavours to explain each of the wines – and it carries a good range of entry level, mid-price and fine wines. We opted for the Saint Clair Pinot Noir (2009, £39.50), which was deliciously fruity, medium-bodied and very easy to drink.
To start, I chose seared scallops with Galmpton cauliflower and golden raisins. I adore scallops, but I confess I felt a little apprehensive about the combination with cauliflower and raisins when I ordered. I needn’t have worried – the dish was simply delightful. The huge scallops were perfectly cooked, the texture soft and yielding and the flavour delicate and fresh. The cauliflower was served in tiny florets, slightly crisped on the outside, which provided a fantastic contrasting texture to the softness of the scallops. The sweet raisins somehow enhanced the flavour of the scallops so that a mouthful of all three ingredients together was simply divine. My dining partner’s starter of duck yolk ravioli with spinach and Madeira sauce was quite different from what we were expecting – the yolk came liquid-like atop one giant piece of ravioli, whose filling was intensely mushroomy, but this was still a delicious dish despite its unusual nature.
My main of roast Bodmin Moor venison loin with a hazelnut and coco nib crust, red sauerkraut and pear, and maple glazed parsnips was equally impressive. The venison was cooked pink (the kitchen will do it differently on request) and was wonderfully succulent with a rich, gamey flavour. The crust of hazelnut and coco nibs provided a subtle crunch and the slight tartness of the sauerkraut cut through the richness of the meat to prevent the dish from feeling too heavy. My dining partner went for the Westcountry Aberdeen Angus sirloin cut and boxeater beef, with marrowbone gratin, capers and beef juices, which he clearly enjoyed. The sirloin was cooked medium-rare (as requested) and the boxeater well done (this is how it comes); the difference in taste and texture between the two cuts was striking, but both were brilliantly flavourful. We shared a side of large, square-cut duck fat chips, which were beautifully soft and fluffy on the inside, with a light crispness on the outside and a fantastic duck-y flavour that made them infinitely more enjoyable than regular chips.
It’s a testament to the expertise of the kitchen that at this point we felt comfortably full, but still had just enough room for dessert. I was delighted by my dark chocolate fondant with persimmon sorbet. The outer sponge was light but still intensely chocolatey, while the melting dark chocolate centre was smooth and satisfyingly rich, and the light fruitiness of the persimmon sorbet provided a delicious contrast both in taste and temperature. My dining partner was in a savoury mood so opted for the artisan cheese selection with raisin bread, biscuits and home made stone fruit chutney. The three cheeses were a West Country cheddar, a Pont L’Évêque, and an Exmoor Blue. I held back from tasting them as I didn’t want to spoil my chocolate fondant, but they looked and smelt fantastic and were polished off with relish by my dining partner.
At around £70 per head for three courses, wine and service, Tanners is a bit of a treat, but a wonderful one to try if you get the chance. I do love it when I get to write a really glowing restaurant review – and Tanners is one of those: definitely worthy of a full five Forks-Up.
Tanners Restaurant Prysten House
PL1 2AE Tel: 017 5225 2001