And while we all know that chefs are incredibly hard working, on this day, Simon was on lunch duty at The Cube (on Christmas Eve no less), before heading back to Torquay for dinner service at The Elephant: a killer day. But despite that, Simon laid on an exemplary meal at The Cube, putting a smile on everyone's face, sharing great banter with the guests and making this Xmas Eve one to remember rather than one to forget.
The menu was introduced as one of classic Elephant dishes, with many ingredients from his own dedicated farm. Canapes of Brixham crab toast (not pictured) transport you straight to Devon, as does the first table dish of Bay lobster custard with lemongrass and green curry. This lobster dish sets a template for the day, and Simon's food generally, with attractive visual appeal, great tastes and textures, and refinement. Whatever you might have imagined with the words lobster and curry on the menu, you'd almost certainly be wrong, with reality offering fleshy lobster tail sitting on top of smooth custard with the curry providing additional finesse for a surprisingly classy result.
No Hulstone meal would be complete without a bit of beetroot and here the beetroot 'samosas' filled with vulscombe cheese are sublime (coming with a little truffle also for good measure). Every plate in fact was a winner, smoked eel with pork belly was hit with everyone as was halibut with a lardo Iberico, a combination we have long adored. The main course, a 28 day aged fallow deer fillet with a ravioli of the haunch and offal provided something very beautiful indeed with the real essence of venison coming through.
An ever popular combination of chocolate, sea salt and milk ice cream was an undoubtedly satisfying finish as the final plated course but when the petit fours came round, there was an unexpected show stealer in the form of apple pie jelly. Looking indistinguishable from your common place fruit jelly, this warm demi-sphere was nevertheless a taste sensation of apple and buttery pastry all within the jelly itself.
It reminded me that for all the fun, the high and low humour that Simon Hulstone brings to the table, both verbally and on the plate, there's a keen intelligence at work here and one comes away from a Hulstone meal impressed not only by the food, but also by the man behind the food. For those who remember the glimpse of his trophy room when it aired on GBM, it becomes clear why he's so successful at doing what he does.
The pop up Cube is finally popping down again in a week's time, but alas, Simon Hulstone's stint there is now over, so if you want to try Simon's food, you'll need to head Torquay way. It is however well worth the trip and a long overdue return to The Elephant is certainly on our list for 2013; we suggest it be on yours also.
Disclosure: we were invited guests at the lunch