While the building might be old, the restaurant itself offers up contemporary dining with a focus on South West of England produce and a set menu, a la carte and a tasting menu are all available. Looking at the current a la carte menu online, there's Bodmin venison, Warren's flatiron of beef (Warren's is a brilliant butcher based in Launceston that also includes The Ledbury among its client base), monkfish tail and brill. This is very much then a local menu.
We had the tasting menu (A Tasting of Tanners), showing currently as six courses (on line) which is £55 per person. This kicks off with Westcountry crab, avocado, pear and parmesan biscuit which is a great little dish driven of course by fantastic local crab. While we were supposed to have duck liver parfait as a second course, with our car on metered parking we hit time constraints so dropped a course from the menu, it resulted in the first three courses being seafood which was certainly fine with us because the seafood here is top quality. The next course was the favourite of the day, native lobster with 'snail butter' that not only had been brilliantly cooked and delivered bags of flavour, but had also thoughtfully been prepared to make it really easy for the diner to eat, the lobster tail already sliced through but returned to the shell so carefully it's a genuine surprise that you need nothing more than a fork to eat it. As a lobster dish, it competes at the highest level with anything else out there, really excellent.
Poached fillet of brill is next. We're sure it is not a coincidence that brill was on the specials at Outlaw's Fish Kitchen when we ate the the next day also: smart chefs using the best of the current catch which that week was clearly brill. Another lovely dish with a fantastic red wine sauce that offers a glossy reflection back at you; add a little earthiness with seasonal trompettes and artichokes and you have another winner.
Our main was Roast Bodmin venison loin, tarka dal, salt baked turnip, cavolo nero that sees a plate brought to the table with a vibrantly red disc of venison that just so looks the part, and of course is. Throughout the tasting menu, none of the plates are overly fussy which we like, rather, there's enough going on to add something extra to the lead ingredient, but never so much to take away. For dessert, it's caramel compressed pineapple, buttermilk, pistachio sponge, chocolate soil mixing up textures, sweetness and some cleansing acidity.
It's all good, precise cooking with the best of local ingredients and the appeal of Tanners within Plymouth is obvious: when you find somewhere that can reliably and consistently deliver, it's a place you'll return to time and again. Service too was excellent, pitching everything at exactly the right level. Tanners is a remarkable story and Chris and James were both in the twenties when they first opened the doors; fifteen years on it continues to go from strength to strength. With their media careers flourishing also, we expect to hear a lot more from the Tanner brothers going forward and we very much look forward to it.