Sunday, 28 October 2012

Sundays with Chef Peter... From Gidleigh Park to Phukets Vegetarian Festival

Sundays with Chef Peter!

Back Home at Gidleigh Park, Chagford, Devon, United Kingdom

As promised in last week’s post my review on Afternoon Tea at Gidleigh Park though I must apologize for the lack of pictures on the actual tea which for some reason disappeared from my camera.

Award winning Gidleigh Park is situated in the heart of Dartmoor near Chagford, Devon (not far from where I spent the first few years of my life), not the easiest place to find but when you get to Chagford it is well sign posted and the locals are friendly enough to point you in the right direction.

The day was a wonderful summer’s day and this made our drive though the narrow country lanes lined with moss covered granite, bowing trees and moor ferns even more fabulous with the sun glistening through and giving that magical “middle earth” feel. Devon on a glorious summer’s day is heaven on earth dahlings!
Then you arrive at Gidleigh Park a fabulous Tudor country house set in perfectly manicured grounds with the River Teign running through it, playing in the background.

As the day was so perfect I kicked myself for not making this a special treat and spending a night here with delicious dinner by Chef Michael Caines who worked hard for Gidleigh Park to gain 2 Michelin Stars, not bad for a Devon boy! Alas dahlings I had not budgeted for such an extravaganza this visit.

We arrived a little early for tea so took a walk around the beautiful grounds and when ready for tea, made our way to the drawing room greeted by a pleasant old butler who fits the place perfectly.
The drawing room is large and spacious with period furniture and we chose a table next to the fireplace which disappointingly was no longer an open fire but an enclosed wood burner which was a bit of a shame and spoilt our “Downtown Abbey” moment with the crackle of the fire but respect the "green" world we live in today.
Our waiter, not a local but very polite and efficient took care of our tea order but we thought a martini would be a good start on such a lovely occassion, mine a Classic and Alison an Appletini, both delicious!

The tea selection was excellent and our waiter always made sure the cups were full and pots replenished without having to ask. Then came the 3 tier tea stand full of traditional tea goodies, a selection of sandwiches on the first tier including salmon, cucumber and chicken, delicious fillings but for me the bread too thick (door stoppers as mother calls them), on the second tier was a selection of tea cakes, chocolate, fruit and a lemon which was topped with a nice lemon fondant. The top tier plated some chocolates and berry laden tartlets with a lovely thin sweet paste crust and lemon cream filling. There was also a generous plate of cookies and petit fours served which all go well with a nice cuppa!

Of course no afternoon tea is complete without scones and clotted cream and this was the highlight for me. I love my clotted cream as you know dahlings and when eating with scones I put a good dollop on followed by a good smearing of jam (have you heard the debate in England on which should come first, the jam or the cream?). The scones at Gidleigh I must admit are the best I have had (other than mine that is…), with the perfect split on the sides from baking and light, not usual for scones but excellent dahlings eventhough they would not share their secret with me as I will with you! There was also plenty of clotted cream which I like as I find most places serve the cream as if its butter and you don’t get your good dollop! 

An unhurried and very enjoyable feast but I must say that unless you really are hungry and did not eat lunch or have just run the Ten Tors, I suggest one afternoon tea shared with an extra pot of tea is more than enough for two.

After such lovely ambience, service and too many delicious cakes and scones we 2 little piggies thought another stroll around the grounds would be a good idea but daylight was fading and as much as I love this part of the world, being lost on Dartmoor for a night with its legendary ghost is not my idea of fun!
Till next time Gidleigh Park.....

Reason to visit: Beautiful Hotel and grounds with excellent food and service.
Downside: Getting there but it’s worth it!

Food Prices: High Range

Afternoon Tea at 25 English Pounds per person
Gidleigh Park, Chagford, Devon, United Kingdom

Gidleigh Park,
TQ13 8HH,
Telephone: +441647 43236
Fax: +441647 432574

And to the Vegetarian Festival, Phuket, Thailand

The vegetarian festival in Phuket has just come to an end and I wanted to give it a mention, a nine day event normally held in early October celebrating the Chinese community’s belief that abstinence from meat, poultry, seafood, dairy and various stimulants during this time will help them have good health and peace of mind. As I cycle in Phuket it is the best way to get around seeing the festival as the streets do get busy and there are a lot of diversions due to the parades.

I am unsure where the festival originates from but it is also celebrated in Malaysia and other Asian countries. In Thailand the festival is called Tesagan Gin Je and is celebrated throughout the country but at its height in Phuket where a large percentage of the population is Chinese.

During the festival the participants will all wear white and Phuket becomes a flurry of white everywhere you go as well as the bright yellow flags with bright red Thai wording.

Streets are lined with stalls selling vegetarian food prepared and cooked in the sacred kitchens of the Chinese temples for the occasion.  Restaurants also prepare vegetarian food, a lot of which is shaped to look like actual fish or meat products, which to be honest I never really understood!

Everyday day during the festival there are parades and different events going on at the temples all around the island and it is fascinating. The festivities in Phuket include the procession of mah song (mah song are the people who invite the spirits of gods to possess their bodies) wearing elaborate costumes who pierce their cheeks and tongues with all manner of things, including swords, banners, table lamps, umbrellas, flags and flowers. Others self mutilation is also done such as cutting and self flogging. Supporters accompany the mah song to keep their wounds clean and help to support the larger pieces and simply to keep people out of the way!

It is believed that while possessed the mah song will not feel any pain and I know from my staff that have taken part that it’s true and have seen how amazingly quickly the scars heal. Whilst in possession the mah song seem unaware of their surroundings and shake their heads continually. I even heard one of my staff speak a completely different language!

Other events such as fire walking, blade ladder climbing and boiling oil showers also take place.

The close of the festival is a great climax with a big and very noisy procession through the streets with all the participants making merit to send the gods back home, really worth seeing but be prepared for a lot of smoke, firecrackers and noise, I love it!

I must admit when I first came to Phuket and saw these events I was a little skeptical but have since come to have a great respect for the festival and its participants and I am happy to see that every year the festival grows in size rather than dwindling in these fast moving times.

Do I partake dahlings is another matter, though I have managed it one time, being vegetarian that is!
A participant on a bed of nails....

I hope you’ll enjoy my selection of pictures of the festival and that one day you may come.

Happy Sunday dahlings, until next week!

And if it is a sunny day then here is your umbrella


  1. Scrolling...sees photo with skewer...*faints!!!* LOL!!!

    1. Suituapui,
      I guess then fire walking would not be much fun either!
      I have a morbid fascination seeing this and they seem as if they are enjoying it too!
      See you next week...

  2. I'd love to have my Afternoon Tea at Gidleigh Park too! Simply gorgeous place. Thks for sharing the shots, Peter!

    1. Dear Shirley,
      I really was sorry I lost the pictures of the tea itself but isn't Gidleigh a fabulous place. If your in that part of the world, well worth a visit! And eat lots of clotted cream!
      Thanks for reading..

  3. gosh, what a dramatic contrast between the scenes in gidleigh and those in phuket! anyway, you've got me daydreaming about an idyllic vacation in the former now! :D

    1. Sean,
      Hope you get there one day....
      Have a fabulous week..

  4. Look at that greenery! I want some of that. What a contrast in posts! I think I'd prefer the tame English countryside. Although I'm wondering if this post is a little like Chef Peter - a complexity of contrasts. Refined well mannered British boy on the surface and untamed wild man underneath? ;-0