Fans of art deco or Agatha Christie will be familiar with Burgh Island and the striking hotel set on its own tidal island in Devon as it was believed to be where Christie wrote her novel Evil Under the Sun, a version of which was later filmed for TV at the location. Built in 1929, the hotel has long been a landmark of the Devon coastline with its neighbouring The Pilchard Inn, also on the island, dating back to 1336.
Executive chef Tim Hall might not have been on the island quite as long as The Pilchard Inn, but for the past 17 years it has been a big part of his life, with the last 13 years of his career spent as executive chef at the hotel. Here Hall has overseen the food at its four distinct dining experiences, including the eight-course tasting menu of the Grand Ballroom and the Nettlefold seafood restaurant.
Now leaving to spend more time with his family, Burgh Island Food is Hall’s swansong, featuring 35 recipes from across the hotel’s different offers. Divided into starters, mains, desserts and extras, the book has a leaning towards seafood, unsurprisingly given its location, with Hall championing the local butchers, fisheries, farmers and producers with which he has formed close relationships over the past decade or so.
Recipes range from dishes you would expect of a hotel of Burgh Island’s standing and seaside location – such as scallops served with preserved lemon, chorizo and red pepper sauce; grilled mackerel with fennel and rhubarb; guinea fowl with spelt porridge and pickled mushrooms; strawberry and Pimms jelly – alongside the less obvious. These include one for cauliflower cheese that sees Curworthy cheese put through an espuma and served with a pine nut pangritata; and a recipe for dragonfly tofu with ginger and butternut squash puree and teriyaki sauce, demonstrating the progressive nature of Hall’s cooking. In a nod to the past - to the 1950s rather than the 1930s – a recipe for arctic roll makes an appearance made using blackberries picked from bramble bushes at the bottom of Hall’s garden.
More controversial, maybe, is Hall’s recipe for Devonshire cream tea, which features in the extras section of the book. While Devonians are known for putting cream on their scones first before topping them with jam, the pictured scones in the book actually follow the Cornish approach with cream on top.
At high tide Burgh Island is cut off from the mainland meaning for Hall precision is required when it comes to planning his dishes, something that users of his recipe book will luckily not have to contend with. But then they also don’t get the stunning views of the Bigbury On Sea and Bantham beaches.
Burgh Island Food, A Burgh Island Cookbook
Author: Tim Hall
Number of pages: 100
Must try dish: Monkfish with sweetcorn puree, spring greens and bacon popcorn
Publisher: Burgh Island Books