Marisco Tavern: It doesn't get much more local.
It seems that many people are very concerned with the concept of "food miles" these days (i.e. how far the food has travelled from production to table) and it has to be said that the Marisco Tavern on Lundy really has to score very highly on this criterion for a good restaurant. Much of the produce is sourced from Lundy and when you consider that the Tavern sits in the middle of an island merely three and a half miles long by about half a mile wide at the widest point, nothing can have travelled more than about two miles. Good start. Free range duck and chicken eggs, meat from Soay feral sheep, venison, pork, all are produced on the island and they even have their own abbatoir / butchery there. In a rather bizarre twist of over-regulation (probably EU driven) they are allowed to slaughter the Soay and venison on the island but not the domestic animals which have to be shipped to the mainland for slaughter and then returned. How stupid is that?
Anyway, the Marisco is the best restaurant on the island. OK, it is the only restaurant on the island but do not be fooled into thinking that their monopoly position leads to complacency, it most certainly does not. The chef here is John Gayton, a very active and respected VT member and, in the interest of fair reporting, a very good mate. He was good enough to give me a look round the kitchen when I was there and I can report that it was spotless if absolutely tiny. How he and his two colleagues (Katie and Dave if memory serves) can function in a space that small is a mystery to me, never mind how they can turn over near on 400 covers in one service at the height of the season. I suspect most of the "celebrity" chefs would struggle, although a chef trained in the services would probably think it was luxury compared to a field kitchen!
So much for the technicalities, but I am sure the reader wants to hear about the food. For reasons stated above, the lunchtime menu is not extensive. I rarely eat in the hours of daylight but I saw many meals served up and they all looked very good with a level of presentation that belies the obvious frenzy in the kitchen and the numbers of covers. Basically what happens is that most daytrippers will come here for lunch whilst the evening service is for the "stayers" i.e. people who have accommodation on the island, and also some of the staff.
John has compete faith in his brigade, if you can call two people a brigade, and had very kindly taken his day off to show me round the island. With a good hunger worked up, we repaired to the Tavern for the evening meal. Wel, how good can this be? I am dining with the chef in his own restaurant and so obviously asked him what he recommended. He came up with a sugestion of trio of Lundy sausage with mash and onion gravy. Well, I am not going to go against that suggestion and that is what we both ordered. I love "bangers and mash", which was effectively what this is, but it was raised to another level. I know that traditional "comfort food" is becoming very de rigeur in posh restaurants but this really was very well done.
The sausages were all from locally reared animals and, if memory serves, were pork and leek, lamb and mint and, rather surprisingly chorizo. The chorizo was not overspiced and was delightful. The mash was beautifully creamy. I am not normally a fan of gravy and indeed (probably anathema for some) I even eat traditional roast dinners without it but it was rich and very tasty. After a great days walking and in such a lovely place and a few well-served pints of Thatcher's cider, I was not looking for Chateaubriand or lobster termidor, and this was exactly what was required. It was great and I know from having spoken to a number of the staff, both kitchen and front of house, that they are committed to high standards of quality. Let's be honest, they would not survive in such a closed permanent community as Lundy if they weren't. You hve to know what you are about to work here.
It is extremely rare for me to post a tip on Virtual Tourist without any technical information like telephone number, website or whatever, but on Lundy it really is redundant. I know there is a 'phone in the pub but it does not accept incoming calls and they do not have their own website. Believe me on this, if you have made the effort to get to the island, you will find it, you really cannot miss it!
Favorite Dish: Trio of Lundy sausage (as pictured) with mash and onion gravy.
- Wine Tasting
- Food and Dining
- Beer Tasting
Marisco Tavern: Sunday Night Is Roast Dinner Night
Whilst I love using my Island's superb range of home-bred and reared meats creatively I still think that the best showcase for them is as roasts. On Sundays we don't serve roasts for lunch for the simple reason that if the weather is halfway decent most people like to get out about and make a day of it. So instead we serve our roasts as dinner on Sunday evenings.
As with my Fish 'n Chips I'm a strict traditionalist when it comes to roast dinners - I keep everything simple.
I vary the meats, and the cuts used, on a week-to-week basis just for a bit of variety and to ensure that I use my stock evenly. Similarly with vegetables, which BTW we do have to import from the mainland since Lundy's micro-climate is too harsh for successful cultivation on the scale that I need. I use seasonal local vegetables which are sourced by a supplier based, as with our fish people, in Ilfracombe, just over the Channel and when our boat sails get these fresh on Saturdays, whilst during the helicopter season they arrive on Fridays.
A typical Sunday Dinner, as pictured, is a choice of two roast meats, plus one other dish. This collage is from the 21st October 2012, The choice of meats were Roast Leg of Pork or Stuffed Soay (the Soay being a feral sheep species which were introduced to Lundy by Martin Coles Harman soon after he purchased the Island in 1924).
The pork is very simply cooked - a couple of hours in a slow oven and then 45 minutes with the heat cranked up to crisp the crackle - the only seasoning is a little salt and oil.
The Soay, on this occasion, was from a recent cull and had been butchered by simply stripping the meat into two boneless sides. I whipped off the leg to use during the week and rolled the rest of the half-beast with a thyme and shallot stuffing. Once again simply cooked, slow roasted for a couple of hours and then finished with a hard heat to finish the skin.
For veg we always have Roast Potatoes and then, on this particular night, Honey-roast Parsnips, Cauliflower and Broccoli in a cheese sauce and Steamed Leeks. Gravy made from the roasting juices and, just because the customers like it, a Yorkshire finished things off perfectly.
- Food and Dining
- Beer Tasting
Marisco Tavern: Typical North Devon meals
There is only one Pub, the Marisco Tavern, built at the beginning of the XIX century it is a real british pub with a lovely ambiance. The meals are prepared mostly with local products, lamb, duck, pork, eggs, and more are from Lundy. So, fresh ingredients, local recipes, and a great kitchen people can give you only one result: very good food. The crew is easy going and attentive, with a hospitable smile in the face all the time.
Favorite Dish: Try the lamb done at the North Devon style, formidable!
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Marisco Tavern: Friday Night Is Fish 'n Chips Night
As my Island's only restaurant, whose kitchen I run, the Tavern has to offer something for everyone but without becoming either too predictable or mediocre. Therefore I try to balance tradition with modernity and using our local produce: the lamb, venison, soay, goat and rabbit, you'll find Moroccan dishes, curries (Indian, Caribbean and Thai), Chinese stir-fries, Vietnamese noodle soups, Jamaican Jerk dishes...and all sorts.
However on Friday night - it's Fish 'n Chips - tradition at its best.
The waters around Lundy are a designated "Marine Conservation Zone" and no fishing at all is allowed on the East Coast whilst the West Coast is restricted to angling and potting. This means that we can't catch our own fish and so I buy it from a supplier on the mainland.
We now use nothing but Pollock on Fridays, Pollock being a more sustainable catch than the Cod which I inherited here. Not only that but my supplier is based across the Bristol Channel in Ilfracombe, where the fish are landed at its working harbour. After processing the fish are returned to the harbour, loaded on our supply vessel, the MS Oldenburg, and I get them as fresh as fresh can be and with very few food miles on them.
The Friday night fish are served deep-fried in my own recipe beer batter, with chips, mushy peas and home-made tartare sauce. Nothing clever, just absolutely delish!
- Beer Tasting
- Food and Dining
The Marisco Tavern
The Marisco Tavern, Lundy's only pub, is the hub of island life. Open from the morning for breakfast, it stays open until the electricity goes off just before midnight, serving coffee and cakes, lunch, evening meals, and lots and lots of drinks!
The pub can have a great atmosphere sometimes, especially in the evening when all the daytrippers have gone home. Like the rest of the island, the pub doesn't do entertainment, so don't expect music or pub quizzes or anything like that...you make your own entertainment, with a wall of books on one side and a cupboard full of games like jenga, Lundy cluedo and cards. On the walls are trophies from some of the many ships that crashed on the island's rocks in rough seas. Weather reports, bird sightings, climbing and diving information are all posted on a noticeboard, and if there happens to be some sort of talk or guided walk, or even a boat trip around the island, you'll hear about it here.
If you're staying here, you can open up a tab at the bar to save you carrying cash. You can do the same at the island shop, although it is a totally separate tab. You can pay by credit/debit card at the end...but keep checking your receipts, as sometimes things get put onto the wrong tab!
Favorite Dish: We ate here three times, so got to try many items on their evening menu. I went for scampi and chips the first night, and was served a huge portion with about 20 scampi on the plate! The regular menu tends to be big portions and higher prices (scampi was £11.95), but every day there is a Specials menu with dishes from £7.95. Puddings are also huge and all cost about £5 each...be warned, the bread and butter pudding is practically a whole loaf.
Drinks...well, there is a short wine list, but most people seem to drink beer. Try the Lundy Light, a bitter that used to be brewed on the island but is now shipped in from the mainland...still, not one I've come across before. Everything is around £2.50 a pint.
Marisco Tavern: The one and only
This lovely atmospheric pub is the only place on the island that serves food. The bar has great flag stone floors and serves its own beer. They keep a supply og board games and encourage you to linger.
Favorite Dish: We enjoyed a couple of jacket potatoes for our lunch, I had baked beans in mine and David had his filled with chilli. The service was quick and the food was good.