It's difficult to judge The Elephant in Torquay. We arrived for a late lunch on a Saturday afternoon, and it was almost deserted. A lone elderly couple eyed us up nervously as we sat down, and hurriedly paid up and left. The restaurant itself, with ill-fitted black leather chairs and black tabletops felt a bit outdated. The serving staff, though well-meaning, were I suspect students on weekend jobs, a little bored and clumsy.
We were offered the three course set menu, which at £16.95 is cheap by most standards. Additional extras, like these oysters, can be added on. These were plump and briny; "shall I take these mussels away?" enquired our waitress, when we were done.
I liked the riff on ham and pineapple for my starter - I am a fan of the Hawaiian pizza after all - and once you got over the slightly gelatinous quality of the pressed terrine and the jelly melted a bit in the mouth, the flavours were very enjoyable. I really liked the wafer-thin discs of daikon, bolstering through some of the richness of the meat.
Each course had two choices, and when faced with Torbay plaice fillets with cockles, samphire and capers over pork belly with fondant potato, especially where I was sitting with a view of the sea, the choice seemed obvious. It was a generous portion, piled high with grilled fillets and a few cockles strewn around. The vinegar butter sauce was heavy on the latter, thankfully light on the former.
Sides, priced at £3, each had a different herb flavouring them so the resultant combined bites tended to clash. Carrots were dressed with flecks of coriander and new potatoes had leaves of sage stuck to them, like hair to lip-glossed lips in high wind. I preferred the simply buttered kale, and the crisp chips to sweep through any remaining sauce.
Dessert featured an impressively shiny raspberry cheesecake, so glossy I could almost see my face in it. A sharply sliced rectangle worked its sweet creaminess well with a tart sorbet of the same fruit, but cheesecake and sorbet was never going to win any prizes for innovation. Although executed well it came across a bit safe.
For £16.95 for three courses, you can't go wrong with the value. The food was all present and technically correct, cooked well and tasted nice, but it just felt like something was a little lacking. It lacked warmth, and felt a little staid - much like the room itself.
We ate as guests of the restaurant; as always, all opinions are my own.
3-4 Beacon Hill,
Torquay TQ1 2BH