Treby Arms, Sparkwell, Devon – first Masterchef winner to win a Michelin star

I’m an avid fan of all things culinary including TV shows. The revamped Masterchef competition has thankfully moved on from Lloyd Grossman days to its more snappy and relevant incarnation today.

Anton Piotrowski won Masterchef Professional in 2012 and has since gone on to have a stellar rise. He went back and bought the village pub where he grew up in Sparkwell, close to Plymouth. He retained the pub atmosphere downstairs but opened a fine dining restaurant too. Within a few years, Michelin graced his restaurant with a Michelin star, making him the first Masterchef winner to win that accolade.

His journey came full circle this year when he hosted some of the Masterchef Professional contestants at his restaurant during one of the programs.

I’ve been lucky enough to have eaten at The Treby Arms a few times as I go to a medical conference there once a year. It was so exciting on previous visits to eat some of the dishes I had seen and salivated over on TV. His signature Treby Carrots is an ever-present on the menu and I’ve given him the credit when I’ve copied his idea for my dinner parties at home. By the way, if you see another of his signature dishes, pigeon wellington on the menu, make sure to order it.

 I was lucky enough to eat at The Treby Arms again this February. By the way, Sparkwell is a little off the beaten track. Get your satnav out and keep your faith as you travel along small country roads to get to it. The reward of Anton’s food is well worth the journey.

  
 I was warmly greeted by restaurant manager Ian Wilce, who I’ve got to know over my 3 meals here. He has a phenomenal memory, remembering what I ordered and where I sat on my previous meals although I only go there once a year. I discovered that Anton is spreading his wings with culinary interests in couple of other spots.

I went with the 11 course tasting menu this time and I was impressed to hear that the menu is only finalised on the day when they know what is the best produce they can lay their hands on for that day. Situated in the heart of the West Country, they’re spoilt for choice for produce.

 The meal kicked off with a selection of canapés/small bites. All employing a combination of crunch, sweet and savoury elements, they woke my palate up for the degustation ahead.

 The first proper course was a smoked eel custard cream served on a box of beach pebbles. The rich eel played well against the biscuit sandwich. This was kept company by a wild garlic emulsion and marinated anchovy served in a scallop shell.

  
Next up was my favourite dish. Great Asian flavours in a mirin and chilli glazed gurnard, marmite and parsley emulsion and shredded leek. An explosion of bold but perfectly complementary flavours.

 The next dish carried on the theme of punchy flavours – smoked eel, ox heart, ham hock, caramelised cauliflower purée and a 63 degree sous-vide Clarence Court egg. A rich dish which I ate slowly, savouring every umami-laden chew.

 Wild garlic risotto with girolles, truffle foam and fresh truffle spoilt me with the bounty of winter.

 Blow-torched Cornish brie, served with a tasting of turnip was a good contrast between the melted oozy cheese and one of Britain’s lesser appreciated vegetables.

 Veal tartare, pickled alexander, truffle snow with a quail egg showcased the freshness of the veal beautifully.

 Oxtail, truffle mash, quail’s egg, cheese foam with turnip skins was a a rich concoction. Great tasting but the portion was too big for such a rich dish.

 I had seen the next dish being prepared by contestants on Masterchef Professional. The dish arrived at the table with a covering of a lettuce leaf, which once removed, reveals cajun spiced lamb, samosa, chilli beans with blow-torched peach showed off the flavours from yet another part of the world. Yummy.

  
The pre-dessert was amazing. Inspired by Harry Potter, the warm butter beer & ale, butterscotch topped with yuzu foam was magical. If Anton franchised this drink to the many Harry Potter theme parks round the world, he’d be rich.

 The first dessert was a symphony of apple in many guises – parfait, sorbet, braised in Calvados, blow-torched and for a bit of theatre, frozen and grated at the table.

 The final dessert was Anton’s signature Treby Carrots, which is a homage to him listening to the rain patter on the tin roof at his father’s allotment. Carrot cake, icing and chocolate soil with popping candy is now given a dramatic flourish with mist at the table.

 I detected a new confidence in Anton’s food this year. The flavours have always been great but the crockery, the plating and the combinations have gone up a notch.

If you are ever in the Plymouth area, the Treby Arms is well worth a little detour.

Ratings

Food: ★★★★★ Service: ★★★★★ Ambiance: ★★★★☆ VFM: ★★★★Overall: ★★★★★

Price: I ate the most expensive tasting menu but the quality of food made it good value for money

The Treby Arms
Sparkwell, Plympton, Plymouth, Devon PL7 5DD

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