Chef Tim Zekki, a London finalist in Gary Rhodes Local Food Heroes and pop-up restaurant supremo, comes to Somerset
Chef Tim Zekki built up quite a following with his popular pop-up restaurants around The Chilterns and secret suppers in his delis in Twickenham and Isleworth and was a London finalist in the UKTV’s Gary Rhodes Local Food Heroes. Now that he and his wife Linda have moved down to Somerset, he’s set to do the same here – except that it’s good bye pop-ups and hello permanent restaurant: Duende in Wiveliscombe.
Wiveliscombe (Wivvy) is a small town about nine miles west of Taunton, at the foot of the Brendon Hills, known as the gateway to Exmoor. With a traditional butchers, hardware store, deli, gun shop (natch) and a rather eccentric department store, you could be back in the 1950s. Until you walk through the doors of Duende, that is. The name ‘Duende’ comes from the Spanish and means passion and inspiration, and you can feel both here.
Not rural Somerset. No mismatched wooden Windsor chairs and not a single farm implement in sight. The former charity shop on Wiveliscombe High Street has been transformed into rather cool restaurant, with distressed silvery grey walls and glorious golden crumpled handkerchief-cum-tulip lightshades made by ex-art director Linda.
Taking inspiration from the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi – where broken objects are repaired with gold to emphasise, even beautify, damage rather than hide it (the idea being that nothing is ever truly broken) – they’ve painted the cracks on the walls in a rich burnished gold. Looks like a string of islands on a strange metallic ocean.
Elsewhere on the wall, a few original artworks (Linda again) and some iconic photos (I spotted Mick J and was that Picasso?).
While we perused the menu – covered in original monoprint papers – we nibbled on handmade bread drizzled with a herby, lemony dressing and marinated olives and pesto.
You don’t get to be a Local Food Hero with a boring menu. So you’ll find interesting combos like cured salmon with lemon curd; venison salami with carob molasses; belly of pork with calamari – Modern British/Mediterranean using local produce. Starters arrived on dramatic metallic bronze platters – even if I hadn’t been doing the review, the camera would’ve been out. The Mediterranean vegetable timbale was topped with crème fraîche, pesto and pea shoots.
Plump king scallops sat in a pea purée, with ever so crispy pancetta and a delish cumin dressing.
Quite a meaty selection of main courses – out of six, one was fish and another vegetarian. Here’s the pan roasted – and very succulent – duck breast with a potato terrine, celeriac purée, spinach and lentils and what goes well with duck? Yep, fruit, in this case a blackberry sauce.
The fillet of sea bass had a crisped skin and was served with a potato galette, tomato and, giving it that lovely yellow colour, a saffron sauce.
It was a toss up who’d get to have the chocolate dessert, a flourless torte made with 72 percent choc, with naughty looking spoonfuls of vanilla ice cream – and an inspired sprinkling of Cornish sea salt.
The smooth, slightly tart lemon posset contrasted nicely with the crushed meringue and shavings of white chocolate. (That’s lemon balm on top.)
Booze – beers and spirits from the West Country; wines from around the world. A word about the dark-clothed staff – unobtrusive, friendly ….and Robert Pattinson, taking time out from Twilight to serve at table.
AROUND AND ABOUT
Wivvy’s the gateway to Exmoor, remember?
Good for: dinner for two, smaller groups, interesting food in arty surroundings.
Not for: anyone wanting lunch – it’s only open evenings, from Thurs to Sat at the moment. Not really for younger kids.
£££: Very well priced for what you get. Starters £6.50 to £8; mains £14.50 to £18.50; desserts £6 and £7.
Duende, 4 High Street, Wiveliscombe, nr Taunton, Somerset TA4 2JX. Tel 01984 624650.