My name is Sue … How Do you Do?
I’m never one for remembering names, particularly when the company are strangers, so it was extremely thoughtful of Kieran Laureston of Gourmet Safari Tours to arrange that all the female members of his very first Safari – apart from my wife – were called Sue. As it happens the circumstance was purely fortuitous but had it not been so it would have been entirely symptomatic of the care and attention that goes into planning one of Kieran’s Gourmet Safaris. Nothing, but absolutely nothing, is left to chance – although the male members of the group on this occasion rather uninspiringly failed to conform to the ‘Sue’ theme: Johnny Cash would have been quite disappointed, I feel.
Dartmouth Guided Tours
The occasion was the launch of Kieran’s new luxury style of day-tripping around the byways of the South Hams, taking in the gorgeous countryside, travelling up its iconic estuaries and, along the way and at frequent and welcome intervals, sampling all that the South Hams has to offer in artisan-produced food and drink. I’ve been living in South Devon for forty-odd years now and in that time have explored a lot of the county, but on this first Gourmet Safari I discovered places I didn’t know existed and heard stories about the history of the South Hams that set my mind racing, such was the depth of research that lies behind a Gourmet Safari Tour.
Lunch was taken in copious quantity
There were eight of us in the group – about half of us unknown to the others but, by the end of the trip ten hours or so later, we had bonded into a tight little group united by a common love of exploration and good food and wine – which had been taken in quite considerable quantities by the end of the trip. The day started off with coffee at The Royal Castle Hotel, Dartmouth, progressed along the quiet back lanes to Blackpool Sands for refreshments at Venus Cafe, thence to Britannia on the Beach at Beesands for what was supposed to have been a simple taster menu of their renowned sea food but which turned out to be a gourmet brunch that, in normal circumstances, would have satisfied me for the day. The first wines were taken here as well, and then we moved onto a food and ale sampling at Stokeley Farm Shop. All this before noon in the decadent manner that was to epitomise the whole trip.
A brisk walk at East Portlemouth after that to catch the ferry across to Salcombe and then another Ferry to the sea tractor at South Beach sharpened our appetites for the next stop at The Oyster Shack, a full-blown sea-food restaurant stuck out in the middle of nowhere at the end of a tidal road, but such is its popularity, it was absolutely heaving when we got there with diners tucking into all manner of sumptuous-looking dishes. Lunch was taken here in copious quantity matched by three very different wines in a very leisurely interlude to a packed schedule.
After that it was off to Sharpham Vineyard with – for some light-weights amongst us – an opportunity for a post-prandial nap on the coach. Once at Sharpham we checked out their Special Reserve sparkling wine – we thought it only courteous – before we trekked off through the vineyard to a very pleasant spot on the river bank. It had been a good few minutes since our last drink, so the rest was a welcome opportunity to sample yet more wine before walking along the river bank to pick up a specially chartered boat at Sharpham’s own jetty en route back to Dartmouth – or, in this case, Kingswear to pick up the coach again.
Once ensconced on board it was all hands on deck to lay out a spread of smoked salmon, smoked duck, cheeses, bread and crackers all sourced from Stokely Farm Shop earlier in the day … and uncork a bottle or two of wine and ale to wash it all down with.
All of this, I have to say, was undertaken in the most glorious of early April weather that, did I not know better, I would have sworn was part of the package. But I doubt even Kieran could have managed that, not unless he has secretly sold his soul which, judging by the unqualified success of the first Gourmet Safari Tour, he may very well have done.
This is a new venture that fully deserves success and, with more trips in the pipeline, is going to be a very welcome addition to the tourism appeal of the area. It isn’t even necessary to change your name to Sue to participate – non-Sues are very welcome.