Chris and James Tanner’s restaurants are different from most with a television chef association – as well as having their names above the door, you’re actually likely to find the brothers behind the stove.
In addition to their well documented television careers, the Tanners also have an impressive fine-dining pedigree. Chris served his apprenticeship under the Roux Brothers, whilst James learnt his craft from the multi-Michelin starred Martin Blunos.
Their flagship eatery, Tanners Restaurant, first opened 14 years ago, winning the AA’s UK restaurant of the year, and remains one of the highlights of Plymouth’s increasingly competitive gastronomic scene. Gary Rhodes and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have both added Plymouth restaurants to their empires in recent months and Mitch Tonks has one on the way. With so many new additions, some have questioned whether the Tanner boys can still cut it.
As soon as you walk in, any concerns are laid to rest. The restaurant is situated in the stunning Prysten House, Plymouth’s oldest domestic building. Built in 1490, it houses an original limestone well and medieval courtyard creating the perfect backdrop for that special meal.
As you'd expect, the menu shows off the best the South West larder has to offer. On the night we visited, the starters demonstrated the benefits of locally sourced seasonal produce with wild garlic, mackerel and new season asparagus taking pride of place. Of the main courses, the lemon sole stood out with perfectly-cooked simplicity whilst rolled Gloucester old spot was lifted to new heights with butter poached lobster and sweet roasted pineapple. Our meal concluded with an intensly flavoured banana and passion fruit mille feuille and a salted peanut parfait. Combined with an impressive wine list, this was fine dining in every sense.
Tanners Restaurant has been in town for more than a decade but it is difficult to fault this particular combination of great ingredients and high quality cooking served in such an inspiring setting. I have yet to sample what the new boys on the block have to offer, but it is clear that they have some work to do to push the current incumbents off the top of the tree.