Our Award-Winning Gardens at the Osborne Hotel

As we head towards the 19th Torbay in Bloom competition, we thought it was a good opportunity to take a closer look at the Osborne Hotel’s beautiful gardens.

So, we caught up with our head gardener Phil Marshall to find out what keeps the gardens in such a fantastic condition while getting his thoughts on the upcoming Torbay in Bloom competition and his hopes of winning in 2017 (the Osborne Hotel has come second for the last two years).

‘First and foremost, we select the planting based on whether the plants will sustain the summer, as we’re right in front of the sea and the salty sea air,’ explains Phil, ‘the second consideration is then colour coordination and whether the blooms will fit with the existing plants.’

The gardens at the Osborne Hotel are a big attraction for our visitors thanks to their year-round colour and considered planting that maintains your gaze but it’s not all flowers and shrubs, the fruits and vegetables are important too.

‘We grow a lot of food here including tomatoes, peppers, chillies, marrows, cucumbers, strawberries, rosemary and mint. You name a seasonal vegetable for the UK and we’ve probably grown it here,’ says Phil. ‘This year we also have our first year of Fennel producing.’

All that planting needs some serious pest-control considerations and here at the Osborne, we like to keep things as natural as possible – it’s why we have a pond in our poly tunnel.

‘Bugs live in the bark we have in the poly tunnel and once they’ve reached maturity, they can cause a lot of damage to the plants we have growing in there. The pond is there as a natural form of pest control because we have newts in the pond that hunt out those bugs and prevent them from causing too much disturbance to the plants.’

At the Osborne, we’re proud of the positive feedback we regularly receive about the garden but visitors should always expect to see some slight changes between visits as we consistently strive to establish a sustainable garden for our guests to enjoy.

‘We have a few plans for next year but the main one is growing more kitchen produce and we’re going to do this by reclaiming some of the borders and laying raised beds. This will mean a few less flowers to add colour but more fresh produce for guests to enjoy,’ adds Phil.

This year’s Torbay in Bloom competition takes place on Tuesday 19th September. If you’re a fan of the Osborne Hotel’s gardens please come down and show your support.

‘It would be a real privilege to win this year,’ exclaims Phil, ‘we have come second two years in a row to different winners each time and this year the garden’s looking fantastic so I’m hoping we’ll be top in 2017.’

If you would like to see the gardens or visit the beautiful Torbay coastline, then please get in touch by calling 01803 213311, emailing enq@osborne-torquay.co.uk or by filling out our contact form.

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How to make the perfect Black Forest Gateau – Interview with Head Chef Kevin Robertson Wells

A Seventies classic, the Black Forest Gateau is a layered dessert rich with chocolate, cherries and cream. With a contemporary twist on this classic cake, Head Chef Kevin Robertson-Wells divulges his secret to making the perfect Black Forest Gateau.

Tips on:

The ‘make or break’ ingredients

Invest in high quality chocolate, Griottine cherries soaked in Kirsch and make your own cherry coulis to create a truly luxurious gateau.

Getting the perfect layers

Getting the perfect layers is important for three reasons. Firstly, the layered construction of the gateau ensures it stands up on its own and can carry the weight of the ingredients set between each round of cake. Secondly, the layering process creates the different level of flavours that result in a delicious and balanced mouthful with every bite. And thirdly, the layers create that WOW factor when you cut into the finished gateau, revealing the decadent strata of chocolate, cherry and mousse in each delicious slice.

The layers (bottom to top):

  • Dark chocolate sponge soaked in kirsch
  • White chocolate mousse
  • Griottine cherries
  • Chocolate sponge
  • Cherry jelly
  • Dark chocolate mousse
  • Chocolate spray
  • Topped with false cherries

The best type of chocolate to use

I highly recommend Callebaut (73% cocoa solids) dark chocolate. This is a chocolate that I’ve used for a long time as a chef because it works really well in a mousse – it lends a Black Forest Gateau the perfect amount of dark chocolate bitterness to offset the sweetness of the filling. I also use Callebaut white chocolate and the sweetness of this too is a great combination with the richness of the dark chocolate.

Using the right kirsch

We use the Kirsch Pur d’Alsace from France because of its high potency and 45% alcohol.  It has the smell and instant taste of kirsch which is classic in any black forest gateau.

Glazed or fresh cherries

I never use glazed cherries because they’re too sweet and the cherry flavour can get lost alongside the dark chocolate. Instead I use (1) fresh cherries to make a coulis for the jelly and (2) Griottine cherries matured in kirsch.

The hardest part

The hardest part of the gateau is the layering. We have to make sure each of the six layers is even and fits perfectly into the mould so that it looks impeccable when served. The layering is also crucial in getting the right balance of flavours for the best taste – layers with perfect symmetry result in a cake that not only looks attractive but tastes perfect; you get the heavenly combination of rich chocolate, sour cherries and fragrant kirsch in every bite.

Key things to avoid

Two key things to avoid are to not make the mousse too thick or the jelly too hard. This can offset the texture and moisture levels of the final cake. It takes two days to make this gateau but, judging on the great comments we get, it’s definitely time well spent!

Decoration – the final touches

Our original gateau was garnished with chocolate shards but our new and improved version includes something extra special: we top it with edible false cherries to create an impressive garnish! Although these cherries take a day to make they are truly worth the time and effort. Here’s how we do it:

  • First we make a cherry coulis and freeze it
  • Then we prep a cherry jelly, which is made with fresh cherry juice
  • Frozen balls of coulis are then dipped into the ‘cherry jelly’ and shaped into the form of a cherry
  • The stalk is made from a dried vanilla pod and the final touches are tiny hand-picked mint leafs

For the ultimate finish we serve the gateau with chocolate sauce and a delicate kirsch ice cream. But even when freshly sliced and served on its own, our glamorous gateau is truly a winning dessert – each of the flavoursome layers boast an intense flavour and a delicate texture that oozes decadence and indulgence.

Reserve a table at our restaurant, Langtry’s – click here.