The Fig Tree @ 36
Muddy celebrates at this super-welcoming restaurant moments from Plymouth's waterfront.
It’s not often you find somewhere that ticks all the boxes; and by that I mean a restaurant that genuinely suits all occasions. If you’re anything like me, I’m normally driven by the mood and the motive when choosing where to eat and so have a shortlist of favourites, for special events, for example, or when eating out with friends, or when I want something low-key and casual, where I can have a good natter as well as good grub. But to pigeon-hole The Fig Tree @ 36 would do it a disservice, I think, since I’d comfortably recommend it for all situations, including emergency ones. (A mid-week wedding anniversary where you can’t be arsed to get dressed up, yet want more than a run-of-the-mill meal? Aced it).
It all boils down to the fact that this is a small, independent restaurant, run by a young and energetic couple with an unwavering passion for what they do and no big ideas above their station. For the past year, this restaurant has snuck onto the local foodie radar, for two simple reasons: seriously good dishes using top-notch ingredients and unfaltering service.
From the street, it looks small and quite unassuming and, once you’re through the door the restaurant has that cosy neighbourhood feeling; the kind of ‘locals haunt’ you really hope to stumble upon when you’re on a city break, one that the Lonely Planet hasn’t got wind of yet. It’s not a shiny, shouty interior but instead its simple and homely, well laid out to fit around 40 covers (12 outdoors), with the menu specials handwritten daily on brown parchment paper on the wall. Basically though, once the food comes out of the kitchen that’s all you’ll be eyeballing.
We visited on an evening in the middle of the week and it was pleasantly busy. The doors to the courtyard out back were open, bringing with it the evening sunshine. So seduced were we by the whitewashed walls, candlelit tables and the famous fig tree casting sun-dappled shadows that we ended up relocating out here for drinks and our starter.
The service is great – as attentive, friendly and professional as you can hope for; it seems a very happy ship, to me.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Just a quick nose at the Instagram page for this place will tell you all you need to know: the food is inventive and pleasing on the eye. The menu’s (a daily one, a Sunday one and a set menu) contain a really interesting blend of British classics, with a few experimental twists. Chef proprietor Ryan is a proper grafter and he’s no stranger to the foodie scene in this neck of the woods, having previously headed up the kitchens of some of Plymouth’s more well-known restaurants. Consequently, he’s built up quite a network of local suppliers and knows exactly what’s required to get the most from the ingredients on his doorstep…literally.
And so to our choices. I don’t know if it was the weather and the fig tree, but we opted for homemade rosemary and garlic focaccia, along with the Westcountry Charcuterie board special to share. Containing coppa (cured meat), black pepper salami, chorizo, guanciale (cured pig cheek), chicken liver parfait, along with olives, sunblush tomatoes, homemade slaw, pickles and celeriac, this was quite a feast. But what a way to try so much local produce on one plate.
Next, being moments from the sea, I opted for a seafood macaroni with hake, peas and pancetta from the special’s board. Now, I’m not sure what I expected but it wasn’t the visual spectacle that landed before me! So much seafood, from scallops to prawns; if you like fish you’ve hit jackpot – delicious.
Mr Muddy couldn’t get past the ft@36 steak burger (it’s a real handicap of his), with smoked brisket, a red onion relish, slaw and triple cooked fries. He was very pleased with his choice.
Stuffed and almost rendered speechless, we of course asked to ‘just have a look’ at the dessert choices and, of course, we were real troopers and went for a trio of desserts – yum. AND THEN this…
If you’ve a sweet tooth, you’ll be like a moth to the flame here, because it’s a real strength. The homemade ice cream (with an incredible assortment of flavours – including carrot!) can actually be bought to take home (well, someone once asked and they thought, why not?).
It was a dinner to be excited about and I’d say the variety on the menu’s would have you planning your next meal there not long after you’ve left. As for us, the sheer volume of food consumed put paid to any notions of romance. We rolled home, hearts and tummies very contented!
With two small children of their own, Ryan and Tanya are super-accommodating when it comes to families; it was part of their inspiration for having their own restaurant, wanting children to feel as welcome as grown-ups. There’s a children’s menu available, with most of the adult dishes adaptable to suit small appetites so it’s not a chicken nuggets and fish fingers set-up but, for the fussier eaters (yep, we all know them), chef is totally up for whipping up something fresh and simple, like a tomato pasta dish. Plus, the relaxed interior doesn’t leave you fretting about dropping a pea on the carpet. We spied a few emergency activities for keeping kids entertained too, so definitely bookmark this one the next time you’re in need of a spot to treat the whole family.
OUT AND ABOUT:
Well, you’re as near as you can get to Plymouth’s pretty and sophisticated Royal William Yard and – TIP – if you can park on the street somewhere near the restaurant you’ll avoid the parking charges incurred once you’re actually in the Yard. This part of town is ideal for a wander on foot pre or post-nosh, with sea views all around the Sound and beyond. Stroll to Devil’s Point, past Drake’s Island, drop down the snazzy staircase into the Yard and peruse the traffic on the water, from yachts heading off on a trip, to mahoosive naval ships on their duties. You’re a 15 minute stroll to the city centre. Or, if you fancy being more adventurous, take one of the passenger ferries, either across to the historic Barbican, or over to Mount Edgcumbe for a walk around the grounds and house.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: family get-togethers or Sunday lunches, couples looking for a romantic spot to dine and chat. It’s a comfortable, casual decor where the food goes above and beyond the modest setting.
Not for: I’d highly recommend for a celebration dinner, but it’s not necessarily somewhere to get totally dressed up to the nines for (up to you, though!). If a super-glamorous setting is your thing, it’s perhaps one to keep up your sleeve for when you fancy a more low-key occasion.
££: There’s a set menu for lunch and mid-week early diners (5.30 – 7pm), which is brilliant value at 2 courses for £15 and 3 courses for £20. Otherwise, starters range from about £6 – £8.50, mains £15 up to £21 (for a steak) and desserts mainly around the £7 mark.
The Fig Tree @ 36, 36 Admiralty Street, Plymouth, PL1 3RU, Tel: 01752 253247. Open for lunch Wed – Sat 12 – 2.30pm, dinner Tues – Sat from 5.30pm and Sunday lunch 12 – 3pm. thefigtreeat36.co.uk