DAREN Barclay began his career at The Sloane Club in Chelsea with a four-year apprenticeship.

He then transferred to the Royal Crescent in Bath and spent nights cooking for celebrities who performed at the theatre.

Daren took his experience to The Castle Hotel in Taunton where he worked under Chris Oakes – the first person to receive a Michelin Star at the hotel.

He then worked with the Duke of Richmond at the Goodwood Estate, where he cooked mainly organic produce for up to 2000 people.

Daren said: “It takes a hell of a lot of planning. The house was a mile and a half away so if you had forgotten something, you just didn’t have time to go back!”

Armed with a wealth of knowledge and experience, Daren and Ruth Barclay took over The Rock Inn at Waterrow in 2013.

He added: “The pub had a reasonable reputation, but we wanted to take it to the next level. We still do pub classics, such as sausages and mash and homemade pies.

“We try to avoid micro herbs as they are great for style over substance. However, we prefer to focus on presentation, quality and taste of the dish.”

This is The West Country:

The food at The Rock is sourced as locally as possible. The meat comes from Stillmans Butchers in Taunton and Beech Ridge Farm in Hockworthy.

When Daren cooks, he is determined to use only three main flavours, as he believes that delicious dishes should not be over complicated as this will confuse your palette.

Daren added: “I use my experience in lots of different areas to create suitable menus for different types of people. It is definitely a combination of retaining information and researching.”

Sauces are very important at The Rock Inn.

Daren explained that he makes stock once a week as a base to each of his sauces and doesn’t use flour – so they are a lighter style of sauce.

They are flavoured with vegetables and herbs before they are served.

Daren said: “It is quite a laborious process, but it is worth it because the depth of flavour in the gravy is so delicious. This is the key really.”

Another key to the delicious dishes at The Rock is the chargrill used when cooking meat.

Daren explained that this grill creates a delicious flavour because the meat undergoes the Maillard Reaction, which is a chemical reaction that gives browned food its particularly distinct flavour.

This is The West Country:

Daren added: “It creates a caramelisation on the meat.”

“Receptors on your taste buds can taste that caramelisation, which gives you a savoury, yeast type taste that comes out of the meat. The flavour is at the next level to what you would normally taste.”

Another meat dish that is particularly notable is the featherblade of beef. The fibres in the beef run away from the gristle in the middle, hence the name, and the beef is cooked for 14 hours – meaning it is soft enough to eat with a spoon.

Daren also created a dish that he believes is only at his previous restaurant and The Rock Inn.

This is a delicious brie fondant, a savoury version of a chocolate fondant.

“It is turned out like a pudding and when you cut into it, the melted cheese runs out” he said.

“We are quite proud of dishes that have stayed on the menu for a long time and these are generally non-seasonal dishes, such as the wood pigeon starter. The rest of the menu changes seasonally.”

Regarding the dessert menu, Daren is currently creating a giant pink macaroon with lemon curd custard and raspberries.

They also have other mouth-watering dessert dishes on the menu such as mandarin brulee tarte with dark chocolate sauce which is made with a crumble base and topped with a dark chocolate Terrys Chocolate Orange sauce.

If you fancy popping here for dinner and staying the night, then The Rock Inn are also offering a gourmet meal deal (three-courses for two for £150), giving you the chance to try out this hidden gem.

If you would like to find out more, please visit rockinnwaterrow.co.uk or call 01984 623 293.