As we launch our Green Traveller's Guide to East Devon, Jackie King picks out a selection of restaurants, cafés and markets to find the best local food and drink in in this wonderful Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in southwest England.
East Devon has become something of a magnet for gourmands. Seafood, such as Exe river mussels and freshly-caught fish, as well as dairy products, naturally, play a big part but so too does Red Ruby Devon beef, and even local wine. Any chef worth their (West Country) salt is making the most of local ingredients. You can sample their menus in fancy hotels with starched linen and silverware, or in country pubs with pasties and pints. Devon is, of course, famous for its cream teas, and we have picked some of the best cafés and tearooms where you can indulge in freshly-baked scones topped off with lashings of clotted cream. If you are self-catering or in search for picnic ingredients, you can stock up on local produce from various farmshops and delis throughout the region; we have chosen some of the best places in the area.
The menu changes daily at this fish restaurant so that chef Neil Harding can choose the freshest local seafood from the merchants and fishermen that he knows so well. Much of the fish is from Brixham, known for its sustainable fisheries. As the seasons change, so does the catch. Neil’s been selecting ingredients for over 30 years, so he’s an expert at choosing the best, leaving you to decide whether, for example, you’ll plump for the fillets of Brixham sea bass with garlic sautéed mussels or the baked fillet of Cornish hake with Beer crab and coriander crust. There are biodynamic and organic wines on the wine list. neilsrestaurant.com
Reeds Restaurant at Swallow Eaves
This small, bright, white-walled restaurant in the Swallow Eaves Hotel in the village of Colyford uses the best West Country ingredients to create delicious dishes such as local pork fillet, sautéed and served on black pudding pâté with honey and mustard sauce and crispy new potatoes. The friendly staff is very obliging and will cater for most dietary requirements, from Kosher to Coeliac, given 24 hours’ notice. reedsrestaurant.co.uk
Combe House Hotel and Restaurant
In the picturesque grounds, fruit, vegetables and herbs grow in Victorian kitchen gardens, bees are busy in eight hives and hens cluck. Meat is from livestock born and raised on farms nearby. Wild game and seafood is delivered daily from local ports. "We are ardent in sourcing the freshest and best quality ingredients for our menus,” say owners, Ken and Ruth Hunt. No wonder they’re turning more lawns into kitchen gardens and the menus read like a dream. Their clutch of awards is well deserved. It’s a special find, down a mile-long drive surrounded by fields of Arabian horses. combehousedevon.com
The Salty Monk Restaurant with Rooms
Whether it’s a Devonshire cream tea (perhaps with champagne) or a three-course dinner with canapés, the owners of the Salty Monk restaurant with rooms are both chefs so know how to turn local, fresh ingredients into a delicious spread. Choose from interesting dishes, such as smooth duck liver parfait on toasted brioche garnished with raisins steeped in madeira. If you want to know where your duck or rare breed beef comes from, just ask. Even the salt is from the West Country. saltymonk.co.uk
With its sea-facing patio, this restaurant is a perfect place for a taste of the ocean. Chef Jamie Reeves’ fish in ale batter with chips and mushy peas, is a traditional favourite. The meat is all from Devon, too. Cakes and scones are baked on the premises. Relaxed and informal, you can choose to eat in the bar, restaurant or al fresco with the sound of the waves. My choice of butterflied fresh mackerel with apple and apricot relish and Lyonnaise potatoes was the best meal I’d had in a long time dukessidmouth.co.uk/restaurant/overview.php
Pynes Bar & Restaurant
Many of the ingredients for Pyne’s restaurant come from the Pyne family farm shop, that has been sourcing local produce for nearly 30 years. This restaurant, in the Bedford Hotel, overlooks Sidmouth’s seafront and Lyme Bay. Choose the Lyme Bay crab from the menu and the food miles could hardly be fewer. bedfordhotelsidmouth.co.uk/dining/local-produce
The Bowd Inn
A thatched pub with flagstone floor and open fire: you’d be hard pushed to find a more cosy and traditional inn. There’s also a good-sized children’s play area. As for the food, the chefs, Damon Ralph and Nik Larby, place an emphasis on seasonal and local produce, with fish from Exmouth and meat, including rabbit, from Ottery St Mary. Locals claim it’s the best pub in Sidmouth. bowdinn.co.uk
Keystone Lodge Restaurant at the Bulstone Hotel
This family-run restaurant serves no-nonsense meals of decent portions. There are many local products on the menu such as Lyme Bay crab, fish and lobster, locally-caught trout and meat, and vegetables from Devon. Choose from favourites such as Exe estuary mussels baked with mozzarella and herbs, French country chicken or pork in orange, port and cranberry sauce. keystonelodge.co.uk/restaurant.html
The Hotel Riviera clings on to an age of glamour. Non-residents can enjoy its restaurant, where napkins are well-starched and chandeliers sparkle. The food shines too, with an emphasis on the freshest and best local and regional ingredients. How about crab and lobster cakes with homemade chilli mayonnaise and crispy leeks followed by fillet of Devonshire beef with celeriac puree, baby vegetables and a red wine jus? Not forgetting the palette-cleansing passionfruit sorbet between courses, of course. Afterwards, retire to the cocktail lounge for a vintage port while a pianist tinkles the ivories. hotelriviera.co.uk
Wheel-back chairs and low, beamed ceilings and staff in pinafores - this Sidmouth café in a pretty pedestrian street a short detour from the seafront and near the church and Sidmouth museum, has been serving Devon cream teas for generations. For something different, try their unique, more savoury version: home-baked cheese scones with cream cheese and cranberry sauce. While you’re relaxing with your cream tea – cheesy or otherwise – your other half can be shopping in Fields across the road, an old-fashioned department store that offers ‘service as it used to be’.
You can sit outside and watch the world go by at The Chattery, while drinking a fair-trade tea or coffee in the morning sun. This relaxed and friendly place is open for breakfasts through until late afternoon teas. At lunchtime they serve their famed homemade deep filled steak and chicken pies with local vegetables. The café is licensed, so you can enjoy a glass – or two – of wine with your meal.
Southern Cross Tearoom
Scones warm out of the oven, dollops of clotted cream, fine bone china, a walled country garden and indoor tearoom with low ceilings and black beams; the Southern Cross Tearoom is quintessentially English. Now in its sixth decade of serving Devon cream teas, this quirky 14th-century cottage and garden is in a world of its own. Smell the roses, lift your pinkie and ponder whether you put the cream or jam on first. If you call off-season and find it closed, try ringing the doorbell, the two brothers who run it will be happy to welcome you in. www.southerncrossdevon.co.uk/tea_rooms.html
Honiton Garden Centre and Café
They grow their own salad leaves – organically – at this garden centre and café, awarded silver in the Green Tourism Business Scheme. Many of the ingredients for its breakfasts, simple lunches and afternoon teas come from nearby, including free-range eggs from a farm across the lane. There’s a south-facing outdoor patio where you can sit with your baked potato, homemade soup or cream tea. honitongardencentre.co.uk/cafe-restaurant
Otterton Mill Cafe
These days, our ‘daily grind’ is a busy day in the office. It used to be more literal: grinding flour. A visit to a working mill reconnects us with our past. Watch the water-powered millstones grinding up to 150kg of flour per hour at monthly milling sessions. Scones (with Devon cream), cakes and hunks of bread (in a ploughman’s with West Country cheeses) are made from the stoneground flour, and have never tasted so delicious. There are organic soft drinks, oak-aged Devon cider and even Devon wines at this daytime café that also opens most Thursdays for ‘music and food’ nights. ottertonmill.com
This family-run deli sells good quality produce with an emphasis on local. There are cheeses, pates, breads and enough goodies to make up a fantastic picnic hamper or stock up your self-catering cottage. They even sell frozen ready-meals, homemade with local, fresh ingredients. Much nicer than a supermarket pizza. delytes.co.uk
Millers Farm Shop
They grow four varieties of potato, cauliflowers, beans and more at Millers Farm. At the Farm Shop, there’s a wet-fish stall and meat and dairy products from local farms and indoor and outdoor cafés. If you’re self-catering nearby, among the patchwork of undulating fields, this is where to stock up on everything from scrumpy to scones, winkles to (good priced) wine. millersfarmshop.com
East Hill Pride Farm Shop
Celebrity chef Rick Stein buys the Red Ruby Devon beef, hung for four weeks, from East Hill Pride Farm Shop. All animals – pigs and cattle - are fed on their home-grown feed. As well as Pick Your Own fruit in season, there’s a licensed tearoom with some of the best views in Devon. A panorama, a pasty and pint: paradise. ourlocalexpert.co.uk/findanexpert/east-devon/farm-shop-shops-farmers-organic/east-hill-pride-sidmouth-farm-shop
Otterton Mill Cafe
This shop in a working mill not only sells breads, cakes, scones all made with flour milled on the premises but a mouth-watering selection of food from local artisan producers, such as smoked meats, pates, cheeses, preserves, chocolate. As for drinks, there are local beers, wines, fruit juices and more. That’s the whole family catered for then? Woof. They even sell gourmet dog biscuits made with their own flour. ottertonmill.com/Shopping/devon-food-shop