Jeff Cooper finds an extensive menu at this friendly village pub
There are not many pubs nowadays that can claim to have had the same owners for 11 years and the same Head Chef for 20 years (who also happened to be born in the village in which he works). Welcome to Cockhaven Manor in Bishopsteignton, where Roy and Mandy Extance are the proprietors and Dave Baldwin the Head Chef.
The key to their success? “We serve quality food at value prices,” Roy explains. “If there is something that a customer fancies, providing it’s not a busy Friday or Saturday night, we’ll cook it. If someone wants an omlette, for example, we’ll have the ingredients in the kitchen so why wouldn’t we? If someone wants a lobster we will need 24 hours notice!”
Many eateries wouldn’t deviate from their menus but Roy has built his reputation on good service and a friendly welcome, something my wife and I experienced on our evening there. Our table was in the restaurant area but guests can choose to eat either here, in the bar or the conservatory, all of which are roomy and relaxed.
Food-wise, there is plenty of choice at the Cockhaven, with a specials board including starters, main courses and desserts and an extensive main menu. “I disagree with the likes of Gordon Ramsey who has limited choice on his menus,” Roy smiles. “We offer a variety of dishes because many people come to eat here two or three times a week.”
After having been recommended the light, fruity Bishopsteignton Vineyard’s Rosé wine by Roy, my wife chose the field mushroom stuffed with garlic prawns and herby breadcrumbs to start, while I enjoyed goats’ cheese with a sweet and spicy chilli sauce. The accompanying salads were a generous mixture of cleansing leaves and fruit.
Fisherman’s pie was my wife’s main course and she was delighted to discover mussels, as well as pieces of smoked haddock, prawns and salmon. With a creamy dill sauce and plenty of potato on the top, she described it as a hearty, comforting traditional pub dish. I opted for Abbey lamb with a gooseberry and elderflower glaze – the two flavours combined gave it a sweet and sour taste. The dishes, cooked by chef Matt Key that evening, were served piping hot and were sizable portions. Should you run out (unlikely!), just ask for more vegetables or potatoes. Dessert was chocolate sponge with chocolate sauce – rich, indulgent and all homemade.
“We try to source locally where possible; we’d be mad not to being located where we are. We get our meat from Mark Gribble butchers in Totnes, our venison from Haldon, our mussels come from the River Teign, and Frank Mann in Torquay supplies us with fruit and veg.”
Roy and Mandy have a real rapport with the locals and not-so-regular visitors - he immediately recognised my wife from when she used to live in the village a few years ago and asked after her family. “We cater for the customer and it is so important to keep up levels of consistency in cooking and service,” he adds. It is this philosophy that will ensure that Roy and his team at the Cockhaven continue to see a regular stream of visitors for many more years, no doubt.
Published 30 December 2011
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