The name may be mythical, but fine cuisine is most definitely a reality, as Belinda Dillon discovers
Having won fans aplenty with The Vanilla Pod (first in Torquay, then at The Cridford Inn in Trusham, in the Teign valley), Ian and Tracey Nixon opened The Phoenix in February 2014 on the site of the former Old Coaching House on Chudleigh’s Fore Street, which had succumbed to fire in 2011. A fitting name, then, for the newly restored building, which dates back to 1808, and a great opportunity to introduce a winning formula to the town.
The dining room and bar share a big, open space that has a warm atmosphere, which is more than matched by manager Emma and her friendly and efficient team. There’s a happy mix of generations in evidence, something that Ian is keen to encourage. “I develop my menus to suit all taste buds, so there’s a lot of variation,” he says. “I’ve also catered for a younger audience, so that they are able to come out and eat with their parents and it won’t break the bank.”
On a menu that is generous to vegetarians and fish-lovers, there is plenty of choice for fans of ‘modern British’ and hearty fare that’s a step up from classic pub dining. The wine list, too, is varied, accessible and great value: we enjoyed a light, fruity Sangiovese.
As well as running the kitchen here, Ian remains Head Chef at the Vanilla Pod – “I couldn’t do it without my great teams at both venues,” he says – and clearly we’re in safe hands. My Teign mussels are plump and juicy, the accompanying leeks and pancetta delicately infused with a sweet, creamy cider sauce; the addition of frisky pea shoots gives it all a fresh twang. My dinner companion's field mushroom came enrobed in a judicious swathe of Devon Blue cheese and rocket, well tempered by toasted brioche.
Observing the response to the arrival of a drool-inducing gourmet burger and a seafood bouillabaisse at a neighbouring table, I am momentarily gripped by dinner envy, but only until my roast belly pork arrives – a buttery wedge of meat offset well by medallions of black pudding and herby mash. My friend’s lamb dish is tasty and accompanied by delicious dauphinoise potatoes and garlicky spinach.
Ever a child of the 1970s, I can never resist the words ‘rum & raisin’ and am not disappointed by the brownie, which is surprisingly light and yet satisfyingly indulgent. Across the table, a similarly retro-flavoured rhubarb and custard crème brûlée draws much praise, and I only manage to snaffle a sliver of the shortbread biscuit, but it’s a winner.
With a commitment to sourcing local ingredients, plus special offer meal deals spread across the week – children under three eat free! – the Phoenix ticks boxes across the board. Well worth a visit.
Published 25 August 2014
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