As the hospitality industry starts to reopen, here are some of the Devon eateries you can now visit. Su Carroll outlines what to expect when you do
Devon’s enterprising food community has been working hard to keep the wheels turning while the country struggled with the impact of the coronavirus. Restaurants and cafés decided they would Keep Calm and Carry On as they demonstrated their entrepreneurial skills. Many – working closely with their suppliers – launched takeaway services, provided online cookery demos and created boxes of cooked meals or ingredients with recipe cards for home delivery.
Then came 4 July – dubbed Independence Day – when the hospitality industry tentatively prepared to welcome back customers. Four days later, Chancellor Rishi Sunak came up with a list of measures to encourage people to start eating out again. Social distancing is still important and hygiene standards are being maintained, with many businesses imposing their own rules for coping – including eating outside, online booking and one-way systems.
Whatever restrictions exist, we all need to get out and support the people and places that shape life in Devon, and that make such an important contribution to our lives and the local economy.
Here’s the Taste Buds special guide to eating out in Devon as the pandemic restrictions ease.
This iconic restaurant reopened on 4 July for lunch and dinner with a new lunch menu, a simplified dinner menu and a tasting menu, which changes daily. Sunday lunches are back (£33 for two courses).
The number of tables has been reduced to eight to allow for better spacing, and the team is exploring the options for outdoor seating during the summer.
Head Chef Elly Wentworth (a MasterChef: The Professionals finalist) has just the tonic for those reeling from lockdown: a new bespoke exclusive gin – created by Elly, Front of House Manager Jordan and Conker Spirit. It is infused with black garlic, honey and ginger, and offers a rich, umami backdrop – mellowed by a hint of honey and piney juniper – with a light floral lift.
Best bite: John Dory with tortellini, sea vegetables, and a lemon and lobster velouté.
The family-run On The Rocks restaurants in Torquay and Brixham, with industrial-chic interiors and wonderful sea views, have both reopened for guests, under Covid-19 guidance. But chef Austin Gosling hasn’t been twiddling his thumbs during lockdown. He’s launched DIY Devon Food Kits to deliver all the ingredients for a top-quality meal to homes in the Paignton, Torquay, Brixham and Newton Abbot areas.
DIY Devon Food Kits contain fully prepared fresh ingredients and simple cooking instructions, along with online advice, help and guidance from Austin to ensure you can execute restaurant-standard meals in the comfort of your own home. You will find the freshest seafood, top-quality Devon meats and locally grown vegetables, and some of Austin’s favourite recipes from his restaurants which have a modern style.
Austin has produced the kits from a separate commercial-grade development kitchen at home where he does all the prep and some advance cooking. Even though the restaurants have reopened, DIY Devon Food Kits will continue. www.diydevonfoodkits.co.uk
If this name is unfamiliar to you, it’s because this restaurant and speciality rum bar was due to open for the first time smack bang in the middle of the coronavirus. The best-laid plans of owners Ben Squire and Steve Page didn’t go as expected but, undaunted, they decided to launch as a takeaway. Instant hits at the Royal William Yard location were the fish finger sandwiches, fish tacos and the traditional fish and chips, with batter made with their own Hook Line and Sinker IPA.
The fish doesn’t come any fresher. It’s landed nearby from their own fishing boats: the Sidney Rose, Elin D and Barbican Rose. Fish boxes are available to the public on Wednesdays and Fridays. You get the best catch of the day for £20 – for example, 12 shucked scallops and four pieces of locally caught fish (such as monkfish, Dover sole, mackerel or sea bass) with two recipe cards and all the seasonings.
With the restaurant now open, it’s strictly bookings only, with reduced covers, a one-way system and hygiene measures in place, as well as data collection for track and trace.
Best bite: Crispy cuttlefish calamari with wild garlic and lemon yoghurt dip.
This Michelin-starred restaurant overlooking Torbay harbour underwent a refurbishment before lockdown. Head chef Simon Hulstone couldn’t wait to show customers the results when they reopened on 4 July (for lunch and dinner from Tuesday to Saturday). It’s also opening for Sunday dinner to cater for high demand.
All guests need to pre-book and confirmation emails will have details of the new etiquette required to reduce risk of transmission (such as not bringing in coats or large items due to limited restaurant space). The usual set lunch, à la carte and tasting menus with vegetarian options will be available.
Simon launched The Elephant at Home two weeks after lockdown was announced – offering two-course meals for collection three days per week. It has been a big success which has attracted new customers, many of whom have ordered frequently.
Best bite: As a starter, Brixham crab cocktail has a modern twist with pickled cucumber and a mango and dashi sorbet.
This beachside café, near Teignmouth, is just the place to sit and watch the boats bobbing on the waterfront just a few feet away. During lockdown, there was a weekend takeaway and collection menu – lunch boxes, light bites, homemade cakes and pastries, cream tea, ice cream and a full range of drinks.
The outdoor beachside garden opened on 5 July with a daytime menu allowing people to enjoy their takeaways in the garden. The change in circumstances has given head chef Denise an opportunity to come up with new ideas for the menu, so it’s a case of 'watch this space'.
Best bite: Share a seafood platter for two.
This team behind this award-winning village pub is so passionate about local produce that it has its own kitchen garden and a farm where it rears lambs, chickens and pigs. It also does its own butchery and supplies meat boxes. During lockdown, the Bear & Blacksmith launched takeaways with delivery to Chillington and local areas. This included burger night on Wednesdays, what else but fish and chips on Fridays, and steak night on Saturdays.
There have been a few changes since reopening on 4 July, including table service (no need to go to the bar). Takeaways are continuing and the popular Sunday roast has returned (also available as a takeaway). There’s a marquee for outdoor eating too.
Best bite: It has to be shoulder of Bear & Blacksmith Farm lamb with chickpeas, roasted squash and mint pesto.
During lockdown, this popular Exeter eaterie started deliveries and takeaways (including handcrafted pizzas). It reopened on 4 July and has stopped deliveries to concentrate on the venue once again. At the moment, there is a reduced menu and it is no longer doing breakfast to help with social distancing in the kitchen. You need to pre-book for tables inside, but there is some outside seating available.
Built inside a 19th-century dock warehouse, the Boat Room restaurant can seat tables of up to six people. The Long Room is also available as a larger space. The restaurant sources produce from within 15 miles of Exeter, including beef from Devon grass-fed cows.
Best bite: Fun atmosphere for families and a children’s menu which includes a vegan option.
This Michelin-starred pub on Exmoor reopened on 4 July for lunch and dinner Tuesday to Saturday, and Sunday lunch on the first Sunday of the month. Unlike previous years, the thatched 13th-century inn will remain open throughout August. There are fewer tables per service because of the need to maintain one-metre distancing and you will need to book over the phone. The largest available table now seats six (maximum of two households).
Head chef Mark Dodson (who won his first Michelin star within six months of opening and has held on to it for an impressive 15 years) uses the best of local produce to create dishes oozing taste and style. It has a fine dining reputation but still manages to retain a village pub charm.
Best bite: It has to be the local fillet of Exmoor beef, cooked to perfection.
Just half a mile from the seafront, chef Neil Harding makes the best of the catch of the day when devising the menus for his seafood restaurant. It reopened on 10 July (from Tuesday to Saturday) and is closely following government guidelines, which means spacing tables one metre apart and cutting the number of covers from 40 to around 18.
It’s serving a three-course set price menu at £35, created from popular dishes from the previous à la carte menu and is updated daily. It’s taking advanced bookings only (this can be done online) and one sitting per table per evening. Technology is helping Neil’s operate safely with contactless menus and wine lists by way of a QR code on the tables.
Best bite: Brixham skate wing with capers and black butter.
Taylor’s Restaurant – on the quay which looks out onto the River Dart and across to Kingswear – is as elegant and picturesque inside as the views outside. Peter and Pauline have built up an outstanding reputation and loyal following over 21 years, providing a comfortable and stylish place to dine with family and friends.
It reopened on 16 July with a clear Covid plan in place, including temperature checks on arrival, advance booking and full contact details (which will be kept for a minimum of three weeks, according to government guidelines).
Lunch and dinner will be served Tuesday to Saturday from an à la carte menu. The set menus and popular Italian evenings will return later in the year.
Best bite: Can’t decide between lobster, scallops and king prawns as a main? Have them all with a thermidor sauce.
The Harbour Restaurant, within the historic Red Lion Inn on the quay in this popular North Devon village, reopened on 4 July with a table service for dinner and some delicious takeaway options.
Here, they don’t talk about food miles, they talk about food feet – with fresh fish landed daily, and fresh veg and game from the estate.
The estate was closed to protect residents from the impact of Covid-19. It is open again now with other places to eat, including the atmospheric Up-along Bar in the New Inn and the Bay Tree Café in the Visitor Centre.
Best bite: In season, it has to be lobster landed at Clovelly.
This award-winning, family-run restaurant delivers the very best in local seafood – including lobster, mussels and crab from Appledore. It has started easing its way back into business with an evening takeaway service Thursday to Saturday. When Fatbelly Fred’s does reopen for seated guests, there will be a hygiene system in place and guests need to book in advance. There are two dining rooms at the restaurant in Maiden Street, allowing for separate parties – a maximum of 12 in one and 14 in the other. Even after Fatbelly Fred’s opens, the takeaway service will continue.
Best bite: Push the boat out (pardon the pun) with a Fruits de Mer for two people (£100) which includes lobster, crab, oysters, prawns, mussels and smoked salmon.
This small country house hotel has just 16 bedrooms, and is in a quiet location with five acres of grounds and wide open spaces to escape the crowds.
During lockdown, a review of every aspect of operations was carried out, to ensure it continues to provide guests and diners with a luxurious, relaxing break and fantastic food while following safety guidelines. Most of the bedrooms also have a balcony and terrace, so you can enjoy your own outdoor space.
The hotel and restaurant reopened on 4 July for overnight stays and dinner every night of the week. Lunch and afternoon tea are served Friday to Sunday (pre-booking is essential). Tables are spaced well apart in the restaurant and extensive outdoor seating is available.
Food is a huge part of life at the Two AA Rosette The Horn of Plenty – previous incumbents in the kitchen have been Peter Gorton and Scott Paton. The current head chef, Ashley Wright, is no different with fresh tasting menus shining a light on local produce.
Best bite: Brixham monkfish ceviche with pork crackling and apple.
Fans of the lovely bakes at Tea at the Quay will appreciate the new surroundings after lockdown provided time for a renovation. There’s still the same warm welcome at this tea room overlooking the canal on Exeter Quay. It reopened for takeaways in June, including a popular cream tea in a box.
The tea and coffee comes from a Devon company and there’s scooped ice cream from the popular Salcombe Dairy.
There’s outdoor seating, or you can take food and drink away.
Best bite: To be honest, you can’t beat a bacon sarnie here.
Chef Ben Palmer is not one to sit still for long, so when lockdown kept him out of his Two AA Rosette kitchen in the historic Prysten House, he started doing cookery demonstrations from home. These evolved into Watch and Dine, where Ben demonstrated how to make restaurant-style favourites online and then, if you lived locally, you could order a box with all the necessary ingredients (including spices, pastes, accompaniments and specific cooking times). They proved to be really popular and the range was extended to include things like meat boxes from the Greedy Goose’s own suppliers.
Prysten House is Grade I listed and dates back to 1487, so it is difficult for it to reopen with appropriate social distancing. Ben and the team are planning to reopen on 4 September, using the time to make lots of changes to the restaurant. When they reopen, they will limit the number of days, and offer tasting menus on Fridays and Saturdays only. The good news for fans is that Watch and Dine will continue.
Best bite: Plymouth Gin (established a short distance away in 1793) cured salmon.
For many people, baking sourdough bread has been a lockdown lifesaver by providing both sustenance and a soothing distraction from the cares of the world. But if your efforts left you disappointed or you want to polish up your technique, The Artisan Bakery School started live courses again from 15 July. Classes are very small (two to four people) to allow for lots of individual attention – and plenty of room.
A new live class is being launched – mastering sourdough starters and leavens – based on their bestselling online course. There are two classes on gluten-free baking, which includes gluten-free sourdough, or you can learn how to make croissants and pastries. You can book a course with a friend, or have one-to-one training with bakers Penny and Dragan.
Best bite: All the bread you’ve made to take home.
Tim Bouget and the team in this coastal café have reopened for takeaway only, alongside the launch of a click and collect service. The café – in the old stables next to Shaldon Wildlife Trust’s zoo and the South West Coast Path – really puts its money where its mouth is when it comes to sustainable living.
The food is organic, local, ethical and Fair Trade. It uses plant-based and cardboard food packaging, and all drinks ware and cutlery are compostable or recyclable. Food waste and compostable packaging are sent to an anaerobic digestion plant in North Devon, which is turned into renewable energy that the café buys back as its energy source.
There have been some changes since reopening. It is only serving food and drink outside (tables are on a first-come, first-served basis) or as a takeaway. You can order the Ode & Go click and collect service online and pick up at the kerb. It is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Best bite: When the food-fired outdoor oven is in use, it has to be Wild Valley Firecracker pizza, with roasted wild fallow deer, nduja paste, tomatoes and mushrooms.
This imposing hotel on Torquay seafront with its elegant Victorian architecture – part of the privately-owned Richardson Group – reopened on 4 July, after careful risk assessment to make it Covid-19 secure.
The adjustments include a chef-created small menu – incorporating fresh and local ingredients – using the best seasonal produce available.
Dining is in the four star AA Rosette 1881 restaurant (named after the year The Grand opened) or in the less formal Brasserie. In the fine weather, guests will be encouraged to make the most of the views of the English Riviera, using the outdoor seating to enjoy meals from the barbecue.
Best bite: In these surroundings, you can’t beat a proper cream tea.
Husband and wife team Ryan and Tanya opened this restaurant in Stonehouse in 2017, and have proved a firm favourite winning a Michelin plate and an AA Rosette. During lockdown, they launched The Fig Tree @ Yours where customers could collect chilled items from the menu ready to reheat at home. You could also buy their homemade bread, delicious fig leaf oil and smoked butter.
This neighbourhood brasserie is relatively small, which means bookings will be necessary when it reopens at the end of July so they can plan the seating accordingly. There is normally seating for 12 outside, underneath the fig tree that gives the restaurant its name. All the much-loved Fig Tree favourites will be on the menu and appropriate Covid-19 measures will be in place.
Best bite: River Exe mussels with cider and pancetta.