It is a wonderful experience when my expectations in advance of visiting a restaurant are exceeded, but The Artichoke Inn in Christow managed to do exactly that.
The building is a historic coaching inn, with the interior retaining that traditional decor – black beams, a certain cosiness – and, of course, a welcoming host. The touches of red on the seating and the napkins give it an appealing, modern twist.
My dining companion and I shared the seafood platter as a starter. Having just returned from France, where we were spoilt for choice with great seafood, we agreed that this dish was equal, if not better, than anything served to us in Brittany. Simply fried in brown butter, the three scallops were large and juicy – an excellent dish that demonstrates how simplicity can be more successful than over-complicating a high-quality ingredient. Morsels of bread dipped in the seafood’s sauce were a delight. Also on this very full platter came three skewered king prawns in a chilli sauce, three pieces of battered white fish, plenty of white crabmeat on a scallop shell, a dressed side salad and tartare sauce.
We agreed that had this delicious platter been served with a view of the sea, we would have almost reached heaven. The owner remarked that many people have this sharing starter with a glass of white wine out in the garden for lunch. What an appealing idea! We liked the fact that a young man walked through the pub towards the kitchen with a net of scallops as we were eating, proving the ‘hand-dived scallops’ credentials beyond any doubt.
I followed with the seared duck breast in a cherry sauce (rich, dark and savoury), a potato cake (I loved its crispy edges) and three types of vegetable (carrot, swede and cabbage – all cooked to my taste). My husband had a 12-ounce sirloin steak, served with attractive brown chips, giant battered onion rings, tasty, deep-red, cooked vine tomatoes and a variety of mushrooms. The meat was charred, smoky on the outside, and still red in the middle. It was pronounced as “just perfect”.
The desserts were also of a very good standard. My tiramisu was accompanied by a white chocolate and espresso crumb. I am a huge fan of this Italian dessert and I particularly enjoyed its texture and taste. My husband chose the almond and orange cake, served with whisky-soaked orange segments and Chantilly cream. The flavours in the desserts were subtle yet comforting and were both made on the premises (as the blackboard menu proudly proclaimed).
The service was friendly and personal. There were about 14 other diners on the evening we visited, plus a handful of people drinking at the bar. This is definitely the place to get well-above-average food within a traditional pub setting.