In a thousand-year-old building in the heart of a quiet Devon valley, it would be easy for the Cridford Inn to play it straight.
But, much like the cob walls and thatched roof, nothing here is quite uniform. You can enjoy gammon, egg and chips, and treacle tart; or, choose the Asian-influenced dishes that this historic place is fast becoming known for.
Head chef Johnny Varah has created an inspiring east-meets-west menu, a celebration of the ingredients and flavours he picked up during his time working in Brisbane, Australia. Szechuan duck salad, shoyu ramen and Korean chicken burger sit alongside more familiar favourites, such as Brixham cod and mushroom risotto.
“I’m going to have the ramen,” says my husband Luke, as we sit down for a mid-week lunch in the suitably low-ceilinged restaurant in a building that was once a nunnery, a farm, and one of nine smallholdings mentioned in the Domesday Book.
We agreed it was one of the craziest things we’d done in months (it has been a weird time). We were going to eat this modern, authentic Asian fusion food in a pub that has one of the earliest surviving examples of a Medieval domestic window in England. How incredibly incongruous of us.
It worked out pretty well. Luke had the hot duck salad to start: Szechuan duck with charred chicory, pickled cucumber, spring onion, chilli and peach hoisin. It was perfectly flavoured –rich, sweet and spicy. I started in more European territory, with wild mushroom arancini, black truffle aioli, parmesan crisps and pea shoots.
Just as we were nearing the mopping-up-the-sauce stage, we were presented with a bonus dish of Cridford fried cauliflower, or CFC, as it’s known to the locals. Many come here just to eat this delicious plate of sticky, sesame awesomeness with a pint of Dartmoor Jail Ale. It was cauliflower at its finest, captured in the lightest, tempura-style batter I’ve ever eaten – we will need a plate each next time.
Luke’s shoyu ramen was definitely the standout dish. A delicious combination of soy, miso and mushroom broth, noodles, broccolini, and carrot ribbons with added pork belly. Deep, balanced, savoury and sweet flavours with every slurp. I enjoyed my Korean chicken burger, with Korean barbecue glaze, Sriracha mayo, hispi slaw and fries. This two-napkin job was really delicious, and again, the batter was light and just perfect.
Top marks to a team with the passion and skills to do something different, while keeping traditions alive. This place is one to watch.