Tucked away behind Parke estate’s Georgian mansion, Home Farm Café occupies one of the converted farm buildings. Now in its fourth year, it is popular for its informal daytime menu, but on Friday and Saturday evenings (and Thursdays during the summer) it offers three-course dining.
As we arrive on a damp and blustery February evening, the mellow glow from the windows is a welcoming sight. In the daytime, and on summer evenings, woodland and riverside paths around the estate offer the ideal pre-meal appetite-whetting walk, but perhaps not this evening…
A stable door leads to the main café. Appropriately, the room has a rustic air, with stripped pine, stripey cushions and bunches of dried hydrangeas. The old-fashioned stoppered glass bottles of chilled water (frequently refilled during the evening), candles and posies of narcissi on each table complete the atmosphere of a farmhouse kitchen.
So does that mean we’ll be getting boiled ham and suet pudding? Not a bit of it! The cuisine here is as up to date as you’ll find anywhere. The produce is local for sure and comfortingly familiar, but the imaginative way it is used means each dish is highly individual.
Our starter (it’s a set starter to share, followed by a choice of main dishes and desserts) is a salad of caramelised shallot, couscous, feta cheese, marinated red pepper and leaves, with a platter of breads and balsamic oil – a fresh and colourful combination.
My main course is a purple sprouting and Devon blue tart with rocket pesto (there’s always a vegetarian option). The blue cheese is the predominant flavour here, blending well with the delicate egg custard and the light pastry base. My partner opts for the slow-cooked pork belly stuffed with black pudding and herbs and topped with apple and apricot compote – once again a perfect mix of contrasting flavours. These dishes are only half the story, however: jostling for centre stage is a large bowl of aromatic vegetables. The earthy tones of roasted root vegetables and rosemary potatoes are interwoven with ribbons of deep-green sautéed savoy cabbage and leeks: the whole dish a celebration of Devon’s winter harvest. This balance of textures and flavours is a key theme of the menu; Chefs Tom and Charlie clearly know what they’re at.
For dessert I’m tempted by the lemon posset, so the kitchen obligingly swap the (non-vegetarian) jelly that comes with it for a compote of mixed berries. The two make a harmonious match, the velvety smooth, citrus-sharp posset balanced by mellow fruitiness. My partner’s dark chocolate crème brûlée is a chocaholic’s dream and that too is paired with a little pot of berry compote.
Hidden away Home Farm may be, but it’s clearly popular with those in the know. Do try it – but don’t turn up without booking…