Halfway down a steep, narrow lane, tucked in tightly between rambling thatched cottages is The Journey's End in Ringmore in the South Hams. Its location is about as 'Devon' as you can get, as is the building, which dates from the thirteenth century and features large open fireplaces, flagstone floors and wood panelling.
When my wife, daughter and I arrived on a Wednesday lunchtime we were warmly greeted by the owner Tracy Brand a couple of walkers and their border collie who seemed glad of a sit down after his long walk. As soon as I walked in and sampled my pint of perfectly kept Teignworthy's Scrum Down, I knew I wanted to come back before we'd even seen a menu.
Tracy says that whenever there are new customers, their reaction to the menus are similar to ours, one of surprise. The style of food is modern and reflects Chef Conor Heneghan's experience of kitchens in Australia, Thailand and latterly at Burgh Island, with plenty of seafood and fresh Asian flavours. The seasonal lunch and dinner menus change according to what produce is available, while the bar menu is set. Where possible, food is sourced within a 30-mile radius of the pub and this is marked on the menus.
My wife's starter of roast maple beetroot, falafel and hummus salad was bursting with flavour. Her taste buds were awoken with a lively combination of sharp, tangy beetroot, creamy, garlicky hummus and light, crispy falafel. It was the nicest veggie food she'd tasted for a long time and she would have been more than happy with this as a main course, which is an option here. My starter was the popular fried squid with a thin batter coating, accompanied by fresh mint, spring onions and green chillies. This was a generous-sized starter that I would have eaten as a main – and what beautiful presentation too.
Feeling encouraged by the vegetarian options on the lunch menu, my wife chose the Jerusalem artichoke, apple pot stickers (similar to dumplings) that came fried on one side. This was served with a deconstructed blue cheese and hazelnut crumble. The flavour combination was, again, a winner. My breast of lamb was so tender you hardly needed a knife, the tomato couscous had a robust flavour and the d'Agen prunes were a great match for the meat.
Flavour-wise, our dessert of warm orange and olive oil cake lived up to our other dishes. Moist, firm, with a fruity nectar, served filled with whipped double cream, this was delicious.
Conor clearly knows how to marry flavours and texture to produce unusual and satisfying dishes. I will certainly be coming back here for more than just a pint!