Sometimes only an old favourite will do. Like a comfortable jumper, a tried and tested recipe or, in this case, my local pub in Combeinteignhead. When I moved to the area four years ago, imagine how smug I felt to discover a clutch of good locals on my doorstep. The Wild Goose is a particular favourite of mine and has all the essential ingredients of a proper village inn – a warm, relaxed feel, wooden beams, horse brasses, a dart board, music nights and great beer (in no particular order!).
I was also extremely partial to landlord Jerry English's ham, egg and chips, so it was with great enthusiasm that I sampled the revived menu, created by his new chef, Andy Storey.
I was surprised to see how modern the menu is: my starter, a pork ballotine with black pudding, Granny Smith and cauliflower, wouldn't have featured on the old one. But what a pleasant surprise! The herby pork terrine had a course texture that was light on the palate. Matched to this big flavour was the robust black pudding with its crispy shell and moist centre. Perched on top of small cubes of apple was a tiny micro leaf – presentation is well thought out, like the flavours of the dishes. My wife had the scrambled duck egg, served on a sweet brioche with a wild mushroom fricassee. Creamy and indulgent, its flavours lingered.
My duck main course was among the nicest I have eaten – lean pink meat, crisp skin and an accompaniment of sweet potato and wild garlic. The pearl barley was an unusual but delicious addition. My wife equally enjoyed her bream fillet and, again, the chef opted for a more unusual ingredient with it, salsify. This root vegetable balanced the dish and the greens were livened up with some sweet, toasted hazelnuts that also upped the crunch factor.
I didn't want to swap the savoury flavour of my meal with anything too sweet, so I enjoyed the local cheese board and a fruity chutney. My wife didn't think I could manage it all as our portions were generous, but as Jerry predicted, I finished the lot. She, meanwhile, had a spicy treat with her choice of roasted pear with cinnamon cream and pain d'épices. The cream was particularly full of flavour – a refreshing taste with which to end a meal.
Alas, no gammon, egg and chips, but I am sure I won't miss it. A lesson to learn: old favourites can be improved upon.