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Southwest England recs?

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We will be unexpectedly traveling in southwest England for a week beginning next Saturday and need some good dinner recommendations. First night is Gravetye, for sentimental reasons, then we have two nights in Torquay and two near Padstow. I thought I had done my homework using the most recent Michelin as a starting point, only to find St Ervans apparently closed, and Orestone Manor sold with the chef moved. Our only first choice that appears to be current is The Elephant in Torquay.

Does anyone know anything about what Orestone Manor is like now? Are we better off trying The Chasers? Somewhere else? We are after good, local, seasonal food. Doesn't have to be fancy, but has to taste really wonderful. Pubs are great.

Many thanks for any help you can give!


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Wholly agree- a group of us had a fabulous lunch at the Elephant, way back in May. Very poor behaviour on my part, but I never got round to writing the meal up. :sad: I do however remember a venison carpaccio dish with langoustine. A sublime John Dory dish, with verjus and unannounced sweetbreads oh, and a stellar langoustine bisque to kick things off. Simon Hulstone, the chef- really looked after us as did his missus Katy- who is front of house at the Elephant.

Quite frankly a trip to Torquay, without a visit to the Elephant would be unthinkable. Enjoy. :smile:

Edited by Bapi (log)
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From Torquay the following would all be excellent places to visit within 30-45 minutes driving:

1. The Nobody Inn, Doddiscombsleigh: excellent Dartmoor pub with decent, hearty food and three special qualities - a great wine/beer list, a whiskey collection that includes every Scottish malt and a truly fantastic cheese menu (a plate of seven or so Devon cheeses costs around £6-7).

2. Sharpham Vineyard, on the way to Dartmouth: a beautiful vineyard on the banks of the River Dart. It's possible to take a tour of the vineyard, followed by a tasting of the wine and their superb cheeses (Sharpham Rustic is a local classic).

3. 22 Mill Street, Chagford: Just down the road from Gidleigh Park (** but closed until December 11 I'm afraid), with a chef-proprietor who moved on from there). Really tasty, technically skilled cuisine at good prices.

I'm afraid I don't know of much in Torquay or Padstow. If you happen to be in the Exeter or east Devon region, there are many more recommendations on this board, not least in Topsham (home of great restaurants, Devon's best cheese shops and marco polo's Club Vino).

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I knew that there had been changes of ownership at the Orestone but not that the chef Darren Bunn (who won the Michelin star) had left. Is this definitely the case? If so, that's a real shame as he was very good. The Elephant was under the same ownership but hopefully all is well there - can Ginger Chef confirm what's been going on?

Two good recommendations that are easily do-able from the Torbay area.

Agaric is an outstanding small restaurant in Ashburton, a small town on the southern flank of Dartmoor. The chef Nick Coiley used to be the head chef under Joyce Molyneux at the Carved Angel. He makes absolutely everything himself (including breads baked in a wood-fired oven he constructed himself) and has a passion for mushrooms (hence the name). Well worth a visit for lunch or dinner.

If you are after the freshest orangic produce literally picked from the fields, then the Riverford Field Kitchen is absolutely not to be missed. You have to book in advance and take a tour of the organic farm (fascinating) or else a self-guided tour (this is required due to restrictions on the license granted), and then you can enjoy Jane Baxter's outstanding homecooked foods, eaten at trestle tables in the company of other likeminded 'food tourists'. Yes, it's a little bit evangelistic, preaching the Riverford gospel, but no worse at all for that. Riverford is a fine organisation bringing organic vegetables through its box scheme to homes through southern England. And Jane is quite simply one of the best chefs in Devon, especially for the preparation of deceptively 'simple' foods that have real intensity and purity of flavour. It's a real bargain, too - two-course lunch £13 two course dinner with appetizers £15 - and there is a good selection of organic and local wines as well as ciders and organic local juices.

In Totnes, Effings is a small but quite wonderful deli that is also a coffee shop cum restaurant serving remarkably good homecooked meals. Also well worth a visit.


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indeed the orestone was sold. the hotel did not fit in with what the owners plans were and the sous chef s parents bought the hotel. we still have a good relationship with the hotel. bunny has moved down the road to the chasers and is doing very well. the elephant is managed by myself and my wife and we have full control with a little support from our owners who let us run the business as our own . which soon maybe the case. we are looking at other ventures to tie in with the elephant at the moment. torquay is still lacking a bit of direction but we are slowly winning over the local populus. cheers for the recos john and bapi.


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Thanks to all for the recommendations. We will definitely eat at the Elephant! Very sorry to miss Bistro Margot's, but we'll try to hit Number 6. Tried to book at the Riverford Field Kitchen -- it's just my idea of a good time -- but they are closed during the week in November. The Nobody Inn sounds lovely.

If anyone else has thoughts to add, or recommendations to make, please do. We leave on Saturday.



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I'd suggest that you consider a meal at Lewtrenchard Manor. Their food is locally sourced where possible, including veg and herbs from their own walled garden.

Their wine list is compiled by a MW. Wine and fixed price menus only offer very good QPR, especially at lunchtime (£12/£18 for 2/3 courses). It scores 6 in the GFG.

The Jacobean building that houses the wood panelled retaurant along with an idylic rural location add to the experience. The only thing missing in late November will probably be post-lunch/pre-dinner croquet on the lawn.

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  • 2 years later...

If anyone is looking for an enjoyable meal in Barnstaple, North Devon, then do try The Old Customs House.

We had a very good lunch there today, small menu, tapas style, all very well cooked and friendly service (evening menu not tapas based).

Lunch tapas dishes are priced at £4 each, glasses of wine started at £3.50 I think.

We had battered cod with lime mayonnaise, devon rump of beef with mushrooms, excellent chips with garlic mayo, and an excellent green salad as shared main course dishes. For dessert a lime parfait with fresh fig, confit fig and raspberry sauce and a moorish custard with beignets. Coffee was also very good. Other dishes on the lunch menu were cauliflower soup, hummous, crab risotto, chicken stuffed with black pudding, cheeses & quince.

I don't think they have a website, lovely old building.

Rare treat in North Devon.

The Old Custom House, 9 The Strand, Barnstaple, EX31 1EU, tel 01271 370123

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What ever you do don't waste your time or money visting the New Angel or the Seafood, Padstow. Went last year, what a disappointment. The restaurant has 'brand' slapped all over it now. You could think you were in, say knightsbridge as much as Padstow!

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  • 3 months later...

Went to the Elephant last night for the Tasting menu. Excellent, one of the best meals we have had in a long time. A real gem in an otherwise barren area.

Amuse Bouche: Three minature savoury macaroons

"Risotto" of squid and cauliflower

Hand dived Bay scallops with Cornish air dried ham and apples

Smoked Lobster (extra course )

Pan roasted fillet of halibut on a parsnip puree with a spring onion and verjus butter sauce

Filet of pure bred South Devon beef with a cep and artichoke mousse

(Light blackcurrant mousse with liquorice and creme fraiche)

Artisan cheese selection

Dark chocolate and olive oil truffle with raspberry and red pepper jelly, passion fruit sauce

Coffee and petit four (three sweet macaroons)

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  • 4 months later...

I had an excellent lunch at Lewtrenchard Manor mid week.

Amuse was a deep flavoured leek and potato soup. Chicken terrine for starter and slow cooked pork belly as maincourse. I'm a fan of pork belly and this, with its accompaniement of jus and mixed vegetables, was the best I've had.

Pannacotta with cassis sorbet to finish.A plate of cheese was an option,sans supplement. Rare for a fixed price lunch menu.

This restaurant has a talented Chef Patron, Jason Hornbuckle, and clearly benefits from having access to quality local supplies along with its own veg garden.

Service was spot on. Brilliant value at £19.

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  • 8 months later...

If you are travelling/staying in the North Devon Holsworthy area you might like to try Blagdon Manor. We had lunch there today, 3 courses for £20, and it was really enjoyable. It makes a change for us to have somewhere within 45 mins drive that is worth the trip and this certainly was.

The staff are very friendly and helpful, the food very good quality and the portions not at all mean for a budget lunch. We were served a selection of hot canapes with pre-meal drinks. I had a pigeon breast and black pudding starter cooked pink and very tender. Main course of John Dory with seasonal vegetables and a selection of West Country cheeses that were all excellent.

It was an excellent way to spend a drizzly bank holiday Saturday. On a nicer day you could enjoy a walk around the grounds and panoramic views. We were happy to watch the woodpeckers feeding just a few metres from where we sat in the warmth.


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  • 10 months later...

Lewtrenchard Manor (sample menus )are still doing an excellent value 3 course, £19, mid week lunch menu. The cooking stood out far above anything we have had locally (North Devon) in the last few months.

The Agaric in Ashburton also served us an excellent meal this week. Staff were extremely helpful and the food was creative but really well balanced and cooked to perfection. We were there on a Thursday night and they were fully booked.

If you go to Ashburton do stop and try Ella's Artisan Bread, the sourdough breads are excellent and the lemon tart was a match for anything I have tried in Paris. The selection of breads and cakes seems to vary by day.

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Have to recommend 22 Mill Street as well, its out in Chagford and quite near Gidleigh Park. I had a wonderful meal there before Xmas, pics etc can be see here 22 Mill Street Report

Also some other good ones to pay a visit are "The HH restaurant - Exeter", its newly opened but I was quite impressed when I went there recently, report and pictures here HH Restaurant Report

Has anyone tried "Al Farid" in Exeter its a Moroccan restaurant?


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  • 1 month later...

Last Tuesday night saw us dining in Padstow at Paul Ainsworth at number 6.

We took the night river taxi from Rock to Padstow then headed to bin two for a glass or two prior to eating. Bin two is a wine shop / wine bar with a few outside seats. They sell Monmouth coffee and a selection of wine by the glass or bottle. I think you can pick any bottle in the store with £7.50 corkage, something along those lines anyway. It’s quite a nice place to sit on a warm evening.

We headed to the restaurant a little early for our reservation at eight. The Restaurant is split into a number of different areas, a small garden, larger main dining area, upstairs dining room and the library. We were in the library. It is a small room. There were two other tables of two, subtle lighting and a few candles flickering. It was probably not the best place to be sat. Comfortable enough but missing the atmosphere of the larger room.

We ate

Baskets of fresh and hot small bread rolls, including an interesting Moroccan spiced roll.


“Jimmy Butler” crispy pig’s head, crackling, salad cream, smoked eel.

Cornish rock oysters, fennel & apple salad, salami, fried oysters.


Slow cooked veal chop, boiled egg béarnaise, asparagus, chips in dripping.

Wings “land & sea”, peas, lettuce, brown butter, chicken jus gras.

We passed on dessert.

The pigs head came as breaded fried cubes, served hot on leaves of little gem, flakes of cold eel, a couple of spirals of crackling and some salad cream. It was tasty enough. Not particularly pretty to look at, or that refined, but it was what it claimed to be, I ate the lot.

The other starter was more impressive. Three large oysters also came breaded and fried, crisp and hot. They came served on the fennel apple salad in the shells, which in turn were sat on a mound of sand and seaweed. It looked impressive and the one I ate tasted good. The fennel and apple was good, crisp and cool. It all went well together. It was £1 more expensive than the pig head I chose, but was a lot better to eat, in my opinion. One of the people sat at another table did eat some of the sand; they described it as “gritty”, an accurate description I should think.

I chose the veal chop. It was the most expensive item on the menu. It was described as being cooked in a water bath and medium rare. I think it must have had some proper heat as it looked browned and was cooked more than medium rare. It was a little too small for cooking medium rare and a little too little for the price. The boiled egg béarnaise was good, rich and unsurprisingly eggy. The asparagus was done simply; the chips were ok although not super crispy. The chop was finished with a drizzle of reduced sauce. It was ok but a bit underwhelming. I had images of a thick juicy chop but it was just too small.

Wings “land and sea”. Everyone asked what it was, well both other tables did and so did we. As it turns out we had guessed correctly, it was a skate wing, the flesh remove from the cartilage, rolled into a cylinder and cooked in a water bath, served with boneless chicken wings. It was a good looking plateful. It was a little cool temperature wise, but tasty.

I almost opted for the other fish main course; Pollock, Seashore vegetables, brown crab and shrimps. Everything except the Pollock sounded perfect. Why Pollock, there has to be a better option, even allowing for sustainability and all the other right reasons, all of which I agree with, there must be something nicer than pollock. I hate poxy Pollock.

We washed the food down with a glass of camel valley pinot noir rose, a bottle of Cornish orchards organic cider and a couple of glasses of wildflower valdigué from California, an interesting drop of wine.

It was mostly good; nothing was bad, just some things were better than others. The restaurant was full as far as I could tell. I don’t know how seasonal Padstow is, there were quite a lot of people about but probably a lot less than there will be in July and August. I would go back.

I did upload some pics but it went a bit wrong and they vanished....

They were dark and a bit grainy anyway so no great loss.


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