South Devon Chilli Farm
On a 10-acre farm outside Totnes 10,000 chilli plants a year are grown in the South Devon sunshine. Visit and you can bask in the tropical heat of the Show Tunnel, lined with stunning bursts of colour from 200 varieties of chilli plants in every shape and size, see seedlings being propagated in the nursery or buy some plants to take home and grow on your windowsill – choose from Padron peppers, ancho poblanos, habaneros and many more. End your visit at the on-site café with a savoury cream tea (fresh, fluffy scones, cream cheese and homemade chilli jam) or a chilli-laced drinking chocolate. The farm shop also sells chilli sauces, chilli chocolates and freshly-picked chillies.
Wander around the Sharpham Estate and you can take in stunning views – a bend of the River Dart to the east and miles of lush, rolling hills to the west. Join a tour of the estate’s winery and an informal tasting of its award-winning wines (we liked the elegant, floral Sharpham Estate 2014 made with Madeleine Angevine grapes, and refreshing and ripe Summer Red 2013 made from Rondo and Pinot Noir grapes). British cheese is also produced here, made mainly from unpasteurized Jersey milk. We loved the Sharpham Cremet – a ripe goat’s cheese enriched with Jersey cream to create a mousse like texture – and the Sharpham Rustic, a creamy and mild, but richly flavoured, semi-hard cheese. Sign up for the full Sharpham Experience tour and you’ll enjoy a great insight into English winemaking, as well a picturesque river walk and a boozy lunch.
In the most unlikely of places, tucked away on an industrial estate in Kingsbridge, Jane Baxter and Samantha Miller host lunches and suppers amid the pared-back surroundings of their kitchen (the pair, who met at the nearby Riverford Kitchen, also run a catering business, supplying the food for corporate and private clients across the county). Dinner or lunch at the Wild Artichoke HQ is not to be missed, however. Taking place at large wooden tables, they’re all about sharing Jane’s hearty, Southern Italian-influenced dishes – think crisp truffle arancini, deep-fried Brussels sprouts, cured salmon with beetroot, grilled leg of lamb with salsa verde, creamed parsnip, potato and fennel gratin, and spring greens with parmesan. Make sure you try a bit of everything, especially when it comes to desserts: panettone bread and butter pudding, perhaps, alongside rhubarb and strawberry crumble, and pavlova with pears and chocolate.
From the company’s base in an uber-cool barn conversion, Nkuku sells its range of ethical, handmade homewares online. What many customers don’t realize as they’re buying its beautiful ceramic cereal bowls or wooden serving platters is that Nkuku also has a shop and café at its Devon HQ. A calming, earthy, stripped-back space, it’s the perfect setting for artisan, wood-roasted coffee from the nearby Curator Café, homemade cakes and brownies and deli boards laid with locally sourced cheeses and cured meats. Its sunny, south-facing courtyard is a great spot to while away an afternoon. And watch this space for upcoming evening food events…
Manna from Devon
At this well-established, family-run cookery school in Kingswear, you can learn to make all manner of things in a wood-fired oven. If you’ve managed to get hold of one of these hefty items at home the school’s owners, David and Holly Jones, will be delighted to pass on their wood-firing expertise. From pizzas and crusty breads to more surprising dishes – scallops, roast vegetables and even desserts – they’re a great introduction to this type of cooking. Choose from classes at the couple’s Victorian home or, for a true kitchen garden experience, join them in the beautiful setting of Deer Park Country House Hotel, near Honiton, and then stay overnight in your own private tree house.
Glazebrook House Hotel
For a food experience unlike anything you’ve tried before, book in at the fabulously eccentric Glazebrook House Hotel for an immersive Alice in Wonderland experience. From your bed in the Mad Hatter room you can spy the rooms of a dolls house protruding from the wall, or go for the Tweedle Deez room and spread out in one of its twin (double) four-posters. Chef Anton Piotrowski ensures the theme translates through to the restaurant with an innovative tasting menu that makes the most of seasonal produce sourced within 50 miles. Places are set with five sets of cutlery and all sizes of wine glasses for the wine flight of German Rieslings, Californian reds and even Lebanese wines. A picnic basket of snacks kicks off the menu, followed by gurnard with buttermilk and tonka bean on punchy wild garlic risotto with crab bisque, and an exquisite roast fillet of beef carved theatrically on a trolley by your table before finishing up with spiced pineapple with coconut and lychee sorbet, coconut macaroon and squishy marsmallow.
The Shops at Dartington
On a warm and sunny day, choose one of the region’s fabulously well-stocked delis and gather a true Devonshire picnic to enjoy in the surrounding countryside. Don’t know where to start? Try the Shops at Dartington and choose from the likes of Portlebay Popcorn (the perfect balance between sweet and savoury, it’s made from butterfly corn grown in the foothills of the Pyrenees but popped locally), Salcombe Dairy’s indulgent ice cream (sophisticated stem ginger is great for grown ups, rich and velvety chocolate sorbet is a satisfying chocolate hit for dairy avoiders and honeycomb a sweet, chewy and crunchy treat for everyone) and Luscombe Drinks’ superb organic ginger beers, fruit juices and cider.
In a clean and bright first-floor space, Ancona-born Matteo Lamaro creates seasonal Italian dishes in the Curator Kitchen, a modern osteria he launched last year. Amid decor that’s part rustic Italian and part pared-down Scandi (large windows, painted floorboards and menus handwritten on brown paper) Lamaro serves fortnightly-rotating menus that are heavy on produce from the Totnes area, as well as Matteo’s home in Le Marche, where he has built up a network of artisan producers – his ‘Italian Food Heroes’.
Typical dishes include slow-cooked lamb ragu with orange zest served on freshly-rolled fettucini; red mullet and agrodolce lentils jewelled with soaked raisins, toasted spelt and oven-roasted tomatoes; and warming Italian panettone bread and butter pudding with orange caramel sauce and vanilla gelato. The wine list is pretty special too: Matteo is the only business in the UK to serve Col di Corte wines from Le Marche, including refreshing Verdicchio Superiore and Verdicchio Clasico.
The Cary Arms must be the most tranquil place for a pint in Devon. Happily sat inside the curve of Babbacombe bay, right next to Oddicombe beach, the view from the inn stretches to Portland Bill in Dorset and takes in the pink-soil cliffs of the English Riviera and an old pier where both seals and locals like to fish. For breakfast, try grilled kippers or the Devon full English; for lunch it’s all about the succulent local white crab meat and lemon mayonnaise bloomer. Dinner centres around fish – pick one of the chef specials for the freshest catch, such as delicately poached John Dory with basil pesto and seasonal vegetables, or Lyme Bay lobster. The wine list is plentiful and each week the De Savary family (who own the inn) choose the house white and red. Read Charlotte Morgan’s full review of The Cary Arms.
Every detail of this stable block conversion above Ness Cove in Shaldon – sedum roof sewn with wild flowers; solar thermal heating; lambs’ wool wall insulation – was chosen for its green credentials. The food at this modish, family-friendly hang-out (also home to the Two Beach microbrewery, try the elderflower-tinged ODE Ale, pint £3), is regionally-focused and versatile. Dishes change daily depending on the availability of, say, sand eels or smoked River Teign salmon, which is served on a homemade English muffin with Hollandaise and a poached egg. Local venison is big in autumn, used in, for instance, a root vegetable stew or to make a burger with pickled cabbage, chilli jam and aioli. Read Tony Naylor’s full review of Cafe ODE.
Written by Alex Crossley
First published March 2016
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