Totnes, Devon foodie guide: where locals eat and drink
The mung bean- and homemade yoghurt-loving reputation of the locals is being ripped up by an influx of young chefs more interested in craft beers, artisan cheeses and contemporary osteria-style cooking
Looking for Totnes restaurants? Here are our favourite restaurants in the south Devon town, plus where to get the best pizza, wine and artisan cheeses.
The Bull Inn
Geetie Singh-Watson was awarded with an MBE after opening the UK’s first organic gastropub, The Duke of Cambridge, in north London in 1998. Come autumn 2019, Geetie will open The Bull Inn, a Grade-II organic pub with nine bedrooms, in Totnes. The setting couldn’t be more fitting. Totnes is one of the UK’s greenest towns, with a high street made up of independent and eco-friendly businesses, including the UK’s first zero-waste shop, just around the corner from The Bull Inn.
Brought up on a self-sufficient commune in the shadow of the Malvern Hills, Geetie has felt deeply in touch with the land from an early age. Just as at The Duke of Cambridge, The Bull will be organic and run with minimum environmental impact. Water will be warmed by solar panels and heat recaptured from the kitchen, furniture will be reclaimed, organic linens will come from local firm Greenfibres and mattresses for the bedrooms will be handmade (using Dartmoor sheep’s wool) by Exeter-based Naturalmat. Interiors will largely be left in a natural, stripped-back state, with lime plaster and exposed stone walls. As for the food, chef James Dodd will be cooking veg-heavy meat and fish dishes. Think tender grilled monkfish with braised white beans, fennel and oregano, or roast local venison with bright salt-baked beets.
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 in 2015. Amid decor that’s part rustic Italian and part pared-down Scandi (large windows, painted floorboards and menus written on blackboards) Lamaro serves monthly-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 Curator Café
If you haven’t got room for a more leisurely meal, grab a coffee and cake at The Curator Café, Lamaro’s more casual sister business downstairs. Flat whites, cappuccinos and macchiatos are expertly made with an Adonis coffee machine (using Italian wood-roast coffee from family-run firm, Fazenda UK) and nut-flower and polenta cakes, with seasonal fruit toppings, are a step above the norm.
The Totnes Brewing Co.
With a staggering range of over 100 craft beers, ales and ciders (from the local area and beyond) this lively drinking den has become an unsurprisingly popular gathering point in the town. Most drinks come in 1/3 pints, so you can taste your way through Thistly Cross traditional cider after Glastonbury’s American Pale after Bristol Beer Factory’s Seven without overdoing it. Settle into a booth with a few board games and a pint or two of whatever is on tap that day. There's a beer garden out the back that's popular with locals, and plenty of open mic nights and monthly vinyl nights when punters can bring their own vinyl to play and dance along to.
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This Totnes institution has been making crumbly artisan fudge for nearly three decades so they know what they’re doing when it comes to the sweet stuff. Huge copper pans are used to make Roly’s favourite flavours - lashings of Devon butter goes in to traditional vanilla clotted cream, rum ‘n’ raisin is spiked with rich, dark rum for a luxurious treat, and lemon meringue makes a tangy surprise. Buy a slab to snack on, or pretty bags of fudge cubes as presents.
Ben's farm shop
At this organic grocer you can buy fresh produce direct from Totnes’ high street. Award-winning organic pies make great takeaway dinners to heat up at home – try a traditional beef pasty, homity pie or ham and leek tarts, all handmade in the farm shop kitchen. Add butternut squash hummus with harissa, mixed olives and cured meats to the spread. Or, in season, pick up bergamot lemons, blood oranges and Seville oranges along with jam jars to make your own marmalade.
The Riverford Field Kitchen
If you have a bit more time, drive 10 minutes up the road to Riverford for the farm’s one-sitting feasting lunches around large shared tables. Organic veg is at the heart of each feast, made expert use of in dishes such as mixed leaves with butternut squash, feta and pecans; celeriac, onion and white bean pie; and chicken and pancetta stew with braised fennel and purple sprouting broccoli. Fish Fridays sees Riverford team up with Cornish fisherman Chris Bean to serve catch of the day fish with organic vegetable dishes.
Take a walk over the hills to the nearby wine estate to try classic English wines with intense fruit flavours made from vines grown on steep slopes that overlook the River Dart. Pair with unpasteurised English cheeses made in the former coachyard creamery from Jersey cattle milk and vegetarian rennet (we like the Sharpham Rustic). The tasting tour gives a great insight into English winemaking, and includes a picturesque river walk and a boozy lunch to finish. There is an on-site restaurant called The Cellar Door with plenty of outdoor seating where you can enjoy fresh fish and seasonal small plates.
If you don’t want to take a tour, head straight to Sharpham’s café instead. A daily-changing menu features dishes like tomato and mascarpone soup, Brixham mussels and ham hock terrine and all can be enjoyed alongside stunning views overlooking the vineyards and the River Dart.
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…
Looking for a place to stay near Totnes? Find a holiday cottage here, so you can enjoy your local supplies in homemade dinners.
Written by Alex Crossley
First published January 2016, updated August 2019