Foodie travellers often miss out on the pubs, tea rooms and restaurants so loved by locals. In this series of dispatches from around the globe, we’ll be putting that right by celebrating culinary heroes worth making a detour for. Next on our global food trip: Exmoor. Below you’ll find great places to eat and drink in and around this beautiful region – plus its best pubs.
Porlock Bay Oysters
Porlock Bay Oysters was set up in 2012 by the local parish council in an (already successful) attempt to improve employment in the local area. Now their locally cultivated rock oysters (grown in water awarded ‘top A’ classification for quality by the Food Standards Agency) are served at numerous pubs and restaurants across Exmoor. If you’re self-catering and fancy oysters for dinner, they can be bought at Costcutters in Porlock and Budgens in Wheddon Cross. While you’re at the latter, look out for Styles Ice Cream: made on a local farm, using both cow’s and sheep’s milk, you’ll find flavours such as honeycomb, clotted cream and banoffee in the freezer section.
Ziang’s At The Weir
At first glance, this beachside takeaway looks like your average chippy but Ziang’s At The Wier (run by Michael Taylor and his mum, Choo) is anything but. Serving a daily-changing menu of South-East Asian street-food alongside seaside classics like beer-battered fish and chunky chips, dishes are listed on a blackboard and might include anything from prawn assam curries to kampung mee goreng – an egg noodle-based dish served with chicken, cabbage and bean sprouts. Take a seat at one of the few outside tables or eat on the go, tucking into chicken sambal as you wander down the coast.
West Country Farm & Food Tours
The aim of this group, headed by local Shaun Bryant, who has lived in Exmoor for 25 years, is to teach people about where their food comes from. Based in Exmoor, the company puts together bespoke tours to local farms and also runs regular group tours that anyone can sign up to – visit a farm near Dulverton, for example, that rears rare breed pigs, dairy goats, Dexter cattle and alpacas.
Minehead Farmers’ Market
If, like many visitors to the region, you’re planning a hike across its spectacular moorland or clifftops, time your trip for a Friday and stock up at Minehead Farmers’ Market first. It’s the perfect picnic-hunting ground, with everything from local cheeses to strawberries and organic bread on sale. Oh, and make sure you try homemade cannoli, Italian meatballs or aubergine parmigiana from Stefano’s stall.
The Old Rectory Hotel
Stunning views of the North Devon coastline on the drive to Martinhoe are free with every stay at The Old Rectory. This small-but-civilised country hotel enjoys a three-acre garden, where delightful owners Huw and Sam grow their own produce. Bedrooms are classic and luxurious, with soft lighting and expensive, neutral furnishings. Enjoy afternoon tea, pre-dinner drinks and canapés in the stylish orangery; or take your drinks out onto the decking, with a view of the gardens and nothing but birdsong for company.
Evening menus draw heavily on local produce, including Exmoor pork, duck and venison, Ilfracombe crab, Arlington Court beef and Lundy fish. You’ll be wowed by the hotel’s painstakingly chosen wine list, too. Walk off any excess the following day on the South West Coastal Path, which passes just 500m from the hotel. oldrectoryhotel.co.uk
Luttrell Arms Hotel
A stately hotel and restaurant in picturesque Dunster, the Luttrell Arms showcases the very best local produce in its menus – try grilled fillet of brill with a lemongrass reduction, saffron potatoes and marinated fennel; or Salcombe crab on toast with citrus crème fraiche. You’ll find us at the bar, though. A characterful spot serving Exmoor Ale beers, white wines from nearby Sharpham Estate, and posh Scotch eggs, it’s just the place after a day out hiking or sightseeing.
The Coach House
Right on the border of the National Park, Michael Caines’ restaurant at the Kentisbury Grange Hotel holds two AA rosettes for its precise, contemporary cooking. Typical dishes include roast squab pigeon with wild garlic, potato salad, tarragon mayonnaise and pigeon jus; and slow-cooked Exmoor lamb loin with boulangère potato, haricot blanc, fennel, tapenade and lamb jus. Commendably, the kitchen offers a separate vegetarian menu put together with as much care as its carnivorous cousin. The restaurant’s decor is equally forward-looking, its glass staircase, granite bar counter and crushed velvet banquettes a surprise in this country house setting. Don’t want to go the whole hog? Tapping into its ‘special occasions’ reputation, the restaurant has recently started serving afternoon teas.
This Dulverton stalwart may be a pub by name, but it’s more of a restaurant by nature. The French-influenced menu is a definite step up from your traditional pub grub: try bresaola with confit garlic, globe artichokes, rocket, parmesan and red wine dressing, or roast loin of Northcombe lamb and slow-roast shoulder with fondant potato, artichoke pureé, spinach, roasted Chantenay carrots and thyme sauce. It also has a stellar wine list, winning it Wine Pub of the Year numerous times.
A well-groomed country house hotel, this Wootton Courteney retreat is a cossetting place to wind up in after a walk. Its Coleridge restaurant is open Wednesday to Saturday evenings, serving dishes such as carpaccio of Holnicote venison and honey roast breast of Devon duck. Or go for a classic Sunday lunch. Co-owner Jane used to work for Berry Bros & Rudd, so the wine list is especially good.
Locanda on the Weir
Set on the Porlock Weir harbour, this country restaurant-with-rooms brings a taste of Italy to the Somerset coast. Owners Pio (at the kitchen’s helm) and Cindy (in charge of interior design) are devoted to both Italian cuisine and Exmoor ingredients, so expect dishes such as filetto di maiale all mostarda (local pork tenderloin in a creamy mushroom sauce) and swordfish linguine. The five cosy bedrooms (four of which have a sea view) emit a cosy country house feel, and are decorated with antique furniture that the couple has collected over the years.
What started as chef Tim Zekki’s pop-up in and around The Chilterns has now become a permanent restaurant. Fresh, local produce is the focus – duck from Creedy Carver, lamb from Westcott Organics and Somerset cheese help make up Tim’s Mediterranean-inspired menu. Expect the likes of pan seared fillet of mackerel with miso dressing and puffed rice; Thorne’s lamb kofte with chickpea cake; and confit duck with puy lentil and blackcurrant sauce.
For relaxed dining in Lynmouth, book a table at 7TheBistro. West Country crab cakes with creamed horseradish are popular, and there’s a dedicated steak menu that includes 28-day dry mature rump, sirloin, rib eye and fillet (reared on a farm just a couple of hours away), all griddled and served with classic peppercorn, red wine or madeira sauce.
Exmoor pubs worth a detour:
Tarr Farm Inn
Sup a riverside pint or local cider before demolishing pan-seared scallops or a Devon Ruby steak.
Royal Oak Inn
Set in a former 12th-century farmhouse, this thatched pub with rooms serves ales from just down the road, ciders from Taunton and the likes of soused mackerel fillets, ham, egg and chips, and homemade apple tart.
Location is (almost) everything at this popular pub in the spectacular coastal village of Lynmouth. Fish and seafood take prime position on the menu: order the mussels, or those fresh Porlock Bay oysters mentioned above.
The Staghunters Inn
Tucked away in the Doone Valley (of Lorna Doone fame), this old-school, pup-friendly pub, decked out with hunting trophies, is one of the region’s most loved watering holes. Partly for its setting, partly for its no-fuss home cooking, and partly for the simple promise of a decent pint.
For more info on other places to eat & drink in and around Exmoor, see visit-exmoor.co.uk
Written by Rhiannon Batten and Ellie Edwards, March 2019
Photographs by Dunkery Beacon Country House, JPh Baudey
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