Small plates of Spanish-inspired delicacies and cocktails might seem to go against the grain in rural Devon, yet a new and eclectic Barcelona-inspired restaurant is thriving on Exmoor, discovers Jo Rees
Braised pig cheeks in Martini Rosso, ham hock croquetas and quail stuffed with figs and prosciutto is the kind of fare you’d expect to nibble between glasses of house vermouth in the small candlelit bars of Barcelona’s Barrio Gotico. Devon, less so.
So it’s a find to discover Spelt, a small neighbourhood restaurant in the Exmoor village of Bampton, which is the embodiment of its owners Paul and Donna Berry’s edible adventures in the Catelonian capital.
The couple run nearby multi-award winning pub The Swan, and this provenance has helped Spelt build a local following for its breakfast-to-dinner offering which pairs Spanish tapas and small plates with rural Exmoor elements and local produce.
VISIT for the opportunity to order an eclectic collection of dishes and feast with friends on morsels of multiple delicious creations.
Some dishes are main-course size (Brixham halibut with parsnip puree and curry sauce), some more like starters (piquant anchovies in oil, and goat’s cheese arancini) while others are ostensibly sides (patatas bravas and sprouting broccoli with chilli oil). But don’t let that dictate a starter, main and accompaniment etiquette: simply order a few dishes and be prepared for them to arrive in whichever order they’re ready.
DON’T VISIT if you can’t share nicely. Anyone hoping to hog the entire plate of slow-cooked lamb shank with coriander, apricots and mint couscous all to themselves really ought to visit alone, as clashing forks in pursuit of the last tender scrap is all part of the fun at Spelt.
WE LIKED kicking off the evening with a well-crafted cocktail from a pleasingly pared-back list. Pondering over what to pick? The house special is the Quickie: Quick orange gin, passionfruit liqueur, curacao and Fever-Tree Tonic.
We also liked the three-room set-up so guests can choose their preferred environment – glam sitting room, French bistro or library – in which to be magnanimous over who scores the final goujon of pheasant with spiced cranberry sauce.