Rosanna Rothery dines on the wild side at Pattard Restaurant, Hartland’s hidden foodie haven
What’s the draw?
The delight of discovering a gastronomic gem in the leafy depths of north Devon’s narrowest lanes.
Be prepared for a tour of the sticks: cows grazing slothfully in meadows, tractors chugging down country tracks and smoke curling from scattered cottages. Then, just when you’re about to scream at the satnav for getting you well and truly lost, you’ll suddenly stumble across this hidden‑away idyll.
Don’t be deterred by the journey as, once you reach the destination, your adventurous amble through no man’s land (somewhere between the A39 and Hartland’s rugged coastline) will be rewarded with a feast created from the fat of the surrounding land.
Head chef Aaron Vanstone must pity city chefs who spend working days in dungeon‑style hellholes with heads bowed over hot stoves. His open plan set‑up overlooks a light‑drenched converted milking parlour where guests tuck into dishes inspired by nearby fields and coast.
Aaron’s flair for flavour combinations and more than 15 years’ experience of classical cuisine are complemented by front‑of‑house honcho Felicity Cook’s love of great hospitality.
What to order?
Anyone would hope to find rustic wholesomeness on visiting this rural restaurant, but Pattard Restaurant delivers a whole lot more than that.
Playful medleys of textures and tastes mean there’s always a delectable surprise on your plate. Who knew, for instance, that a starter of wasabi crab mousse would taste so good with a slice of dehydrated lemon drizzle cake and miso tahini slaw?
Granted, in polite society it’s generally considered good manners to keep your chops tightly shut when you chew, but a pork tenderloin with cardamom bacon ragout, pressed ham hock, date puree and truffled dauphine is nothing short of drop‑your‑mouth‑open delicious.
While the food world has always prioritised ingredients like ultra‑fresh fish and prime cuts of meat, veg is often treated as an afterthought. Aaron’s buffalo cauliflower, however, sees the queen of brassicas given a good spicing and a crispy coat before being transformed into a robust feast with baked quinoa cake, white verjus cabbage, minted soya and crunchy chickpeas.
In short: everything, from house‑baked bread smothered in black garlic and spinach butter to a roulade oozing with piquant gooseberries and voluptuous cream, danced on the palate in glorious harmony.
If you can, wriggle out of driving as on a warm afternoon there’s nothing like sipping a Bar Buoy cocktail at an alfresco table beneath a big sky.