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food's top eats of 2017

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When we’re not getting stuck into the next issue at food HQ in Barnstaple, we (the food mag editorial team) can normally be found stuffing our faces at the latest eats and regional relics across the South West.

With some notable new additions and nearly 50 reviews loosening our belts this year, here’s a few of our faves from 2017 …

Michael Caines

Jo Rees, editor

My faves of the year? Visiting Michael Caines’ Lympstone Manor during its renovations to cover the story for Food Magazine, and then going back as soon as it had opened for our Trencherman’s Guide 25th edition launch was pretty special – not least because MC’s brigade were joined in the kitchen by some of the best chefs in the South West for the two stunning feasts.

A night at Little Barwick House near Yeovil in spring was the epitome of grown-up dining delight, while Bath’s plush underground cocktail bar, The Dark Horse, was rather thrilling.

In Cornwall, Kingswood Bar and Restaurant was an unexpected find – I thoroughly recommend the cherry bakewell sours – and I loved lunch at The St Enodoc Hotel in Rock: chef James Nathan certainly knows his onions.

Finally, it’s been a treat to see Block open in Barnstaple – its pan Asian feast night was a highlight of December. Man, those bao buns …

Red Lion

Rosanna Rothery, features editor

Driving with trepidation along the dark, narrow back roads of north Devon’s Hartland peninsula on a soggy November night my expectations of finding epicurean enchantment weren’t particularly high. Who in their right mind would open a decent restaurant in the middle of nowhere accessed only by tortuous country lanes?

Well, Bjorn Moen that’s who. So how utterly magical to eventually step inside Pattard Kitchen and discover a unique converted milking parlour inspired by the understated elegance and simplicity of Scandi interiors.

If the surroundings weren’t cool enough, beautifully plated dishes provided raptures of flavour, freshness and originality. Put this one on your hit list if you’re up for an adventure. It’s rustic, resolutely rural and rather romantic.

Talking of remote places, should you ever find yourself driving through the unremarkable village of East Chisenbury in Wiltshire slam on your breaks and pull into the village’s thatched pub, Red Lion. Even better plan an overnighter with a wine-matched dinner and a stay in the pub’s tranquil guesthouse, the Troutbeck.

Dynamo chefs Guy and Brittany Manning serve seriously good food (Michelin star and 3 AA rosettes) with zero pomp and ceremony. Eight months later and I’m still salivating over the memory of scrumptious cromesquis (tender herbed venison in croquettes flavoured with apricot puree and griottine cherries) followed by silky roast loin of veal with almond and blue cheese buttermilk emulsion. The pair deliver a creative cosmopolitan menu and it’s the biz.

In contrast, my final off-the-beaten-track tip has to be the Pyne Arms at East Down, a pub that’s only discovered by (once again) braving meandering country lanes in the thick of the north Devon countryside. For warming, hearty pub standards given a contemporary twist, I’d wager this little gem takes a bit of beating.

Yeo Valley Canteen

Kathryn Lewis, assistant editor

Any hopes of a restrained start to 2017 came to an abrupt end when Oliver’s head chef Ken Symons teamed up with Jude Kereama of Kota in Porthleven for an excellent eight-course charity supper in January. Beer matching courtesy of Sharp’s Brewery meant Dry January efforts didn’t quite go to plan either (who was I kidding?).

A dreamy evening at the oh-so-luxe Queensberry Hotel in Bath was an indulgent way to spend a weekend in the city in October. A seasonal tasting menu by head chef Chris Cleghorn at the hotel’s Olive Tree Restaurant with matched wines was as decadent as the pre-dinner cocktails and king sized bed.

Lunch at Yeo Valley’s funky staff canteen in Blagdon was definitely this year’s curveball review. Vibrant veggies plucked from the valley below, idiosyncratic decor (I’m still hunting for a Spice Girls doll lampshade like theirs) and a couple of scoops of Yeo’s signature ice cream lavished with sticky salted caramel sauce: I’m drooling just dreaming about it.

Oh, and I could definitely get used to waking up to the view of boats bobbing in the harbour below The Greenbank Hotel in Falmouth. And the poached eggs and hollandaise brekkie which followed wasn’t too shabby either …

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