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 restaurants 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 2018 …
Jo Rees, editor
In January, the Food Reader Awards evening at Fifteen Cornwall was pretty cool, and an element that made the mental Rolodex of good things was the nutty, rich mature Cornish Gouda on the cheese plate – totally worth clogging up the arteries for.
In spring, a charming supper at The Swan in Bampton made the grade: visit for excellent cooking and a lively vibe in a proper edge-of-Exmoor pub. On the smart, country house hotel front, dinner at (the then new) Paschoe House (pictured above) was notable. I’m looking forward to returning to check out the cooking of their new chef Craig Davies.
Come midsummer the luscious charms of a short countryside retreat with exquisite food at Abbots Court near Blandford Forum was a stunning experience.
Making gin at Salcombe Gin School was another rather special moment, and a later winter visit to the distillery to sip a Colhieta Royale cocktail (made with its Guiding Star sloe and damson gin) at the Independent Gin Guide launch was divine.
On the cocktails front, a fragrant, floral Maid of The Moor at Dr Ink’s second birthday party in Exeter took the top spot for stunning sip of the year, followed by a Tonka Manhattan at Calcot Manor in Gloucestershire.
Come autumn, superb cooking was a surprising and delightful find in a Bideford back street, care of Number Eight.
And on the hit list for 2019? It’s the Salcombe Gin and Boringdon Hall collab in February: Scott Paton’s incredible cooking paired with quality gins. Bring it on.
Rosanna Rothery, features editor
Most stand-out scrumptious experience of the year? Easy-peasy – the Olive Tree Restaurant (pictured above) beneath the Queensberry Hotel in Bath. Splashing out on Chris Cleghorn’s five or seven course tasting menus is money coolly spent.
Locally procured eel, veal, fallow deer and truffles meet anyone’s luxury brief, but Cleghorn turns them into delectable works of art. And, because there are veggie and vegan tasting menus too, no one gets left out. Three days after we visited the restaurant received a Michelin star. About time too!
Other finds for the little black book include two charming bistros that do rather lovely classics: Devon’s The Orange Tree in Torquay and Cornwall’s Old Mill Bistro in Little Petherick. But for wild seclusion and the ultimate get-away-from-it-all break may I suggest a weekend away at south Devon’s Soar Mill Cove? The boutique hotel overlooks azure seas and craggy cliffs and offers plenty of satisfying post-walk-and-surf sustenance.
Kathryn Lewis, assistant editor
Almost a year after dinner at The Castle at Taunton, and the mention of head chef Liam Finnegan’s ale-infused Irish soda bread still makes my mouth tingle with anticipation. The rich, treacly and uncontrollably moreish loaf set the bread bar impassably high for what was to become a year of incredible eating.
An evening at ultra-luxe Lucknam Park with supper at Michelin-starred Restaurant Hywel Jones was as indulgent as expected. Highlights included pre-dinner champagne in the lounge, pot roasted Round Hill pork served with the silkiest creamed potatoes and a dedicated cheese trolley featuring no less than 12 stonking varieties.
Sumptuous overnight trips weren’t in short supply either and a sleepover at The Alverton’s (pictured above) Chapel Suite was oh-so-spoiling. Friday nights don’t get much better than a lazy soak in the in-room copper roll top tub followed by champagne cocktails from Trencherman’s Awards winning bar manager Yohann Thuillier.