An unassuming backstreet in Bideford turns out to be the setting for a glorious gourmet experience of surprise and delight, discovers Jo Rees
Smart fine dining is a bit thin on the ground in north Devon. Great fish and chips? Check. Beautiful pub food? You got it. But if you’re looking for handsomely turned heritage carrots or an exquisite seasonal-fruit souffle, you can count the heroes on one hand.
So when you’re tipped the wink on a new fine dining must-visit, well, hope springs eternal.
Let us introduce you to Number Eight. To find it, head away from Bideford High Street and, just along from Palm Springs sun shower salon and Purrfect Pets, you’ll find the unassuming spot where Josh (chef) and Chloe (front of house) have realised their long-held dream of owning their own restaurant. We’ve heard this kind of story (and had our expectations raised) before, but here’s where it gets unusual: this time it really is good.
VISIT for exceptional food crafted with sophisticated flair. Each course is alluringly turned out on dapper crockery that’s perfectly paired to the dish (think ochre stoneware colour-matched to the golden squash served alongside creamy roast hake, charred butternut and lick-the-plate fondant potato). But not only is it aesthetically pleasing, it all tastes – hit the wah-wah pedal – as good as it looks. From the rich sweet and sour duck leg starter with its knifekeen pickled cabbage, crisp bite of toasted hazelnut and zesty lime mayo, through to the final scrapings of a soothing milk chocolate pannacotta with blood orange puree, chocolate crumb and fresh orange segments, there isn’t a single bum note. They even managed to swerve the trend of calling chocolate crumb ‘soil’. We know.
DON’T VISIT for dinner with a crowd. This is definitely dinner-for-two territory, but with an easy vibe and none of the hushed reverence that can haunt fine dining spots in more chichi environs.
WE LIKED the value. £35 for two courses and £43 for three ain’t cheap, but you’d pay twice that for food of this stamp in that there London AND the service was spot-on AND you get an amuse bouche and stonking homemade bread to boot. Bargain.
INSIDER’S TIP Up for full-on glorious gluttony? Tag a cheese course – three local cheeses with damsel crackers, homemade chutney, honeycomb and truffled walnuts – on to the end of your meal.
What we ate (dinner)
Starter Sweet and sour duck leg, carrot puree, pickled red cabbage, toasted hazelnuts and lime mayonnaise
Main Roast hake, charred butternut, fondant potato, squash puree, pine nuts, crispy sage and beurre blanc
Pud Milk chocolate pannacotta, blood orange puree, chocolate crumb, orange segments and caramel crisp
3 courses £43