‘The news is there is no news,’ says Matt Mason, head chef at The Jack in the Green at Rockbeare.
It’s not the kind of thing chefs usually say to magazine editors. They know that the media loves to write about what’s new, so ‘business as usual’ is unusual.
To put it in context, Matt – who celebrates 20 years at The Jack this year – goes on to say, ‘We’re doing what we’ve always done and just want to carry on being good.’ So, no wild new schemes or publicity stunts, just the aim to carry on being good.
You’ve got to admit it’s refreshing. With The Jack’s position as one of the original and best modern dining pubs in the South West, they’ve earned the right to be quietly confident. Owner Paul Parnell, chef Matt and his wife Jo (front of house), have been championing local produce and the concept of pubs serving restaurant quality food for 22 years.
It’s also consistently ranked highly in the national Top 50 Gastropub Awards (number 26 this year).
Having eaten at The Jack a number of times, I was keen to see how the menu was holding up, and crikey, it was every bit as good as I remembered.
A starter of Cornish cod turned out to be a lightly seared fillet with a swoosh of avocado and lime puree, cut by decorative daubs of salsa and micro herbs. Light and carb free, it assuaged my guilt at raiding the basket of fresh-from-the-oven bread.
Restraint went out of the window when it came to the main though. Visiting at the end of the game season, a last hurrah with pheasant seemed appropriate. Now I don’t think I’ll be able to order pheasant anywhere else again, because that moist, tender meat was in a class of its own. Crisp and melting confit leg accompanied the juicy roasted breast, along with a whisky cream sauce, button mushrooms, buttery mash and cabbage. I could eat it all again now.
A fitting way to see the season out and one to remember until next autumn. Smart cooking, a comfortable and attractive environment and friendly, unfussy service is what’s kept The Jack in business for over 20 years. It’s why it’s got a legion of fans, and why simply doing what it does is just fine by us. More of the same please.
This review first appeared in the March 2015 issue of Food Magazine.
Rockbeare, London Road, north Exeter, Devon, EX5 2EE