Jo Rees journeys into deepest rural Devon for farmer-friendly fine food with a French accent at The Rams Head Inn
Cooking Sunday lunch has been a cultural challenge for the new chef proprietor of The Rams Head Inn … and don’t even get him started on vegan dishes.
As you may have guessed, Nico Boucher is a Frenchman so, despite 20 years cooking at his own Bib Gourmand restaurant across the Channel, the Sunday roast is a new one on him (the French just don’t do it).
Not that Nico’s complaining. He’s risen admirably to both this challenge and the British requirement for a veggie menu, devising a petit-but-perfectly formed selection of plant-based dishes.
Nico and his wife Vanessa only took on the pub in April. They had the good sense to buy an inn which already enjoyed a decent rep for food and they’re building on that. Phase one saw heavy investment in the kitchen and guest bedrooms, and there are further plans afoot.
VISIT for smart pub food. The style is best described as fine-dining-for-farmers, so while duck breast is cooked sous vide and comes with a braised leg bonbon and polenta, it’s served in portions generous enough to satiate an appetite that’s been worked up by a day on the baler.
Being part of the farming community ties in to the pair’s commitment to using food that’s reared and grown nearby. And even closer to home, Nico bakes all of the bread in-house each day. Such is his passion for baking – and the villagers’ enthusiastic response to his doughy delights – that fragrant just-out-of-the-oven baguettes are now on sale at the bar each morning.
DON’T VISIT in your townie threads – this is rural Devon with a capital ‘R’. Wellies, hairy jodhpurs, dogs in tow … nothing will exclude you from a good lunch or dinner here.
WE LIKED the pies. Their crisply golden handcrafted pastry and juicy, unctuous fillings (the steak and ale kicks ass) are worth the visit alone. Flavours change daily and always include a veggie option. Served with creamy mash and buttered veg, they’re currently topping the list of this season’s foodie must-dos.
INSIDER’S TIP As befitting a French chef, the desserts are ace. Choose the trio plate for promiscuous pleasure – and make sure you include stout and chocolate cake.
What we ate (dinner)
Starter Brixam crab, celeriac and granny smith apple with wasabi ice cream
Main Duck cooked two ways: roasted breast and braised leg, with polenta and seasonal vegetables, honey and orange sauce
Pud Trio of desserts: summer fruit tart with raspberry marshmallow and summer fruit sorbet; apple and plum eve’s pudding with vanilla ice cream; and Hanlons Port Stout and dark chocolate cake with chocolate cremeux and stout sorbet
Three courses from £16.50
Racking up rave reviews from their mobile kitchen over the last five years, seafood specialists Beth Newscome and Jim Coslett of Seadog know how to host a stonking pop-up event. Braving the wild Exmoor roads, Selena Young ventured to National Trust’s Kipscombe Farm for a fishy feast in the property’s ancient tithe barn