The Masons Arms’ 10th birthday actually fell in June but, after another bustling summer, celebrations have been on hold – until now
Relocating from Berkshire (Mark was head chef at three Michelin star The Waterside Inn) to the wilds of north Devon, Mark and Sarah Dodson arrived at the empty inn in Knowstone in June 2005 with an open-mind. ‘At first we were just testing the waters,’ explains Mark. ‘We were new to the Devon dining scene and knew we had to be flexible. We started simple with a blackboard, a piece of chalk and a handful of ideas.’
This combination turned out to be a winner, and within six months of opening, the restaurant had earned its first Michelin star. A glowing review from Jan Moir in The Telegraph a few months later – which to date visitors still claim inspired their trip – cemented their status in the foodie firmament.
A decade later, their Michelin star still stands, ‘a triumph not just for the restaurant, but for north Devon as a whole,’ enthuses Mark. ‘A lot of businesses come and go and we’re just happy to still be going strong. We’re always evolving and adapting and I think that’s why we’ve been successful.’
Successful is an understatement, how many restaurants can count guests from the far reaches of the UK as regulars? ‘We have people that visit two or three times a year, making a special trip in the holidays to come and dine with us,’ says Mark. ‘But we also have regulars a little closer to home, and we wouldn’t be where we are without the support of the locals in the village.’
So how will a decade of gastronomic greatness be celebrated? ‘There’ll be a celebration at the inn at the start of November – we’ve got a lot of locals to thank for their support so I’m thinking it will be a canapés and cheese board kind of event,’ explains Mark. We’ll raise a glass to that.
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