As the evening dusk descends and the temperature starts to drop, there’s only really one conclusion to be made – winter is on its way
Although it may not always be welcome at first, this time of year does bear joyful tidings of glorious produce, snug evenings by the fire and, of course, festive feasting.
The Masons Arms in Knowstone, north Devon, is one country pub that lends itself perfectly to the festive season, with roaring open fires and exposed wooden beams in the dining room, as well as locally sourced produce stocking the kitchen. Offering the perfect blend of exquisite dining and cosy, rustic charm, this Michelin-starred, 13th century thatched inn successfully re-works British and French classics in an inviting atmosphere.
With 35 years of experience under his belt, head chef Mark Dodson, knows a thing or two about creating fantastic winter fare, and his seasonal fixed price lunch menu is high on our radar this season. With an array of signature dishes available at a low cost, Mark’s Christmas offering is the perfect antidote to the brisk winter weather. ‘It’s all about celebratory meals at this very special time of year. Come in and have a glass of mulled wine on a cold day,’ he says.
To make sure the experience doesn’t end when you walk out the door, Mark and wife Sarah have created a unique range of gifts to home. The Masons Arms Food Station offers handmade preserves and hampers that are ideal for the greedy gourmet this Christmas. The Station came to life when Mark had his first chutney produced a few years ago – a family recipe that was handed down by his grandparents. Since then three more delectable preserves have been added, including a new pear chutney – which you may have spotted on Alex Polizzi’s ‘Chefs on Trial’ on BBC2.
Three carefully crafted food hampers can be found at the Food Station, each one containing an assortment of delicious chutneys, cheeses and ciders. As with the restaurant, all of the ingredients in the hampers are locally sourced, ‘it’s a little taste of Devon that you can take away,’ adds Mark.
So with Christmas lunch fast approaching, what advice would he give to chefs at this often tricky time of year? ‘Make sure you do your planning. It’s often a time when you get caught out, so be organised and be flexible,’ says Mark. Excuse us while we rush off to order the turkey…