Devon + Cornwall Restaurants
11 The Quay
Ilfracombe , Devon
Tel: 44 1271 868 090
One reason we know North Devon is the place to be is that art-world superstar Damien Hirst opened a restaurant here in 2004. A handsome Victorian harborside house is split into various sections: Downstairs is a relaxed bar-café called the White Hart after the inn this used to be; then there's a classic oak-floor, white-tablecloth upstairs dining room (air-conditioned!) called the Harbourside Room; and next to that, the Atlantic Room—a sculptural space that looks like an upturned boat hull decorated with Hirst works. The food is serious and contemporary stuff: a whole roast trout or guinea fowl, or perhaps haddock Wellington. And, this being England, trifle for dessert.
30 North Street
Ashburton , Devon
Tel: 44 1364 654 478
Chef Nick Coiley is living his countryside culinary dream so that you can live yours. When he opened this place in 2000, he immediately set about befriending local suppliers of epicurean delights, planting crazy crops in his gardens (elephant garlic, white alpine strawberries) and curing, pickling, smoking, and baking (twice every day). You cannot find fresher food than this—Coiley even takes his kids out mushroom picking and foraging for prawns. After home-cured bresaola with marinated Jerusalem artichokes, delve into Devon lamb steak with asparagus tart and rosemary gravy, and enjoy cheese from the Ticklemore Cheese Shop in Totnes (1 Ticklemore St.; 44-1803-865-926). Pick up some home-brewed elderflower vinegar or spicy apricot chutney from the little store to take home.
Closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and most Sundays.
On the Beach
Watergate Bay , Cornwall
Tel: 44 1637 861 000
Socially responsible celebrity chef Jamie Oliver chose Watergate Bay in Cornwall for his third restaurant. Like Oliver's other enterprises in London and Amsterdam, disadvantaged locals can train alongside established chefs here. The Cornish branch is a purpose-built, very cool beachfront restaurant: Graffiti-art embellishes the walls, the lights are styled like huge water droplets, the welcome desk is fashioned out of an ancient tree trunk (cut down for valid reasons, of course), and the chairs, although comfy, are designed to appear a little askew. The kitchen is open, so diners can observe the trainees' progress as they prepare Italian-style dishes using seasonal, often local ingredients. Some suppliers, such as Mrs. Kirkham (who raises Lancashire Grampound duck) even get a mention on the menu. Reserve ahead.
Chagford , Devon
Tel: 44 1647 432 367 or 44 1647 432 225
After being closed for most of 2006 due to a room expansion, this country house hotel on 40 acres is again offering the grandest, most refined dining in Devon. The restaurant is all about chef Michael Caines, who is also co-owner of Abode Exeter. An alum of the kitchens of Raymond Blanc, Bernard Loiseau, and Joël Robuchon, he's consistently lauded as one of the greats. While keeping up with trends (nobody can lag in this country of food fiends), he cooks in the classical French tradition, with a twist of wit: langoustine cannelloni with braised fennel; roasted Dartmoor lamb accompanied by potato fondant, onion and thyme purée, and tomato fondue. Although unusual for a Michelin-two-star place with all the bells and whistles and complexity, he changes the menus every day. Lunch is a relative bargain, and about the only way to eat here without investing in a (very glorious, very expensive) room so you don't have to trek home—Chagford is a tiny village surrounded by the endless wilds of Dartmoor.
Exeter , Devon
England EX1 1HD
Tel: 44 1392 223 638
Even if you don't stay in Michael Caines's hometown showcase, the Abode Exeter Hotel, make an excuse to eat in his restaurant. For all the hype, Michael Caines at Abode Exeter is uncommonly accessible and affordable. For around $32, you can get a three-course lunch of locally sourced, modern English dishes, such as roast duckling with garlicky cabbage, and a charcuterie plate with crisp pickled vegetables. The adjoining Champagne Bar offers similarly tasty and reasonably priced light bites, including a traditional Devonshire cream tea for less than $8. If you're in the mood for an all-out meal, the restaurant accommodates with a seasonal dinner menu. Highlights include savory pea and Parmesan soup, a showstopping lamb roast with confit and tapenade sauce, and an extensive selection of Devon cheeses. Advance reservations for dinner are recommended, but the restaurant and bar pride themselves on speedy seatings for lunch and afternoon tea.
2 South Embankment
Dartmouth , Devon
Tel: 44 1803 839 425
If you spot people peering, blushing, and pretending not to stare the way they do with a celebrity in the house, that's because the chef-owner himself is a TV luminary (and okay, maybe that's Mrs. & Mr. Paltrow-Martin at the corner table). John Burton-Race acquired the once-legendary Carved Angel restaurant (hence the new name) and thoroughly new-Brit-ized it from soup to nuts—literally—reopening in May 2004 to great buzz and fuss, and taking only seven months to win Devon's first Michelin star. The constantly changing fish dishes are based on the day boat's catch: Brixham turbot grilled with béarnaise sauce; steamed sea bass with braised vegetables; creamed leeks and oyster broth. Meat is just as local, such as roasted, herb-crusted Blackawton lamb.
Closed Sunday evenings and Mondays.
Milburn Orchard Farm
Bigbury-on-Sea , Devon
Tel: 44 1548 810 876
Maybe it's counterintuitive to make a reservation at a shack, but this extremely laid-back spot is so phenomenally popular that there's little point turning up without one. You may well find stragglers from lunch still here at 6 p.m., relishing the Mediterranean tavern feel. Everything has that plucked-from-the-sea taste that goes down so well with a cocktail or glass of wine. On the huge seafood list: local oysters au naturel or grilled with garlic and Parmesan or bacon and Worcestershire sauce; famous local crab soup; grilled whole Dover sole.
St. Ives , Cornwall
Tel: 44 1736 795 352
Since taking over in 2002, young Australian chef and surfer Michael Smith has turned this informal beachfront bistro with simple white decor and brightly colored contemporary art into a happening, must-book destination. Superfresh seafood dominates the menu, much of it spiked with Mediterranean or Asian flavors, such as pan-fried Falmouth scallops dressed with yuzu, purple shiso, and sanga radish. On the terrace, heaters and blankets keep the shivers away after the sun sets so you can stay put and finish that bottle of white wine being chilled in a plastic beach bucket.
Closed Mondays and for breakfast and lunch Thursday through Saturday in the off-season.
Padstow , Cornwall
Tel: 44 1841 532 700
Rick Stein owns Padstow—he made Padstow; he is Padstow. Rick Stein, in case you hadn't heard, is the premier fish chef of England, especially since he got his own TV shows (though mercifully he remains unaffected and likable). His food has always been likable too, big in flavor, inventive but not gimmicky, balanced and understated. This is the most serious of his four Padstow restaurants—the others are a bistro, a café, and a fish and chip shop. Menus are totally dependent on the fishermen, but if anyone in the country can score the pick of the catch, Stein can. He'll cook classic (roast turbot with hollandaise; skate with black butter) or modish (char-grilled sea bass with tomato, butter, and vanilla vinaigrette); ethnic (monkfish Goan curry with cucumber and lime salad and cumin puris) or fusion (Dover sole with stir-fried wild garlic, sorrel and asparagus, soy sauce, and sesame oil dressing)—it's all good. There's always at least one meat dish, but would you go to Le Bernardin to eat steak? Reserve way in advance.
Woolacombe , Devon
Tel: 44 1271 870 877
See funky young Devon in progress at this restaurant and bar that opened in 2003, largely to cater to the surfers who virtually own this beach. The interior reflects the restaurant's seaside setting, with beach scenes by local artists on the walls and salvaged driftwood tables and chairs. The food is hearty Euro-Brit-Asian: mussels marinière or with lemongrass and coconut; spicy beef salad with Thai dressing; linguine with clams, mussels, chili, and cherry tomatoes; grilled sea bass with fennel, orange, black olives, and basil. Then there are classic plateaux de fruits de mer and proper puddings like a summer fruit charlotte with clotted cream. On a fine day, after catching a wave (or after driving here), the bar and beachside terrace are as chill as Ocho Rios. Upstairs, there are even "surf shack"-style apartments you can stay in (Westbeach Studios; 44-1271-871-224; www.surfersworld.co.uk/hotela.htm).
7 George Street
Moretonhampstead , Devon
England TQ13 8PG
Tel: 44 1647 440 242
Charming and unexpected, the White Horse Inn on Moretonhampstead's high street leads a delicious double life: part old-school English pub, part modern Italian trattoria. At first glance, the White Horse Inn is an archetypal pub where friendly, wellie-clad locals gather on weekends to listen to live music and sit by the broad fireplace. But beyond the bar, you'll find a bright, Mediterranean-inspired courtyard, a dining room that resembles a Tuscan farmhouse, a rustic Italian menu, and what may very well be the best pizza in western England. Bought in 2006 and renovated by partners Nigel Hoyle and Malene Graulund, the revitalized White Horse Inn is still a center of Moretonhampstead's community life, but it's the excellent menu that has put the establishment on the map: Dinner standouts include Dartmoor rabbit dressed in fragrant sage mousse and salty pancetta, and locally caught brill sole in a rich, smoky seafood broth. At lunch, the thin-crust pizza from a custom-built oven is a taste of Naples in the Devon countryside.