The village of Bickleigh. It is geographically almost slap bang in the middle of Devon and sits on the River Exe like it has done since before the Domesday Book. Mentioned in that classic tome as Bicca’s Meadow – I wonder if Mr Bicca could ever have imagined Bickleigh being the destination that it has become now.
In foodie circles, Bickleigh Mill has always been a name related to quality and fine dining. And after being invited down to see exactly what goes on at the Bistro Restaurant & Bar, I couldn’t wait to see for myself what sort of thing we would be eating on one of their themed nights. The night that I particularly wanted to try out was the Sliders night. What is a Slider? Well the menu handily informs us that Sliders are small burgers or sandwiches that are filled with delicious ingredients. Originally featured on menus from The White Castle Restaurant in Kansas which is a chain formed in 1921.
Other nights include their Seafood Evening and their Sizzling Steak night, these nights let the chefs really show off. Other times they have a daytime menu, an evening menu and a Sunday menu that looks amazing. There are a few others too, so have a look at their page on the website.
The Bistro is open all day and to evening visitors Thursdays to Saturdays. Evening visitors enter through the shop and in to the restaurant itself. At first glance it looks quite small but when you take a wander around, the restaurant is large with private areas and opportunities for peaceful dining.
The walls are adorned with artwork and items that are for sale too, the exposed traditional stonework really brings home the fact that you’re eating in a Mill and that it was, until the sixties, a working Mill that produced flour from grains supplied by local farmers. Fun fact of the evening was that my wife mentioned Mother-in-law remembered working at Bickleigh Mill in the sixties when she justmoved down from Liverpool. I digress.
Presented with the Sliders Menu, we were able to peruse twelve different types of burgers (see pic) with some classic titles like the Plain Jane and the Ready Eddie burger, but others such as the Gone Fishing and The Teriyaki Mushroom were new ones to me. The cost of the meal included the starter, three sliders of our choice, chips and salad. It did take us a while to decide exactly what we were going to have. In fact it took us so long, we were asked about three times and we were still having a hard time deciding. But in the end the decisions were made and we ordered happily. I went for the Jerk Chicken, The Hay Stack and The Southern Fried Chicken Burger. Madam went for the Hawaiian, Ready Eddie and Little Piggy.
It seems these theme nights are popular, the restaurant filled quickly with diners through the course of the meal and it was easy to see why. When we spied a table being brought their burgers we realised that, even though they were sliders which tend to be smaller than normal burgers. These were pretty much the size of normal burgers, with filling and salad as well.
The first thing to appear was our starter, a well portioned plate of nachos drizzled in sour cream and cheese. They were a perfect little aperitif, anything more than this would have meant far too much food especially when the Sliders appeared.
The burgers, three to a plate, were arranged neatly with name tags to tell what they were. Salad arranged in the middle and a side of chips between two. You didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise that the portion of chips is just enough to cater for the fact that there is SO MUCH BURGER.
The first thing I realised about these burgers were that the buns were super soft, almost brioche in texture but not sweet. The second thing I realised was the taste of the meat itself. The chicken was perfectly cooked and the burgers were well done and tasted good. The Jerk Chicken came in a delicious BBQ sauce and the Southern Fried Chicken burger was perfectly cooked and seasoned. From across the table the Little Piggy held the award for ‘Best Pulled Pork’ yet in our burger adventures.
Bickleigh Mill sources all of its ingredients locally. The meat comes from surrounding farms and producers and the buns are baked on site by their in-house baker. You’re not going to find many things on your plate that has travelled for miles and miles. With many places that stay local, you can taste the difference and the Bickleigh burgers were certainly different. As the bun was soft, there was no dissection and reassembling as with many gourmet burgers. For the first time in quite a while I was able to get the whole thing in my mouth without losing every ounce of dignity.
Afterwards we ended up with the dessert menu staring at us temptingly but alas we were both defeated. But don’t worry if you can’t eat the whole meal, you get a box to take away your unfinished burgers.
As a day-out, Bickleigh Mill is a perfect eating and shopping destination. It has a wonderful shop stocked with gifts and locally produced crafts products and a restaurant & bar that allows the destination to expand its appeal to tourists and locals. The food is all locally sourced where possible and, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at how accessible the menu was. For a place that prides itself with such quality of food it’s not pretentious about its portions and it’s proud of its connections with the local producers.
Bickleigh Mill is located near Tiverton and is easily accessible by bus and car. The nearest station is Tiverton Parkway but there is a bus link from this station which runs regularly.
Eating Exeter were guests of Bickleigh Mill.
Riverside Shopping, Restaurant Bistro & Bar
enquiries at bickleighmill.com
Monday 10am till 5.30pm (Shop and Bistro)
Tuesday 10am till 5.30pm (Shop and Bistro)
Wednesday 10am till 5.30pm (Shop and Bistro)
Thursday 10am till 7.30pm (Shop and Bistro) plus evening dining in the Bistro until late
Friday 10am till 7.30pm (Shop and Bistro) plus evening dining in the Bistro until late
Saturday 10am till 7.30pm (Shop and Bistro) plus evening dining in the Bistro until late
Sunday 10am till 5.30pm (Shop and Bistro)
Closes on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but open every other day of the year.