Here we are, at the end of another cycle. The world gets weirder every year, but one thing is consistent – we live in a part of the world that has some amazing food producers, restaurants and events taking place throughout the year. Our county is home to so many award winning hotels and restaurants, visitors to Devon are totally spoilt for choice.
This year we’ve seen a number of restaurants close in Exeter and Plymouth, in large part due to diners tightening their belts, rising business rates, inclement economics and other words that must not be uttered here, which makes it all the more important to support local independent restaurants where you can.
It’s hard to choose from everything we’ve done this year, but here is our highlights of 2018 in no particular order.
Lewtrenchard Manor: Purple Carrot Dining Experience and stay
Tom Browning and his team are producing great things at Lewtrenchard Manor. Their innovative, state of the art chefs table dining experience is a once-in-a-lifetime foodie experience which I won’t forget easily!
The gorgeous surroundings of Lewtrenchard Manor was our home for an overnight stay – a luxurious and serene slice of Devon served amongst rolling hills, just a stone’s throw from Dartmoor
Devon Food Movement events
We’ve actually had three dining experiences at the hand of Chef Luke Fearon as a team. I’ve had two (Chris) and Lauren has had one as part of the Big Collaboration event at Ashridge Court Farm.
We first met Luke at Sandford Orchards, who regularly Pop-up a restaurant as part of their Secret Cider Society. Devon Food Movement celebrates the best of local produce through some exquisite food.
This was repeated at Bearslake Inn when we enjoyed a beautiful wine flight matched by Charles Steevenson of Steevenson wines, with a perfectly executed tasting menu.
Rockfish Dartmouth Dartmouth introduce a new dessert menu
Back in June, we put a call out for an extra pair of hands to help us out on the blog. Out of the many people who ‘applied’ we were thrilled to welcome Sue Stoneman onto the team. Sue is an accomplished home-cook who won the South West Chef of the Year – Homecook class in 2016 and 2017.
Her first assignment was a trip down to Dartmouth to visit Mitch Tonk’s Rockfish restaurant (this was the first one) who were introducing a stonking new dessert menu.
South West Chef of the Year: Finalists Dinner and Grand Final
The South West Chef of the Year competition has been a big part of Sue’s journey as a foodie, cook and local foodie personality. I had the privilege of watching the finals in action (have you seen the photos?)
The day is rounded off by a spectacular finalists dinner at Exeter Golf and Country Club. Cooked by previous finalists, it gives the chefs a chance to unwind and enjoy some excellent food whilst finding out who has won and accepting awards.
Sue was present as a previous winner, she attended the dinner and witnessed the award giving. I would also say that witnessing the finals for me was also a big highlight, so I am hijacking Sue’s highlight to also say that this was one of my other highlights too (sorry Sue!)
Deer Park Country House
Dining Devon doesn’t just write about food, we review hotels too. Many of the hotels we’ve stayed at come with restaurants who are all doing great things with local produce. Deer Park County House no longer accepts hotel guests, but instead concentrates on weddings and events.
Before this change, Lauren had the chance of staying in one of their Tree Houses – cabins vaulted above the ground looking out over the beautiful grounds and Devon countryside. The stay included dinner as well, created by the award winning team headed up by Richard Still.
La Belle Assiette
Private dining is a thing now. It has always been a thing but in the mind of Joe Public it would be the domain of the super-rich, eating caviar on a private yacht, etc. Private Dining can be done affordably and there are many local chefs who do private dining as part of their services.
La Belle Assiette makes this process easier as a middle man between foodies that want a chef, and a chef that wants to do do private dining gigs.
Lauren had the chance to experience this first hand as she took part in a validation dinner (a test-run of sorts) for chef Dave Watts. Photos courtesy of Harrison Willmott
Because there are so many experiences I’d love to write about as our highlights, there are a few that we had to mention as honourable mentions.
Chef meets the Sommelier event at The Pig Hotel
Harry’s new menu at refurbishment
Charles Dingley at The Seven Stars
Read our review of The Seven Stars here!
Pho, Queen Street Dining
A big thank you from all of the team to all the restaurants, producers and businesses that we work with. Promoting our local food scene is something we are all passionate about, I’m excited to see what 2019 will bring to Exeter in terms of food and restaurants – a new Rockfish restaurant opening on the quay and a few other surprises I am sure!