Paschoe House by Lauren Heath

There’s a new kid in town, well west of the city, and it’s called Paschoe House.

Having been a family home for the Amadors since 2000, daughter Tabitha decided the buildings future was as a hotel and wedding venue and, along with her father, has worked very hard for around 5 years to get it to where it is today with a bigger push over the last year. We recently shared their news of the appointment of Alex Gibbs as their head chef.

I visited in September to try their foodie offering on behalf of Crumbs Magazine (write up due out early October), for whom I am a guest writer.  The hotel had only been open a couple of weeks so I was open minded as to how the evening would go and what level of finish and service there would be. It was also my birthday so I felt very lucky with the timing!

With autumn fully on its way, the sun had already set by the time we arrived for our dinner but the warm glow exuding from the building gave me a good feeling inside of what was to come.

The open entrance hall with soft pink tones and beautiful grey geometric tiled floor caught my eye instantly along with the obvious connection to this Grade II  listed buildings heritage as well as the current outdoor pursuits on offer, thanks to the taxidermy animal heads dotted about.

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The ostrich on the wall in the gorgeous duck egg blue lounge bar is something to behold – ostriches are a firm memory of my South African childhood (my brother even raced on one once as a child) – and I was both taken a back and fascinated by this specimen coming out of the wall.  I guess it’s a bit like art – there to create conversation and a different interpretation for everyone.  In the end I grew quite used to him whilst we enjoyed our drinks and delightful trio of pre-dinner canapes in this comfortable and suave space, his black and white plumage proudly showing off.

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This may not be to everyone’s taste but I can assure you the dining room is animal free. The dining room itself is of a much more masculine stature; rich dark turquoise wallpaper with silver geometric design that bounces the light gently, matching suede chairs, original fireplace, understated chandeliers and crisp white linens bringing it together.

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Connected to the lounge bar was a sitting area with original fireplace, walls adorned in butterfly wallpaper with a fabulous purple settees. Certainly a room that would cheer you up on even the greyest damp winter day whilst cosying up to the fire with a good book and a drink. Saying that, with the outdoor activities on offer here, you could don your mac and head out instead and embrace it – it is amongst 25 acres of land after all, on the edge of the Two Moors Way footpath.

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A broad staircase crowned with antler chandelier leads you to 9 beautiful bedrooms, all with a different personality; it’s all about style and comfort for the staying guests but they are also geared up for weddings, boasting a lovely conservatory room for such event and plenty of lawns and acreage for exploration and photo opportunities. The venue is open to non-residents too of course, for lunch, dinner or even afternoon tea as a reward, for a special occasion, general good behaviour or to relax after a long walk.

Anywho – let’s get on to the good stuff – the food!

Evening menu choices include a three course a la carte menu for £50 with six choices for each course, or you could opt for the no holds barred six course taster menu for £65 where you can technically have twice the food (2 x 3 = 6 see what I’m saying?), maths aside, you don’t have to miss out and you can have a bit of everything.

We dived into starters of salmon mi-cuit with beetroot, horseradish, lemon and mustard  and Devon scallops with pea, bacon, black pudding and shallot; both fishy friends were cooked perfectly, surrounded by flavours that respected yet enhanced every mouthful, and I declare that I have found the best black pudding I’ve tried so far, thanks to local supplier Pipers Farm.

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Spiced Creedy Carver duck breast with heritage carrot, confit leg and duck sauce as well as lightly salted hake, clam, broad bean, sweet pea and beurre blanc were next in line. A plump duck breast and a crunchy bon bon were happily living side by side – until I devoured them with gusto. The hake was a delicate yet meaty dish that was respected by not being over complicated and was cooked beautifully.

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Pudding was described in four words – milk chocolate, banana and hazelnut; I was intrigued! A generous pudding of unctuous milk chocolate cream, with added textures of a mille feuille type pastry layers and sticky bananas – it was sooo good.

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I was then delighted by a little birthday treat of petit fours and birthday wishes – the macarons were delicately crispy , flavoursome and as light as air!

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I had a quick chat with Alex, who was happy to have some of his previous brigade with him, front and back of house, and it showed – service was excellent, relaxed yet professional and they really were a knowledgeable and smooth team for such a new opening. In this demanding industry, experience and good leadership really does show.

Sadly we couldn’t stay that evening, but it’s on my list for a child free night! Being only 20 minutes west of Exeter, you can find this new country house hotel retreat waiting to embrace you – and I urge you to let it.

Paschoe House, Bow, Crediton, EX17 6JT

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Vagabonds Milkshake Bar, Crediton – by Lauren Heath

Vagabonds Milkshake Bar, 109 High Street, Crediton, EX17 3LF

http://www.facebook.com/VagabondsMilkshakeBar

http://www.twitter.co.uk/milkshakelady89

http://www.instagram.com/nicolethemilkshakelady

15 minutes west of Exeter, in the town of Crediton, is Nicole the Milkshake Lady – a super friendly and cool young woman who’s passion shines across the milkshake bar. Previously working in other milkshake establishments, she realised her passion and opened her own bright pink shop on Crediton High Street 4 years ago.

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She named it Vagabonds in honour of her childhood favourite cool cafe; a word that normally means no fixed abode, Nicole’s interpretation is more a rebelious and free one, using the word to mean she doesn’t have to stick to one thing and she can delight her customers with whatever her creative taste buds come up with. She also takes her sweet treats away from the shop to cater at weddings and parties.

After overcoming the pinkness and entering through the door, you are greeted by…well, a milkshake bar. What surrounds it is every chocolate wrapper known to man and, to the left, is the extensive menu.

There is a sofa for resting on and staring at the menu if you are unable to make a decision, or if on consumption brain freeze hits and you are comatosed by it all.

Nicole is very passionate about everything sweet, ice cream and milkshake related so is only too pleased to help you choose or realise your dream milkshake medley. With Autumn firmly settling in, she has updated the menu to include hot chocolate shakes too. Other options include smoothies, healthy shakes, yoggies (frozen yoghurt drinks) as well as vegan shakes (soya milk, soya ice cream and dairy free jugs – ooh err) so those with dairy allergies or dietary preferences can enjoy something too!

With my hubby being a chilli head, he was her first chilli chocolate milkshake – by my suggestion, it was teamed with another one of his favourite things – a daim bar. A toffee triumph with a warmth at the back of your throat, he approved of this milkshake debut. Our son is a mint freak, amongst other things, and so he had a mint milkshake mixed with oreos. This gave a lovely biscuity crunch to the drink and was not sickly at all.

I love peanut butter and so opted for Nicole’s suggestion of Reeses peanut butter cups mixed with rocky road, with swirls of chocolate sauce and some whipped cream on top for good measure. Totally tasty, not sickly, very well balanced – it was delicious.

There is an ice cream counter if you feel like keeping it simple or a frozen yoghurt machine. This clever little machine also does some ice cream flavours, including cappuccino with chocolate chips which I tried and the quality was fab and of course delicious. Nicole and her ice cream machine can be hired for weddings and other events if you are after something a little different for the main event or even for the evening do.

With well over 1,000 followers on both her Facebook page and Instagram, and 5 star comments to match, this has established Vagabonds as a firm favourite for locals as well as holidaying regulars who visit en route to their yearly Devon or Cornwall break and is a treat for children and adults alike. So if you feel like a treat, head to Crediton High Street, and find a milkshake that suits your personality or mood. Can’t decide? Ask Nicole for a suggestion, she’ll conjure somethingup for you like the cool Mrs Willy Wonka that she is.

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The Red Deer, Crediton – (2/5)

Can I start this review by saying that I don’t have a vendetta against Marstons Inns.  I didn’t go in to the pub preparing to pick at the service or criticise the meal and the fact that they own The Waterloo Cross (where we had a disastrous meal last year) does not sway me in one direction or another.

But I went in, willing to give a Marston Inn another go…

The outside of the building is clad in that doctor’s surgery chic, a bland and apathetic attempt to make it less of an eyesore than it could be. But there isn’t even a hint that its trying to really look anything but aesthetically acceptable.  Its not overtly offensive, in some lights it might actually be quite nice.

Despite the modern ‘housing estate’ feel of the outside of the pub, the inside is decorated with wood cladding. It’s tasteful, with a strong theme of deer and antlers throughout the pub.  Had the pub been included in A Game Of Thrones, it would be the pub that Stannis Baratheon would nip out to for a quick pint in between burning pagans and marching on Winterfell.  And if you hadn’t noticed that the name of the pub was The Red Deer, there is a massive deer on the wall as you enter the pub.

As we seated ourselves, almost instantaneously a sour
faced waiter came over to see if we wanted any drinks. I’m not a fan of being asked even before we have sat down, as I have no idea what they have and I generally want to look at the menu first so we asked the waiter to come back as we didn’t know what we wanted to drink, to which he turned on his heels and stomped off impatiently.

This is, I have to say, was the general theme of the service.

Like a troupe of bad actors, moving around a large stage they stomped around quickly, delivering the food, running off, taking an order, replaying the same automatic phrases to diners.  With little passion and no soul. It wasn’t that they were in panic mode, it just seemed so…flat.

The waiter returned, he took our drinks order, made no eye contact, came back with our drinks, took our food order with no eye contact and that was it.

No pleasanteries, no passion, just the feeling that the relentless march of people who wanted their BOGOF meals was wearing him down.  One positive I had picked up was that Brakespear Oxford Gold was on draught, which was my tipple of choice for the meal.

The Red Deer proudly states on the outside that all main courses are buy-one-get-one-free.  This includes everything that comes to you as a main course.  If you want to go and eat on your own, you’re stuffed, because the prices don’t match the portions and definitely don’t match the quality.

We went for a 10oz Gammon Steak and a Chilli Beef Burger both of which were passable.  In fact the chips were really nice, freshly cooked and really crisp.  But it stated that it came with coleslaw.  A small (I estimate it to be about 4cm in diameter) plastic ramiken of catering discount coleslaw, I would hazard to say that it was a ‘sneeze’ worth and a measly portion of chips, all topped off with the most apathetic, ‘gourmet burger’ that I have had the pleasure (because it tasted quite nice despite the crap presentation and accouterments) of eating.

I realised that actually, had we paid £4.99 for the burger meal, it would have been an alright meal.  A small portion of chips, a large but sparsely decorated burger and a sneeze of coleslaw would have been passable.  But had we paid £10.60 for this I wouldn’t be so forgiving.

I find this method of marketing deceitful, and if you are going to promote a BOGOF offer, then at least give the diner the meal that you would have paid for.  And the meal I received was not even worth £4.99.  So on this level, it is hideously overpriced for what you get.

Would I go back, I expect so. But not if I was hungry.  Am I being mean? Only as mean as the portions served.

The flatness of the service, the food, the children running around semi-clothed (yes I know this is a family pub…) the limited range of Ales available from such a large brewery pub and the deceptive offer make me wonder what we are really going to get from The Pinhoe Hoard (the new planned Mega-Pub on Pinhoe Road) I want The PH to be so much better than this, and I really hope it is.

The Crediton Food Festival – 15th to 16th June 2013

Crediton sign on the A3072.
Crediton sign on the A3072. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

15-16 June 2013 in Crediton Town Square

http://www.creditonfoodfestival.co.uk

So who is going to be there?  Have a look at the stalls page, there is quite a mind blowing array of different things available.

There will be cookery demonstrations, competitions and much more happening.  The great thing is that Crediton is really easy to get to.  It has rail links and a frequent bus service, so if you fancy a day-out, this event is worth a thought.