The Hunters Inn is a bit out of the way to go for lunch - 7 miles along the South West Coastal Path to be precise, and a hard 7 miles at that. It is however well worth doing the journey, not so much for the food and beer at the destination but for the spectacular journey itself.
You'll find an account of the journey on my Off The Beaten Path Tip elsewhere on this page and so I'll simply review my lunch here.
The Hunters is a striking building set in a stunning location.
Apparently it started off as a humble cottage which has been extended continuously from late-Victorian times and is still in the process of evolution. Its present-day exterior is sort of mock-Tudor but none the worse for that and it does have visual character. Inside is a bit ramshackle but tastefully furnished with plenty of natural wooden fittings and interesting knick knacks - I seem to recall a grand piano somewhere.
The location, nestled by the river in the Heddon Cleave, is difficult to beat and pub's gardens out the back manage to combine formal touches with carelessly-cultured wilderness allowing it to blend seamlessly into its natural surroundings. Out front it faces the National Trust Heddon Valley visitor complex with whom it shares a discretely out of the way car park.
As a pub it offers a superb selection of real ales, including its own brews, and has a tucked away proper public bar away from the main restaurant.
Sounds good so far?
Hmmm...but then I find my little niggles. There was something soul-less about the service. OK it was a stunning July lunchtime and the place was busy. The staff were a bit rushed but everyone in the queue seemed good natured and happy to wait - I should know I was in the queue for about twenty minutes.
I think the problem was the menu. Because it was very aggressively priced - a sandwich was seven quid, as were starters. Main courses averaged about 12. What people were ordering were sides rather than proper food - four people next to me had ordered 2 portions of chips, 2 side salads and a basket of bread between them. Another table of two had one sandwich and a bowl of chips to share.
I find this a lot in my travels. Places that are trying to be something they shouldn't be. It's just as much work for the staff to bosh out junk as it is to do proper food at reasonable prices and the staff don't get the satisfaction to be gleaned from happy customers.
Ach maybe that's just me but pubs are my game after all - from both sides of the bar.
Favorite Dish: Having said that I had a perfectly tasty light lunch - "Game Terrine with Crispbread and Homemade Pickle" washed down by a couple of pints of the local beer. The fourteen quid it cost though was not value for money.
However the journeys there and back (I returned over the moor) were priceless and free!!
Eat in or outside in the garden, or take away. Best fish and chips ever. We went back several times and tried the pies as well, which were very good. Fish was in beer batter and very crispy and not greasy. All cooked fresh. Chips were 'real' meaning that they were hand cut. YUM!
Friendly staff. Clean toilets. Pets are allowed in the outside area.
Favorite Dish: Cod and chips with beer battered onion rings
Over the years I've eaten some excellent meals in some very good restaurants and I've also eaten some absolutely superb meals in what others may denigrate as crappy restaurants. Me I'm not fussy, food is food and there are the times that that 4 am Kebab is the best meal you can ever eat and so I reckon I can make an unbiased foody judgement here - this was absolutely superb!
The restaurant itself just makes for intimacy with its wood panelling, the candles mirrored bouncing the light and the low murmur of conversation. Fabbie is such a great little waitresss, attentive but yet never intrusive. Beautifully presented food but with the emphasis on taste makes this one of the best restaurants I've ever eaten in - Yep, another #2 and still no #1!!!!
Favorite Dish: I deviated from my norm here and went all meaty - in fact all lamby: lamb's liver starter was cooked perfectly pink and sauced just right and then the lamb rump, once again spot-on pink, with its accompanying spiced red cabbage and other bits made my palate explode.
The brill that Marina had with its crabcake base was equally delish and her chosen wine washed the whole thing down to a perfect repleteness and we don't dare mention the chocolate brownie!! (2 nights in a row!!!)
Ans: FSHHHHH!! LOL!
This is a place I've been meaning to write this tip about for the last couple of years and now I've finally gotten round to it. I must have eaten here dozens of times and never had a bad meal, whether a lunchtime crab sandwich or a full-blown lobster salad for dinner and pretty much everything in between - ach mussels with homemade bread is as good as mussels get :)
With this location you have to go for the fsh, or the shellfsh, all spankingly fresh tho' they do do some meaty things as well which are equally good. There's no booking and so just grab a free table, order at the bar and saliviate as you watch the others being served, take in the smells, the buzzy atmosphere and then yours arrives - ENJOY!!!!
Favorite Dish: Last visit - Cajun monfish: perfectly spiced and an interesting courgette and carrot salad. Marina's Lemon Sole with coriander beurre blanc just melted flavoursomely in the mouth. Crackin' wines and excellent beer just makes this one of my personal number 2 places to eat - bearing in mind I've never found a number 1 ;)
This is the other fish and chip shop here in the village with its award-winning status from the Seafish Friers quality scheme. Immaculately presented and with both take-away and eat in service this is fish and chips as it should be - no frills.
PS Also Ice-cream!!
Favorite Dish: Cod and Chips to take away and sit on the sea wall to eat :)
This is basically a take away fish and chip shop offering the usual variations on the "fish and chip, pie and chip" themes which no seaside town here in North Devon would dare be without. It does however veer away from the standard offerings with a few, still seafoody, additions such as local crab or the steak and seaweed pie.
As well as takeaway the restaurant has sit down tables both inside and in the courtyard.
Favorite Dish: Three guesses - obviously the steak and seaweed pie! Not sure what sort of seaweed they use but tasty anyway, with chips as a takeaway.