Lunch@River Cottage Canteen

The headquarters of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage operation is in Axminster so, as we are passing nearby, we decide to try lunch at the River Cottage Canteen & Deli in the centre of Axminster. We are not huge fans of outlets that trade on a famous name or brand but we do like the general approach of River Cottage – ‘to provide a wide range of freshly prepared, local, organic and wild food’.

The menu is as interesting as we hoped it would be and we decide to share small dishes. We select onion fritters with spiced yoghurt, saddleback pork crackling with sweet & sour rhubarb and merguez spiced lamb sausages with hummus & preserved lemon. I also choose a bottle of Skinners Heligan Honey – a beautiful Cornish honey beer.

The onion fritters are like posh onion bhajis, crispy and fabulous with the spiced yoghurt. The crackling is everything you would hope for and the rhubarb compote is an unexpected delight. It works fantastically well with the crackling. The spiced merguez sausages are beautiful but the hummus is a bit odd – strange consistency and little flavour.

For dessert we share the chocolate mousse cake with coffee syrup and walnut cream. The cake is great – moist and full of flavour, the syrup is sweet and interesting.  But, the walnut cream is weird!  There is no dairy in the cream, it is made of creamed walnuts and the result has a very strange consistency and flavour.

Overall we’ve really enjoyed ourselves. The hummus & the walnut cream felt like a local kitchen experiment gone wrong but all the rest of the food has been excellent. The beer was great, the atmosphere lively and friendly. Last, but by no means least, we’ve had excellent service from Dani!

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Lunch @ The Seafood Platter, Beer

We are meeting Neko & Ziggy in the picturesque fishing village of Beer in Devon to celebrate a special birthday for Ziggy. After a fab walk along the clifftops and the beach we have wandered up and down the village high street looking at menus and through cafe & pub windows. Our interest has been arrested by a blackboard listing the fresh fish available today – outside a place called The Seafood Platter .

Once inside we have a bit of a ‘Fawlty Towers’ experience. Despite the blackboard and the menu displaying a wide range of fish dishes, we are told many are not available – as the chef has not arrived yet! We order drinks and, as we really want fresh fish, decide to wait and see what happens next.

More people arrive but still no chef. After half an hour we are told the chef has arrived and we can order anything from the menu. We all want the plaice – but the kitchen only has three – so Rock changes her order to sole.

When the food arrives the fish is fresh and well cooked. However, the chips, peas and vegetables are all a bit ordinary. We still have some room for dessert. Neko & Ziggy share a very sweet lemon posset – so thick you can stand a spoon up in it. Rock & I share a luxury bread & butter pudding – which is like a warm egg custard!

If we decide to return here, I hope next time we find that the chef has been in the kitchen long enough to prepare and cook everything to the same standard as the fish!