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!