Passionate about the place: Ashill Inn
PUBLISHED: 10:38 10 July 2017
In his regular series of columns for Devon Life, Patrick McCaig of The Otter Brewery takes us on a trawl of some of his favourite pubs
After a quarter of a century producing cask ales we set ourselves a new challenge - to develop and launch Devon’s first pure lager. The phrase ‘to lager’ comes from the German ‘lagern’ which means ‘to store’. Our brewers combine barley malt and hops with water drawn from the head springs of the River Otter then mature this for six weeks. The result is Tarka, a well balanced pint in a hoppy Northern Bavarian Pilsner style that blends refreshment with a long lasting depth of flavour.
Not far from our prized water supply and on the flanks of the Blackdown Hills sits the village of Ashill. Andy and Jen’s business falls within the belt of pubs on our immediate doorstep that, as a brewer, I’ve always felt a responsibility to really look after. It’s close enough, but getting there can still be a navigational challenge even for those in the know. That thankfully brings with it an element of reward and as this was the first pub to trial Tarka just over two years ago - we think it’s one worth the effort.
Arriving on a bright summer’s day we stepped inside and were delighted to spot a line-up of classic local beers. The immediate bar area is very much a space designed for drinking and the pewter tankards hanging overhead are no doubt cherished by the regular Friday night crowd and the skittles and darts teams that help fill the place.
Jen made the move from Yorkshire to do her A-Levels and back then juggled studying at college with waitressing at The Hare and Hounds near Honiton. Here she would meet chef and future husband Andy and the couple would soon be off travelling around Europe. On their return they ran pubs first in Axminster and then Seaton. This hands-on experience was clearly time well spent and helped them refine the genuine and warm customer experience you get here.
Before taking over 5½ years ago the Ashill had no food offering, little wet trade and the 180-year-old building looked down on its luck. The couple’s mantra from day one was to do the simple things well.
The new restaurant has been cleverly integrated and leads out to the beer garden. The kitchen is now supplied by local farms like Kittow’s at Hemyock and works hard to support other businesses in the neighbouring communities. It’s nice to see a young family settled into both a pub and a community as so often the trend is to move on. The place once again has a real local feel throughout and everyone is looked after.
Tucked away in the corner we could see all these elements at work as a steady flow of people ducked and came in. I was to be rumbled by one of them though, as our drayman Steve caught me mid-slurp whilst he muscled in the week’s supplies! Undeterred, the cold meat platter that followed was a carnivore’s dream and the portion generous – I’d guess that the grass-fed Blackdown cows grazing nearby were very contented beasts.
This is an excellent example of a rural Devon village pub doing the basics well and thriving as a result. The team are passionate about what they do and ensure you leave feeling relaxed and replenished. Keep an eye out for Tarka on the bar – he’s a cheeky little otter that loves good company!