CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

Review: The Masons Arms, Knowstone

PUBLISHED: 15:28 14 August 2014

The Masons Arms

The Masons Arms

Matt Sweeting Photography

This low-key Michelin-starred pub on the edge of Exmoor offers fine dining in pub surroundings with the kind of attention to detail that takes your breath away. SUSAN CLARK went for lunch...

Head chef Mark DodsonHead chef Mark Dodson

Chefs move to or live in Devon for the same reason as the rest of us – quality of life and lifestyle. The difference is - if we’re lucky - they may bring (or soon gain) a Michelin star and the kind of dining/cooking most of us can only aspire to.

Mark Dodson is one of those talented chefs who relocated almost a decade ago and lucky us that he did because the food he is cooking at the Masons Arms, Knowstone (it says South Molton as the location but is actually closer to Tiverton up or down the A361 link road) is worth several detours.

Step into the bar and you’ll spot an old photograph taken in the late 1980s of a group of chefs. Not just any old chefs though. This is a picture of the three-Michelin starred Michel Roux and his head chefs at the Waterside Inn, Bray. One of those chefs is Mark Dodson, chef owner of the Masons Arms. Mark happily admits he practically begged the Roux brothers for a job after eating at the Waterside Inn and that he had to take a backwards step in his career to work there. “Sometimes you have to go down to come back up again,” he says sagely.

Mark has now been running the one-Michelin-starred Masons Arms for almost a decade with his wife, Sarah, who was actually the person who had the vision to see how what had become a much neglected pub could be transformed into the Fine Dining restaurant of Mark’s dreams. It is clear they work as a partnership and I meet one of their daughters waitressing and another working hard in the kitchen.

One of Mark Dodson's popular dishesOne of Mark Dodson's popular dishes

I like the fact this is a family business that now runs like a well-oiled machine. I’ve been driving past the sign for the Masons Arms for years promising myself I’d make that detour and I am very glad I finally got around to it.

Let’s work backwards. The petit fours - a slice of marbled fudge, an orange and chocolate truffle and a mini-macaron are all hand-made. Every dish is presented beautifully and someone has thought long and hard about the tableware and the crockery - a little twist here, a classy tilt there. Nothing too shouty but definitely some very nice touches.

You can eat in the bar, the 30-cover restaurant or, if it’s summer, outdoors with a distant view across rolling Devon hills to Exmoor. The Masons Arms is a tucked-away treat and as soon as you step inside you will be glad you have come.

Mark Dodson Biography

Mark Dodson is a chef’s chef and so much so that in his listing in the prestigious Great British Chefs website, he is described as a chef who “speaks the language of comfort food with Shakespearean fluency, turning perfectly formed elements into down-to-earth (but heavenly) compositions.” Mark worked for 18 years at Michel Roux’s Waterside Inn in Bray-on-Thames, rising to head chef when the restaurant won its three Michelin stars.

The ethos here is - put simply - fantastic cooking - and with quite a lot of effort being made to open this up and make it affordable and available to all. The two course lunch menu, for example, is just £20 a head - better than many inferior Gastro-pubs I’ve eaten at.

The Masons Arms is low key which allows Mark to put all the emphasis on the food. There’s no bells, whistles or gimmicks just Fine Dining, Devon-style and clearly designed to put you and your dining companions immediately at ease.

Mark was one of just eight chefs Michael Caines worked with when he launched the 2014 Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink - each one cooking a different course of the nine-course banquet designed to showcase Fine Dining in Devon - so make no mistake this chef is at the top of his game.

He got his star within weeks of first opening the Masons Arms and, when I visited, had just had another ‘anonymous’ inspection - the result of which is published at the end of this year. He had also just run a very successful Michelin-star ‘Pop Up’ at Huntsham Court up the road where he decamped for the day, with his entire staff, to cook a taster menu that celebrated local and seasonal produce.

masonsarmsdevon.co.uk/01398 341231 (closed Mondays)

Check the website for details of Mark’s Masterclasses which run the first Wednesday of every month and any Pops Ups he might be planning

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Food & Drink

Friday, November 16, 2018

Devon Life’s readers and followers have been voting for their favourite food & drink stars and we can now reveal our winners who were honoured at our glamorous ceremony at Sandy Park on November 15

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Public Houses are a cornerstone of life here in Britain, dating back as far as the Roman invasion in 43 AD. Devon is no different and its humble establishments are steeped in history and nostalgia. We’ve taken a look at 11 of the county’s most historical pubs

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A traditional Christmas pudding recipe, served with clotted cream and a brandy Crème Anglaise with a dash of cognac

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

Whether you have strawberry or raspberry jam on your scones, or prefer Earl Grey to English breakfast tea, we’ve found 12 of the best tearooms that Devon has to offer

Read more
Monday, October 22, 2018

We’ve spoken to award-winning chef Michael Caines MBE to find out more about Lympstone Manor’s wine celebration evenings and when their new vineyard will produce its first bottle of wine

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Sunday lunch is an enduring British institution that’s incredibly important to get right. We’ve chosen 12 places in Devon that will guarantee sublime stuffing, mouth-watering meats and Yorkshire pudding perfection.

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

As the winter begins to close in, there’s nowhere better to take refuge than one of Devon’s many cosy pubs. Here are 9 you should look for when needing to escape the nippy British weather

Read more
Thursday, October 4, 2018

Check out Michael Caines’ column in the latest issue of Devon Life where you can read more about what this recipe will be perfect with

Read more
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We reveal the winner of Devon’s Tea Room / Coffee Shop of the Year. Sponsored by Radio Exe

Read more
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We reveal the winner of Devon’s Best Sunday Roast. Sponsored by cottages.com

Read more
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We reveal the winner of the Pub of the Year award. Sponsored by WBW Solicitors

Read more
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We reveal the winner for the Restaurant of the Year award. Sponsored by Westchem

Read more
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We reveal the winner for the Local Producer of the Year award. Sponsored by Exeter Chiefs

Read more
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We reveal the winner for the Independent Retailer of the Year award. Sponsored by NFU Mutual

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search