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A traditional treat

PUBLISHED: 09:00 28 June 2014


A warm welcome awaits everyone at the Cockhaven Manor, as ANDY COOPER discovers when he pays a visit

Years spent earning a crust in journalism has taught me about The Look – a professional secret which I can now share. The Look is that imperceptible twitch in the eye or almost invisible backward step from someone when announcing what you do for a living. They don’t mean it; they don’t want to be rude – they just find themselves performing The Look when they find out what I do.

Years of hearing tales of tabloid chicanery, nasty men in raincoats and trilbies asking awkward questions or, sadly, the occasional useless reporter misquoting folks or simply getting their facts wrong, has turned my profession into something to be wary of. It’s okay, we get used to it, we shrug, we almost expect it these days.

Latterly, having traded in my newspaper days for magazines, I have noticed a subtle change to The Look. Now, I am lucky enough to visit lots of restaurants to review and, more often than not, I don’t turn up unannounced, but let the place know before I get there. That means when you arrive The Look Mark II is displayed.

The Look Mark II is not an expression of fear or trepidation – it’s more of the ‘we aim to please because we are proud of our business and we know your magazine is all about celebrating quality in the county’.

Now, I didn’t get The Look of any description when I arrived at Cockhaven Manor, tucked away up the hill just outside of Teignmouth. But, dear reader, this was officially a good thing.

A Mr and Mrs Coombes had also booked for dinner the night I arrived. I probably didn’t make it clear who we were and so the presumption was the GFP* and I were the aforementioned couple. We were therefore treated just like any other customer. And what treatment it was. There is a calm, reassuring presence of service and attention to detail which only confident establishments exhibit.

It was only by the time we were seated at the table and about to enjoy our starters that it became clear we were the visitors from Devon Life. So when owner Roy Extance formally welcomed us, we were able to inform him our evening so far had been thoroughly well handled by his team – as it had been for everyone else in the busy dining room.

Indeed, our only problem had been choosing from the extensive menu on offer.The emphasis is on the traditional, but it is none the worse for that. What is so wrong with good, honest food served well and in pleasant surroundings?

"The emphasis is on the traditional, but it is none the worse for that "

The GFP’s tomato and basil soup was tasty and wholesome, while my mozzarella, tomato and red onion salad with a balsamic glaze was a terrific, fresh appetiser for the delights to come. And what delights they were – Tournedos Rossini: a 6oz fillet steak on a crouton topped with pâté, mushrooms and Madeira sauce. Perfectly cooked and deliciously melt-in-the-mouth tender. The GFP liked the look of my starter so much she opted for it as her main course too.

I think I was last kneeling up at the table when I tried a knickerbocker glory and so it was simply too tempting not to try again and my only irritation with this strawberry version was the errant piece of fruit at the bottom which refused to budge – by then, I think I had part of my ‘five a day’ anyway!

A quick tour of the place with the team showed off busy function rooms and other dining areas whose popularity attested to the draw of a popular spot which fully earns its reputation for good food.

*The Glamorous Fusspot accompanies me on all my reviews.

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