4 fabulous places we recommend for dining

PUBLISHED: 09:34 10 October 2020 | UPDATED: 09:42 10 October 2020

The chicken shawarma was a zesty and spicy introduction to the menu. Photo: Andy Cooper

The chicken shawarma was a zesty and spicy introduction to the menu. Photo: Andy Cooper

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Devon Life’s Editor selects his choice of top spots to book

Dining in The Box Kitchen and Bar is under an impressive display of ships’ figureheads. Photo: Andy CooperDining in The Box Kitchen and Bar is under an impressive display of ships’ figureheads. Photo: Andy Cooper

A typical meal aboard The Mayflower as she sailed from Plymouth to the New World consisted of salt pork, dried cow tongue, oatmeal and something called ‘hard tack’, which was apparently a cracker-like biscuit.

Self-evidently then, the Pilgrim Fathers and their crew did not dine on chicken shawarma, hummus, mint riata, pomegranate and coriander or beetroot and halloumi burritos.

I make these rather crazy culinary comparisons because my mind wandered to the provisions ‘enjoyed’ by those brave pioneers as I recently tucked into a rather fabulous lunch in the midst of The Box, the new £44m cultural and heritage attraction in Plymouth which celebrates the city’s rich history.

The Box Kitchen and Bar is the attractive, bustling diner housed in the grand entrance lobby of the attraction. Turn right on arrival and you get an impressive and interactive tour through the history of the Ocean City. Turn left and you get funky food and great service in wow factor surroundings.

Rob Dawe provides all the ingredients and instructions you need to create restaurant standard meals at home. Photo: Rob DaweRob Dawe provides all the ingredients and instructions you need to create restaurant standard meals at home. Photo: Rob Dawe

That wow factor is the collection of ancient ships’ figureheads which loom above you while you dine. Haunting, majestic and mysterious in equal measure, they form a grandstand entrance to The Box which is a precursor to the wonders within.

READ MORE: Is this Devon’s most eco-friendly restaurant?

Spiced monkfish, curried lentils and cauliflower salad was a fabulous main course. Photo: Andy CooperSpiced monkfish, curried lentils and cauliflower salad was a fabulous main course. Photo: Andy Cooper

The dining space in such a landmark attraction needs to match its surroundings and so thank goodness for chef Nat Tallents, who helms this particular kitchen. A finalist in MasterChef: The Professionals and a National Chef of the Year 2020 semi-finalist, Nat brings a vim and verve to the menu which makes it memorable indeed.

I started with the aforementioned shawarma, and it was a zesty and spicy introduction to the menu; great flavours and textures combined. My partner Lady F’s choice of crispy salt and pepper squid may have lacked a little in presentation, but she was happy to report that, served with spring onion, lemon and garlic aioli, the kitchen had got it just right as far as taste was concerned.

Onto the mains then and my minute steak came as it should be...lean and tender, drizzled in garlic butter and with an expert choice of roasted new potatoes and a house salad alongside. Simply, but expertly, done.

Across the table, the beetroot and halloumi burrito was getting good reviews as Lady F professed herself impressed with its accompanying barbecue beans, rice, spinach, hummus, pickles and naked slaw.

The view from dining tables at Outlaw’s New Road is stunning. Photo: Andy CooperThe view from dining tables at Outlaw’s New Road is stunning. Photo: Andy Cooper

We might have lingered for dessert if we hadn’t got an appointment to see a woolly mammoth (find out for yourself when you visit) but we will be back soon. And with The Box Kitchen and Bar planning to serve up its specialities right through from breakfast to dinner, there will be plenty of opportunity for us to do so.

Find out more here about visiting The Box

Salcombe gin-infused salmon was Andy's starter at Harry's. Photo: Andy CooperSalcombe gin-infused salmon was Andy's starter at Harry's. Photo: Andy Cooper

DAWE KNOCKING OUT SPECIAL DELIVERIES

During lockdown, when among other things I was badly missing restaurant dining experiences, Devon Life columnist Deborah Clark came to the rescue by suggesting chef Rob Dawe’s home delivery service.

Rob and his partner Charlotte Auty, who can normally be found at one of their pop-up restaurant venues at The Café in Topsham, had decided to branch out into this venture to keep business going during the coronavirus shutdown. Their aim was to deliver pre or partly-cooked restaurant standard meals to people’s homes, allowing them to heat up the food in their own kitchens.

And boy, does Rob deliver in every sense. All meals come with simple instructions, a list of ingredients and everything you need to serve up a delicious meal at home in moments. We loved our first delivery so much that it wasn’t long before we were ordering again.

And the good news is post-lockdown Rob is continuing the service, offering a four-course meal for £27.50 a head (free delivery), with all dietary requirements catered for. Meals can be delivered in and around Exeter including Topsham, Lympstone, Exminster, Exmouth, Sidmouth, Exton and Budleigh Salterton and November’s dates for delivery will be 13 and 27.

Rob is combining the home delivery service with pop-ups at The Café in Topsham (76 Fore St) on 5 and 6 November or at The Welcome Café (Haven Banks) in Exeter on 19 and 20 November (six courses fine dining menu at £49 a head, bring your own booze), so no excuse not to sample his wares either at home or for a night out!

More details from Rob on 07745 438481 or via chefrobdawe@gmail.com

NATHAN’S NEW ROAD IS A ROUTE TO TAKE

Another COVID dining ‘dividend’, if you will, but if you have always fancied travelling to Nathan Outlaw’s iconic fish restaurant in Cornwall, then now just might be the time.

Re-branded as Outlaw’s New Road, the Michelin-starred spot in Port Isaac is now offering scheduled eating times, safety-first dining conditions and something of a slimmed down menu compared to pre-lockdown days. I’m bound to say it comes at something of a slimmed down price too, compared to the previous set menu offering.

What hasn’t changed however are two things: the exemplary standard of cooking and The View. Oh, that view. Can there be anywhere better in the UK to sit and while away a couple of hours while dining on beautiful

My starter of crispy squid, pickled vegetables and Jalapeño mayonnaise was a dreamy introduction to proceedings. Special mention must go to ‘hot/cold’ sensation of the mayo - stunning. Across the table, my partner greatly enjoyed her scallops, butternut squash, herb cream and sage, an autumnal appetiser of note and no mistake.

With Mr Outlaw himself in the kitchen overseeing proceedings, we knew we were in for something of a fish fiesta with mains and my spiced monkfish, curried lentils and cauliflower salad looked like it was going to take some beating until my compadre in culinary adventures tried her sensational hake, mushrooms, mashed potato and red wine dressing and the game was up.

Not many places persuade me to give up my Devon dining diary but I am bound to say Outlaw’s is one of them.

See here for more details on booking

HURRY UP TO HARRY’S

If ever a placed qualified for the immutable rule of taking for granted things on your own doorstep, then Harry’s Restaurant in Exeter must be a top contender.

Just 25 minutes’ walk from my house and how often do I get there? Not often enough is the answer and after a recent dinner there I have a New Year’s Resolution for 2021 already. I must return more often.

Reasons to be cheerful about having this place so close to home? Well, the cheerful staff for one, offering a bright, warm helpful welcome, despite the fact all of us were togged up in the obligatory facemasks on arrival.

Secondly, the menu. Grill classics, fish, pasta...that sounds like a simple menu, but doing them with elan and excellence every time takes effort and true professionalism. These guys know what they are doing, for sure.

Add in a few lovely menu twists (my picks were Salcombe gin-infused salmon for starter and a Jack Daniel’s sauce with my steak) and you have a menu which will delight and entertain. Cracking atmosphere in the place too – and remarkably good value when it comes to the bill.

Make a booking here at Harry’s

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