CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

REVIEW: Black Venus Inn

PUBLISHED: 13:22 17 June 2014


It is not often that you can walk into a restaurant, and then walk out later totally satisfied in every way. Now I am fairly hard to please and it takes a lot to keep me really happy. However The Black Venus Inn at Challacombe managed, miraculously in my view, to tick all of my many and varied boxes.

Marc & Liz Birch are at the helm of this family run business, with daughter Louise & her mum running front of house. Darren their son is the culinary genius leading his small, but talented team in the kitchen behind the scenes. This classic English character pub is cosy, busy and warm and is situated in a gentle dip amongst the rolling hills, a mere stone’s throw from the Somerset border.

First thing you need to realise when entering the Black Venus is that there are no menus. Well there are, but they are just not on the table. In fact, the entire range of dishes on offer are to be found on various blackboards dotted about the premises. And it was to these that my eldest daughter & I went to choose our meals for the night.

I commenced my culinary journey with the Special Chefs Starter, ‘The Black Pudding Stack’, layered with leeks and bacon with a wholegrain mustard sauce.

If that sounds rather delicious then you would be on the money. It was without doubt a delightful and mouth-watering treat.

The lovely salty taste of the bacon woven in amongst the juicy, tender leeks made a fabulous addition to the star of this dish. Attended by a flavoursome lake of wholegrain mustard sauce and lovingly decorated with red mustard frills, this starter was a real treat. Who would have thought that Black Pudding could have looked so beautiful?

My daughter Becky, on the other hand elected for the Seared Scallops, again served with black pudding and the delightful addition of a carrot puree. Her verdict on that dish was that the Scallops were ‘very light and soft and cooked to perfection.’

Part two for me came in the form of Chicken breast stuffed with brie, wrapped in bacon with a wholegrain mustard sauce (my choice, and worth repeating). In my opinion, the chicken was tender, and perfectly cooked. Again, the bacon wrap was a great accompaniment, cleverly complimenting the warm, soft brie core of this main offering.

The bed of buttery, slightly salted crushed new potatoes was seasoned with black pepper. This combination of basic but important flavours was really tasty and delicious and completely hit the mark. The neatly arranged broccoli also received the thumbs up from me, as it was neither under or over-cooked.

Across the table, Becky’s Duck Breast with a Port & Thyme Jus was akin to a work of art on a plate, describing it as ‘succulent and tender with a beautiful, crusty edge.’ Hmmm, sounds great to me! It was attended by perfectly cooked green beans, and the dish was a simple masterpiece in terms of taste and appearance.

The finale came in the form of a homemade chocolate torte. I was not in any way disappointed. The torte was a luxuriant, chocolate sensation – and very moreish. It was accompanied by locally sourced ice cream, sitting on a bed of broken wafers. A smattering of icing sugar and a rich chocolate sauce completed this superb dessert.

Becky’s Lemon cheesecake was a lovely, tangy foil for all the preceding richness of the evening, guaranteed to cleanse the palette in the best way possible. Created by Darren and his team, it made a refreshing change on the pub dessert landscape.

Marc, Liz, Darren & Louise really are running a tidy ship here and fully deserve recognition on the culinary scene. In my opinion, and I don’t think this is overstating the case, but the food served that night was near perfect. It was tasty, plentiful, hot, well presented, good value for money and came with great service. And the simple English pub, homey atmosphere of The Black Venus is just great.

6 things you never knew about The Black Venus Inn…

1. The building itself dates back to the 16th Century

2. It is believed that this is the only Pub in Great Britain called The Black Venus.

3. The Black Venus was named after an extinct breed of sheep that was good for meat but not for wool.

4. The hill opposite the pub is called Black Venus Hill.

5. In 1882 the name was changed to the Ring of Bells to commemorate the new bells at the church.

6. The name was changed back to Black Venus in mid-1960’s as too many pubs were called the Ring of Bells!

6 places to visit on Exmoor…

1. Tarr Steps, Liscombe: medieval clapper bridge over the River Barle

2. Dunkery Beacon: scale the highest point on Exmoor - 519 m (1704 ft)

3. The Doone Valley – stunning scenery and great for relaxing walks or cream tea!

4. The delightful villages of Lynton and Lynmouth – ‘Little Switzerland.’ Something for everyone.

5. Combe Martin – lovely seaside town nestling in the shadow of Little and Great Hangman hills.

6. The National Trust at Watersmeet – confluence of of the East Lyn river and Hoar Oak Water in the beautiful Lyn Valley. 2000 acres to explore.

More from Food & Drink


Kath Hope takes up the challenge to reduce her festive food miles and source her Christmas food and drink from within our bountiful county

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

SU CARROLL breaks bread with charismatic Devon restaurateur Edmond Davari as he embarks on a new venture

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

We hooked up with RACHAEL JOWITT, head roaster for leading South West coffee roastery, Voyager Coffee, to hear how the business is developing

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

From pale ale and real cider to craft beer, Devon is home to a number of real ale breweries and CAMRA award-winners, meaning a good pub is never far away – we pick 16 places to go in Devon to find the best pint

Read more
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

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