Think ‘Devon’ and ‘food’ – what comes to mind? Cream teas, most likely. But while there are certainly no shortage of opportunities to indulge in scones, clotted cream and all the rest in this green and pleasant corner of England, that’s really just the start of a West Country culinary adventure. From a world-class brownie bakery to Michelin-starred fine dining, we’ve pulled together a list of the very best places to eat, drink and make merry in Devon.
After more great foodie spots in other pretty corners of the UK? Check out these Great British restaurants worth building your holiday around.
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River Cottage Kitchen & Store
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s HQ now boasts a new place to eat, drink and shop at Park Farm (home to the River Cottage cookery school and kitchen garden), just outside of Axminster. Light, bright and full of greenery and upcycled furniture, it’s powered by a windmill and almost everything it serves is sourced from within a couple of miles. At breakfast there’s organic poached eggs, River Cottage ‘kimkraut’ and natural yoghurt with toasted sourdough. Lunches are a feast of lentil and courgette patties, chorizo meatballs and lemon curd meringues with seasonal fruits. As you’d expect, it’s dog friendly.
Park Farm, Trinity Hill Road, EX13 8TB
The Exploding Bakery
This cult Exeter brownie specialist made a name for itself nationally during lockdown with its letterbox-friendly goodies, but it’s well worth popping into its cafe at Central Station to sample the full range of treats. As well as coffee from local roasteries, there are lip-smacking lunches (frittatas, pork, apple and fennel sausage rolls, deep-filled sandwiches and dhal; the owners have built fruitful relationships with the likes of Shillingford Organics and Quickes Cheese) and a selection of organic and biodynamic wines. Vegan or gluten free? Don’t worry, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
1 & 2 The Crescent, Queen Street, EX4 3SB
Circa at Sandridge Barton
The new estate home of award-winning Sharpham Wines, the valley gem of Sandridge Barton is also where you’ll find Circa, formerly of Exeter. It’s a stylish and unpretentious restaurant, with lots of silvery wood and whitewashed accents – think Scandinavia meets the South Hams – and head chef Rob Weeks tries to make as much of the food in-house as possible, from charcuterie to vinegar and heritage sourdough baked fresh daily. After a wander through the vines, settle down to a lunch of West Country bounty: oysters from the River Dart fried and served with lobster mayo, fish from Brixham Market and South Devon beef carpaccio with black garlic.
Waddeton Road, Stoke Gabriel, TQ9 6RL
Riverford Field Kitchen
The organic vegetable box titan’s restaurant is right at the heart of its farm in Buckfastleigh. Whether you’re there for brunch, lunch or support the set-up is ultra-casual – no starters or mains, just good food and plenty of it brought to the table as part of a set menu by a team who really know their onions (and potatoes, and carrots, and…). From beetroot borani with pickled cucumber and pistachio, to cauliflower with tahini and dukkah, and fennel with blood orange, hazelnut and gremolata, this is veggie food that you won’t even realise is such. (That being said, there are a couple of meaty dishes at lunch – roast pork belly with watercress and apple – for those who want them.) Dine inside surrounded by flowers, or outside on the terrace overlooking the herb garden.
Wash Farm, Buckfastleigh, TQ11 0JU
The Oyster Shack
This jolly alfresco hut on the tidal road past the Avon Estuary might be small, but it’s got a mighty reputation for serving some of Devon’s best seafood. The menu (helpfully printed with the tide times online; you’ll need these to drive the right way to it!) changes every day, but it might include prawn and crab tacos, hand-dived barbecued scallops and grilled fish. Of course, there are also oysters a-plenty, served au naturel, with pickled ginger and wasabi, shallots and vinaigrette, or 'Bloody Margaret' dressing made with the shack's own gin.
Milburn Orchard Farm, Stakes Hill, Bigbury, TQ7 4B
The Masons Arms
Thatched and beamed, this 13th century inn in the village of Knowstone is everything a West Country pub should be – and it also happens to serve Michelin-starred food. Local produce, served with a hint of a French accent, is the name of the (delicious) game: cured salmon with aevon crab, pink grapefruit and a shellfish dressing; Exmoor beef fillet with crisp brisket and garlic mash and red wine jus; Ta trio of citrus desserts (posset, beignet, soufflé). At lunchtime, the three-course set menu is an absolute steal at just £29.50.
Knowstone,South Molton, EX36 4RY
Le Cygne and Le Cygnerie
Le Cygne in Dawlish is definitely one of Devon’s best cafes: cute and cosy, with an ever-changing selection of seasonal dishes and an irresistible choice of homemade desserts. It was recently joined by Le Cygnerie, a deli serving freshly made sandwiches and salads plus all sorts of tempting treats like Dartmoor charcuterie from local producers.
11 The Strand, Dawlish, EX7 9PS
There’s no shortage of wonderful spots to enjoy a traditional Devon cream tea all over the county. But if you have to pick just one, head to Darts Farm, an award-winning farmshop and restaurant in Topsham. With homemade scones, lashings of local clotted cream and homemade jams, their tea is easily the best meal of the day. Planning a day out? They’ll do you a cream-tea-to-go hamper, complete with tea and bottles of old-fashioned lemonade. Just remember, the cream goes on first here.
Topsham, EX3 0QH
Michael Caines’s legendary Exmouth restaurant commands sweeping views down through Lympstone Manor’s grounds to the Exe Estuary. Inside the sumptuous dining room, the food is every bit as breathtaking with flawless service to match. The nine-course tasting menu is a real once-in-a-lifetime experience featuring the likes of roasted Lyme Bay scallops, salted Newlyn cod and spring lamb from nearby Darts Farm. On the wine list, keep an eye out for Triassic Pinot Noir, the first wine from the Lympstone Manor vineyard.
Courtlands Lane, Exmouth, EX8 3NZ
Clare Lattin and Tom Hill’s unfailingly delicious small plates at Ducksoup in Soho and Little Duck in Hackney can truthfully be said to have changed the way plenty of Londoners eat. Now, the pair have opened Emilia in the Dartmoor town of Ashburton. Influenced by their memories of meals in Italy. It’s a simple but elegantly homely spot: a kitchen-dining-room with one communal table, a few bar seats and a blackboard featuring the likes of green beans, potato and pesto trapanese, or peaches, pancetta and rosemary. As at Ducksoup and Little Duck, the natural wines here are a big draw.
2 East Street, Ashburton, TQ13 7AA