The Harris Arms at Lewdown, Devon - Restaurant Review
Jo Stewart-Smith savours the view and the characterful wines at this very special rural pub In Lewdown, Devon.
The Harris Arms
Jo Stewart-Smith savours the view and the characterful wines at this rural pub In Lewdown.
As we take our drinks outside on the terrace, Andy Whiteman acknowledges that it was the view that sold it to him, "and the fact that Okehampton, Tavistock and Launceston are all within easy reach," he adds. After several years globetrotting, Andy and his wife, Rowena, searched England for a place to make their mark. I'm finding it hard to listen to Andy. My head keeps turning to gaze at the gentle rolling hills and woodlands, dotted here and there with grazing sheep and cattle. I note that as there are very few houses or telegraph poles it would be great for a period film-shoot, or you could pick up your city-jaded partner from the office, tell them to shut their eyes until you've slipped off the A30 and seated them on this terrace. With the smell of lavender and a perfectly chilled glass of white in their hand, they'd open their eyes to a rich, green vista and the promise of 'honest food cooked with style'.
Andy and Rowena arrived in 2003 and set to work on the terracing. So, whether you sit in the restaurant, out on the decking or in the garden below, you get the wonderful view. Within a year the locals and the awards began rolling in, including Devon Life Rural Pub of the Year, and they now feature in the famous Michelin Red Guide.
Mike, my partner, joins us grinning happily. Forget the view, he's been reading "the stunning wine list" with over 25 whites and 50 reds! And the joy is you don't have to choose a bottle to match all three courses because you can buy many of the wines by the glass. Tip for ladies who lunch or a girls' night out. How many times have you asked for a dry white wine and had to take potluck and hope? Here the wines are even chalked up by the bar, and each one gets an enthusiastic introduction from Andy.
Having spent a year in New Zealand "back at school" learning to make wine, Andy really knows his grapes and is a great teacher. He persuades me to try a "new wave white" from Galicia. It's delicious alongside the home-cured gravadlax and nutty brown bread. Bliss. I was practically courted on gravadlax and fresh homemade bread. Mike tries a Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux, "dry and elegant" a perfect complement to his crisp filo shell of local goats' cheese and caramelised shallots.
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For the main courses, we're tempted by the specials board, which changes daily, depending on what the fisherman from Port Isaac or local farmers have to offer. In season "the mushroom man" knocks on the door, and the trout might have been caught by Andy on a lucky day off.
Mike chooses the sole, plump and delicate in a rich, lemony butter with its ready-seasoned accompaniment of samphire. I'm beguiled by 'bubble and squeak and sage stuffing'. My rolled belly of pork, slow-cooked in cider with seriously crunchy crackling is a great choice. And it means I earn a glass of Ctes du Rhne. 'Drinking well' informs the wine list. I agree! Even so I manage to save a drop. A great excuse to taste every single one of Mike's platter-full of local artisanal cheeses.
We refuse coffee. For us this is the place to come to slowly savour the wine.
Baked local goats' cheese served on toasted crotes, with mixed leaves, walnuts and pesto
Fillets of warm home-smoked Cornish mackerel, potato salad and horseradish cream
Chargrilled asparagus wrapped in bacon with hollandaise sauce
Braised shoulder of Devon lamb with mushroom and asparagus stuffing,
dauphinoise potatoes, vegetable medley and rosemary jus
Grilled sole with lemon butter, samphire, new potatoes and salad
Herb pancakes filled with griddled vegetables, a spicy tomato sauce with melted cheese and olive salad
Lavender and honey pannacotta with raspberry sorbet
Treacle pudding with butterscotch sauce and clotted cream
The Harris Arms, Portgate, Lewdown, Okehampton,
EX20 4PZ (01566) 783 331, www.theharrisarms.co.uk
Opening hours: Food served
12 noon-2pm and 6.30pm-9pm
Proprietors: Andy and Rowena Whiteman
Prices: Starters from �5.95, main courses from �10.95 and desserts from �5