The fab new Devon gastropub you must try

A plate of home cured beef bresaola with baby rum-soaked figs and orange.

The home cured beef bresaola with baby rum-soaked figs and orange was a wonderful combination of tastes and textures. - Credit: Andy Cooper

How I took a turn off a familiar highway and discovered an Old Inn which needs to be seen in a new light... 

If you drive to and from anywhere regularly, then you’ll know that familiar double-edged feeling...where did the past ten minutes of my journey go and what landmarks have I passed along the way? 

It's not that one is not concentrating on the journey – it's just familiarity breeding not so much contempt for the surroundings as a kind of casual amnesia. And so the journey passes in a haze of half recognition and daydreaming. 

Aerial view of the Old Inn at Kilmington.

The Old Inn at Kilmington is in a familiar spot close to the A35. - Credit: The Old Inn

And this is what it is like for me when it comes to the A35 between Honiton and Lyme Regis. Family links mean we traverse that road a great number of times and so although I should be familiar with every turn and twist, sometimes the memory falters. If asked to recall the name of the pub adjacent to the main road at Kilmington, for example, I might have struggled to get it right first time. The Red Lion? The Fox and Hounds? Sorry, the name escapes me... 

Well, it used to. Now the name of the Old Inn at Kilmington is gladly seared on my memory as a mighty fine stopping off point for some of the best gastropub food around. Stand in proximity to me for long enough and I’ll probably recommended you make a visit. Certainly, I am already planning my next trip.  

A selection of tapas food on a wooden board.

Shaun Cassidy is now creating his own special stories at the helm of the Old Inn. - Credit: The Old Inn

And that’s because chef/proprietor Shaun Cassidy has quietly turned this pub which once seemed a little foreboding and unwelcoming into a home of culinary craft and excellence. Shaun, once of the legendary Jack in the Green at Rockbeare, is now creating his own special stories at the helm of the Old Inn. 

First impressions certainly count when it comes to this place. I had once visited and the interior came across as dingy and dark. Not any more. Subtly painted and brightened with warming, modern colours, the atmosphere is very welcoming and that’s before force-of-nature front of house Renata gets into her stride with her excellent service and determined passion for the changes Shaun has made to the place. 

The look of the menu – a fine mix of pub classics and specials - had us salivating and we were left eagerly awaiting our selections even more when a superb amuse bouche of mushroom soup came to us from the kitchen. The delicacy and flavour balance certainly signalled a true talent was at work backstage.  

A plate of grilled Capricorn goats' cheese with candied walnuts, peach and raspberries.

The grilled Capricorn goats' cheese with candied walnuts, peach and raspberries was a pleasing starter. - Credit: Andy Cooper

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And that was confirmed with our starters. My home cured beef bresaola with baby rum-soaked figs and orange was a wonderful combination of tastes, textures and innovation, while across the table Lady F was mightily pleased with her grilled Capricorn goats' cheese with candied walnuts, peach and raspberries.  

For mains, I opted for the special of halibut, lemon white wine and mussel sauce and very special indeed it was. Lady F’s Moroccan spiced lamb tagine with couscous and flat bread had her raving at the flavoursome treat before her. 

Being the dessert fiend I am, there was no way I was letting Shaun’s treating of us with his talents end there...and so it was a milk chocolate delice with feuilletine, Earl Grey jelly and salted caramel ice cream for me, which I savoured every fabulous mouthful of. Lady F, normally a too-sweet-for-me person when it comes to dessert, was instantly tempted by the lime brûlée with coconut ice cream and coconut biscuit and professed herself delighted with a pud which catered for those who don’t necessarily want a sugar overload at the end of their meal. 

The end of this particular meal came all too quickly but we were keen to thank Shaun for his efforts...and like all truly talented chefs I have come across, the unassuming nature of his demeanour as he chatted to us, only added to the charm of him and his big new venture. 

Glasses on a dining table.

The pub is brightened with warming, modern colours. - Credit: The Old Inn

Some pubs tend to, perhaps understandably, lessen their menu choices or, indeed in the current climate, close altogether during the early parts of the week – but this is not the case at the Old Inn, where on a Monday and Tuesday they also run what is fast becoming a legendary Chicken Shack. But Shaun being Shaun, this is not any old Chicken Shack but one featuring a whole host of delights for customers. 

This is a pub and a team which deserves every success and that is down to us to support and embrace them as much as possible. Talent like this doesn’t surface every day of the week in Devon and we need to thank our lucky stars we have it in our midst.