The Quaryman's Rest - A great place to eat in Devon
Ben Vizard enjoys a good meal to cap a fine day out at The Quarryman's Rest in Bampton
The Quarryman’s Rest
It’s odd what comes to mind when you let your thoughts wander in the car. Taking the Exe valley road, north of Tiverton (one of the best drives in the county), my thoughts turned to some Paul McCartney lyrics about Devon on a Sunday being like heaven. Today is actually Saturday, but Paul’s sentiment holds true.
But a beautiful drive in the car, or a tramp across Exmoor, requires a good meal to cap a fine day, and so it is that we find ourselves at The Quarryman’s Rest in Bampton – a town near the edge of Exmoor, with a rich history that has seen it fought over by King Stephen and Matilda in the 12th century. Nowadays I imagine the only fighting that might take place would be for a table in the Quarryman’s.
Chef Paul Berry moved to Devon three years ago when he married local girl Donna and took ownership of the pub-restaurant-hotel. He describes his food as “modern British”. At first sight the Quarryman’s is the archetypal Devon pub – a friendly welcome, frothy local beers and a log-burning stove, above which is inscribed the motto: ‘Whilst you drink in this house a thought you must / for those men who worked with stones and dust.’ That local spirit is still much in evidence: it is still as much local hostelry as it is foodie’s delight. You can choose between the cosy bar and a more sophisticated restaurant area, and there is even a billiards table for the more active.
Paul has a passion for local ingredients, sourcing as much as possible from his local butcher and other Devon suppliers. Fish is locally caught – “You won’t find any tuna from Madagascar here,” he jokes – and it shows on the menu. I opt for his justly famous tiger prawns in tempura batter with chilli and ginger dipping sauce. The batter is crisp and light, and it’s a good bowlful of prawns. My companion’s Brixham crab and avocado with lemon and ginger dressing is fresh, light and beautifully balanced. Portion sizes are such, that if you only want a snack, you may find a starter dish amply satisfying.
For a main course I chose the local slow-roasted lamb shank, served with the smoothest potato mash. The lamb was tender enough to slip from the bone and was beautifully seasoned. Too much salt is a b�te noire with me, but Paul’s palate is clearly refined, allowing flavours to speak for themselves. My companion’s bass served on a risotto cake showed off the crisp-skinned succulent fish to best advantage.
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The waiting staff, who were both friendly and efficient, managed to tempt us to try a dessert. Paul’s sweet creations have the ability to create an appetite you thought had long been sated. My companion chose bread and butter pudding, presented with a delicate necklace of cream, while I devoured vanilla pannacotta with raspberries and the best ginger parkin I have ever tasted.
Happily easing our way from our table, I could only conclude that there is magic in this chef’s fingers. To have eaten such a meal, and yet to feel that you could happily savour it all over again, requires skill indeed.
The Quarryman’s Rest, Bampton, EX16 9LN 01398 331480
Proprietors: Paul and Donna Berry
Food served: Monday to Saturday 12pm-2pm and 6pm-9.30pm; Sunday carvery 12pm-4pm
Prices: starters from �3.95; main courses from �9.50; desserts from �4.95
Potted salt beef (Waterhouse Farm) with pear pickle and toasted muffin
Salad of Brixham hand-picked crab and avocado, lemon and ginger dressing
Fillet of Cornish cod, new season local asparagus, gazpachio dressing
Breast of guinea fowl, black pudding, sweet potato puree, pea sauce
Chocolate brownie with honeycomb ice cream
Baked egg custard tart with raspberry sorbet