Review: The Cott Inn, Dartington
- Credit: Archant
In his regular series of columns for Devon Life, Patrick McCaig of The Otter Brewery takes us on a trawl of some of his favourite pubs
With wild garlic shoots in the hedgerows already beginning to soften the memory of winter this time of year provides a welcome turning point in the brewer’s calendar. Golden, hoppier combinations now replace the heavier, warming seasonal ales we craved before. Soon the summer music festivals will be upon us and our ever optimistic brewery cricket team will start squeezing into their after work whites.
The destination this month is a small village, a little west of the River Dart, sitting in a low-slung spot about a mile from Totnes, somewhere between wild Dartmoor and the South Hams coastline. If you pick your pubs in terms of their historical aesthetic then this one certainly ticks all the right boxes.
Built in 1307 during the reign of Edward II and at the time of a thriving local wool and tin trade, the Cott - with its wooden beams and low ceilings, inglenook fireplaces, cob walls, thatch and 15th century ‘scrumpy’ front door - is big on character. A fire in 1989 inflicted serious damage but did not sound the death knell that it so easily could have had it not been for the quick thinking of local firefighters.
Recent success has come from hard work and vision. Husband and wife team Mark and Mel, both from Dartington, have assembled a team with a breadth of age and experience able to create that special space where customers can easily become friends. Mark previously owned a cocktail bar in Bristol and it was here that he learned the ‘theatre’ involved in presentation. Since July 2010 he has instilled that same sense of theatre into running a historic pub, appreciating that being a landlord is to some degree a daily performance and that there is a method behind good service that can be taught.
Mark’s GM for the last 3½ years, Anton, is the personification of assured calmness and equally knowledgeable about their wines as he is of the menu and the local area which, of course, boasts the renowned Dartington Hall. Stability in the kitchen comes from head chef Adam Parnham for whom time spent training in Italy revealed the finer points of seasoning. For all this collective effort, last year the Cott finished eighth in the Telegraph’s ‘30 Best Pubs in Britain’.
Sam, the latest addition to our sales team, was experiencing his first ‘working’ lunch, and he quickly dispatched a perfectly judged Scotch egg – he was clearly enjoying a rep’s life on the road! Bouillabaisse followed, as did a hearty lamb special. Whilst this pub is undoubtedly a valued community resource and very much open to all, the food displays ambition and an offering that is deliberately versatile. More sophisticated dishes like tempura oysters or crispy pig’s cheek sit comfortably alongside the normal lunchtime staples of soup and sandwiches. Beef is hung for 28 days and excellent artisan sourdough comes from the village. Tuesday night is always fish and chips night.
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Given this area is a hotbed of musical talent it’s perhaps little surprise that live sessions happen each Wednesday and Sunday evening. During the summer months the elevated, family friendly beer garden is a real suntrap, sporting its own outdoor kitchen. The annual beer festival pulls in yet more thirsty folk.
There’s so much going for this pub; it’s friendly, consistent, well run, has accommodation and is ambitious and adaptable in equal measure – it really is a credit to everyone who works here.
Abbot Ale, Greene King
Ashridge Traditional, Ashridge Cider
Heritage & Gold, Thatcher’s Cider
The Cott Inn, Dartington, Totnes,
Tel: 01803 863777