It’s estimated that each year over two million tourists visit North Devon, so if you’re looking to join them by exiting at Junction 27, take note of these restaurant recommendations…
THE MASON’S ARMS
You don’t need to travel far to get to our first venue. Situated just 20 miles up the A361, known as ‘The North Devon Link Road,’ you’ll see signs directing you to the small village of Knowstone, nestled on the edge of Exmoor. Here you’ll find The Masons Arms.
This popular restaurant gained a Michelin Star within six months of opening and has held one ever since. Chef Patron, Mark Dobson previously worked at The Waterside Inn in Bray and has some serious skills. As you walk into The Masons Arms, you step into the bar – a space with low ceilings and a wonderfully friendly atmosphere; where hikers and dog walkers can sit back and exchange stories around a roaring fire. Meanwhile, the restaurant in the back of the building is modestly-sized and boasts a quirky painted ceiling (think The Sistine Chapel on a micro scale).
Maiden Arch by Robert Bryant
Barnstaple is a medieval market town with plenty of character and a variety of shops (if retail therapy is on the agenda). During your visit, you should definitely try to book one the region’s newest restaurants: Maiden Arch by Robert Bryant. Bryant aims to provide great food with the ethos that ‘the better the food, the less we have to do with it’. Having worked in numerous Michelin-starred restaurants throughout the world, his cooking is pretty special and is made all the better for being back in his hometown.
The Farmers Arms
Further west, on the coastal road near to Bideford, is the small village of Woolsery. Here, together with its fish and chip shop, you’ll find The Farmers Arms, which has been subject to a stylish renovation in recent years. Although there are contemporary interiors throughout, the venue still retains its cosy country feel. You can enjoy classic pub fare in the bar area, but we recommend dining in the main restaurant (pictured left) for a more formal experience.
A word of warning – the décor is a touch trophy-head heavy in places – but we think
the overall aesthetic is fabulous.
Heading into the historic port town of Bideford, you’ll discover one of the county’s top restaurants: Number Eight. Set away on a quiet back street, this small – literally about twenty cover – fine-dining restaurant is perfectly unassuming. It’s run by a couple called Chloe and Joshua, who together have years of industry experience under their belts. They use this expertise to offer guests a 7-course tasting menu at each service, that allows the chef to express himself and show the passion that he has for his craft. Booking is absolutely essential if you want to try their food, as the last time we checked there was a two-month waiting list for tables!
Restaurant Noel Corston
A great way to build up an appetite is to head along the coastal road, stopping off at Saunton Sands and Croyde Beach along the way. Eventually you’ll reach the coastal town of Woolacombe, where you’ll find a real hidden gem: Restaurant Noel Corston. Open for dinner reservations only, this is a real bucket list dining experience. Corston offers a single tasting menu sourced largely from the local ‘UNESCO Biosphere Reserve’. All diners are served at once, with each course explained to you by Noel and prepared right before your eyes. His lovely wife is also on hand to pour wines and provide drink recommendations.
Thomas Carr 1873
Further along the coast is Ilfracombe, a town best known for its beautifully blue harbour, its steep cliffs, and its 20-metre-tall, stainless steel and bronze statue ‘Verity’ (crafted by famed artist Damien Hirst). The town also boasts two sensational places to eat.
Thomas Carr 1873 is the latest venture for award-winning chef Thomas Carr. He previously ran Thomas Carr at The Olive Room – we promise that’s the last time we’ll say ‘Thomas Carr’ in one paragraph – where he earned a coveted Michelin Star. It’s testament to the quality and skill of his food that TC 1873 was awarded its own Michelin Star within months of opening – a phenomenal feat achieved by few. The restaurant is situated in Ilfracombe’s former police station, close to the harbour, so local fresh line-caught fish and seafood are the focus of many of the dishes.
Elsewhere in town is The Antidote. This intimate dining restaurant also offers boutique accommodation in the form of two modern en-suite rooms and a loft style apartment. The restaurant is all about showcasing wholesome food using local ingredients with plenty of flavour. They’ve been awarded a ‘Bib Gourmand’ by Michelin and their prices are great value considering the quality.
Finally, if you’ve packed your hiking boots you’re in for a treat. North Devon has an abundance of places to visit that offer scenic walks and trails. If you’re joined by your four-legged friend why not try dog-friendly pub and B&B, The Pyne Arms? Set in the picturesque village of East Down on the foothills of Exmoor National Park, this award-winning pub is a popular foodie venue. Dishes are made using locally- sourced and homegrown ingredients and cooked by Chef Proprietor Ellis Parnell. He’s joined by his wife Amie at front of house and together they offer guests a wonderful base from which to explore the region.