Tuesday, 28 June 2011

When in Devon...

The Town Mill Bakery, 2 Coombe Street, Lyme Regis, DT7 3PY

River Cottage Deli & Canteen, Trinity Square, Axminster , EX13 5AN

I spent this weekend on the Devon/Dorset border on a road trip to pick up some parts for the 1969 Volkswagen Beetle my boyfriend is restoring. We found a whole load of original parts being sold on eBay by a guy who lives there and thought we may as well make a weekend of it and go and pick them up ourselves. So, one B&B booking  (we stayed at Summer Lodge near Dalwood – the bed was heaven and the cooked breakfast amazing) and five hours in a hire car later, we arrived in Devon a bit too early to check in and headed over to Lyme Regis to get our fill of sea air.

Once we’d parked the car and headed down a very steep hill towards the town centre, we happened across an artisan bakery/cafe called The Town Mill Bakery. Naturally curious, I popped my head through the door to have a good nose. I'm ashamed to say that I did not stop for anything to eat or drink, but you can see from their photo library that everything looks scrumptious in the extreme. It’s also all either organic or locally sourced so is easy on the conscience too.

More than the food and drink, I was enchanted by their approach to customer service which involves a ‘help yourself and pay at the end’ ethos. I thought the sense of mutual trust and freedom afforded to customers made the place feel very laid back and it seemed like somewhere I could easily feel at home and while away a few hours. Encouraged to help yourself to a mug and wooden board (otherwise referred to as a plate) then dig into the treats on offer, you can eat your fill and then pay for what you’ve had on the way out.

Taking a slightly different approach, but with that similar West Country relaxed charm, the River Cottage canteen in Axminster gave us a memorable evening meal. I know it’s not strictly a cafe so is rather off topic for this blog, however as a dining experience, my visit was so enjoyable that I had to share it.

The cavernous barn-like space, chunky wooden furniture and menus chalked up on boards give Axminster’s River Cottage canteen a more relaxed feel than many restaurants. However, it was not without a sense of occasion and many of the people there were celebrating birthdays or other events. As an affordable alternative to Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall’s original River Cottage it can’t be knocked. We had three courses each and one alcoholic drink for under £60 which isn’t bad considering the celebrity-chef affiliation.

Whether you’re feeling adventurous and go for something similar to the crispy pig’s head salad and ox’s liver with lentils and bacon, or stick to the safe bet of the soup and slow roasted shoulder of pork, you won’t be disappointed with the food. The puddings were also spot on with a dribble-inducing chocolate tart and deep cheesecake with fresh local strawberries making our selection.

The Town Mill Bakery are on Facebook and Twitter, they also have a website and blog.

River Cottage has a website, and can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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