Top Foodie Hotspots in Devon & Dorset

River Cottage in Axminster, Devon. 

© Shutterstock

rivercottage-devon

River Cottage in Axminster, Devon. 

© Shutterstock

1. The Oyster & Fish House, Lyme Regis, Dorset

Any holiday near the coast demands at least one fresh seafood platter with a view to match. Chef Mark Hix saw his restaurant empire collapse as Covid struck, but he retrenched to his Dorset roots and clung onto this pearl, perfectly poised in the historic town of Lyme Regis. Secure a window-side table to soak up sweeping views of the bay, which provides so much of the menu. Get your fix of Dorset crab, Brownsea island oysters or Dover sole on the bone, invariably accompanied by a locally foraged garnish.

The celebration of west country produce doesn’t stop with food. Kick off your meal with a Black Cow Martini, its creamy vodka made from the by-product of a west Dorset dairy herd. From the other end of the county comes Conker Gin, while 18th century Bridport brewery Palmers provides beer. Hix has even collaborated with Castlewood Vineyard near Axminster to create “Devon Minnow”, a superior, barrel-fermented Bacchus. Finish your meal with a cider brandy made by Julian Temperley just over the border in Somerset.

The Oyster & Fish House

 

2. Square & Compass, Worth Matravers, Dorset

This pub is unlikely to trouble the Michelin inspectors, but it couldn’t be less concerned. Nor could the crowds, who patiently queue by the service hatch for refreshment. Don’t ask for a menu – there isn’t one. Well, there is an element of choice, so long as it’s one of the pasties or ciders, all proudly made in-house.

In summer this is a perfect pitstop after a coast walk around St. Aldhelm’s Head and reviving dip in Chapman’s Pool cove. Take in the sea views from one of the outdoor stone tables. Alternatively, retreat inside after a bracing winter hike to take shelter by the fire. It’s a cosy, atmospheric interior that has changed little since this Dorset gem first became a pub in the 18th century. Don’t forget to pop into the small fossil museum here – this is the Jurassic coast after all.

Square & Compass

 

3. River Cottage, Axminster, Devon

Fancy some foraging? Always wanted to make your own cheese? Intrigued by the nose-to-tail gastronomic possibilities that come with butchering a whole pig? Then book yourself onto a foodie course at River Cottage.

With glorious views over the Axe Valley, River Cottage is the base of food presenter, writer and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. This 100-acre farm is a perfect spot to absorb his commitment to seasonal, ethically produced food, but guests are also encouraged to view food as an excuse for celebration. Join one of the regular feasts here in the 18th century threshing barn, and make sure there’s not too far to travel afterwards by booking into one of the River Cottage B&B rooms.

River Cottage

 

4. Langham Wine Estate, near Dorchester, Dorset

Discover the English wine revolution for yourself with a visit to one of the country’s most ambitious producers. It was only in 2009 that Justin Langham first took the plunge, converting 30 acres on his farm to vineyard. Just over a decade later, Langham wines can be found on some of the country’s smartest restaurant lists and major expansion is underway to meet demand.

Immerse yourself in a guided tour and tutored tasting, or take a more leisurely approach with a self-guided stroll through the bucolic vineyards, followed by a pre-booked picnic in the vines. If the weather is, well, more “English”, then take shelter in the barn for a light, Dorset-inspired lunch. Few revolutions are this pleasurable.

Langham Wine Estate

 

5. Lympstone Manor, Exmouth, Devon

Special occasion? Splash out with a stay this beautiful Georgian manor house, set in 28-acres of garden and parkland with glorious views over the Exe estuary. For foodies, the big draw here is chef Michael Caines MBE, who built his reputation at nearby Gidleigh Park before setting up his own venture here in 2017. Within six months he’d won a Michelin star for this refined celebration of the southwest’s wonderful larder.

It’s no surprise that such a fine dining menu is matched by a serious, extensive wine list. But while many top restaurants commission their own bespoke cuvées, very few can boast their own vineyard. In 2018 Lympstone put faith in its temperate Devon micro-climate and planted 11 acres of vines. The first sparkling cuvée isn’t due for release until 2023 but guests can now sample the estate’s first still wine: its Triassic Pinot Noir 2020.

Lympstone Manor

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