One of the best reasons of all to visit Devon and the West Country these days is the excellent food and drink. From gourmet breaks to foraging courses, Devon has never been in better shape for prime produce and places to eat. So what should you look out for as we head into late summer and early autumn? Here are some excellent things to try for yourself, both on our menus and forthcoming overnight gourmet breaks, as well as in fields, hedgerows and food stores:
Wild Mushrooms start coming into their own in the autumn and are a favourite with chefs and foragers alike. We love them here in North Devon, where they can be abundant if you know where to look. Wild mushroom soup and Fricassee of wild mushrooms is certainly a big hit with our guests, be they confirmed carnivores or strict vegetarians.
It goes without saying that great care should be taken when picking your own mushrooms. If in doubt, leave it to the experts would be a good general rule- although there are some excellent short courses and guidebooks in existence these days (Alexander Schwab’s “Mushrooming with Confidence” is one of the very best).
Mackerel are another great favourite on our menus, making a fabulous starter. Keen anglers will tell you that the late summer and early autumn tend to produce the biggest, juiciest mackerel of all- before seas cool and they become scarce. Perhaps even more importantly, they are still present in sustainable numbers, unlike our now fragile population of wild seabass. Oven poached with ginger and rosemary by our chefs, they are superb! Or equally, they go excellently with two other early autumn staples: beetroot and watercress.
Local Game is another excellent source of tasty meat as we come to the autumn. Supplies can be highly seasonal and localized, from Devon venison to free range duck. Interestingly, many of these rich, characterful meats are now coming back into fashion as diners realise just how tasty they are- to say nothing of their sustainability and lower food miles in comparison to other produce. Our selection is often changing, so do check specials boards and our current menus.
Damsons are another fantastic bonus as we hit late summer, we Brits have been harvesting these small, sweet-yet-tart plums from pre-Roman times. They are a tough plant too, with the hedges they grow on actually cultivated deliberately in the past to deter intruders and protect other plants. Find a supply and they are great for making jams, preserves and desserts.
Apples might be something we take for granted, but this humble fruit is one of the real food treasures of the West Country. There are over 2,000 varieties of apple in England alone, which makes it all the more bizarre that we fly in supplies of uniformly dull fruit from Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa! Why not celebrate our own apples with a trip to a local orchard? Winkleigh Cider, very near to our doors, is home to the delicious (and slightly deadly) Sam’s Cider, with friendly expert staff and an onsite shop. Meanwhile, you’ll also find great local fruit on our menus in season, everywhere from the sweet menu to classic pork dishes.
For those looking for further inspiration and food events at some of the best food and drink destinations in North Devon, here are some further brilliant annual food and drink events soon to be served up…
For any seafood fan, it doesn’t get a lot better than fresh lobster. However, this tasty event goes further than simply serving up these nippy delicacies. Working in tandem with the National Lobster Hatchery of Padstow, the aim is to promote a sustainable future for these creatures, in part through a smart scheme whereby local fishermen can bring egg-laden females to the hatchery so that their young can get a safe head start in life and safeguard the next generation. Why not ‘nip’ along and see for yourself, whilst enjoying excellent local fare, family activities, cooking demonstrations and tasty local beers? More details
For anyone enjoying a short break in North Devon this September, Lynton is a pretty seaside town to drive to up on the craggier part of our coast. This annual event is rather unique among North Devon food festivals, with a whole stack of quirky, tasty local producers all in one lovely location by the sea. Grown up confectionary, devilishly good local booze and international guests are all part of the fun. See the official website for more details:
Serving a feast of fresh, beautifully cooked regional fare, Northcote Manor Hotel is one of the best places to eat in North Devon. Our chefs love to bring you the very best of the region, with a selection of excellent dishes that reflect the best of the season. We also offer regular UK gourmet breaks where guests can sample our latest five-course menus, accompanied by expertly paired wines.
Why not treat someone special to a break at one of the best foodie hotels UK-wide? With an award-winning kitchen team led by Head Chef Richie Herkes and some superb deals on luxury minibreaks in North Devon, food holidays are our speciality. See our restaurant and gourmet breaks pages for sample menus and further details.