Cool pubs: The Leaping Salmon
by Melissa Stewart
08 March 2019
We venture to Dartmoor and lunches at the Leaping Salmon – a refreshingly different village pub
With so many traditional country pubs closing and so many millennials and gen Z-ers ditching the booze in favour of more wholesome lifestyles, it takes some confidence to save an old pub in a quiet Dartmoor village from the clutches of the Co-op. But that’s exactly what 20-something school chums Fred Andrews and Max Phillips have done, reopening the pub The Leaping Salmon with Fred’s dad, Chris, and offering something a bit different from your usual pub experience. Max heads up the kitchen, while Fred mans front of house.
From the outside, The Leaping Salmon looks like your typical village pub and inside it retains its period character, with exposed brick walls and a gorgeous vast stone fireplace, complete with wood burning stove. But the venue is given a contemporary edge with orange and petrol blue paintwork and minimalist furniture. And, behind the bar and in the kitchen is a hip young team, looking to make their mark.
The Leaping Salmon doubles up as a pub and a café, the café being open in the summer months and attracting those looking for breakfast, lunch or a coffee and a slice of homemade cake. We visit on a balmy Sunday afternoon in February (yup, never thought I’d say those words), with the beer garden out back full of punters having lunch and watching the activity in the allotment garden above, where the team are busy planting veg for the coming year.
We take a seat inside, admiring the collection of quirky Toby jugs on the bar and in the windows, and scan the day’s menu, written on a chalkboard. This isn’t a pub with a huge range of options; they stick to a few dishes per day, depending on the fresh produce available. Everything is cooked fresh to order; there’s no frozen chips or lasagnes here. Two courses are £19, or three for £22. On Sundays, they stick to the tried and tested pub roast formula – lamb, pork or cauliflower – with an additional special of mussels and chips. For starters, there’s a choice of smoked mackerel pâté, Jerusalem artichoke soup or pork terrine and pickles.
I go for the mackerel, while my tablemate goes for the terrine. The mackerel pâté is presented atop a hunk of homemade sourdough. Pickled rhubarb adds an acidic punch to the creamy fish, while peppery horseradish gives a lasting bite. Pork terrine is a British countryside staple, and this one doesn’t disappoint; lusciously meaty and paired with tangy pickles, it certainly packs in the flavour.
As it’s such a sunny day, I forego the usual Sunday roast for Exmoor mussels and chips. Contrary to popular belief, British mussels are actually in season during the colder winter months, rather than during the summer, and these from the Devon coastline are plump, juicy and full of flavour. The chips are worth a mention too, perfectly crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside and scrummy dunked into the pub’s homemade tomato ketchup. Across the table, my dining partner goes for a lamb roast and all the trimmings. The meat is succulent and tender and infused with mint, served alongside carrot, kale, potato, red cabbage and tenderstem broccoli. It’s a classy and contemporary take on the traditional pub roast.
Attempts to be ‘good’ are thrown out the window, as we both go for dessert. Me: a sticky toffee pud, and he: a chocolate tart – both British pub staples. As with the rest of the day’s food, there’s a wonderful homemade quality to the final course. The sticky toffee pud is as it should be: light and fluffy sponge smothered in a rich, sweet toffee sauce, while the chocolate torte is rich but not too heavy, topped with clotted cream.
The Leaping Salmon is onto a good thing. It’s a traditional pub, appealing to locals looking for a few drinks in relaxed, unpretentious surroundings, while at the same time serving up top-notch freshly cooked food that’s a step above your normal pub fodder. The addition of the café is a bonus, appealing to walkers and cyclists passing through Horrabridge on their way to explore Dartmoor. Plus, there are three double rooms to rent upstairs, should you wish to rest your head for the night. It’s great to see two young-ish local lads having a go at a notoriously tricky trade and putting their own refreshing spin on it. We wish them all the very best.
The Leaping Salmon, Whitchurch Road, Horrabridge, Yelverton, PL20 7TN; 01822 851 54