Everyone loves this refurbished Rattery pub – the national media, the locals, the tourists, even the resident ghost. Charlie Lyon discovers why
Who doesn’t love a good old pub refurb? Out with the sticky carpets and grime, in with much-needed ventilation and sanitation – though I don’t think I can write any more about tongue and groove, heritage shades (always with an eggshell finish) or seagrass rugs, and I’m kinda bored of sitting on reclaimed, mismatched furniture, towering over my dinner date who’s teetering on a stool. I’m looking for something different. So hurrah for father-son outfit Jon and William Edwards, who have given The Church House Inn at Rattery, just on the edge of Dartmoor, a sympathetic overhaul, leaving the 11th century drinking hole traditional while turning the old stable block restaurant into an elegant haven.
In the bar area horse brasses adorn the black-painted beams, large leaded windows keep it cosy, big open fires roar during the winter, and the hefty bar looks beautifully hard carved. Apparently even the resident ghost hasn’t been unsettled by the changes, and still roams free – although he’s not about on the sunny Monday afternoon we visit.
The Church House Inn is a drinkers’ pub, as recognised in October’s 2016 Observer Food Monthly awards, where it received high praise as runner up in the ‘best place to drink in the west’ category. These guys were praised, amongst other things, for the host of local beverages they offer from four Devon breweries – Otter, Dartmoor, Hanlons and Bays – plus Luscombe Drinks, Thompstones Cider and more.
But the pub has not just been winning awards for its beverages. In the new lofty restaurant – with whitewashed walls, wooden beams, sanded-back floors, floor-to-ceiling glass and doors leading to the garden – the chef is serving up great pub dishes done exceptionally well, and this has been recognised in recent local awards, too.
Speaking of local, River Exe mussels, meats from Gribbles Butchers and Sharpham Cheeses all appear on today’s lunch menu. I kick off lunch with a ham hock terrine (£6.50), which is meaty and robust with man-sized chunks of soft and salty pork dotted with whole capers. The piccalilli is sweet with a smooth tartness, the baby veg giving just the right amount of crunch. Griddled sourdough sides and micro herbs in the leaves bring this historic dish up to date. My gal pal was quick to request the sweet potato and goat’s cheese croquettes (£6); they come, fat and oozing, and she’s delighted the chef “has in no way scrimped on the cheese”.
When it comes to mains there are a solid 10 options on the menu. My wild mushroom and truffle gnocchi (£10.50) sounds simple but is full of depth, earthy and garlicky with bijou balls of gnocchi, fried to give them texture and bite.
Opposite, the ‘catch of the day’ (read: fish and chips) transpires to be a big hunk of white fish in crisp batter with a tower of juicy, seasoned peas and a good helping of perfectly fried fingers of potato – a steal at £11.50.
Would we like to see the dessert menu? A few minutes of method acting later, politely pondering the feasibility of pushing down another course, we agree.
The blood orange posset (£5.50) is a winner, super sweet and creamy inside, and lidded with a bright layer of tart jelly. It’s an elegant affair, as is our dinner in general in the lofty dining room. But then it’s back to the bar area, where we slump down and loosen our belts in pure comfort
* The Church House Inn, Rattery, South Brent, Devon TQ10 9LD; 01364 642 220; thechurchhouseinn.co.uk