Devon review: The Pig and Pallet

The mac and cheese is a cheesy triumph, clearly oven baked, and containing nuggets of crispy chorizo chunks and bacon pieces

Perfectly capturing the vibe of an Outback shack, this is a place to fill your boots with big, meaty and heartily flavoured man-sized dishes, says Lauren Heath

On the east side of the River Exe lies the small but perfectly formed estuary port of Topsham, with a selection of specialist shops and fine restaurants as well as an excellent antique centre. As you approach what feels like the end of the town, where the quay comes into its own, you’ll find an unassuming and beautifully simple stone building. On entry into this former sail loft, you are transported somewhere unique; surrounded by wood, the interior has been lovingly renovated using recycled pallets and scaffolding boards with great attention to detail yet very little fuss. 

Owned and run by the founders of the award winning artisan charcuterie company, Good Game, The Pig and Pallet has been open for just under a year and really does bring something different to Topsham: high quality and affordable artisan food that appeals to everyone, and a very cool vibe.

They keep their own slowly reared pigs at Powderham, buying additional pigs from one or two other local farms when necessary, but choosing only native breeds. All game is shot wild, and the Devon Red Ruby beef comes from Darts Farm, just a mile away. They are currently the only approved producer of cured meats in the UK who work 100% free of nitrate and additives – meaning their burgers, bacon and sausages don’t technically count as processed food.

The offering consists of the ‘BBQ Menu’ and ‘Everything Else’: the former includes burgers, a pulled pork sandwich, smoked BBQ meat platter, the Devon Dog and the herbivore burger for vegetarians; the latter of starters and nibbles includes pâté, rillettes, ribs, a cured meat sharing platter and mac and cheese. There are children’s options as well with lots of ways to ‘pimp my burger’. This is topped up with a small specials menu, which includes two starters and three mains.

Whilst deciding on our food choices, we browsed the local drinks on offer, which include ales on tap by Powderkeg, craft lager from Hunters Brewery, bottles from Emal Brewery, wine from Big Jim’s Topsham Wine, and spirits such as Exmoor’s Wicked Wolf gin and a Cornish vodka. Being a school night, we happily settled on a half a Powderkeg ale and a bottle of Emal Brewery’s Legio. 

For starters we decided to tuck in and share the sharing meat platter (£6) and the mac and cheese with meaty bits (£5.50). A beautiful selection of cured meat served on a rustic wooden board arrived at the table, accompanied by some excellent local toasted bread and even tastier butter. The mac and cheese is a cheesy triumph, clearly oven baked, and containing nuggets of crispy chorizo chunks and bacon pieces – though this is also available as a vegetarian version.

For mains, my dining partner, SH, did not hesitate in choosing the 16 hour smoked BBQ chuck steak (£13.50). This is a slow cooked Devon Red Ruby beef chuck served in a corn bun, with a celeriac and carrot coleslaw and grease-free fries. I opted for one of my favourite meats, and chose the wild Dartmoor venison burger (£12.50). Our waitress kindly suggested adding the Swiss cheese for a bit of extra oomph, and she was right. Both mains went down very well, with the meat being incredibly tender and flavoursome. SH, who is not a lover of fatty meat, commented on how the chuck was so well smoked that the small amount of marbling melted instantly in the mouth. 

We couldn’t resist having a side, as there were P and P Hash Browns (£6.50) on the specials – a generous portion of hash brown balls, laced with the fragrant rosemary and served with the most delicious chipotle mayo, well balanced with heat and a lime kick.

With its large tables, cosy sail cloth cushion corners, board games and children’s toy box, cookbooks to read and relaxed décor, The Pig & Pallet captures the atmosphere of a cool outback shack, but with the quality, care and attention to detail of the Devon artisans who own it. And the food…? Well, it speaks for itself.