FOLLOW THE BEAR
Having recently been a Grand Finalist in the Food Magazine Awards Best Foodie Pub category and holder of a Gold Taste of the West Award, I was super keen to try The Bear and Blacksmith just down the coast from us in the village of Chillington.
Since taking over about 15 months ago Malcolm (Head Chef and Landlord), Claire (Chief Veggie Grower and Landlady) and their team have created a friendly and welcoming pub for locals and visitors alike, their purpose being to “serve you locally grown fresh food bursting with flavour”. Well they have certainly achieved that … and more. Taking the concept of food miles to a whole new level – you could probably walk to most of their main suppliers – the vegetables come from their own kitchen garden next to the pub, lamb, pork and poultry from their own small holding 3 miles up the road and fish from the Salcombe local day boat “Hustler”.
We decided to go for a late Sunday lunch with friends as even though I love sitting down to a comforting roast dinner I hate cooking them! The waiting staff were welcoming, friendly, clearly love working there and despite having been asked the question of how the pub came by its name probably a hundred times were happy to impart this knowledge with good grace.*
The reassuringly small menu offered some tasty classics such as steak and rustic chips, fresh fish of the day and a Penang vegetable curry. Great on any other day of the week but this was Sunday so we all honed in on the Specials Board (chalked up inside a gilt frame) which ticked all the boxes. I happily tucked into creamy wild mushrooms on sourdough toast for starters (as did most of my fellow diners) and main course was a no-brainer as the first thing on the menu was roast rib of beef. I didn’t get any further down the list!
The grass fed Dexter beef which comes from a farm a few miles down the road in Slapton and is supplied by the Salcombe Meat Company, was cooked to perfection with a melting crust of fat and served in generous proportions. The accompaniments didn’t disappoint either – the roast potatoes were crispy with soft, pillowy insides, the cauliflower cheese (controversial with a roast dinner but to me an absolute must) rich and creamy and the yorkshire puddings lighter and fluffier than anything a certain Aunt could make. Alongside these were 3 more bowls of fresh, home-grown vegetables – kale with roast parsnip chunks, creamy leeks and a gorgeous bowl of lightly spiced jewelled red cabbage.
I can’t tell you what any of the other menu items were like as we all choose beef but the fish and chips delivered to the next table looked (and smelt) amazing.
Despite groaning about how full we were we perked up at the sight of the pudding menu and decided we could probably squeeze one in – hubby is adamant that he has a separate pudding stomach anyway. I can never resist a cheesecake and this salted caramel version was sublime. Beautifully smooth and creamy without being sickly or cloying, the dots of vibrant red raspberry coulis adding that sharp contrast needed to punch through the pudding’s richness. The downfall of many a Masterchef contestant, the chocolate fondant was proclaimed to be “the best ever” by one friend and paired with a lip smackingly delicious honeycomb ice-cream.
The decor is clean and simple with quirky lighting and pops of colour provided by vases of fresh spring flowers. I loved the comfy sofa corner where if time had allowed we could have relaxed with the Sunday papers and a post prandial glass of port (or two) … but we had to get back to the hound!
I can see this pub becoming a regular for many people – us included – and imagine a lot more awards will come their way in the future. So I for one will certainly Follow the Bear with interest.
GO IF … you want fantastic food, sourced locally in a friendly atmosphere at a very reasonable price
MDD LIKES … that they have built their own butchery and a trained butcher in the kitchen
*apparently there used to be a Blacksmith next door that kept a bear chained up outside – thankfully times have moved on and the only things on a leash today were the dogs who are welcome in the bar area