Pub Grub With A Twist

Penny Flood checks out new The Devonshire Arms

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It’s happened, The Devonshire Arms has finally opened its doors after its latest refurb and it’s gone back to its roots, as a proper pub albeit with a classy restaurant attached.

It’s also the second pub for Nick Gibson who’s first pub, The Drapers Arms in Islington, has had lots of people saying nice things about it, so it looks like he know what he’s doing.

First impressions were good. It was only the second week of opening and already there was a nice buzz with drinkers at one end and diners at the other but it wasn’t a strict demarcation, some people were drinking in the dining area, which give the place a nice relaxed feel.

Had the weather been better there would have more of a mix as diners and drinkers could make the most of the lovely garden.

To make sure that the refurbed The Devonshire Arms had everything in place for its official opening, all the food was half price for the previous week and, unsurprisingly, that seems to have made Nick a lot of friends already. Plus it seems to have ironed out most of the glitches.

The menu is interesting. There was a choice of seven dishes for starters which included pigeon breast with hazelnut and frisée salad and smoked eel with smoked bacon and quails eggs, scallops with shaved fennel and piccalilli and fennel soup. You get the gist. We chose duck rillettes with toast and pickled plum tomatoes and mixed beetroot and goats curd. The rillettes was deliciously juicy but it only came with one small slice of toast which wasn’t enough. The beetroots and goats curd was lovely, earthy red and golden beetroot blending well with the creamy curd.

The theme seems to pub grub with a twist which knocks it up a couple of notches into the above average class,be and it works.

There were three vegetarian dishes in the starters but there was less choice in the mains as the only thing on offer was girolle and samphire risotto. This was actually very nice, especially the samphire which I’ve never tasted before, but a bit more choice for vegetarians would be nice as well. My companion, a meat eater, went for the calf’s liver with red spring onion mash with sage butter and we also had mixed salads.

He declared the very large portion of liver excellent with a mix of tender and crispy meat. It was, he said, far better than the usual liver and mash you’d expect to get at pubs.
There are eight main course dishes to choose from – for fish eaters there was Cornish mackerel with broad bean relish, pea shoots and lemon salad, and whole sea bass with fennel, watercress, samphire and new potatoes. That’s for two people which makes the £30 price tag quite reasonable. As well as the liver, for carnivores there’s grilled bavette, breast of lamb, slow roast belly port and duck breast, all accompanied by interesting vegetables.

But, however delicious the first two courses, they were surpassed by the puddings because they’ve got salted caramel ice cream on the menu. Salted caramel ice cream is the food of the gods and if you’ve never tasted it get down to the DevonshireArms and try it. It came with a dark chocolate brownie but I took that home, the ice cream was sufficient. They told me later that if I’d asked they would have swapped the brownie for a second scoop of ice cream, a very good reason to return.

My partner’s crème brûlée was a bit overshadowed by the salted caramel ice cream but it was declared excellent as well. It had a lovely crust of burnt sugar with yielded with a very satisfying crack when bashed with a spoon. And on the inside, it was just what it as meant to be, creamy . No surprises, it was a good crème brûlée.

There are lots of pudding to choose from and they include watermelon with mint pannacotta, Campari syrup and honey water; lemon possett with blackberries and shortbread; chocolate fondant with cherries and ice cream and Pecan and Jack Daniels tart with vanilla mascarpone. There’s also a cheese selection with home-made chutney.

A big wine list starts with prices in the mid-teens going on up to expensive. There’s plenty to choose from at the bottom end and we went for a Spanish Tempranillo Rose for £15 and we were very pleased with it. Plenty of rosé summer fruitiness with a bit of a kick.

The service was charming and enthusiastic

If I sound as if we had a good time, that’s because we did. The Devonshire has been empty for far too long and it was beginning to look derelict, so it’s good to see it restored as a proper boozer with a nice restaurant.

Our bill came to around £80 without service.

Penny Flood

July 27, 2011