For Alan Boddington, the Poltimore Inn at North Molton has been a labour of love. Resurrected from almost certain commercial & culinary death, Alan has worked tirelessly to produce a beautiful venue to eat and drink in that is entirely fit for purpose.
The moment you walk into this delightful country pub, nestling as it does on the fringes of Exmoor National Park, you at once feel at home. Although the Poltimore Inn has been refurbished to a very high standard, that doesn’t detract from its warm welcome in any way at all.
My daughter Sophie and I were looking forward to this review immensely, as the Poltimore has in more recent times gained a somewhat loyal and faithful following. Having met with Alan and taken a tour of the lovely B&B rooms upstairs and the beautiful, self-contained flat downstairs, we were ushered into the restaurant to sample what was on offer that night.
The restaurant itself is notable in that through the large, gaping windows, it commands an excellent view of the valley and rolling landscape beyond, that is so North Devon. Having settled in for the night, glass of Westcountry cloudy cider in hand, our eyes were soon drawn to the interesting and varied menu.
Whilst Sophie opted for the Warm breads and Balsamic vinegar to begin with, I was irresistibly drawn to the Crispy Pig Cheeks (much nicer than it sounds!), accompanied by Fennel Mayo, Pickled Fennel, Rocket, Crackling and Salad. I have to say that this was just delicious and an appetising gateway to the rest of the night’s proceedings.
Conversely, Sophie’s trio of breads, including a wedge of Focaccia with rosemary & caramelised onions was an equally tasty treat. Chefs Tom Allbrook, Lynda Festa and their team in the kitchen were certainly on a winning track tonight.
Moving on, we both opted for typical pub fare, unpretentious but flavoursome. Sophie chose without hesitation the Polti Loaded Burger. I think ‘loaded’ in this instance was entirely justified, for upon this man-size chunk of homemade beefburger were Crispy Smoked Bacon, Caramelised Onion, Swiss Cheese and Coleslaw, served in between the comforting layers of a gourmet burger bun.
This was attended by the curiously named Duck Fat Chips, which were the lovely, hand cut skin-on variety, which received a dutiful dusting of rock salt to bring out the flavour. Well Gary Rhodes, erstwhile celebrity chef, always said that food is all about the flavour, and he was definitely right on that score. Interestingly, this meal came with chef’s own homemade Smoked Chilli, Ginger and Tomato Ketchup. Great.
Me? Well I went for something different, yet similar. I selected, after not too much thought I have to concede, the intriguing Texas Brisket, glazed with homemade Sticky Bourbon BBQ Sauce. This came sandwiched in a Brioche Roll, along with those appetising Duck Fat Chips again, and served in a trendy mini-metal pail (that’s a bucket for the likes of you and me).
The Brisket & BBQ sauce combo was unusual treat. Delightfully meaty, sweet and smoky and oh-so-tender. Tom tells me that he Brisket is marinated overnight (in his own dry rub), then smoked at length and slow cooked during the course of the next day. It’s a painstaking process but worth the effort. If you fancy something a little different, go for this option.
I should interject at this point that once the glass of cloudy cider was drained to its dregs, I managed to quaff a few mouthfuls of a rich & velvety Sangiovese, from the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy. And since I am going on holiday there later in the year with my other daughter, it was of special interest. I was not in the least disappointed with my choice of this excellent wine on offer.
Now reaching the summit of our culinary adventures, I felt the call of the Chocolate Brownie, with Vanilla Ice Cream and Warm Chocolate Sauce speaking to me loudly from the menu card. The Brownie was homemade, and if all that sounds like a mouth-watering feast of texture and flavour, you’d be right on the money. It was fantastic, and that is not an overstatement for the cynical amongst you!