The Riverbank Bar Bistro, Bideford

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Situated at the ‘East of the Water’ end of the ancient Torridge Bridge in Bideford, you will find The Riverbank Bar Bistro. Chef Proprietor James Priestley is at the helm of this foodie venture, and by the sounds of it, he’s carving out his own niche right here in North Devon. James moved down from Yorkshire and has been living locally for over 2 decades, acquiring The Riverbank 2 years ago. He’s friendly, approachable, but professional and ably assisted by a small but effective team.

The Riverbank, as you would have guessed by the name, sits right on the banks of the River Torridge, and with a sundeck to the rear you can observe the very same river slip silently and peacefully by. On a sunny afternoon, with one’s favourite tipple in hand and in the company of friends or indeed a loved one, I would imagine it would be utterly delightful.

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Invited to partake of the inaugural Greek Night for 2018, my appetite was already whetted as I prepared myself for my very own Hellenic odyssey. It’s not every night you can sample some tasty Greek food in North Devon now, is it? I asked James about his inspiration for holding Greek nights at The Riverbank, and he said: “I was lucky and privileged to have worked with some top Greek chefs so that is where my passion comes from.”

With glass of chilled beer in hand, I dived straight in and ordered the Garlic and Lime Chicken Kebab, which is described as a ‘Char grilled chicken kebab with garlic & coriander sauce and salad leaves.’ Well all I can say is that it did exactly what it says on the proverbial tin, so to speak. In fact the aforementioned chicken kebabs were nothing less than deliciously garlicky, limey and full of flavour. Other starters on offer were, Keftedes (Spicy Meat Balls) and a Traditional Greek Salad.

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Next on the menu, was the Marinated Chilli Salmon Fillet. In the menu I read this: ‘Marinated for 12 hours in chilli, coriander, garlic, citrus and honey.’ The highly marinated, and perfectly cooked salmon was laid upon a bed of Mediterranean rice and served with warm pitta bread accompanied by juicy wedges of lemon and lime on top. This was most satisfying and like the starter, looked thoroughly tempting on the plate.

Alternatively, I could have chosen a ‘Greek Butterfly Sirloin Steak,’ ‘Beef Stiffado,’ or even ‘Oven Baked Greek Chicken Breast.’ Admittedly, I’m no expert when it comes to Greek cuisine (sadly, it’s been 14 long years since my last Hellenic adventure), but I reckon this is a jolly nice offering for the people of North Devon, and makes a refreshing change. The menu overall was fairly compact, but I think there was enough on offer to tempt most palates.

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Not exactly Greek, but I concluded my night with a delicious homemade chocolate brownie (lovingly created by James’ wife, Vicky) with a pot of clotted cream, both situated at the opposite ends of a long, narrow plate with a winding river of chocolate sauce in between. I was by this stage imbibing a sumptuous glass of Argentinian Malbec, which is described in the notes as: ‘Fair Trade and Organic, lovely rich chocolatey Malbec with structure and spiciness from the Bonarda.’ I think that sounds like a pretty good match to me…

I would judge the evening to be a great success, and would certainly consider returning in the not too distant future. I definitely recommend that you check this place out as I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! Greek nights in 2018, are every Thursday, April to September.

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The #EatExmoor Food & Drink Trade Show

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Wednesday 7th February sees the inaugural Eat Exmoor Food & Drink trade show, at the Beach Hotel in Minehead. The #EatExmoor initiative is a joint project from the Exmoor National Park and Visit Exmoor; the tourism authority for this special area. Local producers, chefs and hospitality providers are invited along for a day of networking, cooking demonstrations, informative, interesting and helpful talks about how to maximise your business, in and around the national park.

The day will also be celebrating the launch of the #EatExmoor Guide and the #EatExmoor Marketing Toolkit. So, if you are connected to the hospitality industry in the Exmoor area, you know where to come: The Beach Hotel, Minehead 10-4pm. Click on the link below for the day’s programme of events.

The #EatExmoor Food & Drink Trade Show Programme of Events

The Dunster Show

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On Friday 18th August, the 171st Dunster Show will be held once again in the fields nestling behind Dunster Castle. Always a great success and highly enjoyable, this annual Somerset country fair is set to attract thousands of visitors once again. And there will of course be a cookery demonstration organised and led by Chefs Andrew Dixon and Olivier Certain. Joining them this year for the second year now will be Ed Heard along with newcomers to the cookery demo, Ellis Pannell and Barrie Tucker. See you there!

http://www.thedunstershow.co.uk/

Download the John Raby’s Food & Travel flyer here

Espresso Seafood Bar and Grill.

There’s nothing better than whiling away a few hours by the seaside. And there’s also nothing better than dining in the company of long standing friends too.

On a hot, sunny afternoon Andrew and I came to the Espresso Seafood Bar and Grill in Ilfracombe, on the beautiful North Devon coast. Thankfully, a gentle sea breeze was in attendance to cool things down. 

A discussion about oysters ensued between us, and soon enough we were drawn inexorably to the Deluxe Shellfish Platter – which is what we ordered. Tempted by a spread of Lobsters, Oysters, Crab, Crevettes, Clams, Prawns, Scallops, Mussels and Cockles; you can see it wasn’t a difficult choice to make. 

Now this is where I have to come clean. Shamefully, for someone who has lived on the coast most of their life, I have to grudgingly admit that I am indeed an oyster virgin. Thought I’d just get that one out of the way. Well I was until yesterday anyway. 

I think what I want to say at this point is: “Oysters, where have you been all my life?” Well my friend Andy, who is also a top, local chef showed me the way: Grab the oyster shell, squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon on the aforementioned mollusc, add some shallot vinegar and a tiny smidgen of fiery tobacco and it’s down the hatch. 

That was definitely a culinary watershed for me because later on that day, I was pining for oysters again. “Where for at thou o clam of my desire?” Hmmm, I guess they’ll have to wait for the next trip out, which now can’t come soon enough. 

Further instruction was received from my friend and fellow foodie on dismembering the crab and lobster too (I clearly need to get out more), which proved to be yet another culinary voyage of discovery. And a very tasty one at that too.

I wish you could have been there because the smell of the sea was powerfully wafting off the two tier tray in front of us. This isn’t a particularly cheap offering, but worth every penny. If you love seafood, you’ll be in heaven. 

Washed down with a classic bottle of chilled white, it was just the ticket for a sunny day at the seaside. I also enjoyed a Samuel Adams Boston Lager too, which is a rare find in these parts. It was altogether agreeable, and nice to see it make an appearance after discovering it for the first time on a trip to New York a few years ago. 

No doubt I shall be returning for a repeat performance and I encourage you to try it yourself. This surely is what life on the North Devon coast is all about: locally sourced, fresh produce pulled straight from the ocean and lovingly served with impeccable presentation and flair.