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Muddy eats out (at last): Coombe Cellars

There's no Sunday lunch like the one you don't have to cook after three months of lockdown! Muddy hotfoots it with the family to Coombe Cellars for a slap-up.

Yep, I couldn’t wait and to be honest neither could be the family after months of my ‘cooking’ so on the first Sunday they opened, it was straight to our local gastropub with my other half, two teenage kids and my dear old dad in tow.

In a bid to avoid the festering crowds, I booked us in for a 3pm sitting, but I needn’t have worried, what with the new rule of leaving an empty table between the booked ones plus it was practically empty. The bar area was a lot busier, so book in the restaurant (it’s the same menu) if you want plenty of space..

THE LOCATION

Coombe Cellars is all about the location. What makes it unique is its position, practically on the same level as the Teign Estuary, so you feel like you’re practically floating on the tides. Almost all the windows have fabulous views, both from the bar and the semi-circular sweep of glass in the restaurant, and there are always boats to see and often water-skiers braving the jump, and the Exeter-Paignton train on the banks opposite. Brilliant for armchair windsurfers.

You can arrive by dinghy, and moor up on the small wooden jetty otherwise it’s a short jaunt from the Penn Inn roundabout at Newton Abbot. Come from the Shaldon side though and its a windy road that takes you along the Teign from Shaldon, and a three-point turn to take you back on yourself to get down to the pub.

THE LOWDOWN

This Mitchells and Butlers gastropub is a pub of two halves: one side a zhuzhy-looking restaurant and the other a cosy bar. Both make for a family-friendly experience and you can bring the pooch if you sit in the bar area. It’s open from 11am to 11pm every day, and there’s a decked area outside though it can be pretty windy by the water so most people tend to stay indoors, except on really hot days.

THE VIBE

While its location makes it undeniably coastal, a recent refurb has seen them trade the driftwood decor for fashionable dark walls and brass light fittings with plush mis-matchy velvet and leather chairs. I was a fan of their rustic seaside look but the new look is gorgeous at any time of year or weather. In summer, book a window seat for views of windsurfers and boats, in winter grab a seat by the open fire near the bar.

The new Covid-safe measures mean all the pretty trimmings and table settings are gone for now, leaving bare wooden tables, paper menus and hand sanitiser by the door (it’s one of those runny ones so watch you don’t accidentally squirt it all over yourself like I did). The maximum number at a table is 6 and don’t forget, you can’t just turn up, you have to book.

An aside is I always find the staff to be really lovely and friendly, and all the more so now they’re having to douse the table next to you with liberal squirts of anti-bac, but friends tell me service can get a bit erratic (and slow) when they’re busy.

SCOFF & QUAFF

This is your classic pub nosh, Sunday roasts, burgers, battered cod and thick cut chips, with a decent vegan and kids menu, and if you’re trying to lose the lockdown-belly some of the dishes show the calories (sorry, nothing under 600). I’d been warned to expect a limited menu but there were two A-4 sides to choose from: a choice of seven starters including their new chipotle sticky chicken in a delicious chilli jam. For mains there were five different roasts including the obligatory nut, a dirty burger and six other mains, including salmon fillet, Asian crispy duck and salad and some healthy options.

The only thing missing was a couple of planned new dishes, including a healthy Moroccan bowl and a new Scotch egg, and no coffee as the beans were yet to arrive. But the fresh mint tea more than made up for the absence.

Having my own lockdown belly to deal with, I went for the vegan Nourish Bowl with the salmon as an extra topping (646 cals if you’re interested).. It tasted a lot more interesting than it looked, with a really flavourful mix of ribbons of carrot, red cabbage and grains and the salmon was gorgeously crispy. The only odd bit was the the not-very tasty (or toasty) tomato toast which seemed like an unnecessary addition of carbs to quite a filling meal.

My daughter was really looking forward to the plant-based burger which she ate last time and it didn’t disappoint, and I can vouch for the skinny fries too (“Look Emma, the windsurfer just fell off his board!”).

Everyone else went for the line-caught cod with thick-cut chips and a pea puree. My dad is a fish and chips aficionado, I’m sure he’d have it for breakfast if he could, and he said the fish was perfect – crispy and moist.

For dessert, the chocolate and hazelnut bomb is a reason to visit all on its own, just for the spectacle of exploding the chocolate sphere with the hot sauce. It is however the most expensive dessert on the menu at £8.25 and very rich. Not a problem if you like deliciously gooey, chocolatey things though.

KID-FRIENDLY?

Yes, it’s family-friendly with plenty of space, 8 choices, including the usuals and curry and linguine, on the children’s menu and a roast option on Sunday.

OUT & ABOUT

The foreshore is part of the 29km of the historic Templer Way, a mix of estuary, moors and woodland which made up the 18th century route by which granite was transported from Dartmoor to the docks at nearby Teignmouth. It takes 10 hours to walk, so for something more manageable head to the village of Shaldon (above) where you can stroll along the beach.

If you want to see how the other half live, head up to the free Homeyards Botanical Garden overlooking the town to see what your view of Teignmouth and the Teign would be (above) if you lived in one of the million pound houses.

If you fancied making a romantic stay of it, Tidelands Boathouse is just up the road in the village of Coombeinteignhead, with river views and an option on a wood-fired hot tub.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Your classic family gastropub in a stunning waterside setting, with prices that reflect the location. This isn’t their fault, but stripping out the frills and having a paper menu makes everything feel more cafe-like so the food has to work really hard to make it feel worth the price and this was perfectly good but nothing special.

Good for: Sunday lunch with the family; drinks with the girls; couples nights out; first dates (you can always talk about the view).

Not for: a secret liaison; hydrophobes; people who don’t like driving through narrow country lanes.

The damage: Starters from £6.25, Sunday roast from £13.50, mains from £10.75, fish and chips £13.75. Our meal cost £133 for the five of us, including four starters, five mains and two desserts with two rounds including soft and alcoholic drinks.

The Coombe Cellars, Combeinteignhead, Newton Abbot, Devon, TQ12 4RT Tel: 01626 872423

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