The Treby Arms, Sparkwell
I've been licking the plate again at the Muddy Award-winning pub and restaurant in Sparkwell.
There’s a reason they call The Treby Arms a Destination Pub. Unless you’ve been poring over the pages of the Trencherman’s Guide or browsing the country’s top 50 Gastropubs, or, of course, you’re a Muddy reader (in which case you’re just ‘on it‘), you’d be unlikely to stumble upon this little find en-route to somewhere.
A hundred years ago, I once worked close enough to the pub to be able to nip there for a Friday lunchtime treat of scampi and chips*. But for others, the quiet, pretty village of Sparkwell lies just beyond Plympton on the outskirts of Plymouth and on the south-western fringes of Dartmoor. I say ‘quiet’, although if the wind’s blowing in the right direction, you might pick up the odd roar of a lion, or monkey call, since the other big draw of the village is Dartmoor Zoo, nearby. You can reach it easily from the A38 and beyond, although take the single-track road in to the village steady, or better still, let a taxi do that bit.
*I’ve seen the Treby Arms go through some changes over the years, hence once upon a time gorging on its cheap and cheerful pub grub. Now, of course, it takes about five minutes to get through the awards and accolades list (ahem, Muddy Award for Best Restaurant taking pride of place among them!) And yet, throughout its life in various guises, it’s remained reassuringly familiar – a warm, cosy country pub. Full of locals of a lunchtime and an evening, downstairs is all about low ceilings, log burners, exposed brick and slate floors, whilst upstairs under the beams, next to the action in the kitchen is a pared back, neutral, countrified space with animal skins and stags adorning the walls.
The team running this place – and I mean every single one of them we encountered – were super-friendly, professional and tight. It’s no wonder the place was chocker by 7.30pm on a drizzly Thursday evening.
It’s been no secret locally that former Masterchef winner Anton Piotrowski departed the Treby recently. Having gained its Michelin Star and stellar reputation with Anton at the helm, I should imagine it’s been a fairly interesting time for the restaurant and the team. Have past guests hesitated about re-booking? Is the Michelin star still deserved? Is there any point in going if Anton’s signature Treby’s Gone Carrots pud is off the menu? These are all valid questions, people! But rest assured, I come bearing the scoop in dollopy-form.
First, who’s cooking? Luke Fearon (previously of the Horn of Plenty near Tavistock) is the new head chef leading the kitchen team and, although he’s had to follow a tough act, he’s totally breezed it in my opinion. Me and Mr Muddy were invited to try a special taster menu and here’s what we scoffed:
First to the table, Plymouth mackerel, with Yuzu puree, oyster emulsion, oscietra caviar and bronze fennel. I’m just going to be honest here: some of these words I’d never heard before and, I’m not a huge fishy fan, certainly not tempted by caviar, but my god, this was amazing. And look, look at that presentation!
Next out of the kitchen, bread. Jacka Bakery bread. Which means very, very good bread. Accompanied by mushroom and marmite and salted french butters. Again, can’t stand marmite, loved this.
Third to the table, hallibut with sea vegetables and a toasted pine nut butter sauce. Salivating yet?
And then, to the meat course – Sladesdown Farm duck breast, with boudin, pomme dauphine, tenderstem and a duck and rape seed sauce. You’d think I would be struggling by now, wouldn’t you?
And then to the grand finale. Chocolate-lovers, calm yourselves and then take a gander at this dark chocolate, valrhona dulcey and white chocolate with dark chocolate ice cream.
Basically, heaven on a plate.
It was seriously good food and, to the judges who decided this wasn’t their year for Michelin Star, I blow a big fat raspberry at them. I have to say, hats off to Luke, Callum and the team, who worked the entire restaurant, making everybody feel like they were the only customers in the place. The service matched the food, as far as me and Mr Muddy were concerned.
Well, yes, it totally is, high chairs and all. But there isn’t a children’s menu, so small tummies will be served smaller portions from the menu (although the kitchen can adapt some dishes for younger ones). I can imagine that family meals work well here, although you can’t beat this place for a romantic dins for two, or for impressing visiting friends.
Out & About
Despite it’s tucked-away position, there’s plenty to do in these parts. Go walking on Dartmoor (nearby Ivybridge is the gateway to the moors), visit the zoo, head ten minutes back up the A38 to Ashburton and browse the antique shops, or hit Plymouth for a stroll along the Hoe for a blast of fresh air and check out the awesome ‘Wave’ of poppies while you’re there (displayed until mid-Nov).
The Muddy Verdict
Good for: serious foodies, especially those looking for a top-notch menu with a twist; those out to impress someone special or a VIP guest; small gatherings of friends or family; those looking to enjoy fine dining in cosy surroundings, where you can dress as casual or as glam as you like.
Not for: Pub-lovers who salivate at the sight of classics like a rack of ribs, lasagne and scampi on the menu.
£££: It’s fine dining prices, but hey, this is mighty fine food. Expect to pay from £9 for starters and from £25 for a main, with puds at around £11 on the a la carte menu. A 3-course set lunch is £25 and a taster menu is £70.
The Treby Arms, Sparkwell, Plympton, PL7 5DD, Tel: 01752 837363. Open Wed – Sun for lunch and dinner (bar snacks all day). thetrebyarms.co.uk