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Muddy review: The Old Warehouse, Kingsbridge

Oooh, look! Something completely unique for Devon - a stylish new cafe and meadery in the heart of Kingsbridge. No clue what a meadery is? Read on to find out!

THE LOWDOWN

The Old Warehouse is a brand-spanking new taproom and kitchen cafe, and the new home for Moonhoney, a sparking craft mead which has scooped four awards in its first ten months of trading, including Gold from Taste of the West.

Mead has moved on from the sherry-like tankards monks and Vikings used to slosh back. This is light and sparkling, a bit like a fruity cider with mild undertones of honey, a real refresher on a hot day.

Having launched online during lockdown, this is Moonhoney’s first foray into hospitality with its entrepreneurial owner, Sam (above), having joined forces with a couple of his old muckers from a local award-winning cafe.

THE LOCATION

Right in the hubbub of Kingsbridge in the South Hams, it’s tucked away in a former burger bar, just a stone’s throw from the high street and pretty quayside.

THE VIBE

It looks a bit ‘crafter’s cottage’ from the outside, but step inside and it’s all contemporary cafe, with bright colour pops and Moonhoney bottles re-purposed as vases for swishy pampas stems.

You could be forgiven at first glance for thinking it’s generically ‘insta-modern’, but get your eye in and you clock the tables, the walls and the bar are all shaped like hexagons – all handmade by a West Country designer.

It’s a subtle nod to the busy little bees which create hexagonal honeycombs and the honey for Moonhoney’s ingredients. It’s a super-strong and efficient natural storage space, a reminder of how clever bees are.

There are tables to the front and a walled beer garden to the rear, a real suntrap with exotic potted planters dotted among bistro and wooden picnic tables. The eatery’s name on the render is a nice touch too.

I’m booked in for dinner with t’other half and my brother and sister-in-law for 6pm on a Tuesday, and it’s already really busy. Barely a table empty and this is just eight days after opening. Relieved I booked! Clearly, word has spread already, and the way people are chatting to each other across tables, feels like this is after-work locals rather than tourists.

SCOFF & QUAFF

We’re in full-on heatwave mode so head outside for a picnic table. We’re given paper menus and a blackboard to peruse. I’m surprised to see no Moonhoney on the menu, and discover this is because it’s on tap here rather than by the bottle. I order a half a pint of Classic and think I quite like how here isn’t pushing Moonhoney too much. And the guys are pleased they can get other award-winning local beers on tap, including Powderkeg and Salcombe Brewery pils too.

The menu looks really exciting with a choice of smalls (no not knickers, silly), mains, desserts and a kids’ menu, with local refs to Salcombe Meat Co, South Milton tomato, and Cornish sardines. With pickled fennel, lime, basil oil and salsa verde mentions, it feels just the right salty, spicy, piquant mix for a balmy night.

We like the look of pretty much everything on the smalls menu so get a mix to share, including mozzarella, rosemary roast peaches in basil oil (above). These are warm and fabulous, without losing a jot of those soft peachy flavours.

We’re glad we get two plates of Cornish sardines to share, they’re so good. With a salsa verde, pickled fennel and blobs of black garlic, all on the side so you can choose the exact mix of ingredients to your own taste with every delicious mouthful.

I like the way the olives come dumped on the chunky homemade hummus sprinkled with pine nuts and basil oil, ready for scooping up on the warm sourdough. It’s rustic and hearty.

For mains, two of us had the lovely crispy hake which came on a more’ish bed of polenta and peas, with a parsley and tarragon sauce which cut nicely through the creaminess. It had all the comfort of risotto but none of the stodginess. Delicate but loads of flavour and all as pea-green fresh as it looks.

The beef burger was smothered in Cornish blue cheese, mustard mayo and red onions, with a really generous portion of skinny fries, and the verdict was “bl**dy lovely with a gorgeous flame taste”.

While I thought the veggie burger looked a bit bland, I’m told the tofu was super-crispy and juicy, and as satisfying as the real thing thanks to a lime mayo and pickled red onions.

In essence, we loved every morsel. The only complaint from the blokes was the picnic table seats were a bit low and made their legs ache – cushions (or younger legs!) would be an improvement. Anyway, they didn’t mind us decamping like old fogeys to a pair of velvety sofas indoors for dessert, and I’m told they’re planning more soft furnishings to make things cosier and more comfy as they head into autumn and winter.

For dessert, more peaches! Well, the starter was so good… Sorry the pic’s a bit ‘shiny 1970s cookery book’. This is confident cooking at its best, focussing on the fresh seasonal ingredients and a crunchy pistachio brittle .

The panna cotta was wonderful – bursting with berry fruit flavours, and with a garnish of not-too-chewy coconut to add some texture to the dish. Top marks.

KID-FRIENDLY

Here’s very family friendly and laidback – with four dishes on the kids’ menu, including buttermilk fried fish goujons, Mac ‘n cheese, veggie or beef burger and local Heron Valley soft drinks or a babycino.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Behind the bar, glass windows reveal the meadery where the stainless steel stills are brewing up the delicious mead. The water is heated to 70 degrees, then orange blossom honey added and then hops, ginger or elderflower to create the distinct flavour.

I chatted to Sam, wearing his trademark baseball cap as ever and he tells me while mead’s still considered a bit quirky here, it’s very fashionable as a ‘clean’ drink in California, as it uses far less water than wine in its production. And what’s fashionable over the pond, usually gets trendy here.

While production costs means he imports his honey from Valencia he’s looking forward to having his own hives locally, and also hopes to run tours and tastings soon.

We ladies both commented to each other on the quality of the loos too – ticks for the full length mirror, bespoke Salcombe Candle Company diffuser and thoughtful basket of emergency tampons (ticketty tick-tick-tick).

OUT & ABOUT

Fabulous Kingsbridge sits on the tail end of the estuary which runs down to the sea at Salcombe, eight miles away. It’s one of Muddy’s Best Places to Live for its range of indie shops and eateries, and the boaty lifestyle. If you want to get on the water, you can hire paddleboards for £18per hour from Waterborn, or do a tour of pretty Bowcombe Creek (£40pp).

If that sound too energetic, I’d recommend a mooch around the shops, especially Cocoa and Busby & Fox for lovely clothes, then walk down the waterside to The Crabshell Inn for a sundowner overlooking the estuary.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Something really exciting and unique on the South Hams foodie scene, and not just because of the meadery – this is some seriously impressive cheffing.

Good for: soaking up the sunshine and courtyard coffee culture; a lovely local beer on tap when you want to swerve the sports screens; with two entrances on the flat it’s ideal for buggies and the less mobile; grabbing a takeaway coffee or siting street side when you’re having a walk on the quay; one of the best brunch menu’s we’ve seen, including shaksuka, pancakes and, mmmm, herby crab toast.

Not for: maybe when you want to put on the glad-rags: the vibe is pretty chilled.

The damage: Starters from £7, mains from £13, desserts from £6. Our four starters, four mains and two desserts came to £99 plus drinks.

The Old Warehouse, 9-11 Prince of Wales Road, Kingsbridge TQ7 1DY Email: info@theoldwarehousekingsbridge.co.uk. Opening times: Tues – Sat 10am till late; brunch/lunch 10am – 2pm Fri & Sat; dinner Tues to Sat 5 – 8:30pm.

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