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Review: The Depot Eatery

Muddy puts pedal to the metal and motors to The Depot, a former garage and service station at Mullacott Cross near Ilfracombe. Fill her up, baby!

THE LOCATION

Say hey y’all to The Depot, a brand-new American-style diner close to the North Devon coast, just off the Mullacott Roundabout where roads cross to Ilfracombe, Lee and Braunton. From the outside it still has the profile of the garage it once was but when Muddy heard all the good reports, I did a handbrake turn and headed in.

Never mind the lack of kerb appeal, inside and it’s well hello! Never judge a book by its cover, ladies, because this L-shaped urban diner is a delight. Leather chairs as comfy as the cockpit in a Bentley Continental, a wood-burner for coffee and paper breaks, neon signs and block prints. Trendy Docklands meets Devon.

 

THE LOWDOWN

Once a petrol filling station, now an all-day, one-stop eatery:a cafe come bar/restaurant all rolled into one uber-chic road-stop. Up until this spring it went by the name of Cook Island, but was given a major refurb by the owners and re-opened as The Depot in April 2019.

It’s owned by the same family who’ve had The Thatch at Croyde for the last 30 years, a popular spot for locals and the London surfer crowd who come back year after year for their famed Mexican nachos. They now own four eateries in the area, including Billy Budds also at Croyde and The Sawmills near Ilfracombe, so they’re obviously doing something – make that a lotta things – right.

 

THE VIBE

Think Devon does Easy Rider. You walk into a large foyer with a classic James motorbike over the door. Inside the decor is pared-back and industrial, with natural muted tones, reclaimed wood and pops of colour in the bench seating. The spacious open-plan layout is divided into four areas: low leather seating by the fire, a long sweep of a bar next to an open galley kitchen where can sit and watch the action; high tables with stools and colourful bench seating overlooking the exterior.

Open-plan can leave me cold – literally – but here felt wonderfully warm and cosy, thanks to the underfloor heating. And that well-stocked bar gave me a nice warm feeling too.

Doors open at 9am every day making it a great place for morning coffee with the gals or a convenient meeting place where you could find a quiet corner and thrash out that big dollar deal.

Out with a tribe of young teens? You couldn’t pick a better place. It’s worth taking the old dears too, thanks to the easy free parking right outside, and what they might call ‘talking points’. A total crowd pleaser.

 

SCOFF & QUAFF

Expect a good range of options depending on what time you go – brunch is on the menu till 4pm with trendy squashed avocado and shaksouka available. Lunch and dinner is fast food heaven, along with pub faves like fish and chips, lasagne, pies, mac & cheese. The ideal hangover hoover *I imagine*.

Burgers, Mexican nachos, pizza and tacos aren’t normally my cuppa tea but if you eye up the menu, it’s all quality. Here’s 100% beef hand-reared on Exmoor with low food miles and low carbon footprint; pizza dough made on site, bread from local bakeries; fish landed fresh from Appledore, Ilfracombe and the South Devon coast. All local and low guilt.

I ordered a roasted white pizza: tomato-free and flavoured with wild mushroom, which was deee-licioous. The dough is proven overnight, then cooked up fast and furious in the wood-fired oven for a smoky taste. It’s a big ‘un too, you could feed three kids easily or share between two adults.

My lunch date went for chicken tacos, served with three floured tortilla for a construct-yourself style lunch. The tray underneath is the size of a kitchen tray to give you an idea of the portions. Do wear your stretchy trews.

Drinks-wise, there is far more on offer there than your average diner: an extensive collection of local gins, a dozen beers, ciders and ales on tap, quality natural preservative-free soft tipples from Belvoir Fruit Farms. (Look at the health – a Muddy first!)

Room for pudding? How about key lime pie, waffles and choccy fudge cake, all good ol’ American style staples.

 

KID-FRIENDLY?

It gets all the ticks for the food, opps for colouring and baby-changing. If you went there when it was the old Cook Island you might be disappointed the soft-play area has been removed (yay!) but the space is baggy enough for a play-date with mates and a convoy of push-chairs in tow. They’re happy to heat up baby food for you too.

 

ANYTHING ELSE?

Depot has partaaaay written all over it, but there’s no plans to hire it out as a venue. They do have live music and open mic nights and the good news is they’re hoping to fit out upstairs for hire, but it’s still early days.

They also work with Surfers against Sewage and Plastic Free North Devon so recycle pretty much everything, and their food waste goes into an anaerobic digester and the energy produced goes back into the local grid.

 

OUT & ABOUT

Beaches, cliffs, walking, surfing – loads for outdoorsy types with England’s biggest sand dune system at Braunton Burrows and surf shops and good cafes 6 miles down the road. Pop to Ilfracombe for a boat-trip and to ogle Damien Hirst’s awesome 20m bronze statue, Verity, brandishing her sword and pregnant belly over the harbour. In-the-know locals head to Lee Bay for rock pooling and picnics 4 miles away. Head 20 minutes inland and you’re on Exmoor, or on rainy days and you’ve got kids in tow, head to The Big Sheep or up round the coast for old-worlde charm and a ride on the cliff railway at Lynton and Lynmouth.

 

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: holiday pitstops when you’re on the road; Fido – it’s dog-friendly; winter Sunday lunch or summer cream teas with the rellies; a quick fix when the oven *or cook* is broken. Veggies, vegans and coeliacs. Non-drivers and boozers – the bus stops right outside; themed nights, including curry Fridays.

Not for: the view, you’re right on the A361; fine dining, it’s a linen-free zone.

The damage: my pizza cost £13, the chicken tacos £14.50; kids menu £6.50 and dessert £5.50.

The Depot Eatery, Mullacott Cross, Ilfracombe, Devon, EX34 8NY. Tel: 01271 865500

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