Muddy eats: The Thatched Tavern
Sound the Gorgeous-New-Pub klaxon! Here’s a 17th century tavern with new owners and a chic new look to get in your address book, pronto.
Anyone who launches a hospitality business at a time like this deserves a huge pat on the back, so hats off to the Linden family who have overcome lockdown, and a kitchen fire the weekend they bought the pub, to re-open The Thatched Tavern at Maidencombe.
Run by two generations, semi-retired Phil and Michelle who returned have to the UK from Australia, and two sons: Stephen, who has recently retired from the navy as the new general manager and James, the bar manager.
Totally charming. Down a steep leafy lane off the main coastal road connecting Exeter with Torquay, next to the village green and pretty cottages. The house opposite sells cut flowers and veg with an honesty box so bring some loose change.
Downhill is a car park and path leading to a small pebbly beach, good for seal and dolphin spotting. It’s popular with paddle-boarders too, provided you don’t mind toting your boards down the steps.
Upmarket, contemporary and not what you usually find down a country lane in Devon! No hanging tankards or horse-shoes here, and none of the choke points or cold corners you sometimes get with old pubs. No bad seats either, it’s total quality.
Its coherent style is thanks to local Torquay design firm Fruition who were commissioned to bin the beige and who used local designers and makers for everything from the framed photos to the bespoke joinery. I hear the family requested the best quality for everything and it shows.
Muddy ticks go to the custom-made English cottage-style wallpaper, handmade leather benching in the dining room, opulent copper light fittings and in the dining room, a central atrium filled with covetable hand-blown glass pendants.
You walk straight into the bar, replete with local gins, from Wicked Wolf and Salcombe, always a good look. There’s a fireplace to your left, and to your right, steps down to a further cosy bar area and wood-burner with a large dining room and garden to the rear. It’s very cool, decorated in a midnight-blue colour-scheme.
The completion of the garden has been delayed – that’s global pandemics for you – but I love the sound of what’s planned for the palm and flower-filled space: two layers of decks with a view of the sea to go with your sundowner.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Chef Liam Murray, who was previously at the helm at the Muddy-rated Five Bells at Clyst Hydon, has ushered in a modern pub menu, a mix of gastropub fare, as quality as the decor, with burgers, fish and chips, steak and healthy light bites.
As you’d expect (and as the framed photos of farm animals and Brixham fishing boats attest) food is all sourced locally and made in house, with excellent veggie and vegan choice, with pretty much everything available as gluten-free.
Once they’ve found their feet, a range of specials is planned but for now the savoury choice is 9 smaller plates/starters and 9 bigger plates, with nibbles of sourdough bread (inc g-f), roasted nuts or olives.
As this was during the heatwave I opted for watermelon gazpacho, which could have been a teeny bit more chilled and a teeny bit more savoury. Loved the added bits of juicy watermelon and cantaloupe.
The husband’s heritage tomatoes with goats cheese delivered just the right salty, herby kick, served on a platter of beefsteak tomato, with a bite of fennel. So summery.
My burger was ace: a slab of top-notch beef smothered in melted cheese, tastily flavoured with chilli jam and flecks of caramelised onions all sandwiched in a toasted brioche bun.
Mr M’s grilled sole was also delish: more’ishly seasoned with juicy samphire and capers and served with a side plate of chive-topped buttery new potatoes.
Dessert was hard to choose – all the greats! Cheesecake, chocolate brownie, lemon posset and the like (let’s hope they start doing those miniature mixes). In the end, I went for the deconstructed banoffee ‘pie’ – which I can honestly say hit the spot as ably as the full-fat version – all the creamy caramel flavour without the heft.
The pineapple dish for Mr M was a similar fruity de-construction, built from a slice of barbecued pineapple, coconut sorbet and crunchy pieces of ginger nut. Divine.
I spotted plenty of wooden highchairs and almost everything on the menu was available as half-size dish (for half the price). Obviously, it’s not been designed as a runabout for a teeny-toddler, but there is that handy green opposite if you’re bringing a real handful that won’t sit still waiting for food to arrive.
OUT AND ABOUT
Bring your cozzie and towel if you’re coming for lunch, as Maidencombe beach is a beaut, though pretty packed the day we pitched up and a warning, if you’re coming with older rellies they might struggle with those steps.
If you fancy a seaside stay, the colonial-style hotel Orestone Manor is just up the hill in the village or the Muddy-approved and award-winning Cary Arms at Babbacombe, with a sea-facing spa to die for.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Love it. A unique country cottage pub with a crowd-pleaser of a menu in a charming coastal location. Destined to become a locals’ favourite.
Good for: morning coffee with your ma; a sundowner with the girls or your favourite squeeze; couples night out; family outings for all ages and Fido can come too; wedding receptions, anniversary party and spesh occasions.
Not for: there’s no specific kids’ menu so not for fussy types who have a hissy fit unless they get pizza or fish-fingers.
The damage: great value for the quality of ingredients and care in the prep: £5-7 for starters/small plates, £10 for salad, burger £14; from £7 for a dessert.
The Thatched Tavern, Steep Hill, Maidencombe, Torquay TQ1 4TS Tel: 01803 327140