If ever you were looking for a place that captures the essence of a quintessential Devon pub, The Five Bells Inn is surely it.
From the outside, The Five Bells Inn is nothing short of picturesque. You get there by navigating your way through lush country roads – that do nothing for your faith in sat navs – before finally arriving at the tiny village of Clyst Hydon. With swathes of heady lavender lining the walkway and the occasional rosebush, this 16th century, Grade II listed thatched inn looks like it would be perfectly at home on the cover of a Devonshire chocolate box. But once you head inside you’ll be surprised to find that the restaurant is deceptively contemporary. For month’s I’ve been hearing good things about The Five Bells new owners, so I was intrigued to see if lunch would live up to the hype..
A Little History
The story behind The Five Bells Inn is one of triumph for the local community of Clyst Hydon. The pub was on the brink of closure back in 2013 before it saved with the help of local villagers and lovingly renovated to it’s current condition. The Five Bells reopened in August 2013 with ex-Gidleigh Park Head Chef Ian Webber leading the kitchen team and experienced operators Gary and Graciela at the helm. But despite Ian’s Michelin starred background, I had heard on the grapevine that his menus were less about sous vide meat and ‘foodie theatre’ and more about showcasing fresh, local produce that reflected the inns relaxed, laid-back atmosphere.
Lunch is Served
Despite a rather tempting a la carte menu, when it came to choosing what I wanted to order for lunch, I only had eyes for the specials. From the descriptions alone it was clear that Head Chef Ian knew his stuff when it came to working with seasonal ingredients.
Wild Escot Venison £7.50
Tarquins Cornish Gin, Rosemary & Ginger
I opted to start with the Escot venison from the specials menu. I grew up around The Escot Estate and I can’t say i’ve seen much deer grazing there. However, I loved the inclusion of a local landmark and I adore venison, so I thought it read very well. Ian put a twist on this traditional ingredient by serving it in 3 ways. There was a rich pate, a vibrant tartare, and a sort of ‘venison jerky’ that added a nice textural dimension to the plate. Overall, this was a very generously sized and delicious start to lunch.
Cured Wild Sea Trout £7.50
Heritage Beetroot, Pollen Fennel & Horseradish
I also tried some of the sea trout dish from the specials menu. I love cured fish and this plate was both beautifully presented and extremely well-balanced. The flavours of the heritage beetroot enhanced the trout, while the horseradish was a lovely light addition. The colours of this dish were really quite something and in hindsight I’d probably have ordered it myself.
Dartmoor Lamb £19.50
Sharpham Spelt, Courgette & Lavender
As I’ve said in a previous review, I stopped eating lamb a few years ago. However, my dining partners main course looked too good not to try. Not only was it an incredibly colourful plate of food, but the portion size was once again very generous (which can only be a good thing when you’re out for a pub lunch). The lamb itself was tender and perfectly cooked, while the crumb – a herbes de provence – was a nod to Ian’s classical training. The thought of lavender in a lamb dish is not something I would usually enjoy, however, it was used very subtly and therefore it was not overpowering. I also later discovered that it was the very same lavender that lined the walkway outside, which made it all the more charming.
Roast Hake £18.50
Mussel, Saffron, Fennel and Tomato
Once again, the specials menu proved too tempting to resist and I ordered the Roast Hake for my main. When the plate arrived it was difficult not to be impressed by the size of the portion. Hake is a particularly meaty fish and my plate was hearty to say the least. The smell was divine – with hints of fennel and a real saffron richness that made me eager to get tucked in. Fennel is a delightful ingredient and I thought that the kitchen was particularly apt at making it shine in this plate of food. My only criticism about this dish was that it left me feeling a little too full for dessert!
I’m not sure if it’s scientifically proven, but I’m pretty sure we must have something akin to a dessert stomach. Despite my initial reservations, I was soon tempted into ordering a pudding…
Herbaceous Lemon Tart £7.50
Sorrel, Begonia, Lemon Basil & Yogurt
For the sake of my review, I asked the waitress which dish would be the most aesthetically pleasing to capture on film. This happened to be a lemon tart and she was not wrong. The tart was filled with all the nostalgic flavours of my childhood and I thought that the taste of the lemon and basil was reminisce of Twister Ice Lollies (having received an adult makeover). If you’re heading to The Five Bells anytime soon – order this dish for dessert and you’ll see what I mean.
Poached Peach £7.50
White Chocolate, Basil, Almond & Raspberry
My dining partner opted for the poached pear. While I didn’t try this dish, I’m told that it was a wonderfully light finish to his meal – with just the right amount of white chocolate and mint flavours thrown into the mix. Once again, this was a very visually striking and I thought it read well.
The Five Bells is a real treat for those who are seeking high quality food in a warm and unpretentious environment. The staff are incredibly welcoming and the kitchen is clearly fostering a lot of local talent. It’s great to see a humble village pub attracting chefs of Ian Webber’s caliber and I have to commend Gary & Graciela for keeping things running smoothly.
The inn appeals to people of all ages and I think there’s something for everyone on the menu. So, if you’re wondering where to go for your next lunch you ought to give The Five Bells Inn a try.
The Five Bells Inn
Clyst Hydon, Cullompton,
Devon EX15 2NT
Just 15 mins from the M5 (Junction 28)
T: 01884 277288