Review by Gaby
Discovering places like The Church House Inn in Rattery was one of the main reasons I began to blog about West Country food in the first place. If you’re after a traditional country pub that oozes charm and serves excellent unpretentious food, then do yourself a favour and make sure you check this place out. It may not be fine dining but you don’t have to look far to see why it’s winning award after award.
As Devon As It Gets
You’d be hard-pressed to find a pub that is as archetypally ‘Devonshire’ as The Church House Inn in Rattery. For starters, it’s almost impossible to find the place unless you’re looking for it. I’m not exaggerating when I say that there are a lot of Church House Inns in Devon – and I mean a lot. There are eight listed on google search results alone! Of course, once you do manage to locate the right one you’ll also need to be ready to navigate your way through the narrow country lanes of the village of Rattery and then have fun finding yourself a space in their modestly sized carpark (which thankfully overspills into the nearby village hall).
But Sat Nav nightmares aside, The Church House Inn is an idyllic Devonshire destination. Landlord Will is Devon born and bred and is the 7th generation of landlords in the Edwards family. He runs this popular village pub with the help of his father John and his wife Sarah, who – rather charmingly – he married in the ancient little church that neighbours the inn. The whole thing is therefore a real family affair and is made all the better for sourcing the majority of its ingredients from a network of local suppliers.
Traditional Yet Contemporary
The building itself is Grade II* listed and is recorded as far back as the Domesday Book. Therefore, it’s history can be traced back to 1028AD – making it one of the oldest pub sites in Devon, if not in England. But with an estimated 27 British pubs closing down every week, it isn’t hard to see why traditional pubs are facing an ever increasing pressure to ‘get with the times’.
However, updating its image is hardly something The Church House Inn needs to worry about. They’ve managed to achieve the perfect balance between old and new. When you first step inside, you’re greeted by the thoroughly traditional. There are wooden beams, an old-style bar and an impressive fireplace. But for diners who fancy something a little more contemporary, you can opt to dine in their modern extension space. This sympathetically built dining room is designed to mimic the existing building but provides plenty of light thanks to a lofty ceiling and large glass wall. You may also be pleased to hear that all of the work on this new space was undertaken by local craftsman – including a rather impressive hand-welded chandelier.
Lunch at The Church House Inn is served between 12 Noon to 2.30pm; while dinner can be ordered between 6-9pm. I found everything on the menu to be reasonably priced, ranging from £5.50 to £7.50 for starters and £12.50 to £22 for mains (the most expensive option being the locally sourced Ribeye Steak). Since it was a lunchtime, I elected to skip on starters and go straight for the main event..
Local Venison Haunch, Fondant Potato, In-House Smoked Pancetta, Squash Puree & Red Wine Jus
I’ll rarely pass on the opportunity to order Venison – especially when it is accompanied by something as tempting as smoked pancetta and fondant potatoes. So, when my plate arrived at the table I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Head Chef Isaac Cohen is very generous with his portions.
Frankly, the venison dish was excellently executed. It was rustic and hearty but certainly not your standard gastro pub affair. The venison was cooked to a beautiful medium rare and the red wine jus was rich and silky. I adored the fondant potatoes and somehow managed to polish off every last morsel, despite my earlier reservations about eating too much on a lunchtime.
Whole Brixham Plaice with Caper Butter, Chips & Salad
My dining partner opted for the Brixham Plaice and I must say that although I didn’t try this dish myself it looked fantastic. Caper Butter is a wonderful thing and the Plaice was excellently cooked. I did think that the accompanying chips and salad were a little misplaced (served in pots on the side rather than with the fish) but I suppose that serving them altogether would have meant compromising on the presentation.
Despite eating every last mouthful of my main, I was still determined to give dessert a try. I’ll admit that I was tempted by the sound of the chocolate brownie, but alas I decided to go with the Seasonal Berry Crumble for something a touch lighter. I’m not quite sure what possessed me to do so – because normally I’d scoff at someone for ordering the kind of dessert one could just as easily have made at home. However, all things considered the crumble was very good. The fruit was slightly tart and the textures were all spot on. Importantly, there was no soggy crumble and there was just the right ratio of fruit-to-topping.
I think my dining partner had the right idea when it came to dessert. The small amount of his lime cheesecake that I tried was divine. Full of flavour and very delicate. The presentation was also surprisingly dainty when you consider the hearty portions we had enjoyed for our mains.
Overall Thoughts on The Church House Inn, Rattery
Just in case it wasn’t obvious by now, I’m a pretty big fan of The Church House Inn. I’ve always had a place in my heart for cozy country pubs and there will always be a place in my stomach for excellent food.
While The Church House Inn has won its fair share of awards (‘Best Pub Restaurant’ at the annual Food & Drink Devon Awards, Best Newcomer of the Year’ at the 2016 Devon Life Food & Drink Awards) the real sign of a pub’s quality has to be its regulars and you only need to look at the inn’s carpark to tell that this is a popular place! Local people and foodies alike seem to flock to the restaurant, safe in the knowledge that Will, Sarah & John will provide excellent service and the kitchen team will produce fantastic food.
Chef Isaac Cohen is a real talent for sure. I commend him for using locally sourced produce wherever possible and for attempting to create many of the elements for his dishes in-house (such as that tasty smoked pancetta). Isaac’s menu is not overly ambitious. It takes the simplest of ingredients and cooks them very well. I don’t hesitate in recommending The Church House Inn to you and I’d love to know your thoughts if you do pay the pub a visit!
The Church House Inn, Rattery, South Brent, Devon TQ10 9LD.