The Jack in the Green has earned itself an enviable reputation since it first opened it’s doors to the public some 25 years ago. So, last week The Devon Foodie paid it a visit to find out what all the fuss is about…
Words & Photography by Gaby
With its dark green exterior and convenient roadside location, it’s fair to say that The Jack in the Green is something of a local foodie landmark. Located in the small East Devon village of Rockbeare, this popular pub/restaurant is just a stone’s throw from the city of Exeter, ideally positioning it for city dwellers and locals alike.
I visited The Jack in the Green on an early summers afternoon and was met by a bustling carpark of guests upon my arrival. Thanks to the warm weather, most of these customers had opted to sit outside in the beer garden; but as I stepped inside it was clear that plenty of guests were dining in the restaurant too.
The main restaurant is divided into a relaxed bar space and a more formal dining area. So, before we sat down to lunch, I took a seat in the lounge and Proprietor Paul Parnell mixed up a tangy mocktail of apple juice, ginger & mint (which was not dissimilar to a mojito) and joined us for a quick chat about the pubs’ history and ethos. Apparently, Paul bought the freehold of the pub back in 1992 on a limited budget. Back then, the establishment was a tired and dilapidated roadside pub in need of some serious TLC. Thankfully, Paul’s experience in hospitality and his talented kitchen team (led by Chef Matthew Mason) turned the place around in just a couple of years. Two kitchens, three refurbishments and plenty of hard work later, The Jack in the Green has gone from strength to strength.
The Lunch Menu
For lunch, my dining partner opted for two dishes from the à la carte menu: Salmon Gravadlax, Cucumber Pickle, Horseradish Crème Fraiche & Dill Pancake to start, followed by Creedy Carver Duck Breast with Confit Leg & Potato Terrine, Braised Red Cabbage & Green Peppercorn Sauce. Meanwhile, I opted for two of the dishes from the Specials Menu (which change daily) including a ‘Crab BLT’ and a wonderful Pigeon dish.
All four of these dishes displayed a great deal of technical skill and they were beautifully presented. Of course, this should come as no surprise when one considers that Head Chef Matthew Mason has been at the helm of The Jack’s kitchens for the past 24 years and is known locally for his work training young, aspiring chefs.
While it is arguably still a little early for pigeon, my dish had been sourced from just down the road by a local shooter and had been beautifully cooked. Pheasant, partridge, snipe, venison, and woodcock all feature on The Jacks specials board when they are in season and it goes without saying the restaurant aims to minimize food miles wherever possible. Undoubtedly, our lunch was a real success and it’s safe to say that if the restaurant serves food of this standard in every service, I’ll be back again very soon!
The Service & Atmosphere
While the interior design is quite traditional – and therefore not to everyone’s taste – the restaurant certainly boats a lot of country charm and blends its pub and restaurant elements together well. I found the spacing of the tables in the dining room sufficiently far apart to allow diners the ability to chat privately and enjoy a meal undisturbed; be that as part of a work meeting, a romantic evening meal or a family celebration. Likewise, the service I received on the day was warm and attentive and I was impressed by the enthusiasm of each team member who served our table.
Should you visit The Jack in the Green?
The quality of The Jack in the Green’s food and ingredients speak for themselves and you can expect good old fashioned service when you dine here. I must admit, I never realised that this was the sort of destination that one could visit for a casual drink with friends. However, there is plenty of space to lounge and enjoy a glass or two, as well as a lovely alfresco beer garden for guests to use during the summer months. If you’re after good quality British food then you can’t go wrong with this restaurant and if you’re a Premiership Rugby fan, rumour has it that you may even spy the occasional Exeter Chief player during your visit…
To find out more about The Jack in the Green, visit their website: www.jackinthegreen.uk.com