Regrettably, it’s quite rare that The Devon Foodie team make it up to North Devon in our pursuit of all that is great and good on the Devon restaurant scene. However, in an effort to expand our foodie horizons, we decided to push the boat out and make the trip up north to dine at a small, fine dining establishment that we’ve been hearing a lot about online…
Number Eight Restaurant, Bideford
*We paid full price for our meal and drinks. All views are our own and based on our recent visit*
When we arrived at Number Eight – on a particularly wet and blustery evening – we were warmly greeted by Chloe, who took our coats before offering us a drinks menu and reciting their list of gins. Sadly, there wasn’t much in the way of local tipples; but the service was off to a great start. The restaurant, while fairly basic, is tastefully decorated with white walls, a central bar and plenty of metallic details hanging from the walls. The tables are nicely spread out for intimate dining or small groups and as we perused the menus we got to find out more about the story behind the business…
Number Eight is the brainchild of Joshua Joans and Chloe Wilks. With over twenty years experience in the hospitality sector, the young couple decided to take the plunge and follow their long-term dream of opening their very own restaurant earlier this year. Since there wasn’t too much competition in the way of fine dining in the local area, the pair settled on the North Devon town of Bideford and haven’t looked back since. Now, they run Number Eight on Allhalland Street entirely by themselves; with Chloe covering all things front-of-house and Joshua going it alone in the kitchen.
Before trying the food at Number Eight, one might be forgiven for thinking that they’re being a touch overly ambitious with their offerings. Guests are offered up to five different starters and mains to chose from, with dishes that read like something you’d expect to find on the menu of a Michelin star restaurant. With just Joshua in the kitchen, we were curious to see how this would translate on our plates. But if social media hype was to be believed, we were going to be in for a treat.
Between us, we enjoyed a trio of colourful starters. Firstly, there was Pigeon Breast with Raw Beetroot, Hazelnut Crumb, Pickled Blackberries and a Balsamic Glaze. This was not only a treat for the palette, but also for the eyes. A riot of reds and purple, beautifully presented on a contemporary black plate. Game bird and blackberries are a well-known match made in heaven and this dish was no exception.
We also ordered a Confit Duck and Pistachio Terrain with Candid Walnuts, Marmalade Dressing, Red Chicory, Orange Segments & Greengage Jam. This was another stunning dish which managed to retain some of the flavours of late summer, thanks to the marmalade dressing and fresh orange segments.
Lastly, there was Salmon Tartare with Capers, Pink Grapefruit Segments, Wasabi Mayonnaise, Radish and Black Sesame Seeds. There was a wonderful freshness to this plate of food and the portion size was just right. However, there was just a little too much grapefruit for our liking, which overpowered the delicate flavours of the salmon.
For our mains, we each opted for something a little different to get an idea of what chef was capable of. This included Honey Glazed Duck Breast with Celeriac Purée, Potato and Swede Terrine, Pac Choi, Plum, Pickled Walnut & Five Spice Sauce. Duck with five spice sauce is a thing of beauty and when you add delicate potato and swede terrine into the mix, the dish was delightful. The duck was cooked lovely and pink and each element worked well together.
We were also keen to see what the vegetarian option would be like, so we opted for a Pear, Blue Cheese and Walnut Tarte Tatin, Toast Parsnips, Onion Marmalade, Parsnip Purée, Buttered Greens & Balsamic Glaze. All too often, the veggie option can feel like an afterthought, but not in this case. The pastry was crisp and the combination of pear and blue cheese was quite decadent.
Lastly, we ordered the Rump of Lamb, Aubergine Purée, Sundried Tomato Croquette, Courgettes, Salsa Verde, Mint Yogurt and Red Cabbage. Another winner, the lamb was perfectly cooked and full of flavour, while the sundried tomato croquette went down a treat.
When it came to dessert we were spoilt for choice, but eventually settled on Coffee Pannacotta with delicate chocolate work. Thankfully this wasn’t overly sweet and it was very nicely balanced as a dish. Plus, it made for a rather beautiful photograph. We also couldn’t resist the Cheese & Biscuits with Homemade Chutney and honeycomb. Despite the simplicity of this dish, it was arguably one of the best plates of food that we enjoyed during our visit. They source a delightful truffle brie from Cornish cheesemakers Curds & Croust, based near Redruth. This, combined with honeycomb, is divine.
We were pleased to be able to finally tick Number Eight off our North Devon bucket list. The food that we enjoyed was all made and presented to a high quality and the service was personal and attentive. The general ambiance of Number Eight is not dissimilar to a higher-end wine bar and I would view your visit to the restaurant with this in mind. It would be a nice location for date nights or for visiting with a small group of close friends who appreciate fine dining. Keep in mind, Number Eight are only open on an evening, from 6pm – 10pm, and they are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. However, if you’re in North Devon one evening and on the hunt for quality food, look no further than this wonderful little restaurant.