A Little Background
Few places in the Devonshire town of Totnes can be described as ‘run-of-the-mill’ and Rumour Wine Bar is no exception to this rule. In its former life, this 14th-century building on Totnes High Street was once home to a busy jazz bar and it even served as a toffee factory for some time. Fast forward to the 21st-century and the building is now home to a trendy wine bar, serving locally sourced food and drink to a loyal cohort of regular punters. The bar has been known by many names over the years, but its current title owes its conception to the 1986 Fleetwood Mac album of the same name; a seemingly fitting tribute when one considers the artsy, bohemian vibe of Totnes town. There’s on-street parking right outside the bar if you arrive at the right time of night, but we definitely recommend reserving your table in advance if you want to play Rumour a visit.
The Ambience & Decor
Nothing is more telling about a venue’s popularity than whether or not it’s fully booked on a weeknight. So, when we pulled up outside of Rumour on a fairly overcast Thursday evening, only to find it packed to the rafters with diners, it seemed to suggest that the place was a popular local haunt. Indeed, during our visit, I witnessed a constant influx of diners stepping through the doors. There was everyone from large groups of middle-aged friends to couples with dogs, couples without dogs and even a handful of single diners, who were all promptly seated and served. Clearly, Rumour is hitting all the right notes with residents and visitors alike.
The decor is exactly what you’d expect from a wine bar in Totnes. You’ve got your dark walls, your rustic wooden features, quirky artwork and moody lighting. It’s effortlessly relaxed and even the faint smell of charcoal that permeates the air (from the indoor Bertha charcoal oven) adds to an atmosphere of warmth and congeniality to proceedings. Likewise, Rumour’s front of house staff were never short of a smile. They were happy to help whenever requested and equally happy to leave you to your own devices should you wish, which is honestly quite refreshing.
What’s The Food Like?
Rumour has one of those menus that is – in my humble opinion -unnecessarily complicated. Rather than opting for conventional Starters, Mains and Desserts, you’ll find a range of ambitious dishes under categories such as ‘Snacks’, ‘Small Plates’ and dishes from the ‘Bertha Charcoal Grill’. A closer inspection of the menu informed me that they recommend ordering a small or large plate, alongside 1 – 2 side dishes to share between the table. Personally, I thought this made choosing what I wanted far too complicated and I was tempted to pass on some of the more elaborate sounding dishes in favour of one of Rumour’s famous pizzas. That being said, there was a lot on offer that sounded very interesting and I certainly wasn’t going to pass on my chance to give chicken liver nuggets a try…
In the end, we ordered two of the small plates to share in place of conventional starters. These were Korean devilled sardines, tomato, mint & radish salad (£7.50) and Chicken liver nuggets, grilled chorizo, Sandwell salad leaves (£8). When these dishes arrived we were quite taken aback by the size of them. Nothing about them was actually small. In fact, both were rather generously sized. Regardless, I would quite happily order both of these plates again. The texture of the liver nuggets was rather unusual – but perfectly pleasant – and the devilled sardines were packed with flavour. Overall, both dishes were executed nicely and they certainly demonstrated that the kitchen team have ambitions beyond ordinary wine bar fare.
For my ‘main’ course, I opted for the Char grilled octopus with Nicoise salad (£12). I’m a big fan of octopus as an ingredient and I was keen to see how the kitchen would cook such a delicate meat on a charcoal grill. Apparently, this wasn’t an issue. When my plate arrived the octopus was beautifully cooked. Not only was it tender, but I could cut through it like butter. What’s more, the plate was a real picture. A vibrant summery salad of tender tomatoes and fennel accompanied the octopus and a slightly citrusy dressing complimented the dish nicely. I was rather bemused by the poached egg that sat in the middle of this plate (I suppose the clue was in the
Meanwhile, my dining partner went for the Creedy Carver duck breast, lavender honey, burnt chicory, pickled cherries (£16). Unfortunately, this wasn’t quite what either of us had expected. While the flavours all read well together, something in the execution of the dish was just lacking. The duck flavour was barely distinguishable thanks to its time on the grill and neither of us were keen on the texture of the chicory. I don’t want to dwell on this, as the rest of the food was a good standard. However, I can’t say either of us were hugely impressed with this dish.
Pudding fans will be pleased to learn that Rumour offers plenty of desserts, including Cherry galette, Elderflower & gooseberry fool and homemade ice creams. We didn’t try any desserts ourselves, but we did enjoy their Affogato (£4), which came with the option to add a shot of liquor. Next time, I think I might be tempted by the Sticky Toffee Pudding…
It’s clear from the busy atmosphere and packed tables that Rumour is a popular destination and with their laid-back atmosphere and friendly staff, it’s easy to see why. I’d be lying if we said that we were wowed by every dish that we tried on the night, but I must give credit where credit is due. Most of the food that was served was fun and well executed and it’s important to remember that Rumour is first and foremost a wine bar. In this respect, I’d gladly recommend ‘it as a spot for getting together with friends and spending an evening catching up over a glass of wine and