Over the years pub food has developed way beyond a ploughman’s lunch. Without having to travel too far, we can now find respectable pub food in many a town and village all over the UK; many of these having won regional food awards, AA Rosettes, right up to two Michelin star dining.
I recently visited the resort town of Salcombe in Devon. It is located at the mouth of the Kingsbridge Estuary and its extensive waterfront attracts many tourists, especially those with an interest in sailing. It is also home to a traditional shellfish fishing industry.
The Victoria Inn Salcombe
Located down one of Salcombe’s many narrow streets, you will find the town’s very own food destination pub, called the Victoria Inn. The owners Liz and Tim Hore have been in charge since 2008, Tim having been a publican for over 25 years. Liz is in charge of the front of house, making sure guests feel welcome and ensuring that the pub is continually nurturing the quality of the food it offers; provenance and seasonality being paramount.
The kitchen is run by Head Chef Tom Huggett, who started with them as a Sous Chef and worked his way to the top. Tom draws inspiration from chefs such as Tom Kerridge, but is ultimately inspired by great food, keeping in tune with the seasons, cooking well with a real concentration on flavours, but serving it up simply. In the kitchen Tom has a brigade of seven people assisting him.
Their menu is put together around local Devon produce, whether from the sea or beautiful surrounding countryside. The beef for example comes from a farm less than 5 miles away, they use as many eggs as their own hens can lay in the pub garden and the fish and crab is sourced from suppliers literally down the road.
Upon arrival for dinner we were given a warm welcome from the landlady Liz. We were shown to our table, which had a lovely view out of the window facing up Kingsbridge Estuary, with boats gently bobbing in the tide just in the distance. We were greeted by Caitlin, who would be our waitress for the evening and asked if we would like a drink while reading the menu. The Victoria Inn Salcombe has a rather impressive selection of gins, twenty-seven to be precise, along with six different tonics. I choose the Salcombe Gin, which is distilled in the town with thirteen carefully selected botanicals, English wheat spirit and blended with pure Dartmoor water. Inke went for a Blackwoods Vintage Dry Gin, but with a twist served with ginger ale.
- Soup of the Day – Broccoli & Blue Cheese
- Dressed Salcombe Crab
- Whole Baked Camembert
- Local Grilled Mackerel Fillets
- Caramelised Apple & Ham-Hock Terrine
- Thai Beef Salad
I decided to try Tom’s version of a Thai Beef Salad. Seared strips of sirloin were served with carrot, spring onion, coriander and red onion with a sticky sweet sauce. For my palate, I would have preferred the sauce to have been more sour with lime and it could have taken more chilli, however, the freshness fromthe coriander made it very moreish.
Inke choose the Local Grilled Mackerel Fillets. They were served on toast with roasted cherry tomatoes and a tapenade. It was a great starter, it didn’t need to be over-fussy, the tomatoes and tapenade were perfect to compliment the oily mackerel.
- Chicken Thighs stuffed with Gorgonzola
- Pan Fried Sea Bass
- Sirloin Steak
- St Austell beer battered Cod & Chips
- Local Beef Burger
- Wild Mushroom Tortellini
- Butternut Squash & Chickpea Veggie Burger
- Sweet Potato & White Bean Chilli
- Chicken Madras
- Beef braised in Mena Dhu
- Whole Plaice on the Bone
- Pan Fried Ray Wing
The main courses really did embrace local produce, fish found in the waters of the South West, locally sourced meat and vegetables. We both decided that fish was the way to go. I went for the Whole Plaice, cooked on the bone definitely the best way of cooking it. Inke chose the Ray Wing.
If I was being ultra critical, and I think that is the idea, then the plating was a tiny bit scruffy with the potatoes looking as if they had been plonked on the plate, maybe crushing them would be an idea… but most importantly the plaice was cooked to perfection, not a second too long. It was very slightly translucent and wonderfully delicate. The fennel had a slight crunch and the salsa gave a sharpness that lifted the whole dish. Some great cooking!
The Ray Wing again cooked on the bone, with mash, roasted purple sprouting broccoli and a caper butter. This dish looked beautiful and once again the cooking was spot on. Roasting brassicas is a great way of extracting a different flavour, another thumbs up.
Along with an extensive wine list, landlord Tim also promotes his “Wines of the Month”. We decided that we would follow his recommendation and drank an Italian wine called Grillo, from Artemesia in Sicily. It had a scent of honey and apricot and went very well with our fish.
We had been well fed, portion sizes were generous. However, when Caitlin told us that they had Sticky Toffee Pudding on the menu, I couldn’t resist, so Inke and I decided to share one between us. It was probably the BEST sticky toffee pudding I had ever eaten. The sponge was soft with a chewy texture from the dates, and the toffee sauce was not overly sweet, just how I like it.
The Victoria Inn Salcombe is an extremely popular pub for dining and I can see why. Tom is cooking some amazing dishes and the front of house staff are welcoming, extremely helpful and friendly. On Sundays they are constantly full, packed with people wanting one of their Sunday roasts. I would recommend booking, but if you walk in and have to wait for a short while for a table, there is a great bar with a good selection of real ales.
Approaching their 10th anniversary, I wish Liz and Tim many more successful years at the Victoria Inn, they have a fantastic team behind them who will make you feel extremely welcome and Tom will ensure you are fed exceptionally well.
Taste of the West is an independent regional food group, who since 1991 have been promoting and supporting local food and drink in the south west of the UK. Every year they present awards and the Victoria Inn won Gold under the Dining Pub category for three consecutive years. An award Liz and Tim truly deserve. The pub has also won a number of other awards including The Great British Pub Awards (Pub Tenancy SW), the national Best Pub Partnership award, Visit Devon Silver Award for Best Pub (2015) and SW Tourism Bronze Award for Best Pub (2015) and several brewery awards including Wine House of the Year (twice), Tenant of the Year, Award for Best Garden and Award for Best Innovator. The Victoria Inn has also been mentioned in The Times newspaper.
The Victoria Inn, Fore Street, Salcombe, Devon TQ8 8BU
We dined as guests of the Victoria Inn Salcombe, but all editorial content is my own.