The Belfry at Yarcombe
Yarcombe, Honiton, EX14 9BD
The Belfry Restaurant with Rooms is one of those places you want to keep secret. You want to be the first to advise friends about it, take family for special occasions, and claim credit when all who visit sing its praises. This in mind, I took my mother to the Blackdown Hills (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and found the tiny village of Yarcombe. We fell in love with Yarcombe's small and friendly community, and marvelled at its 13th-Century church and spectacular views. A key building at the centre of the village, The Belfry dates back to 1872 when it was the village schoolhouse, commissioned by the family of Sir Francis Drake. Built mainly using flint cob, with stone mullioned windows set with leaded stained glass, The Belfry makes the most of its traditional Victorian features whilst remaining contemporary with decorative flair and touches of opulence here and there. Since taking over the hotel in August 2007, husband-and-wife team Neil and Sarah-Jane have not stopped to take a breath, and the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Shown through to the guest lounge by Neil, we fell into a squishy sofa and were delivered our wine choice. 'Traditional cut-glasses - you don't see this very often', my mother remarked. We were already excited about our menu choices, as we had decided upon them the previous evening. The 24-hour notice required here has reassuring thought behind it - it's a greener way of cooking (no waste), and it ensures all food is cooked to order from scratch and with expertise (by Sarah- Jane); The Belfry also has a very small kitchen, so there's just no room to store frozen factory food (thank goodness). We started with Hollies Farm smoked trout served with a sumptuous horseradish velouté, then moved on to Devon beef with mushrooms and double chocolate stout, and roast duck breast, lightly marinated in apple and Calvados, served with a green peppercorn sauce and apple rings. The Belfry, formerly the infants' classroom, offers just 12 to 14 covers. The dining experience - matching The Belfry experience as a whole - was exceptional, intimate and personal.