Friday, 15 July 2011

Impromptu weekend away #2 : Salcombe - Chilli Farm - Home (or is it)

We headed to Salcombe and instead of taking the longer way round we took the back road along part of the Avon estuary.  We didn't know it until we got there but for 3/4 mile this road is tidal - how cool is that!  Luckily we got there at low tide so it was passable albeit very narrow sandwiched between the mud and water on one side and a rock cliff on the other.  The sign at the start of the road warns that it's only passable at certain times - we would have got a pic but there was a vehicle following us. 
We wended our way on up the estuary then cut across country to the Kingsbridge Estuary on which Salcombe nestles and tumbles down the steep valley sides to the water below.
This is a pretty little town; although strangely bereft of 'real' shops - ie it's got highly pricey clothes shops aplenty and some nice but also pricy delis but where does one buy one's bog roll and other such essentials I wonder?!  It seems like you have to have a boat to live here as well - certainly if you want to do your recycling!!

We had a little wander about before turning our minds to where we would rest our heads that night.  Having checked out how much a room in one of the hotels would cost us [£180!!  For 1 night!!] we fetched up outside the council/tourist office [closed] and perused the list of B&B's and pubs they had attached to the board outside - trying to spot the roads on the map also handily affixed to said board.  After a handful of 'no vacancies' we were pointed in the direction of Pengwern; usefully just up the road from our location.  We ended up in their self contained appartment for the night - fantastic view and with the addition of a few essentials for brekkie from the Spar hidden in the depths of the residential area [apparently the only 'real' shop in Salcombe] a snug little place to stay for the night and at £50 for the both of us a fair bit more reasonable than the hotels on the front.  After a quick change we set forth for the evening in search of a couple of fine pints and some supper.
We'd earlier checked out the various menus of places to eat in town and had also picked up a leaflet in the apartment for the new Oyster Shack in Salcombe which had decided us on our eaterie for the night so we decided to try a couple of pints in the local pubs first.
The Kings Arms was the first to be graced by our presence; seemed quite locally but friendly enough.  We didn't stay over long here though as there were no free seats to sit outside admiring the view which is of course what we wanted to do on a warm summers evening away.
A little further up the road is the entrance down some steps to the Ferry Inn - built into the nigh on sheer cliff sides it has a fab view through the windows over the river and once you've purchased your pint you can exit and go down another flight of stairs to the large outdoor seating area immediately adjacent to the water.  There was another bar down here as well.  It's a bit of a hidden gem I'd say with a rather nice sounding specials board and good smelling food.  We had a drink here; were inspected by the pint police (cheeky!) and then thought we'd best move on for dinner.
Well - we traipsed up and down the road (not long) that the Oyster Shack* was supposedly on twice and saw not a hide nor hair of it.  It was all boat sheds, boat shops and one distinctly cheesy looking bar that boasted it was open until midnight and did burgers or something equally unappealing.  Damn.  Back to the centre of town and into our second choice [I think it was 'The Galley'] - a nice but pricey looking menu having caught our [my] eye earlier.  They'd stopped serving - we checked the time - just gone 10pm!  Eek - we hadn't realised it had got so late at all.  They told us to try over the road at the kiddy friendly place I really hadn't wanted to go to [Captain Flints] and told us they thought that or the burger / late opening bar place we'd just turned our noses up at were probably our best bet at that time of night.  Oh well we thought, at least we'd eat and they did some ok sounding pasta dishes even though it was still fairly busy with small people at that time of night.  But no - they didn't want our custom either when we ventured in the door although I can't say I was that saddened - it was more that we were both rather hungry by this point. 

We wandered back along the main road not seeing any positive or open type signs anywhere until I thought I'd try the little bistro up a side alley we'd spotted earlier.  Boatswains [no website of their own - missing a trick there guys!] had some people in still - with a menu with things like wings and potato skins [:-(] etc on but a great looking specials board when we'd checked it out earlier.  I popped in and enquired if they were still serving?  After checking how many we were the very friendly lady said she'd check with the kitchen and returned shortly with the very gladly received news that as they had a table in that had only just started eating it was fine.  She led us upstairs to our own corner table in a window, flanked by a funky metal oil burner and several candles and even brought another couple when she saw it was a litle dark.  The whole place is done out in a tasteful contempory fashion with out being pretentious and the service was super friendly and attentive without making you feel pressured or under the spotlight.  The lady that originally led us in was American - those wings and potato skins were making more sense!  The specials board looked fab and we both chose starters from  it - I had scallops baked in their shells in a parsley and garlic butter and the Chap had grilled squid in some sort of chilli basting.  [I can't remember the exact terminology used.]  Wow - this was seafood of the highest and freshest calibre.  My scallops were to die for - they were sweet and creamy and the flavours were well balanced and complementary.  Chap's squid was equally lovely - and it was a whole one!  I'm afraid there's no pics though because sometimes [just sometimes mind] you have to put the camera away and concentrate on living the moment instead. 
For main I was going to choose a cod dish in a sauce I liked the sound of - it's rare for me to choose something like cod otherwise; but they'd run out of it.  However, the friendly American lady told us of a dish 'off-menu' that she had which was a monkfish tail that'd be big enough for both of us and came in a similar sauce with a bed of spinach as the cod had done.  Well - we were sold both loving monkfish and yes - it was absolutely fab too.  Really really special and the best meal I've had out for some time.  You could taste the freshness of the fish in all the varieties we had; something that's emminently important and can make such a difference to the taste.  That the place was so friendly and welcoming even at that time of night just made it.  [BTW there is no material advantage to me in writing this glowing review in case you were wondering - they're not in the least aware of it and we paid our bill in full already!  This is my honest opinion - as is everything else found here.] 
Having polished off every little scrap of monkfish, spinach, new potatos and sweet potato chips (yummy btw) we decided we really could fit a pudding in - very rare for us as we're both way more savoury people but it was that sort of night.  Incidentally they were more than happy to offer us dessert even though it must have been gone 11pm by then.  I chose the honeycomb ice-cream - creamy and rich with chunks of honeycomb in - very good indeed.  Chap had the baked vanilla cheesecake - also good and very rich.  We eventually left and waddled back up the hill to our appartment for a sound nights rest.  :-D
The next morning I woke early and took a couple of pics of the view from the window at about 5am.  Sadly Chap had parked pretty much bang slap in front of it (!) but you can see how stunning it is overlooking the estuary.
Once we'd actually got up properly, had a leisurely breakfast and paid our bill to the nice people that run the place we took the van down into the town and found a car park so we could have more of a potter about while stuff was open this time.  As it was Fathers' day [yes - this second part of the post has been rather a long time coming!] Chap was thrilled to be allowed to have a wander in a fishing tackle shop.  :-D  In return I was allowed to have a peruse round Gallery 5; a gallery run by a collective of locally based artists I think.  A mixed offering with some painted driftwood pieces in amongst various different painting styles from the different artists.  We had a proper look round the town checking out some of the expensive yet stylish shops - I was especially taken
by these silver plated mussel pickers for eating your moules with - I generally use the empty shells of one.  Something for the chrimble list maybe?  They were in a fab kitchenware shop that was however quite hideously overpriced.  I saw a wood and glass cheeseboard I rather liked - £80odd without the knives!!  They were a further £60odd I think!!  Sheesh.  It being a shop full of lovely lovely kitchen things though there were many items I coveted but as they were well out of what I'm prepared to pay Chap was safe from me managing to clutter up the kitchen any further.
We had a poke about the local wine shop and picked up a bottle of Rosehip Cordial whilst there - which I can now later confirm as refreshing and 'virtuous' feeling [but in a good way] when drunk with sparkling water.
I spotted these and liked the fact that Salcombe has pretty kerbs - my town doesn't manage anything quite this spiffing.  I thought they were pretty cool but then I'm like that.  :-)
We popped into the local Salcombe Dairy's outlet place and had [another] ice-cream.  Chap went for Rum and Raisin with Navy Rum soaked raisins and I had Stem Ginger with real ginger pieces in.  Ooh yum - really peppy and gingery whilst creamy at the same time.  I much preferred it to the Rum and Raisin though that's not a flavour I'd go for anyway - Chap assured me it was delicious!
We decided we'd done Salcombe for the time being and would set a leisurely course home taking in the South Devon Chilli Farm and a spot of lunch en route.  In fact that is where I will leave you as I feel this post is in danger of getting far too long for it's own good and aside from threatening the very fabric of space time with it's sprawling gargantuanness I'm plenty sure you've had enough by now.  [I know I have.]  Stay tuned for the thrilling part 3 - Impromptu weekend - the return!  [That reminds me - the last Harry Potter film is released here today - end of an era or a chance to return to the magic of the printed word?  Whilst firmly being in the 'the book is always better' camp I must admit to a guilty liking of the HP films.  If you go see it let me know if it's any good.]
*The mystery of the missing Oyster Shack - quick google search upon returning home reveals it closed around easter to be replaced with the bar we saw.  Damn.

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