The Coach House by Michael Caines, Kentisbury Grange, Kentisbury EX31 4NL – 01271 882295
Eating Exeter may be our name, and we certainly love to discover local eateries, producers and events. However, our adventures extend much further into the county we live in; we’re very lucky that within around an hours drive of Exeter, many Devon delights await. This is certainly the case with The Coach House.
The Coach House by Michael Caines is situated in the grounds of Kentisbury Grange Hotel in North Devon, on the edge of Exmoor. Open to residents and non-residents, they serve lunch, dinner (with a choice of taster or a la carte) and afternoon tea. It has recently been awarded two AA rosettes as well as Gold award for Restaurant/Bistro of the Year by South West Tourism Awards – quite an accolade considering the talent in the region. The menus consist of local, seasonal produce cooked sympathetically by staff Michael Caines MBE himself has chosen as well as him overseeing operations there to ensure quality and consistency akin to his established reputation.
When we were invited to come and try their culinary delights, Steve and I immediately sorted childcare so we could go out and enjoy each others company in what we hoped would be a gastronomic lunch. We also love a little ‘road trip’ and knowing North Devon’s lovely coastline, packed some good walking boots for post lunch adventures.
The journey to Kentisbury was lovely, motorway to start but then an easy main route past Tiverton through some beautiful scenery on a lovely crisp Sunday morning. The restaurant is situated in a beautiful 17th Century former coaching house, it is slightly tucked away off a good A road, and up a short driveway, making it feel slightly secret but not too far off the beaten track.
On arrival we were warmly greeted and offered a drink in the bar area pre lunch. We were well and truly ready for lunch so opted to be shown straight to our table – a lovely curved booth by the window with us sitting facing inwards to the restaurant so I could people watch along with having a view towards the kitchen.
Hearing and reading about the food offering here, I thought we were in for a very upmarket restaurant setting – but actually it wasn’t like that at all, which was perfect for us as we enjoy somewhere we can relax and feel easy. Rich velvet and comfortable chairs, warm lighting along with natural light, a walnut and marble bar, dark wood flooring and touches of modern with the glass lined banister. It was comfortably sumptuous – it gave me a good feeling for what was to come.
We were pleased to see a good selection of wines and beers; ranging from a champagne with MC’s name on it and yet a local stout that we hadn’t heard of before. Having ordered our drinks, we salivated over the lunch menu – I could have ordered it all. Some gorgeous warm fresh homemade breads and salty butter were served while we were deciding. I finally settled on Mushroom Raviolo and Steve chose the Smoked Salmon Mousse.
My raviolo was a perfect size, beautifully made and cooked stuffed to the brim with wild mushrooms and spinach. The white wine foam actually tasted as such and provided a delicate coating for the moist pasta, allowing the other flavours to shine through. A scattering of nasturtium leaves added an even fresher and earthier dimension; I loved it. Steve’s smoked salmon cigar was well filled with creamy mousse with was beautifully well balanced with light, acidic, and stronger accompaniments of cucumber, wasabi yoghurt and honey and soy vinaigrette. A great start.
For mains I chose the Confit Duck Leg,whilst Steve opted for the Pan Fried Sea Bream.
The duck was incredibly succulent, meaty and with a crispy skin. What wasn’t on the menu but I was delighted to see was the duck bon bon – delicately soft yet fully flavoured meat with a crispy outer, my favourite type of food item. The sauce was rich and bold with a hint of orange to lift it and the softer texture of the chicory complimented it well. Steve’s fish was possibly the best fish he has had in a long time; the skin was still on the fish and was so crispy, yet the fish perfectly cooked. The light vanilla, sweet parsnip, meaty chicken sauce and touches of pickled ginger supported the fish perfectly.
Now for puds. Being a bit of a lemon curd fan I chose the Lemon Curd and Steve who is less of a pudding person and more a cheese man, opted for the Milk Chocolate Mousse.
The lemon curd was firm but not overly so and well flavoured with zingy lemon. The pistachio cake was as it should be and the cassis sorbet certainly packed a blackcurrant punch. I found it a bit disjointed as a pudding if I’m honest, but enjoyed the items individually. Steve’s was a chocolate triumph; a light crumbly biscuit base, silky smooth milk chocolate topped with crunchy hazelnut and pistachio crumb along with a light caramel ice cream – I was totally jealous and managed to thieve a tiny morsel.
Service was attentive yet not over bearing, the staff seemed confident and relaxed and Steve was even impressed by the ‘crumbing down’ that he witnessed having not seen that for quite along time (something even he learned in catering college).
Ending our lunch with a cup of coffee (which can also be enjoyed on the loft lounge sofas), and with the buzz of some other tables around us including a well sized birthday group consisting of very young to very old, I feel The Coach House is a great venue for any occasion and certainly for a weekend lunch. It’s quite frankly a steal at £19.95 for 2 courses or £24.95 for 3. Add this to the easy yet scenic journey to get here and the fact we stopped off for a lunch burning stroll in nearby Lynmouth afterwards, it all equals a perfect Sunday out.
For a more special occasion, perhaps book for their 6 course tasting menu and team this with a night in the hotel for a truly relaxing weekend away. I would certainly recommend you try it for yourself.