I know at these uncertain times a blogpost about eating out might not be of much interest to you but you know what? It’s worth a read anyway. We all need to keep our chins up and plan fun stuff for when all of this virus stuff is over and we can finally get out and about and get back to some kind of normality. I for one can’t wait to get back out into the pubs, the theatre and to my ballet lessons, so planning a few post Coronavirus trips is essential.
So let me tell you about my trip to Brampford Speke a week or so ago. Brampford Speke for those who don’t know it is a small village just outside Exeter with nothing more than a few beautiful houses, a primary school and a pub.
The aforementioned pub being the Agricultural Inn or “The Agi” to the locals is the buzzing hub of the village. The Sunday we visited for a late lunch it was full to the rafters. People propping up the bar having a pint, young families with their small children on the soft seating around the fireplace and groups of friends young and old much like ourselves in the area set aside for dining. We were lucky enough to have been sat at a table by the window and the winter sun was streaming in creating little beams of light that darted amongst the diners. It felt like such a treat having the sun on our side. The warmth magnified by the window glass added to the cosy feel of the pub.
Drinks ordered and menu dissected, we all came to a different conclusion in what we would like to eat. For me, it was a no brainier. I opted for the vegetarian mushroom and lentil wellington and my friends the three meaty options. Gemma the roasted belly of pork, Naomi the slow-roasted beef and Chloe the pan-roasted chicken breast.
On Sundays, “The Agi” specialises in roasts although there are a couple of options in addition for those who want them. Although seeing the roasts come out of the kitchen I am not sure why you would possibly veer away from the traditional Sunday lunch. Each plate piled spectacularly with a giant Yorkshire pudding.
My chums and I caught up on all our weekly goings-on and before we knew it our order arrived. If we could have given it a fanfare we would have. It was a visual delight to behold. The vegetables were colourful and bright just like an artists palette and the main dishes were indeed pretty as a picture.
The slow-roasted beef was cooked to pinky perfection, the pork belly had that wonderful crispy crackling that roast piggy lovers adore and the chicken was succulent and juicy. My mushroom and lentil wellington was very good. I have had a few roasts out in recent months and I always feel that the veggie option is somewhat of an afterthought. Here, I could tell the chef Karl Parker had thought about his choice and spent time creating a dish that was worthy of his menu. The mushroom and lentil filling was earthy in flavour. Just what I would expect in a dish like this. The pastry was flakey thankfully with no soggy bottom in sight. We were all very impressed. I must give a little shout out to the truffled cauliflower cheese too. Anything with truffle in it or on it gets my vote EVERY time!
Puddings were offered and of course, we accepted! If you are going to have a Sunday lunch out you have to do it right! Two sticky toffee puddings and a roasted apple and almond crumble to be put in the middle of the table for us to share.
The crumble was a deconstructed affair topped with salted caramel ice cream. Far from traditional but completely delicious. The crunch from the oats and nuts in the crumble topping offset the soft roasted fruit wonderfully. The sticky toffee pudding itself was deliciously sweet and comforting but none of us could understand the idea behind the raspberry milkshake served alongside. It didn’t work for me or any of my friends. It isn’t needed in the dish when a dollop of vanilla ice cream is on the side. Everybody loves that hot/cold vibe but the milkshake was just plain weird. Sorry!
Despite the milkshake (which was tasted and moved to the side) our lunch was delicious and cooked just how it should be. The vegetables had a bite and were vibrant in colour and all the main events were just how any chef would want them to be. Roast beef cooked pink for example and not cremated. I highly recommend a visit to the Agricultural Inn in Brampford Speke. My two words of advice would be “make sure you book” and “ask for your sticky toffee to be served without the milkshake”.
Disclaimer: My friends and I received our lunch for free as Chloe was doing some photography work for them. All views are my own as always and I wasn’t paid to write this piece.
Photography – Chloe Upton Studios