The Candlelight Inn, Blackdown Hills
Take a walk in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and then back to a warmly welcoming pub for a splendid lunch – or vice versa.
In the village of Bishopswood, deep down in one of the valleys of the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, not far from the Devon/Somerset border and just a couple of minutes (literally) off the A303. About 20 mins south of Taunton, 20 mins east of Honiton. Drive 30 mins south from the pub and you’ll reach the Jurassic coast. A pretty perfect position.
It’s a 17th century village inn, so all your classic country pub features – old stone walls, wood-burner, floorboards – with a few unexpected elements. More dining than just boozing (though do pop in for a pint), with honest wooden tables and chairs and stools at the bar. Under new ownership since 2017, owner Mike Rose and his staff create a very convivial atmos, for locals and visitors alike.
Some top brass.
I can do that. Can you?
They’re VERY keen on gin, with over 50 varieties behind the bar including one they’ve made themselves, Beau Gin, named after Mike’s Irish Setter.
Garden out to the side with plenty of tables.
At the mo, it’s eating and drinking only but they’re currently refurbing five guest rooms, so watch this space.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Pub classics (burgers – beef, with BBQ pulled pork, falafel – beer battered fish; ham, egg and chips), West Country steaks and modern British with world influences on a lunch time set menus, a bar menu and evening a la carte. Everything’s super local, with fish from the coast, game shot on the Blackdown Hills, fruit and herbs from the pub garden and other stuff from round about. Breads and preserves all home made.
Like to post pix of your plates on social media? Phone out ready: the food is instantly instagrammable. A starter of hot smoked salmon (smoked on the premises, natch) with beetroot, nori seaweed, a caper and orange dressing and dill mayo… click!
Another starter of charred purple sprouting broccoli, crispy hen’s egg (nice and runny) with pickled walnuts and a date and green chilli dressing … click! You get the picture.
A main course duck breast was perfectly cooked (Masterchef style – crispy, charred skin with meat cooked through but nicely pink and tender) with beetroot and glazed root vegetables.
The brill that John the Fish landed earlier that day on his boat off Lyme Regis was teamed with pak choi, pickled shimeji (Japanese mushrooms), kohlrabi, shellfish and coconut broth and crispy chicken skin.
On to desserts. Superb coconut parfait with white chocolate and Malibu fondue, nibbles of pineapple and kiwi salsa and Turkish delight with a tangy passion fruit sorbet. I’ll take two, please.
Gorgeously gooey salted caramel ganache (basically chocolate and cream – naughty) with brandy soaked raisins and pistachio ice creammmm.
No surprise to discover that the food’s won a clutch awards including Taste of the West Gold 2018/19 and Open Table’s Diner’s Choice.
Every bottle on the comprehensive wine list looked to be available by the glass – create your own wine flight? We stuck with Marsanne /Viognier and a Picpoul, both of which perfectly complemented the meals.
OUT AND ABOUT
Wear stout shoes or wellies – the local walking is good – with no need to remove them when you’re in the pub, nor leave your dog outside. Here’s a 2-mile walk that starts and ends at the pub and takes in Bishopswood Meadows, a Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve on the site of a 19th century lime quarry where you’ll see orchids, butterflies, dormice, kingfishers….
Good for: Restaurant quality food in country pub surroundings. Walk and lunch combos. Didn’t see a kids’ menu but there’s plenty that would appeal (and there’s a garden). Separate area with its own bar for (quite large) private parties. Come for the Gin & Swing live jazz sessions on Sundays. Stop off for lunch on the London to Cornwall run.
Not for: Microwaved chicken in a basket.
The damage: Lunch time set menu 2 courses £16; 3 courses £21. In the evenings, starters £6–£10; mains £12–£42 (that’s a 20oz dry aged t-bone steak to share). Desserts: from 1 scoop Granny Gothards £2.50 to £10, most are £7. Cheese platter £9. Bar snacks from £2; Bar mains £12–£14.