It’s always satisfying when somewhere you have researched, planned and anticipated turns out to be as good as you hoped. But sometimes I think it’s even sweeter when you literally stumble on somewhere with none of the above.
It’s something we all used to do – pick a place because it looks nice and the menu appealed. Now, thanks to the internet, with its Trip Advisor, blogs (bloody bloggers), critics and social media, we pretty much know the colour of the loo roll and the landlord’s best joke before we’re even within a 100-mile radius of a place. But isn’t it nice sometimes to forget all that and go back to the simple times when you didn’t have to carry out a full research doctorate on somewhere before dining there.
That’s exactly what I did with a few pals earlier in the summer. On a girls weekend in Devon, we barrelled past the King’s Arms in Georgeham en route from Woolacombe to Croyde for our last afternoon on the beach. There must be something a bit voodoo about its roadside location, or maybe it’s the beautiful floral display, but it seemed to draw us in. We spent ten minutes talking about how beautiful it was, debated turning around but continued to the beach, yet two hours later found ourselves tripping in like a bunch of starving surfer-chicks.
It’s a beautiful building, complete with raised terrace to enjoy the sunshine as well as cosy little nooks and crannies inside to snuggle up in the winter. A all-year-round pub to suit any season.
Yes, it’s pretty. But for all I care, the King’s Arms could be in a concrete community centre if it still comes with the level of service we enjoyed from the moment we walked through the door. If you’ve read this blog before you’ll know how much I value decent service and this place has it sorted. Warm, welcoming, knowledgeable, accommodating. Need I go on? I run the risk of repeating myself yet again, but balancing polite with friendly isn’t always easy, but the King’s Arms could run a course in it.
We visited on a sunny Sunday and ordered from the Sunday lunch menu. To start, the three of us shared a portion of salt and pepper squid as well as battered Cornish Yarg – two deep-fried dishes that were good to whet the appetite. The latter was my favourite, mainly because I think deep-fried cheese is a thing of beauty and I am, of course, a Philistine.
If the service was the winner of everything non food-related at the King’s Arms, the main courses took the podium out of the three courses we enjoyed. Belly pork for me, Sirloin of West Country beef for one pal, and homemade nut roast for our friend.
The portions of these were towering plates of food. My meat came perched on top of roast potatoes, parsnips and carrots, along with crackling on top and a moat of gravy around it. That would have been impressive enough alone, and then arrived the portions of veg, the cauliflower cheese and a board stacking high with pillow-like, squishy Yorkshire puddings. Not bad for £13 in my view.
Alongside the roast dinners, you can choose from pub classics like burgers, sausage and mash and fish and chips. But rest assured, this isn’t Five Pound Friday-style pub grub. It’s pub grub how it’s meant to be – hearty, honest, and generous in flavour as well as size.
My pork was tender and succulent, the crackling salty and crispy. The Yorkshires and cauliflower cheese were also fond favourites, though I’d have preferred my gravy a bit thicker. The veg was well cooked, as was my friend’s beef, which I also snaffled a mouthful of. I even enjoyed my vegetarian pal’s nut roast, which is saying something.
Our dessert choice was influenced by one of the more heartening conversations I’ve overheard from a kitchen recently, which was an experienced chef teaching someone just at the start of their culinary journey how to ‘brulee’ a creme brulee. I probably sound a bit weird here, but hearing the passing down of knowledge by someone with a clear passion not only for cooking, but for helping others learn how to do it, was a rather special moment.
Now, I’m not sure whether the creme brulee we ordered to share between three was the product of this lesson, but I like to think it was. I’ll say right now, it wasn’t perfect. That smooth silkiness wasn’t quite there, and I’m not expert enough to know whether that was due to the cooking or perhaps some over-zealous brulee’ing, but I kind of don’t really care. And that’s the sign of a place that has so much heart and does so much right that you can’t quite bring yourself to be bothered with the odd thing that’s wrong.
If we’d hoped for anything from the finale to a girlie weekend of fun and friendship in Devon, it would have been the King’s Arms. But the beautiful part of our visit was the fact it came with no preconceptions, no expectations, and no plans. Just a bunch of pals looking for somewhere to eat nice food and be treated well. And isn’t it the sweetest feeling when you just stumble upon somewhere that ticks all those boxes!
We paid in full at the King’s Arms. They didn’t know I was a blogger.
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