Linda Talmage discovers the perfect West Country inn with stunning cooking from Tom Williams-Hawkes the icing on the (delicious) cake
Driving from Exeter toward the pretty town of Topsham we soon noticed how rural and green the area was becoming with roads narrowing as they do in this part of Devon. Topsham is just south of Exeter and boasts a good array of independent shops, cafes and an antique centre on the quay. If you have time, take a cruise down the Exe estuary to the nature reserve with boardwalks through the reed beds.
Finding our room for the night was easy, the three-storey Salutation Inn with its majestic oak door and spectacular frontage occupies a prime position, English Heritage describe the vast wooden door as one of the largest single leaf doors in the country.
The inn has just six bedrooms, each one decorated to a high standard. Our suite was spacious, stylish and very comfortable. The bed, super king had the crispest Egyptian cotton sheets and fluffiest pillows and was decorated in a minimal white and grey, contemporary but still in keeping with the building’s nautical heritage.
We managed to resist the afternoon tea being served in the Glasshouse Café which was buzzing with people enjoying the piles of freshly made scones served with lashings of the local clotted cream. We were saving ourselves for dinner in the restaurant and excited to sample chef Tom’s cooking which came highly recommended. His CV working in the kitchen alongside the likes of Marcus Wareing, Gordon Ramsay and Michael Caines makes impressive reading.
Starting the evening in one of the comfy lounges we ordered two moreish gin cocktails and were treated to a trio of delicious canapes. Asparagus soup, beautifully strong and dense in flavour, cheese arancini and tomato confit.
We moved to the spacious dining room bustling with other diners for our pre-starter. Hand dived Lyme Regis scallops in a pea veloute with pea shoots. The starter of red gurnard with coriander was a delight. Our main course of rainbow trout fillets with braised gem lettuce, crushed potatoes and crab bisque was wonderfully fresh making use of the seafood caught just down the road.
Finally the desserts, do keep some room because they are definitely worth it. The milk chocolate Tonka bean and passion fruit with hazelnuts was too incredible to resist and tasted as amazing as it looked. We also sampled five delicious local cheeses with celery, chutney and walnut bread.
The Galley is a nice touch for guests, a kitchen area with a variety of teas and coffees – and pastries just in case you needed a late-night snack before bed.
Breakfast the following morning in the light and bright conservatory was delicious. The bowl of fruit and granola was beautifully refreshing followed by croissants, mixed toasted breads and then a choice of cooked food. I had poached egg, tomatoes, spinach and a selection of wild mushrooms which we later discovered came from a mushroom farm in Dawlish.
Tom and Amelia have been running The Salutation for five years and doing a wonderful job creating a home-from-home with stunning food in a relaxed and welcoming environment. Looking for the perfect place for a weekend away? I think we just found it.