Steeped in history inside and out, a visit to the Beacon Vaults is like stepping back in time. Originally a farmhouse which was converted in to an old inn, its wine vaults have passages that spread right down to Exmouth beach and rumour has it that it was linked to the smuggling racket! The beautifully lit 18th century exterior is reminiscent of a Dickens style Christmas card, and gives you an instant feel of a cosy olde-world premises. What struck us most when we ventured through the front door was the homely atmosphere that immediately puts you at ease. It’s clear to see there has been refurbishment over the years to keep things fresh and clean, but without any loss of original character.
A warm welcome awaited us from owners Andy and Lynne who took over the establishment in February 2012 where, soon after, they were featured on a television programme with The Fabulous Baker Boys within a few short weeks of them being there! Andy and Lynne take great pride in building a rapport with their customers and that certainly shows from the outset.
The menu boasts a huge selection of freshly prepared food cooked by Andy himself, with emphasis on quality, well-prepared dishes – no chips here! The wine list was all it needed to be, an excellent choice catering for all tastes. After spending far too long perusing the menu we finally decided our starters. My husband opted for the Curried Apple and Parsnip Soup with Garlic Croutons (£6), and I chose the Creamy Stilton Baked Mushrooms with a Garlic Slice for dipping (£7).
Waiting for food to arrive when you’re so excited about your choice always feels like it’s taking forever, when I’m pretty sure in actuality it was delivered to us promptly. My husband described the soup as ‘like nothing on this earth’ and my mushrooms were just lovely. The dish had a real rustic feel to it and was so big that it could have been a main course!
For our main course my husband settled on the Crab and Spinach Fish cakes, Mussel Stew and Fresh Veggies (£16). I was going to have the Lasagne but settled on the Smugglers Pie (£14), as created by the Fabulous Baker Brothers. The two meals came as part of a package of two courses for £10 which offers extremely good value and I can imagine is proving very popular. We were both completely blown away by the deliciousness of both of our meals. The combination of taste and textures was simply divine, with everything cooked to perfection. Presentation was certainly up to scratch too. The pie was beautifully presented with a piped spiral of mashed potato on top, something I’d not seen done before.
We were handed the dessert menu and once again were torn on what to choose due to the extensive selection. It was a tough choice and in the end we decided to share. We went for the Vanilla Crème Brulée (£5) and the Tangy Lemon Tart served with Berries and Whipped Cream (£5). Both were heavenly! The tart had a beautiful zesty tang and simply melted in the mouth whereas the brulée was light and wonderful and the sound of the spoon cracking the sugar crust was perfect.
All in all we had a lovely evening and Andy and Lynne struck a perfect balance of being attentive as needed, but not intrusive so that we still had privacy and didn’t feel rushed. We left the Beacon Vaults feeling extremely full and excited to return soon to sample some more of the menu.
Words & Photos: Bev Ward
Visit the Beacon Vaults online at: www.beaconvaults.co.uk