When looking for a high quality dining experience you’d naturally expect delectable, freshly prepared food, a relaxing atmosphere and a sense of feeling well-looked after. There’s often an expectation however, that quality of food has to come with pretension; a sacrifice of portion size, or that your ingredients will be shipped in from some far-off land. At Il Casita, those pretentions simply do not exist. Serving locally sourced produce from Ruby Red and Sandford Orchards to name but a few, Il Casita provides a high quality dining experience where home-grown produce is the star of the show and portion sizes simply aren’t a compromise.

Sitting in the heart of Crediton in what was once a dairy farm, this 300 year old building was luckily not damaged by a fire that took hold of much of the street, and now serves as a quirky, yet elegant setting for a luxuriously cosy dining experience. On arrival, an open fire provides a warm and welcoming ambience in the dining area, with a ‘Romeo & Juliet’ balcony elevated slightly above for those looking for a romantic table option. There is also a party room towards the back that can be closed off for private functions so as not to disturb other diners. The pièce de résistance is the ‘clock room’, filled with beautiful clocks collected from around the world. Only one tells the correct time; the premise being, time stops while dining at Il Casita.

When chatting to the owners, Tina and Nick, it was clear from the outset how passionate they are about their restaurant and providing an enjoyable meal and evening for their diners, as well as working within the local community with other like-minded small businesses who are just as passionate as themselves. Polite, friendly but not intrusive, Tina and the rest of the staff made sure we felt well looked after throughout the meal while allowing us our privacy.
After being directed to our table of choice, we were given complimentary olives and wasabi peas to enjoy while perusing the drinks menu. Each wine is accompanied by a description of taste in layman’s terms, so that even if you’re not a wine connoisseur you can get a good idea of what to choose. We had to try the specialty mulled cider, made from Sandford Orchards cider infused with spices and with a kick of rum – the perfect winter warmer!

To start we opted for the Mackerel Fillet with Pickled Beetroot and Lemon & Horseradish Cream (£7.95), and the Antipasti Board (£8.95 – also available to share at £15.95). Both dishes were presented beautifully, and portion sizes were generous but not excessive so as to not spoil the main. The mackerel was very light, and the pea shoots and variety of pickled beetroots cooked superbly. The antipasti board had a great selection of delicious local meats and olives, with a side plate of fresh bread and balsamic oil.

For the main course we chose the Roasted Chicken Supreme with Tomato, Chorizo & Puy Lentil Stew (£13.95), succulent chicken served attractively in a large rimmed dish, full of flavour that simply melted in the mouth. The tomato and chorizo were warm and rich to taste, whilst the puy lentils added an extra depth of flavour and texture. After being intrigued by the three day preparation process we were told about before ordering, we simply had to try the Crispy Sea Salted Pork Belly with Sticky Plums & Port (£14.95). The plums provide a fruity contrast to the pork, with the port adding a little kick to the taste. Both dishes were accompanied by a dish of roasted vegetables and potatoes giving you the option to take as much or as little as you require. Any questions about the ingredients and where they are sourced are welcomed, and knowing that your food has been lovingly crafted by local businesses makes you really value the money you spend on your meal.

No matter how full you are, dessert is always a must – especially when the standard of food is so high. It was difficult to choose here, but in the end we chose the Tiramisu (£6.95) and the Panna Cotta (£5.50). Both desserts were presented attractively, with the tiramisu served in an open kilner jar and a triangle of nut brittle standing proud in the centre, providing a crunchy contrast to the smooth, rich tiramisu flavour.

Knowing that all ingredients are freshly sourced and at their prime, and with an ever-changing menu of seasonal produce, there’s a delicious variety of dishes for you to try at Il Casita, time and time again.

By Jake Tucker

Visit Il Casita online at: www.ilcasita.co.uk

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