“Cooking should be fun, adventurous and inventive,” says Nicholas Hack, who with fellow chef and partner Tina King is the culinary inspiration behind Crediton’s much loved Il Casita restaurant.

Luckily for us Devonians, 18 months ago Nicholas and Tina took over Cadeleigh’s village pub, the Cadeleigh Arms – perched midway between Crediton and Tiverton and surrounded by the rolling hills and valleys of Mid Devon. While Il Casita has a strong Mediterranean theme, this classic village pub has given them a blank canvas to create menus that draw on the finest local produce and are tailored to match every taste.

A deep understanding of the provenance of their ingredients sets the Cadeleigh Arms apart from many pubs which may look similar from the outside. On a recent Sunday lunch visit, this was immediately apparent when our impeccable host Carl introduced the wine list.

First up was a selection of vegan wines. It turns out the normal process for turning grape juice into clear, attractive wine (a process known as ‘fining’) normally uses egg whites, insinglass (a fish by-product) or gelatin. A vegan wine however uses bentonite clay, charcoal or similar. There you go – bet you didn’t know that! I certainly didn’t.

Then, instead of the ubiquitous offer of bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar Carl produced a bowl of popcorn, lightly splashed with truffle oil. Sublime. We could have polished off multiple bowls of that but we had decisions to make. A neat bowl of crispy crudités and fresh hummus helped us along.

To drink I settled on a refreshing pint of real ale, my partner opting for a half of the organic Avocet, and we turned our attention to the mouth-watering array of dishes on the menu. Sundays are kept straight-forward at the Cadeleigh Arms – with either a £12.50 one course or £17.50 two course and coffee option (main course and a dessert), but that does not mean Nicholas and Tina compromise on anything. The mains ranged from fresh catch of the day, mullet on the day we visited, with chorizo, bean and lentil cassoulet to the more traditional homity pie with potato, garlic and onion with plenty between.

I selected a wild mushroom and cauliflower risotto because, as well as loving risotto, it’s also one of those dishes I never quite find the time to prepare at home. Certainly not to this level of delicacy. Nicholas tells me the wild mushrooms are sourced from Paris’s world famous Rungis market, and I got to savour those combining with the cheddared cauliflower, the delicious fully plumped risotto and fresh strands of watercress which drew on the earthy subtleties of the various mushrooms.

Our eldest is still talking about the Maldon salted crispy pork belly she ordered – Gloucester Old Spot – which came accompanied by spiced apple sauce, while our youngest opted for the child’s version of roast beef and proceeded to demolish it with gusto. Nicholas had sourced that from the nearby Elston Farm in Copplestone.

My partner chose a delicious turkey breast with stuffing, accompanied by pigs in blankets and mini Yorkshires – and, to round it all off, Carl arrived with bowls of crispy, golden roast potatoes, fresh vegetables and the show-stopper. Creamed leeks. For no other reason you have to go to the Cadeleigh Arms on a Sunday for these – hot, delicious and smothered in double cream based sauce made from Barbers 1833 cheddar, Devon Blue, Dijon mustard and cracked black pepper. Fantastic. Nicholas says Harvey and Brockless help source artisan cheeses from across the UK and Europe, and he sources local cheeses from the nearby Hawkridge Farm.

Carl and his team allowed us some time to relax after the main course. I noticed an award on the mantelpiece for the 2011 village batsman of the year and wondered who that might have been, and a framed page of writing detailing a devastating fire in the late 1800s, but most intriguing was a set of old encyclopaedias on the bookshelf behind our window table. For a brief moment with the fire roaring in the woodstove, content tummies, and the encyclopaedia open to a page on deer we were transported back to the pre-Google days where you sourced your information in a page turning, tactile way and shared it with everyone around you.

At the tables around us, and around the bar, people were either simply enjoying a post-walk pint with their friends, or, like us, being treated to a delicious Sunday meal. The young staff worked among them in a comfortable relaxed way, ensuring everyone was looked after. A real village pub atmosphere prevailed.

It’s clear to see that Nicholas and Tina are working their magic again at the Cadeleigh Arms. We can’t wait to return again on a different day of the week to savour the full menu showcasing Nicholas and Tina’s complete range.

Words & images: Bruce Hetherington

Visit The Cadeleigh Arms online at: www.thecadeleigharms.com

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