It is slightly daunting reviewing an Inn that has already been reviewed by John Keats, the early 19th century Romantic poet, but at the very least I can report the menu has more on it now than it did then.
Perhaps it was misty too when Keats visited, because it certainly was on the evening four of us set off to The Coombe Cellars Inn. The journey in through the narrow lanes of Combeinteignhead, shrouded in thick coastal fog, added to the sense of culinary adventure. You could imagine fishermen of old pulling in on the rising tide, the odd smuggler lurking in the shadows, and the promise of a fine pint and warm fire inside.
The Coombe Cellars enjoys a magnificent location, grandly perched on the edge of the Teign estuary, looking out across the expanse of tidal reach from the edge of Newton Abbot to Teignmouth down below. There’s plenty of parking when you get there, plus the option of a pre-meal walk as the coastal path to Shaldon leads directly from the car park.
Once inside, the interior of the restaurant has been remodelled to take full advantage of this panorama with the majority of tables nestled one way or another close to the windows. The skill in the redesign has been in the ability to keep the restaurant feeling cosy, while actually opening up a lot of what would have been numerous small rooms, nooks and crannies, and creating a much more modern feel.
The centrally located bar area is sumptuous and glamorous with glistening chrome taps enhanced on the night we were there by a magnificent entire wall of fresh roses. There’s lots of room at the bar and probably a choice of a half-dozen low tables and booths to settle in should you intend to relax first.
The contemporary touch extends to the cuisine. There is an excellent drinks menu with cocktails galore, fine wines, a good range of ales and lagers and the very finest non-alchoholic ‘gin’ and tonic our designated driver has yet tasted (for the aficionados it was a Seedlip Garden 108 with Fever Tree tonic)!
The pampering continued with a plate of starters brought to our bar table that featured an array of delicious bites, my favourite being the salt and szechuan squid, which was washed down with a fine, and always reliable pint of Tribute ale.
Shortly after that we were escorted to our table by the window, with another member of staff politely taking our jackets on the way – the service levels at The Coombe Cellars put a lot of restaurants to shame; everyone goes out of their way and nothing seems too much effort. It is really impressive and a real credit not just to the staff but also to management who have created that ethic.
We had valiantly resisted at the bar, but in glorious surroundings at our table the temptation to try the cocktails was too much and we relented. A couple of us went for the classic ‘old fashioned’ – essentially a bourbon and bitters – the first sip of which instantly conjures up New York bars and late nights, while a friend opted for the passion fruit martini which unfortunately in the era of #MeToo still goes under the label of ‘pornstar’, which has to be outdated now.
Our food was fantastic, and the varied menus ensure there is something for everyone. As part of the revamp, the Coombe Cellars now offers stand-alone lunch, a la carte, children’s, Sunday, and dessert menus and has added a vegan menu with a number of delectable choices under starters, mains and desserts. For special events the restaurant has tailored menus and it’s advisable to keep an eye on the website for the latest on offer.
At our table alone we had everything from a meze platter to cured pork cheek, and my wagyu burger with Irish cheddar was awesome. There’s a special mention for the scallops. Unbelievably fresh and with a taste that smacked of the sea! My absolute favourite.
The Coombe Cellars is a real treat. If you are feeling like a lottery winner you can eat and drink like one or, alternatively, if you are hankering after something simpler and more within budget you will find plenty to match your taste.
And the best thing of all, the fabulous location and wonderful sense of being somewhere special, comes free! Keats wrote about Autumn as being the season of mist and mellow fruitfulness, but as we head from spring into summer this is definitely one to put on your itinerary now.
Find out more about The Coombe Cellars online at www.thecoombecellars.co.uk
Words: Bruce Hetherington
Images: Clara George and The Coombe Cellars