You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Volunteer Inn was just another quaint, well-kept, small town local from the outside, and you’d be half right. It’s not until you step inside that you discover it’s also so much more.
Originating as a small local pub, The Volunteer Inn is currently part way through a two-phase plan to offer something more in Ottery St. Mary. While still maintaining the look and feel of a traditional ‘local’, the Volunteer Inn has gone further, combining traditional with contemporary through the expansion and refurbishment of their new restaurant space, and are now encouraging local residents and those from surrounding areas to come enjoy what can be described as ‘gourmet pub grub’. It’s already proving very popular – and we can see why!
The second phase, which commences next year, sees the expansion of the outside decking area into a huge, multi-level sun terrace, boasting around 200 seats. The top level will be roughly the same height as the town church providing a fantastic chance to dine outside while taking in the spectacular views across the town.
On to the food! To start, we opted for the Homemade Chicken Liver Paté (£5.95) served with toasted fresh bread, and the Blanch Bait with Lemon & Crusty Bread (£7.95). First impressions – big! The great thing about pub grub is the emphasis on leaving with a full stomach. It’s sadly often the case that you have to choose between size and quality, but at The Volunteer Inn, both come hand in hand. Our starters could probably have served as a light lunch due to their size and both dishes were cooked superbly, with an obvious effort put into presentation.
Choosing a main course here isn’t easy with so many delicious dishes on the menu! We decided to try the Homemade Steak & Ale Pie (£9.95), served with mashed potato and vegetables, and for myself, the signature Volunteer Chicken (£9.95) – beautifully succulent chicken breast with bacon, covered with BBQ sauce and a crispy cheese topping, served with a side of chunky hand-cut chips and coleslaw. This is one of my favourite dishes to have when going out for a meal in general, and I can honestly say that this was one of the best. The meat was cooked to perfection, attractively served almost like a pie in its own dish on the plate, keeping all of the contents together and somehow making the meal much more enjoyable. In fact, both mains were served with each part of the meal in separate dishes which really makes you feel like you are indulging in a banquet, allowing you to take as much as you want when you want and adding to your gourmet pub grub experience.
Although almost ready to burst, we simply had to make room for dessert. Opting for the Strawberry & Lime Cheesecake (£4.95) and the Honeycomb Waffle served with Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce (£4.95), our expectations were high and we eagerly awaited our final course where we certainly weren’t disappointed. The stunning level of presentation continued. The cheesecake was served in a chic, vintage-style jar – something I had never seen done before – and was light and delicate, while still rich in flavour. The Honeycomb Waffle was very indulgent with lashings of chocolate sauce over three scoops of delicious ice cream, and a giant waffle sat below. It’s with shame I admit that I couldn’t quite finish the last few mouthfuls of this one, something that doesn’t happen all too often with me – the portion sizes throughout each course were more than generous!
With the newly refurbished toilet facilities being the talk of the town, I couldn’t leave without seeing what the fuss was all about, and well, I’ll let the pictures do the talking on that one – they’re brilliant!
They say start as you mean to go on, and with top quality food, friendly welcoming staff, and their recent top mark food hygiene rating, it seems as though perfection is the level of standard that the Volunteer Inn aims to continue. This is pub grub done proper!
By Jake Tucker
Broad Street, Ottery St. Mary, EX11 1BZ. T: 01404 81406
Visit The Volunteer Inn online at: www.thevolunteerinn-ottery.co.uk