A recommendation from some friends who used to be locals in this part of Devon had given us the impetus to try out this off-the-beaten-track restaurant, and we hoped that it would at least confirm their opinion of it. The dining room was in keeping with the rest of the Jacobean manor house and the atmosphere was somewhat restrained with only a minimum of guests, although we were heartened by the decent list of half bottles, from which we chose a lesser Pouilly fumé and a surprisingly good Ladoix, and by the look of the tasting menu. The canapés, especially the hake goujons and the ale crisps, were encouraging, and the pretty first course of a local goats cheese pavé with lovely lightly pickled red and white beetroot from the garden, candied walnuts, apple and a super beet sauce set the tone for the rest of the evening. Probably the outstanding dish was the brilliant poached Loch Duart salmon, the only non-local ingredient on the menu apart from the delicious foie gras, matched with superb West Country smoked eel, Jerusalem artichoke and its sauce, toasted hazelnuts and a display of sea vegetables. So many separate elements that came together so well. The carpaccio of local venison was set against a background of parsnip purée, crispy parsnip shreds, pickled shimeji mushrooms and poached blackberries, the diversity of tastes splendidly combined yet each somehow still coming through individually. The citrus roast cod dish was not quite as successful, the fish being a touch underseasoned and slightly overcooked, although it worked reasonably well with the mussels and the cider velouté. Things moved back to a higher level with the lovely taste of the garlic and thyme roast lamb rump and shredded breast accompanied by what appeared to be mini-haricots, morels and wild garlic. An interesting palate cleanser in the form of tarragon “snow” with a perfect, slightly tart, yoghurt sorbet led us into the dessert, an acceptably rich trio of chocolate, a crunchy praline and a delightful salted caramel ice cream. We were not made aware of the head chef’s absence until the end of the meal, but we have to say that the sous-chef had done him proud with an excellent all-round display of culinary skills with consistently good tastes and textures throughout.