Having abstained from a cooked breakfast, rustled up by Frave at the tardy hour of 12 noon this Bank Holiday Monday, I was in a strong position to argue a case for two courses when we stopped for lunch one hour later at The Bridge Inn Dulverton, in Somerset.
But so good was the menu – replete with proper pies, homemade scotch eggs, baked Cornish brie and the like – that my companions (who had just eaten a big breakfast, the greedy so-and-sos) complied with alacrity and we settled down to what ended up being a mighty fine lunch, more of which later.
We came across this delightful little pub and village on our way back to London from Umberleigh, Devon, where we had been staying in the most beautiful old mill, perched on the banks of the River Taw (of Tarka the Otter fame), for the weekend. ‘The Mill’ was passed down the female line to my good friend The Worm’s sister from her great grandmother, who bought the fishing rights back in the 30s with a disused mill thrown in as a bonus.
Throughout our twenties, The Mill was a dream party pad, immune to the wanton dancing, drink spilling and mud-trailing that inevitably took place there, but as we have grown up, so too has The Mill. Recently, our ‘dance floor’ became a kitchen; where once we bathed in a shared inch of bathwater or jumped in the river, now we have a proper shower. Meanwhile, the old black beams of the ceiling have been painted white to open up the space, and there’s new carpet too.
This time, there was no drink spilling, just a little mud trailing (by me – oops) and a mere smattering of hip shaking round the fire on Saturday night, but it felt good to be grown-up and (relatively) hangover free, leaving us in good mind to truly appreciate the glorious weather outside.
(NB – For those living outside the UK, “glorious weather” translates roughly as “it didn’t rain too much and the sun peeked out a couple of times, but not for long.”)
Actually, the weather wasn’t as bad as had been predicted and we had opportunity for a windswept beach trip to Saunton Sands, a damp walk along the river and pints of Addlestone’s cider in the local Rising Sun pub, while the boys did lots of log clearing from the river.
But back to The Bridge Inn. I chose very well for a change with West Country Crab Cakes to start and Beetroot and Ricotta Tortelloni for a main. My crab cakes were soft, plump and clearly homemade with a fresh and flavoursome breadcrumb coating and a delicious infusion of Thai spices with sweet chilli sauce on the side.
It was the same story for my tortelloni, which made for a visual feast, blushing pink through the sage green pesto butter with a beautiful beetroot filling that was light and well-balanced, despite the pasta itself being slightly on the thick side (but at least it was homemade).
If there is pie on the menu, that’s what men tend to order. With a choice of not one, but three pies on this menu (Minty Lamb, Beef and Stilton and Goats Cheese and Sweet Potato), their tiny brains went into momentary overload. But they came out the other side, settling on two lamb and two beef pies between them, which they said were excellent, though the Minty Lamb one could have been a bit mintier according to Worm.
Feeling a post-prandial food coma coming on, we went for a quick walk over the nearby Tarr Steps, a medieval clapper bridge, made out of stone slabs, that is reckoned to have been built in around 100BC. Over 2,000 years of history nearly buckled under the weight of those fry-ups, fish cakes and pies, but all was well in the end, apart from the rain, which started in earnest, sending us scuttling back to our cars for the long, depressing drive back to London.
The Bridge Inn,
20 Bridge St,
T: 01398 324130
* All the food snaps were taken on the iPhone by photographer extraordinaire, Dave Watts (see if you can spot him above). You can see more of his (serious) work here