One of the perks of running a site like Cottages In South Devon is that you are absolutely required to go and eat great food in wonderful places. And it’s certainly never a hardship to eat at Riverford Field Kitchen.
Giles Coren called it the lunch of his life and it has the kind of wholesome, honest and soul-enriching appeal that, if not the lunch of your life, might at least be the lunch of your South Devon holiday.
Just outside Buckfastleigh on the main drag (A384) that joins the A38 with Totnes and other South Devon holiday destinations like Dartmouth, Kingsbridge and Salcombe, it’s a short drive from pretty much any holiday cottages in South Devon. Worth bearing in mind though that the Field Kitchen operates a single sitting so you need to arrive in good time to get your table – and take the farm visit if you’re interested in seeing fields of celeriac from the back of a tractor trailer. Once is enough – we skipped it and headed straight for the wine.
Open every day for lunch and some evenings, booking is pretty much essential at any time of year but even more so during holiday times when advanced planning is required. And trust me – it’s worth making the effort to ring a few weeks ahead.
The single sitting policy isn’t the only way the Field Kitchen breaks the mould of normal restaurants. It’s a communal affair with shared benches and long wooden tables heaped with big dishes of meat and vegetables that get passed around for everyone to help themselves. It feels like Sunday lunch round your best friend’s house.
Other than a vegetarian option instead of the meat (in our case sublime, just pink roast duck) there’s no choice – although you can have as much or as little of each vegetable dish as table etiquette allows. Unlike the normal restaurant concept where meat or fish is star of the show, here it’s relegated to being part of the ensemble alongside things like leeks in sweet and sour sauce, braised red cabbage, roasted sweet and standard potatoes and a standout dish of fennel gratin which beat the duck into second place as the highlight of the meal.
Well, I say the fennel was the highlight but that would ignore the sheer unadulterated delight of the puddings. There’s a palpable sense of excitement as tables are cleared and – one by one – puddings, cakes, flans, tarts and sponges take their place at the servery. My kids run up to give up-to-the-minute reports as each confection is unveiled: Pavlova, custard tart, chocolate mousse cake, lemon tart, Italian fig pudding and then steaming custard.
We’re called up table by table – I’ve been at the end of the queue in the past and it can be crushing to be faced with the prospect of your ear-marked pudding running out (another reason to get there early) – but this time we all had our first choices: the aforementioned Pavlova being a sticky mess of loveliness and the de rigeur Sticky Toffee Pudding hitting all the right spots.
For foodies booking cottages in South Devon it’s a must visit – with no accommodation on site some people even book cottages in Totnes just to be close.