Sunday, 8 July 2012

Jack In the Green Inn, Rockbeare, Exeter

I was, rather predictably, feeling a little fragile after the previous two days merriment. Hot, hung over and with the sort of heartburn you really have to earn by drinking copious amounts of cider and eating crisps at three in the morning (so I hear).

The Jack in the Green 'selection of cured meats'. The menu underplayed this one a bit, and, even as a self confessed charcuterie fanatic, it sounded a little uninspiring. After enquiring a little bit further we were told that the meats are all cured in house, and the platter featured a mixture of pork, venison and Whimple lamb from just down the road. It doesn't come much more local than that.

The meats came dressed with a tangy sauce gribiche, a rocket salad alongside. All the charcuterie was very good; deep, gamey, salty slices, each with well distinguished flavours, the lamb being particularly unusual and delicious. All very well done and quite delicious.

The Ewing chose the mackerel with curry spices, cucumber, yoghurt, peanuts and microcress. While the flavours were spot on, and the fish spanking fresh and perfectly cooked, the portion was a little on the bijou side. I know the concept of a starter is to whet your appetite, not knock you out for the afternoon, but it was very good dish and it would have been nice to have had a little more.

From the sublime to the ridiculous; after starters that were on the smaller side we made sure to eat some of the decent bread and butter proffered to us, only to be faced with the largest main course I have encountered for a long time.

I can't actually remember the last time I chose chicken on a menu (save for the majestic bird served at Zuni Cafe), but here I was swayed by its comforting properties, and the intriguing-sounding savoury bread pudding served with it. The roasted breast was presented with said pudding, nesting on pile of buttery mash and topped with crispy bacon. So far so good, then the side dishes began to arrive; first a dish of giant roasties; followed by braised red cabbage, beetroot and red onion, carrots and  cauliflower cheese; next a (still unidentified) bread-type sauce, studded with chunks of ham; and finally a large dish of broccoli, mange tout and green beans.

The feast set before us. Roast dinner out are almost always a disappointment; potatoes not crispy, not enough meat, soggy veg, watery gravy, no chance of making a sandwich from the leftovers late on a Sunday night. Apart from the last point, this dinner ticked all boxes; it was a triumph.

Everything there was perfectly cooked, a feat in itself, and even more impressive considering vast array of food were presented with. The chicken was moist and juicy; the pudding richly saturated with glossy gravy; the spuds, in both incarnations, perfect. The red cabbage/onion/beetroot was an unexpected pleasure, being the perfect balance of sweet and sour and providing a tangy edge to work against the cauliflower cheese and the rich (mystery) sauce.

Just looking at this picture now give me that lovely postprandial feeling, a sensation of gently glowing from a surfeit of good food and good beer, ready to fall asleep on the sofa in front of the Antiques Roadshow.

The Ewing's plate was a little less traditional, but no less delicious; monkfish 'scampi' with a curried mayonnaise and skinny fries.

The sauce provided a little controversy. Despite advertising itself quite clearly on the menu, the Ewing was a little surprised after the first taste, mistakenly believing it was the, more traditional, tartare. Although she remained unconvinced of its merits, I thought it was lovely, especially when the juicy coins of crisp fish were dipped into it. Chips were good, and the side salad served with it was shot through with feathery dill fronds, a very good match with the fish and spices.

After my magnificent main I reluctantly threw down the white flag (we did both share the sides, I wasn't a complete glutton), but the Ewing showed a little more stamina and chose the Bakewell Tart with sour cherry sorbet to finish.

Luckily they gave us two sets of cutlery, meaning I could steal in and swipe the nose of the tart and some of the wonderfully sharp sorbet. Cherry and almond are the perfect bedfellows and both elements were great, the frangipane layer being gorgeously dense, almost more like marzipan than a sponge, and the pastry perfectly light and friable.

At twenty quid for two courses, and twenty five for three, the Sunday lunch menu is very decent value for some very decent cooking. An extra mention for the front of house staff, who made us feel just like locals from the moment we arrived, and made the afternoon even more enjoyable with their friendly humour and warm welcome.

After lingering for a good while over cappuccinos and fudge we were finally gently herded back to into the lounge, so they could prepare for the second wedding reception of the day. The perfect opportunity for us to take our leave, and make the most of the sunny afternoon with a drive around the local villages and that well deserved Sunday nap.

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