The Night Jar Inn, Aylesbeare near Exeter
They have been very clever with the design of the pub; they haven't gone all out gastro pub which is the worst thing you can do as I believe that a local pub in a small village needs its locals to help spread the word and, if the locals like what you do, then you have already won half the battle.
They really have created a unique style and with a very smart first floor restaurant with a glass veranda looking down on the people below. The team behind the design need a pat on the back, but don't be fooled thinking you can only go there to eat, as sometimes these types of places make you feel uncomfortable if you just want to go for a beer after a hard day. With clever placing of leather sofas and taller tables near the bar they have made a space for everyone to feel comfortable in and it works with a mix of friendly locals and people dining, it creates a really relaxed atmosphere and, for me, that's make the evening more enjoyable.
We were given an amuse bouche to whet our apetite; a beautiful silky smooth honey and parsnip soup with a perfect balance of this naturally sweet veg and a drop of honey that enhanced the soup without making it over sweet.
I love a soup and, if made well, it's a thing of beauty. All the ingredients not only have to sing by themselves but also as part of the choir. So for my starter I went for a Jerusalem artichoke and truffle soup; a match made in heaven for me as these are two of my favourite ingredients it resulted in a silky smooth rich soup full of flavour and seasoned to perfection and finished with a drizzle of truffle oil. If I had to be critical I would have preferred fresh truffle to add an earthyness to the soup which, although the oil had great flavour, may make the soup a bit rich for some people.
For my main I opted for the skate wing with lobster and pearl barley. I love skate but it certainly wouldn't win an under-the-sea beauty contest, and the skate you often see in supermarkets is past its best, so when I see it on the menu I'm a happy bunny.
The skate was cooked to perfection and seasoned well with the delicate flesh easily coming away without a struggle from the wing; it was served on a bed of very well cooked pearl barley full of flavour and again seasoned well. The skate was topped with a very generous amout of lobster the sweet meat (a minute less cooking time and it would have been perfect) complimented the rich, earthy pearl barley and the delicate flesh of the skate. All in all it was a very well thought out dish which is a credit the the kitchen team and how they are thinking outside the box.
I decided not to go for pudding as I don't really have a sweet tooth but with offerings such as salted caramel mousse and sticky toffee pudding, I'm sure the offerings are enough to satisfy any dessert demon.
The Night Jar Inn is a must-go destination for your foodie diaries; it's breaking away from the gastro pub scene which, if I'm honest, is getting a bit boring now. Stick gastro on the menu, charge an extra few quid and cut the portion size by half. What the Night Jar Inn is offering is inventive food, good portion size and good prices without any of the fuss and this will keep people coming back again and again.