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The Treby Arms

June 24, 2012

I’ve recently been in the UK for some work and family visits before I head off to Villefranche for a bio-optics course (more to come on that!). I’ve been astonished by the increased cost of often frankly mediocre food in the UK, perhaps I’ve been spoiled by Cape Town, but I’m just not going to stand paying 8 pounds for nachos when I could make a gourmet feast for that price at home. However this week we’ve found an exception! When I was last in Sparkwell, some friends and I were searching for a pub after a day at Dartmoor Zoo – the one which inspired the recent movie “we bought a zoo” which is definitely worth a visit! We were dismayed to find this quaint little countryside village without a pub. Now, the old pub in the village has been bought and reopened by Anton Piotrowski – previously head chef at the Rose and Crown – a lovely pub my Dad took us to on my last visit home. Dad heard about this move and decided to take Ben and I to the Treby Arms for dinner this week.

The Treby Arms has a typical British country pub feel, something I miss a lot in South Africa. Good beers (and more importantly, ciders!), old chairs, exposed wooden beams and a warm, cosy atmosphere. But the food is anything but typical pub fair. The menu is exactly what you want to see – relatively small, with good variety and making use of the best local produce. Lots of the dishes are described in full tantalising glory, whilst a few others leave a little to the imagination – “What Dad got from the garden soup” and “Treby’s gone carrots” were two examples. It’s worth taking a chance on these dishes, even without asking for details, as we found out later in our meal!

We started off with a selection of nibbles to share with pre dinner drinks – lovely fresh bread, olives and the most amazing venison scotch egg – with a still gooey centre and delicious pickle. We were very full after our meal so if you’re going for a full 3 course meal you could probably leave the bread etc, but certainly don’t miss that egg!

To start I had a lovely treacle cured salmon dish, the highlight of which was a delicious crispy, crab cake. Dad and Kath couldn’t resist this dish either, so I can’t comment on the other dishes but the duck liver, soup and goats cheese mousse dishes would certainly be worth trying based on the quality of the dishes we had. Ben had quail – a favourite of his, which was perfectly cooked and served with a confit leg fritter.

As I mentioned, I particularly hate having food at restaurants that I know I could cook at home. So, I often try the pork dishes at nice places, because I can’t usually cook pork very well and good pork done well can be fabulous. Naturally then, I chose the Pork fillet in Parma ham with black pudding, ham hock fritter and apple sauce. This is definitely some of the nicest pork I’ve ever eaten – the fillet was ridiculously tender, the ham hock must have fallen off the bone and contained within the crispy fritter, went perfectly with the soft mashed potatoes and apple sauce. Finished off with black pudding, this was a truly perfect main dish, I couldn’t bear to leave any.

Kath had a wonderful cajun spiced lamb, again perfectly tender, whilst Bens duck had crispy skin but was still pink in the middle.

To accompany our mains we had a bottle of Sharpham white wine – a blend of a couple of different varieties from a local vineyard near Dartmouth. I’d been to the vineyard a couple of years ago and this was the white wine we had for my 21st birthday. I was pleased that this wine tasted as good as I’d remembered, especially since I’ve tasted so many great wines in South Africa.

Though we were really full by this point – portions were perfectly sized, but we should probably have avoided filling up on bread and cider pre dinner – we couldn’t resist a dessert! I had a wonderful strawberry and white chocolate mousse served with shortbread and meringue and Dad had a caramel filled chocolate “cigar” with honeycombe and pannacotta. The best dessert however was Bens “Trebys gone carrots” – a creatively served and exceptionally delicious carrot cake.

Though not as cheap as Cape Town dining, our meal was great value given the quality of the food. Starters ranged between 4.50 and 8.50 pounds, mains ranged from 12 to 17 pounds and desserts were available between 5 and 6.95 pounds. Based on their website I think there are cheaper lunch time offers and set menus available – so a visit to the Treby Arms would be a great addition to a day out at Dartmoor Zoo.

Overall we had a great evening. The food was delicious, perfectly cooked and presented, great value and accompanied by a good selection of drinks. All delivered with fantastic service.I highly recommend the Treby Arms to everyone in the Plymouth area.

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