Summer delights at The Salutation Inn, Topsham
There is something really special about the pretty, compact, riverside town Topsham. Sandwiched between Exeter and Exmouth along the river Exe, it’s brimming with history. Once upon a time, it was a thriving port and shipbuilding centre, and today Topsham still has a maritime feel about it; from the murals to the boats on the Quay, to fishing in the Exe.
Full of specialist shops, fine dining restaurants, interesting eateries, and with stunning views across the estuary, there is something very special about Topsham.
I headed there after work on a balmy Monday evening for The Salutation Inn’s Summer Showcase. The Salutation has been an Inn since at least 1720. “The fine 3 story façade stands proudly in the centre of Topsham. The main entrance ‘porte cochère’ (carriage porch) with what has been described (by English Heritage) as one of the largest single leaf doors in the country. The building is protected with a star listing. From Regatta Balls to 19thC balloon trips it has all happened here.”
We were greeted by lovely Harry Cornwall of Go Wild Comms and shown through the conservatory into the small garden at the back of the restaurant where we were treated to a glass of my favourite tipple, Salcombe gin and tonic, with a touch of fresh citrus.
Canapés of delicious Williams Farm quail egg, Wild River Exe Salmon and Country Cheeses gougère were offered while I caught up with fellow foodies and writers. Now, I am not a fan of salmon, but I felt that I should taste everything and the salmon tartare looked delicious so I tried it – to my utter delight! The Salmon, fresh from the Exe that morning, was perfectly seasoned and melted in my mouth.
Our hosts Tom and Amelia Williams-Hawkes introduced themselves and talked us through the locally sourced menu, telling us more about the suppliers they use, some of whom were also invited to the event. It was wonderful to hear from them throughout the meal and to learn more about their story.
Both Tom and Amelia came to The Salutation in with a wealth of experience. Tom started his cooking journey at Gidleigh Park, Chagford under the guidance of Michael Caines and went on to work for Gordon Ramsey and Marcus Waring. Amelia was born into the hospitality trade and worked in various establishments across Devon and New Zealand.
Back in London at the weekend, I was trying to explain Devon’s food culture to a friend, and how lucky we are to have so many dedicated eateries and brilliant, ethical local suppliers that work together to make our county’s food offering sublime.
The Salutation Inn’s showcase was a perfect example of the symbiotic nature of Devon’s food movement.
Back to the food… I’m a huge tomato fan, I love them naked, cooked in sauces, roasted, sun-dried, in salads, any which way, but I especially love a good chilled gazpacho soup. The Salutation’s Gazpacho with summer herbs was absolutely spot on, fresh and light, carefully seasoned with a bit of a kick to it. I could happily eat it every day for lunch.
After our soup, we heard from Andrew Freemantle of local, high welfare, Red Tractor* approved pig farm, Kenniford Farm. Andrew told us about their high level animal husbandry and how the ham hock cut went from being an offcut to a culinary delight.
As a non-meat eater, I can’t vouch for the crispy Kenniford Farm ham hock on the menu. BUT, I can tell you that the Lyme Bay scallops, with fresh shoots, peas and samphire (foraged in Topsham that day) was delectable. The scallops were seared to perfection, the gentle texture complemented by the crunch of green vegetables.
The next course consisted of Greendale Farm beef sirloin for the meat eaters, but before we ate, we heard about their farming techniques and brilliant farm shop which you may have seen on my social media (there is a blog coming soon). Greendale is also a Red Tractor Farm and the Carter family have been farming in Devon for over five generations, they have also been involved in the local fishing industry for over 50 years.
The vegetarian option was Forest Fungi‘s hen of the wood mushroom, mushroom fricassee and a Williams Farm poached egg. It was flavoursome, busy yet perfectly balanced in taste and texture.
Forest Fungi is a family business specialising in the growing and supply of gourmet mushrooms and Scott brought with him a hen of the wood which was pretty spectacular!
Then came A chase of Country cheese including; Keens extra mature from Dartmoor, Cranbourne soft cheese from Dorset, Smoked Mayfield and (probably my favourite based on the awesome name) Gary’s Bliss cheese which is “a cheese dream that became a reality” – don’t you just love that?!
To finish the evening we drank Clifton Coffee, a coffee from Bristol that I seem to be seeing a lot of-of late. Then we worked our way around the petit fours, which included; boozy rum chocolate truffles, zesty lime and white chocolate treats, gin and tonic strawberry pots, mint macaroons and soft, sweet, melt-in-the-mouth fudge.
After dinner, Lauren and I had a quick tour from Amelia who took us upstairs to the function room and explained that they took on the Salutation Inn in a state of complete dilapidation and breathed life back into the beautiful building.
And we think they’ve done a wonderful job.
The team have struck a great balance between relaxed and fine dining with a wonderful ambience, great staff and delicious food in a beautiful setting. I will definitely be heading back for a date night with Mr. Exploring Exeter very soon – you can dine and stay for around £200, perfect for a treat on a special occasion.
Thank you to all involved for a wonderful night.
To view The Salutation Inn’s menu go here.
Read about my visit to Michael Caine’s Lympstone manor.
*Red Tractor is the largest food standards scheme in the UK, covering; animal welfare, food safety, traceability and environmental protection.
Tags: Devon, dining out, Exeter, farm, greendale farm, kenniford farm, Michael Caines, topsham