No regrets at The Railway
ANDY COOPER is delighted to discover a change of home for a well-known chef is breathing fresh life into a former favourite spot
The life of a food reviewer in Devon is pretty much one of unalloyed pleasure, tinged with the odd moment of regret. I can blather on to anyone who is still awake and listening just what a fabulous food and drink offering we have across the county right now. The good definitely outweighs the bad.
And the regrets? Well, a few ‘dodgy’ moments of mostly indifferent service or naff meals, but mainly my disappointments have been more in the nature of great chefs moving on to pastures new or venues closing before I have had a chance to return – or even get there in the first place.
This was certainly the case with Café Catalan, the popular bistro in Magdalen Road, Exeter, which I just didn’t managed to get to until the closure signs went up. I was truly disappointed not to get to try the food from what looked like an amazing menu. Numbers don’t lie either – it always seemed to be packed out when I walked past.
Another culinary disappointment for me was the closure of The Railway in Honiton. I had enjoyed many a fine meal there and it was a sadness that the spot closed down suddenly last year.
Imagine my delight then when I received an e-mail from Paul Greenhead, former owner of Café Catalan, announcing he and wife Beth were moving to The Railway to re-open it. Now, that’s what you call an opportune switch!
So it wasn’t too long before we found ourselves buzzing over to Honiton to try the ‘new’ Railway. The interior – always bright and welcoming – didn’t seem to have changed much because it didn’t need to but a lot else had. And for the better, even on my previous experiences of the place, which were all good. From the fantastically well-appointed bar to a menu which mixes elements of classics with lovely individual touches, this is a restaurant which knows what it is doing, as you would expect with Paul and Beth’s expert touch.
A ‘pesci’ like me was always going to love a venue which boats a specials board just for a selection of fresh fish dishes and so it was that I delighted in roast red snapper with herb couscous and spiced mango salsa. So very good and a clear sign this is a kitchen with confidence. The trout fillet on crushed new potatoes with capers and samphire beurre blanc enjoyed by my partner merely confirmed this.
Comfortably ensconced in the place after a busy few months, Paul has now introduced a new menu featuring such delights as curry-spiced mussel fritters, rabbit braised in white wine or Catalonian pasta cooked with southern Moorish spices.
The Railway also offers lovely rooms upstairs as well, so you can stay over and make a real treat of it. And a true treat it is. This is a restaurant which has given a chef who already had a fabulous reputation an even bigger canvas to paint on. And the culinary masterpieces forthcoming should make that a real draw for all proper foodies.
Dining out across the county with Devon Life’s writers