Flashes of ge­nius

The Cran­ford Inn, Tor­ring­ton

Devon Life - - The Greedy Fox -

Here we are in the heart of Tarka coun­try on the look­out for some­where that I’ve been in­formed blends un­pre­ten­tious coun­try pub with Miche­lin-level cook­ing at very rea­son­able prices. The scene is set and I’m rav­en­ous.

Tucked just off the main road that rises and falls be­tween Tor­ring­ton and Um­ber­leigh, on ar­rival it feels like you’re en­ter­ing an old es­tate. What was once a work­ing farm is now home to a mix­ture of fish­ing lakes and self­ca­ter­ing cot­tages sound­tracked by a dis­tant cock­erel. Thirty years ago the old long­house with its thick walls be­came the pub that you see to­day.

The lo­cals in these parts all speak fondly of ‘The Cran­nie’ when it was en­joy­ing its hey­day. A decade in the wrong hands can leave any ship rud­der­less and it’s fair to say that af­ter a num­ber of short-term ten­ants this pub had lost its way. A shot in the arm was needed from some­one with vi­sion, ex­pe­ri­ence and the ap­petite and de­ter­mi­na­tion to ride out any rough patches in the pur­suit of cre­at­ing some­thing unique.

An Aus­tralian swap­ping the Gold Coast for the UK may not seem the ob­vi­ous start­ing point but then Leanne Free­man is not your typ­i­cal land­lady. Her story be­gins some 28 years ago af­ter touch­ing down in Ed­in­burgh. Fast for­ward to the mil­len­nium

‘Hands down this was the best meal I’ve eaten in a long time and young Jack is a Devon star in the mak­ing’

and a move to Dorset would ig­nite a love af­fair with pubs.

More than a decade there equipped her with an en­vi­able set of hos­pi­tal­ity skills be­fore a move to Nor­folk pre­sented the op­por­tu­nity to fi­nally be­come her own boss. North Devon en­tered the frame purely by chance via a short sum­mer break in Ap­ple­dore. Af­ter fall­ing in love with the ru­ral land­scape, by Au­gust 2016 a new chap­ter was un­der­way and the for­tunes of The Cran­ford Inn were sud­denly look­ing up.

Leanne has taken charge of a prop­erty that will take time to fully spruce up. There are none of the su­per­flu­ous ex­tras that nor­mally go hand in hand with a new gas­tropub open­ing. This is in fact a com­pletely dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion, un­der­stated but qui­etly con­fi­dent in its of­fer­ing.

Still only two years in, her first pri­or­ity has been to re­cruit the right peo­ple. On the look­out for a sec­ond chef, in Fe­bru­ary a CV ar­rived from an am­bi­tious young man ply­ing his trade at one of Kent’s Miche­lin-starred restau­rants. Be­fore long Jack Can­nell was one of Devon’s new­est res­i­dents. Six months in and still only 24 he has al­ready been pro­moted to head chef.

The menu quickly had our un­di­vided at­ten­tion. A trio of starters; wild mush­room arancini, sticky beef cheek and con­fit sal­mon showed some se­ri­ous in­tent. Next up, Cran­ford Park veni­son loin with roasted squash, has­sel­back po­tato and pick­led trompettes had a light­ness of touch surely hard to ex­tract from such earthy au­tum­nal in­gre­di­ents. Cauliflower roulade with mar­i­nated beets, golden raisins and ro­manesco was a pic­ture on a plate, per­fectly ex­e­cuted and veg­gie heaven. Dessert, a caramelised ap­ple par­fait tarte tatin, was per­fect.

Hands down this was the best meal I’ve eaten in a long time and young Jack is a Devon star in the mak­ing. As well as pub clas­sics here you get his re­laxed take on fine din­ing served in a ca­sual and peace­ful set­ting. Add in the warm hos­pi­tal­ity, on­go­ing plans for the in­te­rior and you have a win­ning for­mula. Make the jour­ney…you’ll be ex­tremely glad you did. info@ot­ter­brew­ery.com

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