North of Barnstable, nestled in the small hamlet of East Down, you’ll find a charming Devonshire pub set amongst lush rolling hills…
Review by Chris & Collette Dyson for The Devon Foodie. All photography by Collette Dyson.
Pyne Arms is just a stone’s throw from the beautiful Exmoor National Park and a myriad of North Devon coastal resorts, such as Ilfracombe, Woolacombe, Saunton Sands & Lynmouth. Like most foodie destinations in this county, the inn can be reached by navigating country roads which can seem a little narrow in places for those accustomed to city driving. But once you arrive at Pyne Arms there is ample parking, a welcoming bar, and 3 individually styled ensuite rooms that mean you don’t have to make the journey back in the dark.
Pyne Arms is owned and run by Ellis and Aime Pannell; a young entrepreneurial couple who relaunched the pub back in 2012. Ellis is a self-trained chef who runs the kitchen, while Aime (who is also a trained chef) takes care of everything front of house. Their approach to cooking and service is simple: they use local produce wherever they can and aim to provide a friendly and laidback service to guests and diners alike. Their commitment to provenance is admirable, and during our stay we even headed to the kitchen garden to chat with Ellis as he collected fresh herbs and salad for our evening meal.
Accommodation at Pyne Arms
Just over three years ago, three individually styled B&B rooms were added to the inn. These have all been furnished to a high standard and each features an ensuite bathroom, tea & coffee making facilities and comfy seating areas. During our stay we found our room to be immaculately clean with tasteful, modern-country décor, soft plump pillows, and everything we needed for a good night’s sleep. The rooms are very in-keeping with the country pub vibe and our room even boasted a fabulous view of the surrounding fields and its resident white cows tending to their new calves.
Downstairs, Pyne Arms is a classic country pub with plenty of plaids, rustic wooden tables, a wood-burning fire and comfy chairs to recline in after a day spent hiking on nearby Exmoor. A well-stocked bar features plenty of local ales and a wide selection of spirits. The pub isn’t trying to be something it’s not and it certainly delivers as a quintessential country inn. As a location, Pyne Arms is ideal for couples wanting to access local attractions and the nearby coast, as well as visitors to the National Trusts Arlington Court; and dog owners looking for a bite to eat (one of the rooms is even made for guests with canines in tow).
Chef Ellis is confident enough to stick with a handful of starters (from £6.95) and main course dishes (from £11.95) on his menu. There are also a few ‘pub grub’ classics, such as Devon rib-eye, chicken curry, grilled burger with hand cut chips and fish & chips with mushy peas. Together with an enticing dessert menu which also offers a selection of smaller plates.
Ellis provided us with three starters to give us an idea of his culinary style. The first was a braised pork medallion with a celeriac remoulade served on a toasted brioche. The meat was tasty and beautifully cooked with each element of the dish working nicely together. We couldn’t help but feel however, that perhaps the succulent tasty meat deserved to be showcased alongside some seasonal vegetables, more as a main meal.
Next we sampled the monkfish scampi, encased in a crunchy batter, with a crisp salad of fennel, red onion & dill. This was a lovely dish, the crisp fennel salad was simple but truly delicious. The monkfish was fresh and juicy, although for us the batter could have been a tad thinner so as to not take away from the delicate fish. Just a little tweak on the batter, then this would be a fabulous dish.
Lastly, we got to try a smoked ham hock scotch egg; which appears to be a signature Pyne Arms dish. This was crunchy on the outside and filled with a luscious, smoked meat filling and a perfectly runny egg. This particular starter was delicious and certainly exceeded our expectations for a humble scotch egg. We would gladly order this again and out of the three dishes, this one seemed to be just the right size.
For our mains, we opted to try one meat and one vegetarian dish, these were served with seasonal vegetables and new potatoes.
The vegetarian dish came in the form of a beetroot, potato & blue cheese roulade. This was a handsome plate of food, the textures of beetroot and potato with the creamy blue cheese made for a delicious roulade, then a soft caramelised onion and fricassee of summer greens took the dish up another notch. Overall this was a solid vegetarian dish which we have on authority, is a favourite amongst the regular diners.
Meanwhile, the chicken supreme was without a doubt our dish of the evening. The succulent, locally sourced chicken was perfectly cooked with a divine little bacon, leek & cabbage tart served alongside it. The plate was finished off with a small Cheddar bon-bon and everything was then smothered in a glorious peppercorn sauce. This was one of the nicest chicken dishes we’ve ever had, which is strong praise indeed!
We also sampled two dishes for dessert, both of which were quintessential pub classics. There was a decadent gingerbread pudding with caramel sauce & clotted cream, as well as a Raspberry Bakewell. The former was a delicious, light sponge with hints of ginger and a silky sauce. The portion size was very generous and the addition of clotted cream was in our case, not needed. That being said, diners with a sweet tooth will not be leaving disappointed. Meanwhile, the Bakewell Tart was part of a mini puddings offering that was served with a choice of tea or coffee. The pastry was light crisp and excellently cooked, making a perfect case for the lovely Bakewell with its sweet yet tart raspberries. We both agreed that it was a good size for smaller appetites, and with the addition of a hot drink, great value.
Our Verdict on Pyne Arms
If wholesome food and genuine service is what drives you, Pyne Arms is the place to stop when you’re next in north Devon. The pub offers all the hallmarks of a contemporary restaurant but retains plenty of country charm and character. Ellis and Amie are a lovely, hard-working couple who have raised the profile of Pyne Arms to far more than your typical Devonshire pub. The food lays somewhere on the scale between good pub grub and fine dining. We can see these guys really going places and making their mark on the Devon foodie scene. They’re already doing great things with local food, and with the ability to stay overnight (with your canine companion) makes the Pyne Arms an excellent base for exploring everything north Devon has to offer.
Find out more
Address: Pyne Arms, East Down, Barnstaple EX31 4LX