Restaurant Review: The Masons Arms, Knowstone in Devon
Michelin star eateries are few and far between in Devon, considering the quality of the local produce and beautiful scenery, this is a shame. However, those that hold the coveted award are something to be sought out and thoroughly enjoyed. The Masons Arms in Knowstone – a small village tucked away in the north of the glorious county – offers a meal definitely worth seeking out.
Owned and run by husband and wife team, Mark and Sarah Dodson, the 13th century thatched inn offers up a cosy atmosphere, warm welcome and great service thanks to Sarah and excellent food thanks to Mark and their team.
Upon arrival my guest, Nick, and I were shown to the lounge area, which was instantly welcoming with its stunning inglenook, comfortable seating and warming tones. The area retains characteristics from its lengthy history but is modernised with elements of its décor to add an essence of elegance. We enjoyed a prosecco and beer while nibbling on some nuts and olives and canapés of smoked salmon on cucumber with a citrus mayonnaise and a fluffy cheese scone with cream cheese filling. While enjoying these introductory delights we cast our eyes over the menu, which included a range of meats and flavour pairings such as seared peppered tuna with oriental salad and breast of guinea fowl with confit leg cannelloni and a morel cream sauce. We made our choices and took our seats in the dining area to await our starters.
I opted for the Vulscombe goat’s cheese arancini (stuffed rice balls coated in breadcrumbs and fried) with tomato coulis and pesto and was instantly thrilled with this plate of food. The delicate dish had a lot going on with sweet and hearty flavours and crispy and smooth textures marrying together to create a delicious starter. The arancini were so light, crisp and tasty and worked well with a sweet onion relish, gentle and sweet tomato coulis and warming, herby pesto. There was a lot of colour on the plate making for tantalising viewing and I truly wanted to savour every bite = perfection.
For Nick’s starter he had chosen the ham hock croquette, pea purée and mint butter sauce and it arrived looking very fresh and spring like with lashings of colour and greenery complementing the crispy croquette. The classic combination of pea and ham was delivered well with a gentle addition of mustard creating an uplifting, well balanced dish.
We didn’t have to wait long for our main courses to arrive and mine was a delightful seafood plate of monkfish wrapped in prosciutto ham with breaded mackerel and scallops. Out came another colourful, fresh looking dish with a generous helping of some excellent quality cooking. The monkfish was meaty and chunky while a smoked mackerel croquette added a lovely crispy texture and another flavour dimension to an otherwise sweet and light dish. Two juicy scallops sat in a sweet and buttery root vegetable mash and the addition of orange segments and spring onions completed the tasty plate of food. My wine choices for both dishes were well chosen for me by Sarah and were the perfect accompaniments to the foods I had chosen while indulging my love of red wine (starter – 2014 Pinot Noir, Sacchetto, Delle Venezie, Italy. Main – Gigondas, Château de Trignon, Rhone).
Nick’s main course of fillet of beef with garlic snails and sauce diable was a hearty dish in terms of size and ingredients. A nice chunky piece of meat sat aside some soft and delicious mashed potato, delicate snails and broccoli, while the rich, flavoursome sauce complemented the dish perfectly. Nick gave this a ten out of ten.
We decided to have a short break before our desserts so that we could fully enjoy them. We sat back and took in our surroundings commenting on the glorious views of the luscious green hills outside. Inside, the restaurant space had a different feel to the lounge and bar area and seemed more open and light with a higher ceiling with mural and peachy, red, metallic warming tones and wood flooring.
Break over and we made our dessert choices, looking forward to sharing a buttermilk pudding with berry compote and pistachio crumb and Devon and Somerset farmhouse cheese plate. The fruity dish had a light, milky, soft and smooth buttermilk base with a thin layer of tangy set berry on top followed by a light, foamy cream and crunchy, earthy pistachio. The dish was delicious, delicate, gentle and light and was nicely followed by the tasty selection of cheeses. Sharpham Brie, Exmoor blue, Quicke’s cheddar and Vulscombe goats were some of the cheeses which were complemented with celery, figs, walnuts, dried apricots and crisp crackers to round the meal off with style.
Overall our visit to The Masons Arms was a very enjoyable one – the food reflected the season well and we were treated so well by Sarah, who knew most of the diners was very friendly and Mark, who served us up some incredible dishes. The food was delightful and the gorgeous arancini have left me raving about them long after my visit.
In a nutshell
An unassuming local pub with a cracking Michelin star menu, The Masons Arms is a warm, welcoming and wonderful place to spend an evening.
Address: South Molton, Knowstone EX36 4RY / 01398 341231