Hotel Review: The Salutation Inn, Topsham in Devon
There are few better places to be than Devon on a sunny day, especially a coastal town and one like Topsham in the south east of the county is a glorious place to escape to when the weather is at its finest.
I recently discovered a gem in the centre of this estuary-side town – The Salutation Inn. A former 18th century inn and now a foodie’s dream, this is a place you must visit if you’re in the area. Consisting of a fine-dining restaurant, cafe, 2 lounges and 6 bedrooms and suites, with the option for private hire, the owners (a husband and wife team with tons of experience in the hospitality industry) have this spot on. The carpeted, low-lit restaurant is sumptuous and comfortable with menus to languish in, the cafe is a bright and cool space under an atrium roof with plants galore, while the lounges offer a fashionable and relaxing spot between meals.
The modern rooms are welcoming and spacious, with my suite boasting windows on three walls, a sofa and large, spongy bed, which was hard to leave and spacious bathroom with separate shower and bath. The monochrome décor was fairly basic but the airy room offered up everything I need for a comfortable stay, and retiring here after a gorgeous meal was just perfect. Parking is a little awkward, sitting behind the building down a narrow lane, so I avoided that and found a spot at the quay area, which was great as I got to see some of the town as I took the short walk up. I enjoyed every aspect of The Salutation but the most thrilling for me, won’t come as a surprise to many, was food.
I couldn’t have chosen a better night to dine here, it was like the 6 course tasting menu was written with my favourite foods in mind – scallops, lobster, beef and chocolate – these are all heavenly foods for me and they were prepared beautifully. Before dinner I reclined on one of the sofas in the lounge to make my dining choices for the evening. There are a variety of menus to choose from including weekly-changing 4, 6 and 8 course menus with a resident’s light dinner and Sunday offering as well. Heading up the kitchen is Tom Williams-Hawkes, who has gained hefty experience with the likes of Michael Caines at Gidleigh Park and Marcus Wareing at Petrus, working as sous chef for Caines before taking a spell as executive chef at Abode in Exeter for three years.
The menus are full of decadent options, with foods sourced from local suppliers and the dishes were consistently tasty, elegantly presented and paired with well thought through complementary ingredients. Canapés are always a sign of what’s to come, and the parmesan sable, tomato and basil arancini and rainbow trout carpaccio, which I devoured in the lounge with a white wine, were all deliciously delicate and fulfilling.
They say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and this is very true of the introductory course of Lyme Bay scallops, peas and bacon. This classic combination works well with delicate, juicy and plump scallops, the earthy flavour of peas and salty, meaty bacon pairing so well together. Next up was Ladram Bay lobster, burnt leek and curry mayonnaise and the gorgeous smell tantalised me as the dish was placed in front of me. I love shellfish and the lobster didn’t disappoint with its plump and sweet nature, certainly not an overrated food as I sometime hear. A truly flavoursome dish, the curry sauce and leek worked wonders to bring the lobster to life (not literally, of course – imagine that!) making it impossible to fault. Divine.
The Powderham beef fillet with asparagus and beef red wine sauce was the next dish and, again, the delicious scents had my mouth watering before I could even sample it, the onion and gravy being the culprits! I sipped on a glass of Veneto and the silky-smooth wine suited the beef and gravy perfectly. Crisp thin onion rings, broccoli, asparagus and a perfect piece of beef made this dish rather divine.
We sampled a few cheeses next – this wasn’t listed on the menu so it made this a nice surprise. There was a pleasing selection of cheeses including a fondue with walnuts, celery, a chutney and red grapes to nibble on too. This was followed with the kirsch and coconut espuma – cherries aren’t my favourite but I ate the whole dish so I can’t dislike them that much! The strong fruity taste was calmed by the delicate flavour and texture of the coconut.
Finally we enjoyed a dish of milk chocolate, tonka bean, passion fruit and hazelnut. A pretty dish, this consisted of a jaconde sponge surrounding a chocolate parfait with caramel coated hazelnuts offering a great crunch and tart passion fruit puree lifting the whole dish. Coffee and petit fours were listed on the menu but we just couldn’t manage anything else so we took the short walk to our room to retire for the evening.
Breakfast is served in The GlassHouse cafe, which sits on a historic courtyard under a modern atrium roof. You can tuck into light lunches and afternoon teas here too or swing by for a coffee with friends. I had a full English and it was gorgeous – double fried egg, crisp bacon (just how I like it) sausage, beans, tomato and mushroom were all of the finest quality, proving that whatever you eat here is going to be decent.
IN A NUTSHELL
I really like the set up of The Salutation Inn – the owners have utilised every space effectively, keeping original features in place (a gorgeous single leaf front door) and introducing new additions (The GlassHouse Cafe) to bring something different, but required to the area. It is certainly worth travelling to, and with rooms and a pretty waterside town to explore beyond, there’s no excuse not to make the trip.
Address: 68 Fore St, Topsham, Exeter EX3 0HL / 01392 873060