Last rated: 28/09/2011
Part of The River Cottage family, the Axminster Canteen and Deli puts into regular practice Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall’s simple and exemplary philosophy: good, seasonal food cooked with care, energy and honesty at affordable prices. The formula sounds simple but it is rarely achieved with such unpretentious success as it is here. Meals are served throughout the day, and the menus change constantly as produce arrives from local farms and fishermen. Dinner reservations are recommended, otherwise simply drop in for breakfast, lunch or a snack.
The atmosphere is easy-going and friendly, the down-home decor is down-to-earth stripped wood, painted brick walls, open kitchen and bare tabletops; a touch sixties muesli-belt maybe, but the key to the heart of the operation is in the outsize colour photographs that hang on the walls. Plus a menu that makes you want to eat every dish. For breakfast there may be Smoked Dorset rare breed streaky bacon bap (£3.75) or oaty drop scones with honey or butter, and from the deli menu, a honey roast organic ham, blue cheese and caramelised onion toasted sandwich (£6.50). Main dishes might include Dorset mushroom pelt risotto with Ticklemoor goats’ cheese; Cornish mussels with cider, leeks, bacon and bread (£10); or Scottish creel caught langoustine salad. Pan-roasted pollack with carrots, bacon, celeriac, cabbage, onion and gremolata is among the most expensive but even that comes in at a more-than-reasonable £14. For dessert, don’t miss Hugh’s rich chocolate cake and dairy ice-cream and butterscotch sauce.