Every few months, my dining partner and I try to take a trip down to North Devon to enjoy the countryside and surf off the area’s beautiful sandy beaches. One of our favourite dinner haunts when we’re down there, which I’ve long meant to feature in a restaurant review, is The King’s Arms in the small village of Georgeham. The King’s Arms is a quintessential country pub, with fireplaces, wooden furnishings and plenty of eclectic alcohol themed décor on the walls. Of a summer weekend, it is consistently busy with locals and tourists alike but the welcoming atmosphere ensures plenty of custom even out of season. On this particular occasion, my dining partner and I were seated in the main bar area, which was great for people watching but we did find ourselves having to raise our voices to hear each other above the bustle of people at the bar. The upstairs dining room, which serves the same menu, provides a very pleasant alternative if you’re looking for a quieter setting for your meal.
The King’s Arms’ regular menu offers a broad range of traditional pub grub, but their regularly changing specials allow the chef to experiment with some slightly more fine dining style options, and it was these that tempted me on our most recent visit. To start, I enjoyed a delectable pan fried pigeon breast served with rocket salad and raspberry vinaigrette. The thought of eating pigeon may not appeal to all, but I would thoroughly recommend it. The meat is firm, yet succulent, with a slight gamey flavour that is not at all overpowering. Paired with the intensely peppery rocket leaves, and lifted by the tart sweetness of the raspberry vinaigrette, this made for a wonderful starter. My dining partner ordered from the regular menu, and was highly impressed with his starter of crispy chilli beef served with chilli sauce, pak choi and mango dressing. The beef was teasingly crisped on the outside but remained tender on the inside, and the tanginess of the chilli sauce mingled with the mango dressing gave the dish a refreshing little kick.
For main course, my dining partner decided to put himself to the test and tackle the intimidatingly named Forest Beast Burger – a 10oz beef patty piled high with mushrooms, onions, blue cheese sauce & grilled bacon, with relish and mayonnaise on a soft sourdough bun, all served with salad and a side of triple cooked chips. Served on a wooden platter, it certainly looked impressive, although the bun was more of a beast than the fillings, even managing to make the generous 10oz patty actually look rather meagre. Despite this minor presentational niggle, my dining partner thoroughly enjoyed demolishing the Forest Beast, polishing off everything but the last couple of chips. For my own main course, I looked to the specials board again and ordered an excellent pan fried sea bass fillet served with classic ratatouille. The fish was fantastically fresh, soft and flaky with a delicate flavour and lovely crisp skin. I had been a little unsure of the choice of accompaniment, but the ratatouille simply blew me away – the tomato sauce was rich, comforting, and perfectly balanced. It was peppered with healthy chunks of Mediterranean vegetables – slightly bitter courgette and unctuously creamy aubergine were the mainstays, with sweet red and yellow pepper lifting the flavours, and a welcome smattering of soft new potatoes making the whole thing a wonderfully filling accompaniment to the fish. A surprising addition was the massive mound of rocket leaves perched at the side of the plate. While I can’t deny that the peppery tang was brilliant at cutting through the richness of the ratatouille sauce, I had just eaten almost as much rocket with my starter and by the end I did begin to feel a little “rocketed out”.
After such generous main courses, we were debating whether we had room for dessert but, in the end, neither of us was able to resist. My dining partner went for the cheesecake of the day – hazelnut – which was fabulously creamy with a buttery biscuit base, and was shot through with sizeable chunks of crunchy hazelnut. My own choice was the hot chocolate fondant served with vanilla ice cream and hazelnut biscotti. I have a certain weakness for a good chocolate fondant, but I am sometimes hesitant to order them as they are easy to get wrong. In this case, I needn’t have worried – I was in raptures as I savoured the rich, dark and intensely sweet oozingly decadent fondant chocolate, the refreshing temperature contrast brought by the creamy vanilla ice cream, and the crunch of the nutty biscotti which added an additional layer of complexity in terms of texture. The last time I was able to wax so lyrical about a chocolate fondant was when I sampled the excellent chocolate moelleux at Little Social. Now though, I find myself having to say “sorry Jason Atherton, but a country pub in Devon does it even better”.
The King’s Arms is a pub, first and foremost, so offers a great selection of local ales on tap, plus a few more mainstream beers and ciders. After a hard day’s surfing, my dining partner was in the mood for a pint, so I took advantage of the by-the-glass offering on the wine list and enjoyed a large glass of soft, fruity Villa Cardini Sangiovese which was an easy drinking delight and was light enough to complement both my pigeon starter and my sea bass main. Service came from several different staff members over the course of the evening, but was unfailingly friendly throughout. And with the bill for three very generous courses, a drink and service coming in at around £33 per head, we couldn’t fault The King’s Arms on value. Fully satisfied, we rolled out as very happy customers – luckily we didn’t have far to go, as our bed & breakfast, The Old Bakery, was conveniently located just two doors down the road. For a thoroughly pleasant evening, in a warm atmosphere, with plenty of excellent food, The King’s Arms deserves an impressive four and a half Forks-Up.The King’s Arms Chapel Street Georgeham North Devon EX33 1JJ T: 01271 890 240