As much as I enjoy cooking and baking for my family, it is always nice when I do not have to and to have someone else prepare a meal for me instead. I suppose as a family we eat out maybe once a month, sometimes more like if we are away on holiday. There was a time when my boys were younger that we hardly never ate out. Mostly due to them being fussy eaters and also because sometimes the hassle of keeping them occupied while waiting for food, was too much for me to be able to relax and enjoy the ambience of eating out!
Nowadays we tend to favour pubs as our eating out place of choice, and now that both the boys are older while they might complain about how long their food takes to be served, they behave themselves much better at the table. Therefore, when I was asked recently if we would like to with Vintage Inns to try the menu at a nearby country pub, I was delighted to accept and be treated to a meal that I have not had to cook myself!
Heanton Court, formally The Braunton Inn, is situated a few miles outside of Barnstaple here in North Devon, en route to Braunton. It sits alongside the River Taw estuary which also backs on to a local cycle route called the Tarka Trail, boasting superb views across the water which is taken advantage of with its seating in its garden area.
The Tarka Trail is literally a stones throw from those benches, and Heanton Court welcomes cyclists aswell as dog owners to visit. Indeed, as a family we have often stopped at the inn for a rest on the way home from one of our mammoth bike rides with our bikes and dog in tow.
However, we have not eaten at this place for several years so I was curious to see how much it had changed. Furthermore, recently been remodelled by Vintage Inns, has recently had a revamp due to being taken over by Vintage Inns, who specialise in offering classic dishes, cask ales and rustic buildings in beautiful countryside settings and pride themselves on being dog friendly. How cute is this Doggie Rehydration Station?
I for one was excited to see how much it had changed in terms of its menu and decor and to see if would satisfy all of our food needs. After all, as anyone with kids will know, sometimes eating out can be tricky, maybe even stressful and when you are being treated to time away from the kitchen, you do not want to feel stressed.
Inside Heanton Court
We had booked a table for 1pm and arrived 5 minutes before, and upon arriving and giving my name our server showed us to our table. What I have always liked about this place, is that as soon as you step inside you do feel like you are in a country pub. With its roaring fire place warming the place up, and adding a cosy ambience, wit the stone , brick and woodwork it really does feel welcoming. Even in the summer, when the fire is not lit, it still makes you feel a little homely with its interior.
Of course, with it being the festive season, the inn has been tastefully decorated and with all the lights lit up too, I really liked all the little Christmassy touches.
The Menu and Food
Now I will be honest, while they are much better than they once were, my boys are a little limited with their food choices, because they are a little fussy and reluctant to try new foods. That is why when I showed them the menu for Heanton Court on line before we arrived on Sunday, they had already made up their minds what they would be ordering.
As you can seem the kids menu is pretty extensive in terms of choices for kids of all varying tastes, with meat and meat free choices, as well as fish. What the boys love the most is that fact that they can select their main, their veg choice and their side. Build your own dinner infact! Plus they also have the option on a Sunday to choose a mini roast dinner, including a veggie option. All this for just £5.50 which I think is great value , and then for £1 extra they can have a pudding. While this menu does not include a drink, I think a two course meal for £6-£7 is excellent value for money especially when compared to a leading fast food outlet where a kids meal, with a drink and not a dessert, is only £3 less. Also this meal contains vegetables and not just chips as a side.
Inside the menu is a kids activity sheet which certainly helped pass the time while we waited for our food to arrive.
Always guaranteed to keep my boys quiet ………….. for a while at least!
So, as I kind of predicted , Burton ordered the kids pizza with peas and chips (the tomatoes were on top of the pizza, but Burton doesn’t like them!).
Jenson ordered bangers, mash and beans – his ultimate favourite meal and one he will pick wherever we go if he can, and his most requested meal at home too.
This is always a good sign of a meal enjoyed; clean plates and eaten quickly too.
Shame Burton could not eat all of his peas, but some is better than none I guess.
Jon and I chose our food of the Sunday main menu, sadly we are a little big to be ordering from the kids one! I would not usually order a starter on a Sunday lunchtime, but we could not resist the sound of the Handmade Dough Sticks which comes with 3 dipping sauces. OMG I am not exaggerating when I say this, but these were hands down the yummiest dough sticks I have ever eaten! They were so light, almost like a cross between bread and a doughnut in texture and quite honestly, I could have happily eaten a plate of these to myself had I not had a main course to look forward to!
For the main meal, I went with the Roast sirloin of beef (served with Yorkshire pudding, ruffled roast potatoes, honey & thyme roasted carrots, roasted parsnips, seasonal greens and as much gravy as you like), and I adore the fact that you get a little gravy boat on the side. This was a very tasty roast dinner, and the beef was especially succulent and I liked that it was not pink or red, just brown.
Jon ordered the Hunters Chicken (chargrilled chicken breast, topped with smoked Cheddar and a 4oz gammon steak served with triple-cooked chips and barbecue sauce). Jon could not stop gushing over this meal, he really enjoyed it.
I also ordered us a side of cauliflower cheese, which after those dough sticks was probably not really necessary, but I do like it as a side dish to my roast dinner.
After all that food, it would have been rude not to have a peek at the dessert menu. Luckily, because the inn was quite busy at this point, we had a little wait while our puddings orders were taken, which allowed for our tummies to go down a bit. What a choice of yummy sounding things though……….what to choose????
Well Jenson’s (and mine!) favourite dessert is Sticky Toffee Pudding, so it was not hard to guess which dessert he would have. It was everything a sticky toffee pudding should be ……. I might have pinched a tiny bit when he was not looking !
I was intrigued by the sound of the Carrot Cake Cheesecake, so I decided to give it a try. It was delicious, with its carrot cake base full of warming spices and its creamy cheese cheesecake layer. However, it was not as good as Jenson’s pud!
Burton chose the chocolate brownie and ice cream option from the kids menu.
Jon did not have a dessert because he likes a sorbet, which was not available. I say he missed out because I would have chosen a sorbet alternative!
Those Little Extras
I have frequented the toilets here many times before , as I say it is a pit stop for us on our bike rides. However, since I last visited back in September, everywhere has been repainted, and I spotted new light fixtures and hand dryers. I like the new additions which I think work well with the existing windows and rooms.
Little extras like fresh flowers are a nice touch I think.
The staff were great with the boys, listening to them and accommodating them however they could. They were all friendly and polite and attentive.
In total our meal cost just over £80 which initially I did think seemed a lot. However, as Jon explained when we go to our local pub for Sunday lunch including drinks (which this did, and we all had 2 each) and dessert, is is about the same. Just goes to show how often I pay ha ha! Therefore, this compares well price wise with our usual first choice of restaurant on a Sunday. I also enjoyed the setting, the interior and the food was really tasty too, and well presented. The boys really loved their menu choices and those dough sticks were amazing!
We will definitely book to come to Heanton Court again, in fact I am thinking of it for Mothers Day already. While this was a review, and I will be compensated for some of the money we paid to eat here, I honestly think the food was tasty and good value. We all had a lovely couple of hours at Heanton Court and I will be recommending it to friends and family.
Thank you for having us.
I was asked to visit Heanton Court and try the food, in return for writing an honest review of our experience. I feel I have done this in my own words and way including my own images taken on the day.