The Nobody Inn, Doddiscombsleigh, Exeter, Devon

One bad pun aside, few country inns live up to this Devon delight

In case you were wondering, I can report with certainty that this is not just the first time I have eaten in Doddiscombsleigh, about five miles south-west of Exeter, between the Teign Valley and the Haldon Hills, but the first time I have eaten in a pun. It's the Nobody Inn, which takes its name from the unfortunate moment during a former landlord's wake when his coffin was brought back to an empty pub.

You half-expect, on turning up to eat in a pun, that the menu will be saturated with double entendres, or a court jester will pop out from under the table; but in fact this bar and restaurant with rooms is no more comic than other country inns in deepest Devon. It does, however, differ in three crucial respects: the service, food, and affordability are excellent, whereas generally round here you'd think it was your lucky day if you chanced upon just one of that holy trinity.

The original building goes back to the 17th century. It has a beautiful thatched roof, low – and at times very low – black roof beams, a blazing fireplace, rickety, beer-stained tables, and dim electric bulbs, which convert the shafts of sunlight piercing the windows into an ethereal glow. They take orders only at the bar, and leave you well alone to eat your food. A bevy of local ales at around £3 make it the sort of place that aged locals attend religiously. They, too, feel part of the centuries-old furniture.

There are five starters, 13 mains (two vegetarian), four desserts and a selection of cheeses, all crammed on to a single A4 sheet of paper. It's all very minimal fuss and unsurprising – but that doesn't stop the dishes coming out of the kitchen from attaining an impressive standard.

The duck-liver pâté (£6.95), for instance, is extremely smooth and moist, and comes with perfectly toasted wholemeal bread. So, too, does the duck terrine, which is the same price but has an excellent orange marmalade – not too sweet, and full of tiny chunks of orange rind that add intense flavour and a contrasting texture. The soup of today – butternut squash – is rich and creamy and worth £4.75. Best of all among the starters, and again £6.95, are crisp, pungent crab cakes with a memorable red-pepper mayonnaise. The short strips of pepper are cooked until soft and visibly bleeding flavour into their greasy companion.

Most pub staples, from fish and chips to home-made (lamb) burger, sirloin steak, lamb shank, and beef-and-ale pie are on offer. There's also fish pie, beef or vegetable lasagne, ham and chips, roasted plaice or sea bream, a platter of beef, and a Ploughman's lunch. Of those we plump for, the lamb shank (£15.95) is least worth the asking price. It is more tough than tender, and the roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables are bland.

Unfortunately the latter accompany several other courses, too – but those, in contrast, have star performers on the plate. My girlfriend's cold-beef platter (£7.95) contains some exquisitely moist offerings, and comes with a sour pickle that gets the best out of them. There's not a lot wrong with the Dartmoor-sourced sirloin steak (£18.95), and plenty right with the aromatic peppercorn sauce it comes with. The fish pie (£10.50) has all manner of delights swimming within it, from haddock and salmon to succulent king prawns. It's also cooked to the point where the wispy peaks of mashed potato on top have passed golden brown, making a crunchy foil to the sea of sauce below. In short, perfectly done.

Of the desserts, a chocolate brownie with ice-cream (£5.50) is let down a tad by a dull chocolate sauce, while sticky-toffee and bread-and-butter puddings are the same price, but done better. If you can spare 25p extra, splash out on the white-chocolate-and-raspberry crème brûlée. That said, you might want to save your money for the local cheeses (£8.95 for one person, £10.95 for two), or one of the 260 whiskies that are stashed behind the bar, which rather charmingly make Doddiscombsleigh a whisky connoiseur's paradise. (It's not too shabby on wine, either: the Nobody has 29 by the glass and 240 by the bottle.)

The uninspiring pun in its name aside, this inn gets very little wrong. That is probably why the place is nigh-on full, despite being in the middle of nowhere. And that, in turn, is probably why it is long overdue to be renamed.


Scores: 1-3 stay home and cook 4 needs help, 5 does the job 6 flashes of promise 7 good 8 special, can't wait to go back 9-10 as good as it gets

The Nobody Inn, Doddiscombsleigh, Exeter, Devon, tel: 01647 252 394 Lunch Mon-Sat 12pm-2pm; Sun 12pm-3pm. Dinner in restaurant, 6.30pm-9pm Tues-Sat; dinner in bar, 6.30pm-9pm daily

Country contentment

The Malt Shovel

Main Street, Brearton, North Yorks, tel: 01423 862 929

This beautiful pub nestles in an amazing chocolate-box village and serves up delicious food – but it's the friendliness of the owners, the Bleiker family, which makes it special

The Hardwick

Old Raglan Road, Abergavenny, tel: 01873 854 220

Stephen Terry's beautifully located inn is one of Wales's top destinations: fine, unfussy cooking using the best local produce, with no airs or graces

The Royal Oak

 Pook Lane, East Lavant, Chichester, tel: 01243 527 434

A lovely country pub with a friendly landlord, offering well-priced dishes and a superb wine list; sophisticated yet rustic at the same time

Reviews extracted from 'Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2012'

newsVideo targets undecided voters
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Evan Spiegel, the founder of Snapchat, dropped out of Stanford University just before graduation to develop his app
techAnd yes, it is quite a lot
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
    Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

    From strung out to playing strings

    Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
    The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
    Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

    Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

    The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
    On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

    On the road to nowhere

    A Routemaster trip to remember
    Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

    Hotel India

    Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
    10 best pencil cases

    Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

    Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
    Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

    Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

    Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
    Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

    Pete Jenson: A Different League

    Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
    This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

    The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

    Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis