Newest Review: ... for us to park so we had to drop my dad off outside and drive to the local Co-op which is approximately a 5 minute walk away. This was... more
No more school dinners!
River Cottage Canteen (Axminster)
Member Name: miaredalwayswins
River Cottage Canteen (Axminster)
Advantages: yummy food, clean, nice deli, good service
Disadvantages: slow service in deli, server a bit eager for us to leave! not all the food was that good
This is a review of River Cottage Canteen, Axminster (between Dorchester and Exeter). I went with my family last Sunday as we were in the area on a family holiday. We went as my sister is a big River Cottage fan and she has been to the canteen several times before and always had good things to say about it. She has also been to the 'actual' River Cottage and the Canteen most certainly works out a lot cheaper!
*About River Cottage*
Most people would have seen River Cottage on channel 4 - the 'lovechild' of Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall. This tv series was set at the original River Cottage which is an old game keepers lodge. Since then the River Cottage brand has gone from strength to strength, with F-W extending the River Cottage Headquarters, further tv series and books. The RC brand now also includes cooking workshops, catering for corporate events, various RC events (such as foraging and fishing) and you can even get married at RC!
Although we went to the Canteen in Axminster there are now 3 canteens in total. There is one in Plymouth and one has recently opened in Bristol.
The Axminster Canteen is open 7 days a week - Tuesday-Saturday it is open 9am-10pm (which seems a fairly early finish time for a restaurant) and Mondays and Sundays the canteen is open 9am-5pm. The deli part is open every day 9am-5pm. Breakfast, lunch and dinner options are available at the Canteen.
We booked ahead to make sure we had a table. I am really glad we did as through our 2 1/4 hour stay we saw several groups get rejected (although some lucky groups did also get in without a reservation). The other reason for booking was that my father is disabled and I wanted to ensure that we got a table suitable for his needs. On booking I made it clear that we had a person with disabilities in our group and on our arrival were welcomed and seated on the table nearest the door. Although this was really convenient and ideal for my dad, it also meant that we got interrupted by the door opening and closing in a steady stream of new customers. I suppose however you cannot have it both ways!
The other slight issue with the setting was that there was nowhere nearby enough for us to park so we had to drop my dad off outside and drive to the local Co-op which is approximately a 5 minute walk away. This was not a major issue as it wasn't raining and the weather was ok, however some dedicated disabled parking would have been nice. There was some parking outside - enough for around 10 cars and this was set around a very quirky old clock tower - unfortunately parking was full (and very tight - not sure if we could get our van in there)! In any case our little walk around the village was very nice and from what we see Axminster seems a very nice and quaint little town.
As you walk through the door you are immediately met by the deli on your right hand side, then there is a small eating area on the left and further beyond this are the toilets which are opposite (not directly!) the cooking area and the main area of the canteen. (The toilets I tried and tested - there were ample of them and they were clean)!
We were greeted immediately by the lady serving front of house. There was an additional waiter who served the few tables at the front also who ensured we were seated. Both were very friendly and straight away gave us the menu for today.
Our table was long and gigantic in size and made of a very sturdy wood. On one side we had chairs and the other a bench. Although the bench was comfy it was pushed up against the wall and as we were fairly close to the other table it meant that it was a struggle for the person on the end to get out. All in all it didn't feel cramped, I just think this was an issue to do with the table being so large!
On the table were glasses, cutlery, paper napkins and a jug of water, chilled and ready for us which I though was a nice touch. The area seemed very clean and tidy and there are no complaints here! As I was sat next to a window I saw that the window was a big fold out one which would probably be really nice when open in the height of summer - perhaps opening up the opportunity for dining outside also?!
There was a wall of RC books alongside the canteen which was stocked high (and I was a little worried would tumble over)! I t was nice to see how many different books they do though and even though I was tempted I didn't buy one! The staff were ok about people picking up the books and reading whilst waiting which was nice.
I cannot recall exactly what was on the menu and it does tend to change frequently at RC however the starters consist of what they call 'together' and 'smaller'. The 'together' consists of a couple of different sharing platters (veggie, meaty and fishy). There were around 5 or so 'smaller's' which was a mixture of dishes consisting of fish, pate, soup etc.
We went straight for the main course or what RC call 'bigger'. There were around 5 mains on the menu that I can remember with an even balance between fish, meat and veg. Prices for mains varied between £13.95 being the highest (for the beef) and £9.75 (for the salad) which I think is fairly reasonable. There were also sides of chips, greens and bread (which after seeing the small but perfectly formed portion sizes I wish I had ordered)! They had a children's menu which consisted mostly of smaller portions of the adult dishes but also had falafel on it.
So three of us went for the traditional Sunday lunch of beef cheek. I didn't quite know what to expect but wasn't disappointed! The beef came along with some gorgeous fluffy roast potatoes, greens and a lovely gravy. Although there weren't many potatoes and greens there was plenty of meat and this almost led me to think that ordering sides is a standard expectation. In any case the meat was very tender and the greens were cooked perfectly (not too soggy and not too crisp)! My sister and father had the mackrel with new potatoes and I didnt hear any complaints from there!
To drink my sister and mother had one (or two or three) cheeky elderflower sparkling wines with a brandy soaked cherry. The rest of us after being a bit worse for wear the night previous went for the lemonade (although the waiter got mine wrong and brought me a raspberry drink?! I was too hungover to care..). Mots of the soft drinks of the menu were luscombe drinks which were nice but a bit pricey at almost £3.00.
'Sweetier and cheesier' or the sweets menu consisted of a cheeseboard, jelly and ice cream, fruit compote and an apple crumble. Still on my hangover I skipped this bit but my sister had the apple crumble with cream (which was absolutely stunning - warm, tangy and perfectly baked). My mother had the elderflower jelly and ice cream which she felt was a bit disappointing (but then it is jelly and ice cream)!
All in all our server was very polite and well mannered although a little keen to get us out of the building maybe, he quickly took the hint! When booking we were not told about any restriction on our table which I felt was nice. I do wonder if there were restrictions however as our waiter did seem keen for us to leave before I had finished my food - very apologetic also however!
The service was however very efficient considering the place was busy. I am glad we got to sit in the front as I think sitting in the back nearer the kitchen would have been noisier and probably hotter, being so close to the kitchen. Every time I went to the toilet I could hear the cooks shout service which must be a bit annoying for the back room diners. At the same time it is nice to be able to see your food being prepared and the people cooking it.
After our food we went across to the deli. The deli sells amongst other things wines, jams, oils, teas, meats, cheese and pies. We bought some pies and some elderflower sparkling wine. The lady serving us was very polite and also very fun, striking up playful banter and showed genuine interest in our holiday and if we had enjoyed our stay. However she was probably one of the slowest servers I have ever come across. She did apologise, saying that it was only her first day but still I felt myself going grey the amount of time she took to cut the cheese and eventually put everything through the til! Luckily whilst she was cutting the cheese I did go for a wonder around the deli, and glanced my eye over a 10% off voucher. I enquired further with the lady serving me who stated that the waiter should have given this to us on paying or food bill as customers who eat at the Canteen are entitled to the 10% discount.
All in all I would probably visit again if I was in the area as this was a good, scrumptious dining experience but I wouldn't go out of my way.
Summary: One place I can now tick off my list!