FOOD REVIEW: Delicious food from the heart at The Kitchen
PUBLISHED: 16:43 30 July 2019 | UPDATED: 17:01 31 July 2019
There's always something going on at Honiton's newest garden centre.
So when we visited Combe Garden Centre, off the old A30, we were delighted to learn that The Kitchen had opened.
The eagerly anticipated eaterie had set tongues wagging in Honiton, such was the instant success of main business.
The Kitchen is another jewel in the business's ever so shiny crown.
The restaurantis family-run, with the concession taken up by Kimberley Astley-Jones, who with her two daughters and son, run the popular establishment.
The first thing that strikes you upon entry is the minimalism of The Kitchen.
So many times have I been to a garden centre café, whose restaurant is bursting at the seams with twisted wood or plastic chairs and faded, puffy cushion covers.
But there is a boho ambience radiating from The Kitchen, enhanced by the earthy colour scheme rolled out - charcoal grey chairs and dark coloured tables.
From the ceiling hang lightly coloured canvas, while the interior is clad in wooden panelling, bar the ceramic-lined serving counter.
The décor is purposeful, and impactful as a result.
It's a Scandinavian feel which makes The Kitchen feel like a home away from home.
And the restaurant has been a big hit.
"We thought we would have a period of growth," said Kimberley.
"We did - after one day! We opened quietly to give the staff time to go through the menu.
"But when word got out, woosh! It's still getting bigger, we have had to take on more staff.
"We want them to be the right fit too - it's good to get your food quickly, but we want our customers to be happy."
So how was the food?
The Kitchen has a modest menu, but every choice was a goer.
After much deliberation, we settle on the burger, with cheese and bacon as an optional add-on. It is served with a side of chips and a pot of coleslaw.
My colleague picks the fish and chips after being informed it is one of the most popular items on the menu.
While we wait for our food, we relax and enjoy the settings. This is a place where time stands still, which may explain why people sitting here as we arrive are still sat as we go to leave.
The burger arrives in a ciabatta roll (I said no to an option of a smaller bun), and a side of golden chips.
I'm glad I chose not to have a softer roll, as the ciabatta adds a nice chew to the dish.
The meat is well seasoned, the cheese is strong and the bacon is salty and elastic.
The chips are well cooked - crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
The coleslaw is rich and creamy, an indulgent little pot. I am later told it is made with Hellman's mayo, which explains its tastiness.
The fish and chips are also delightful.
Not a millimetre of sogginess on the batter, which remains crisp and golden throughout its deconstruction.
The fish itself is perfectly cooked and soft. You can cut it with a spoon, it just melts away in segment after meaty segment.
The tartare sauce is snappy and acidic, bulleted with whole capers - a classic match with seafood, a staple of the South West.
The chips are as good as the ones served with the burger and a side of mushy peas were sweet and soft.
All you need is blast of briny seaside air to make it the perfect traditional 'eat-on-the-beach' lunch.
As soon as we walk into The Kitchen, our eyes clap onto a stunning array of sweet treats - all cooked up by Kimberley.
A former school caterer, she is well versed in bulk cooking, but each slice or wodge of sweet looks lovingly baked and finished.
Such is our eagerness to try more than one, we gain special permission to pick a selection to sample.
Lemon drizzle cake, a marshmallow rice crispie square, millionaire shortbread and vegan chocolate cake are chosen.
The lemon drizzle is moist through and through, with a sharp, zingy crust of citrus-infused sugar formed on the top.
It is lip-lickingly morish and perfect with a cuppa. The millionaire shortbread is its opposite - rich and leaking a thick slice of soft caramel.
One of my bug bears with caramel shortbread is the biscuit to caramel to chocolate ratio.
All to often will you eat a brick of biscuit, with just a slightest brush of caramel and chocolate on top. Not at The Kitchen!
Offered as three equal components, the chocolate snaps with every bite. Your tongue pushes into the rich caramel, which gives that brilliant nostalgic hit of condensed milk.
The biscuit is sweet on the bottom and crumbly, adding the needed texture.
Despite its richness, I can eat another one, and another… and another.
The vegan chocolate cake is dark and not too sweet.
There is almost an earthiness to it, and the initial burst of sweetness almost instantly makes way to a dark, melting cocoa.
My colleague says it is the best vegan cake out there!
Anyone with a small appetite would feel a strong sense of achievement wolfing this formidable slice of cake down.
Lastly, the marshmallow square. It is a fun dessert, devilishly chewy and sticky.
As much as you try and behave while eating it, you'll find the odd rice krispie stuck somewhere on you.
For those who like texture in their food, this pud is a winner. It is delicious to eat, both in taste and chew.
Although in its infancy, The Kitchen has already won over many with its honest, homecooked fare.
With an ambitious chef in its kitchen, and the loving touch of Kimberley on the dessert side, it is excelling in a winning formula.
Make sure you visit next time you need to pick up a pair of gardening gloves!