Naturally, you’d wonder why an inn would be called Church…
I always say that a truly enjoyable dining experience requires more than great food, there are other elements that can really ‘make’ an evening memorable.
Our visit on this occasion was to the ancient Oxenham Arms at South Zeal. I have to confess that this was the first time in the village, which is perched out on what Simon, our host, aptly described as the North Face of Dartmoor. South Zeal’s a fascinating village, worthy of a visit, not least because of the cross and also St Mary’s Church.
The origins of the Oxenham Arms itself drift back to the 1100s, when it was built by Benedictine monks around an existing 5,000 year old standing stone (see pic), and it’s been a pub for over five centuries. As the centuries have passed it’s witnessed much, including at one time being owned by Captain John Oxenham, who was born and lived as a child in the building. John went on to become a famous sea captain under Sir Francis Drake and became the first navigator for the English fleet. He was hung by the Spanish (the first recorded charge of Piracy). The Oxenham Arms has also played host to Drake himself, Admiral Nelson, the Reverend Sabine Baring Gould, Prince Charles, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie – they’ve all stayed in the guest rooms! Charles Dickens has also been a visitor and wrote much of his Pickwick Papers during his stay. It’s certainly the most historic pub in Devon and has an absolutely beautiful and historic interior. It’s a veritable gem – if you haven’t visited already, you’re missing a treat.
In terms of what this hotel/restaurant offer, I can say that it was all cooked and presented to a very high standard. The scallop starter was absolutely delicious. For mains, we opted for Roast Salmon, the fish being beautifully moist and the accompanying vegetables delicately cooked. The homemade Oxenham Arms Steak & Ale pie was chosen – (one of my benchmarks which can tell an awful lot about an establishment’s cooking capability). It was excellent as was the chocolate mousse with fresh berries. There’s no doubt that England’s cheeses can beat any in the world, the West County cheese selection was top drawer stuff. A thoroughly deserved Gold for the Oxenham Arms Hotel and Restaurant, I urge you to add it to your wish list.
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