Devon's Best Cafes

Beach shacks, vineyard cafes and cafes on floating pontoons - our exclusive guide highlights Devon’s best tried-and-tested cafes.

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The Birdcage, Chagford

The pretty little Bird Cage cafe on Chagford’s main square serves delicious lunches, as well as great breakfasts using fresh, local ingredients.

River Exe Cafe, Exmouth

Our favourite alternative-eats venue for a sunny day, this floating shed-cum-pontoon is moored off Exmouth, and reached by water taxi. Serving seafood dropped off by passing fishing boats, the sea-to-plate interval at the River Exe Cafe can be as little as five minutes

The Beach House, South Milton Sands

The Beach House is beachfront clapboard shack sitting right on the beach and the South West Coastal path, making it a perfect pit stop for a hike. Dining is on rustic communal wooden tables, or outside on the terrace overlooking the sea

Winking Prawn, Salcombe

With a salty location on the North Sands, the Winking Prawn beach café and BBQ is the perfect stop for a sunny lunch, ice cream or cream tea. Cracked crab, lobster and sea bream fillets are amongst the main course attractions.

The Rockfish Grill, Dartmouth

Serving one of the best fish and chips in Devon, the Rock Fish Grill is a stylish beach shack-style takeaway and restaurant on Dartmouth’s harbour run by celebrity chef Mitch Tonks. The menu includes locally-landed scallops and oysters, along with classics such as jellied eels, cockles, cracked crab and potted shrimp.

The Almond Thief, Dartington

The sourdough bread at craft bakery The Almond Thief is legendary, but they’ve also just branched out into a cafe business, serving a cracking artisan breakfast. The menu changes weekly, but look out for Bob’s dynamic poached eggs from neighbouring Huxham’s Cross Farm, served on sourdough with Rust Pig 24-month cured ham and asparagus. Wash it down with a cup of Crankhouse coffee.

The Cellar Door, Totnes

The views of River Dart and Capability Brown-designed hillsides are worth the trip to Sharpham alone, but their vineyard tours, on which you get to taste their delicious sparkling and white wines, as well as their cheeses, are the clincher. Their Cellar Door cafe makes a scenic spot for lunch. Closed winter. Book ahead.

Mangetout, Totnes

There’s breakfast, and then there is breakfast from Mangetout. Take up a seat out the front to watch Totnes wander by, take over the small interior, or better yet, find a seat in shaded courtyard out back. Their smoothies are incredible, as is the smashed avocado on sourdough, with a poached egg on top and a side of bacon.

The Hairy Barista

Aeropress, cold-brew, V60, flat white or just plain-old espresso, the aptly named Hairy Barista (aka Roe Yekutiel) will oblige – his little shop has become the town's go-to place for speciality coffee. There are cakes and pastries on offer too, but the space is a little cramped inside (and mind the step on the way in!).

The Curator, Totnes

In a clean and bright first-floor space, Ancona-born Matteo Lamaro creates seasonal Italian dishes in the Curator Kitchen, a modern osteria he launched last year. Amid decor that’s part rustic Italian and part pared-down Scandi (large windows, painted floorboards and menus handwritten on brown paper) Lamaro serves fortnightly-rotating menus that are heavy on produce from the Totnes area, as well as Matteo’s home in Le Marche, where he has built up a network of artisan producers – his ‘Italian Food Heroes’. Typical dishes include slow-cooked lamb ragu with orange zest served on freshly-rolled fettucini; red mullet and agrodolce lentils jewelled with soaked raisins, toasted spelt and oven-roasted tomatoes; and warming Italian panettone bread and butter pudding with orange caramel sauce and vanilla gelato. The wine list is pretty special too: Matteo is the only business in the UK to serve Col di Corte wines from Le Marche, including refreshing Verdicchio Superiore and Verdicchio Clasico.

The Fish Shed, Topsham

Is the Fish Shed Britain's best chippy? Quite possibly. It is certainly worth a detour from wherever you are in Devon. Much less the 15-minute walk from the centre of Topsham. Originally inspired by the combined chip shop/fishmonger operations which he had seen in Australia, owner Dave Kerley has taken this traditional British institution, stripped out all the rubbish (burgers, kebabs, vegetable oil, bulk-frying), worked back to the basics and built a chippy fit for the 21st century. A one-time scallop diver, Kerley only sources fish from local day-boats. This means that he knows who caught what and where, and that his customers get to eat their fish within 36 hours of it being plucked from the sea. Likewise, the Shed's well-seasoned beer batter is prepared daily and it fries in high-temperature beef dripping, although you can also have your fish grilled. The menu usually includes a wide choice of, for instance, monkfish, brill, eel, John Dory, scallops, even lobster and river Exe mussels. Thus, a series of small decisions and conscientiously completed chores leads inexorably to the perfect serving of fish 'n' chips. The golden brown chips have a crunchy, glassy exterior, yet are fluffy within. The pearly haddock is steamed (not fried, you'll note) within a delicate batter casing, its flavour not overwhelmed, as it sometimes is in Yorkshire, by beefy savour. Mushy peas and tartare sauce sparkle. Rarely is such simple food rendered with such precision.

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