The Bear and Blacksmith, Chillington
Sat tucked away between Kingsbridge and Torcross sits the small village of Chillington. En-route to the ‘balmy’ seas at Slapton Ley, my guess is that you’ve probably driven through it without realising that one of the South Hams best kept foodie secrets had just slipped by.
The Bear and Blacksmith is quickly, quietly and rightly making its mark on the local food scene with its refreshing philosophy and industrious new owners. There has always been a pub here going back to at least Victorian times – the name derives from the Blacksmiths next door and a nod to the distant past when a bear was actually kept outside. Over the decades that followed, various name changes ushered in new periods of ownership – after The Union Inn it became The Open Arms. Now it is home to a fresh, new enterprise and a couple well-versed in providing good hospitality.
With Malcolm Church and Claire Mundy at the helm, this latest incarnation has quickly found its feet. Malcolm has under his belt over 20 years experience as a chef and his story is an interesting one closely entwined with this laid-back and beautiful part of South Devon. Born in the village, he started off in his early teens in the kitchens of The Church House in nearby Stokenham and it was there he got his first taste of pub life. A spell as a kitchen porter followed before the beginnings of a love affair with the ocean took hold.
Based in Dartmouth aboard the trusty crabber ‘Newbrook’, what seemed like a dream job was soon cut short by an unwelcome six-month shoulder injury. A period back on dry land beckoned which led to a spell at The Millbrook Inn and also the beginning of things with Claire. At full physical strength again it was back to sea….. and soon another shoulder injury. Sticking close to the water but no longer on it, the Gara Rock hotel would be his next port of call with crab pots swapped once again for cooking pots.
Throughout all this time, Malcolm had enjoyed the Bear first hand in its various guises. When the chance came up to take on the property for themselves, the couple jumped at the opportunity and after a six month refurb they were in at the deep end. The experience gained from having run their own farm for 18 years gave them a real appreciation for freshness and seasonality and they both take enormous pride in sourcing produce for the kitchen.
Malcolm still maintains great personal contact with skippers on the Brixham day boats and for any meat they can’t rear themselves (grass fed Dexter beef for example) there is Alex Brazier at the Salcombe Meat Company whose ethics chime with theirs. Suffice to say we ate well, extremely well. A seafood platter washed down with a pint of Amber really hit the spot. Two mains of hand dived Beesands scallops served in garlic butter sang from the plate. Dessert would have beaten us.
I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot more about this latest outpost – the beer is good, the food is good and the integrity behind what they do should be applauded. With plans to expand the farm and awards from Taste of the West already on the wall after just 10 months, this is a couple definitely living their own Devon dream.
The Bear and Blacksmith, Chillington, Kingsbridge, TQ7 2LD.
Tel: 01548 581171