The Salutation Inn, just a short trip from Millbrook Village, the restaurant has received glowing reviews from critics and customers alike. We decided to pay them a visit and hear from the team behind this iconic Exeter eatery.
If there’s one thing that retirement gives you the freedom to enjoy, it’s the ability to head out and enjoy fine food and drink whenever your heart desires it.
At Millbrook we’re lucky to be surrounded with many fantastic restaurants, bars and cafes — with the added benefit of freshly caught seafood as close to the source as you’d like.
One standout restaurant in the area is The Salutation Inn, just a short trip from Millbrook Village, the restaurant has received glowing reviews from critics and customers alike. We decided to pay them a visit and hear from the Chef Director, Tom Williams-Hawkes.
For those who don’t know about The Salutation Inn, can you give us a brief history?
My wife, Amelia, and I have run The Salutation Inn for nearly five years, with the support of our families. We’re based in a historically celebrated 300-year-old Grade 2 listed building within the heart of Topsham, at the head of the River Exe.
Our GlassHouse café serves daily coffee, cake, afternoon tea and lunches. In the evening, our restaurant is open for a fine dining experience using only the best seasonal, local produce. We have six renovated boutique bedrooms to complete the perfect escape.
What can someone who is visiting the restaurant for the first time expect from a meal at The Salutation Inn?
We aim to offer tasty, local food that has been cooked and served with care. It’s really important that our guests feel comfortable and looked after, so there’s no library hushes here – the atmosphere is warm and genuine.
Like us, you’re based in Exeter — how do you think this influences your culinary style?
I’d never take the beauty and abundance of East Devon for granted; I draw inspiration from the fine produce from coast to countryside here on our doorstep. The River Exe is renowned for its pure waters, so our menu is full of seasonal seafood – such as mussels or salmon, we use native red ruby beef, and local game in autumn.
Following on, what makes Exeter and the surrounding area special to you?
Exeter is my hometown, so it will always have a special place in my heart. My great-grandfather ran the successful café, Deller’s of Exeter, for 17 years between the First and Second World War. I qualified from Exeter College before working for some of the best chefs in the UK and France. But nothing makes me prouder than doing what we do best in the place we love. If we’re still here in 35 years (perhaps not working quite so much), I’d be a happy man!
We’re passionate about keeping sociable after retirement, what role do you think fine dining has to play on this?
The Salutation Inn has been a social hub since 1720 and we love seeing regular guests each day enjoying a moment in time with us. Whether it’s 11am cake and tea in our lounge with friends, or a family gathering in our Assembly Room to celebrate a special occasion, food is a great way to come together and remain sociable at any stage of life.
Apart from The Salutation Inn, what else would you recommend those moving to the area should explore?
Topsham is well worth exploring – we’re a lively sailing town with an ancient trading port, bustling with day-trippers and its own energetic community. You can while away hours browsing the art-galleries, independent shops and antiquities. Bring binoculars – the town is home to rare birds along the River Exe. Perhaps the town is best viewed from a boat on the estuary, and while you’re at it you can chug over to the Turf Locks for a pint or go a little further to the floating River Exe Café.
Finally, a tricky one — what is your favourite meal?
Whatever’s in season. At the moment, I can’t get enough asparagus. Ours is picked the same morning in Cullumpton and it might look like the stuff you buy in supermarkets, but this is worlds apart. It’s divine blanched simply in salted water, served with perhaps a dippy egg, or some fresh seafood. Delicious!
This interview was conducted in May 2018 and information was correct at the time of writing
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