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Through The Mill - Jay Rayner Discovers 22 Mill Street

When the much-admired local chef moved on, the faithful clientele of 22 Mill Street started to panic. But, as Jay Rayner discovers, the good people of Chagford have nothing to fear.

The Devonshire village of Chagford is aghast. You might not know that to look at the place. The old stone cottages with their thatched roofs still cling stoically to the narrow lanes, and at dusk the air still smells of wood smoke. Behind its carefully painted front doors, however, there is tutting and consternation. The reason? 22 Mill Street, the restaurant in this neighbourhood that isn't the double-Michelin-starred Gidleigh Park, has changed hands.

Nobody is entirely sure what happened. All they know is that Duncan Walker, who worked first at Gidleigh before opening 22 Mill Street, has had enough and sold out to the owners of a hotel and restaurant in Tavistock called Browns. Villagers will tell you that a certain finesse has gone.

This means nothing to me. It may simply be that a local character, who was famed for spending more time in the tiny, 22-seat dining room than the kitchen, is now to be found in neither, and they miss him. I can only judge on the experience I had, and all I can say is that the current incarnation of 22 Mill Street is a very nice restaurant indeed.

Nothing will shock. You will not rock back in your seat and make low moaning sounds. Even a reading of the menu won't startle. Scallops are partnered with belly pork and roasted apples. Rabbit comes with pancetta and sage. The vocabulary and grammar is merely right, rather than diverting. That, in my book, can only be a good thing. The problem, all too often, is the gap between ambition and execution. Here they announce what they want to do, then they do it. True, I have whined before about being served tasters of artichoke veloute mined with truffle oil, displaying in myself a sort of world-weariness for which I should get a kicking. But usually it was a weariness engendered by the veloute not being very good. This one tasted soothingly of its advertised ingredients.

Everything had that reassuring competence. The pasta on a single raviolo of langoustine flavoured with basil was light and silky, the seafood reassuringly fresh. Seared foie gras, one of those things every cook thinks they can do but often can't, was cooked with precision and accompanied by soft cubes of Sauternes jelly.

A main course of venison, fresh off Exmoor, showed the same quiet skill: Bambi came in solid slices, a velvet red at their heart, which were draped across roasted ceps and a crisp rosti. It was autumn realised in food, and spoke of someone cooking with their appetite rather than their head. I felt the same way about a dessert of roasted apples and pears. They came with tiny, sugar-dusted cinnamon doughnuts filled with a little apple puree. Service is efficient and engaged, and the price - £38 for three courses - strikes me as reasonable for the quality of ingredients. I suspect none of what I have to say will make any difference to the old habitues of 22 Mill Street. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps it isn't quite as extraordinary. But what it is right now celebrates quiet virtues - and that's more than good enough by me.

We were made to feel very welcome at 22 Mill Street and would like to thank everyone for making it such a pleasent stay. The food was excellent! It was so relaxing after our hectic wedding week. The room was well decorated and "spacious" as it was advertised as and had a wonderful plasma screen TV and view over the bowling green. We booked our break with meals included which made it a reasonable price for a treat . As this is a restaurant "With Rooms" there is no public bar but the staff are only too happy to provide what you need. Try their sister restaurant, Brown's at Tavistock.