On Sunday we went for lunch at the new River Cottage Canteen in Plymouth, well I should call it a restaurant, not a canteen. It's based in the Royal William Yard which was the main naval victualling depot or in common tongue; storage house for food and booze. The Royal William Yard should be the perfect setting for restaurants and boozers due to it's history, but it does have a bleak atmosphere, a little like a prison. Anyway, we had a poor lunch which was mainly ruined by an aggressive tattooed American waitress who was basically a bit of a prick. But the food was just a bit lame. We also felt ripped off (£3 for a pathetic pot of cabbage, seriously, fuck off!). The look of the restaurant is rather good and it has a wood fired oven for all to see and get aroused. It's still not worth a visit and the Canteen in Axminster is better.
The head baker at Town Mill scoffing a scone
(always a good sign to see staff eating their own food)
So we made a swift exit without pudding or coffee because we knew there was a Town Mill Bakery around the corner and we'd heard good things. At first this cafe/bakery was a little confusing as everything is so relaxed. Just find a seat. Grab a chopping board and help your self to the selection of baked goods which are on a stretched table top. Walk over to the barista and order your coffee (this is the only service you will receive). Sit. Scoff and reach for a mug hanging from above your head and help yourself to bottled tap water in the fridge or you can get a pressed Somerset apple juice. Watch the head baker work away as you are surrounded by sacks of Shipton Mill flour on palettes (a fork lift probably drives straight in and dumps them there). When you've finished wolfing down your chosen delights, walk up to till and list what you had to some guy on an iPad and he'll calculate your bill. This form of honesty will obviously be exploited at some point, but I'm sure this will be a rare occasion. This honesty does feel great. Nothing is hidden from the customers, so when you pay for the food you should hide nothing from them.
Oh and I tried a seriously good Eccles cake and the best scone in the world, perfect texture and served with the most delicious jam & butter. Cakes and coffee are around £2 and everything else is under £5, which is amazing as the ingredients are of such high quality, the flavour is there (although the coffee wasn't very good), you get the theatre of the food being made in front of you and the place has a buzzy atmos, which is great to pick you up after a less than average lunch at River Cuntage.
Check out there blog, it has some great writing - http://townmillbakery.wordpress.com/