Lunch at the River Life Cafe & Bistro, Bude

River Life Cafe

Don’t be fooled by its unassuming exterior or the obvious exaggeration in its name. Such is the success of this unpretentious little cabin tucked away on Pethericks Mill Industrial Estate that, even in the murky depths of winter, for a mid-week lunch, you’ll be very lucky to get a table unless you have booked or are prepared to wait some time. Even to sit outside.

Retired gentlefolk, young mums and anyone else who can sneak some time out of the day are regularly filling the seats here. Some admit to popping in as often as three times a week. And the reason is simple – the food and service is fabulous and it’s good value too.

Don’t be fooled by the apparently uninspired menu either. Cheese on toast has never looked so good or tasted so good before – it was positively ambrosial!

But that was on our first visit. This time we ordered the special – fish pie with a cheesy potato topping and lots of fresh vegetables. It’s good home-cooked comfort food, but I did think the portion of fish pie could have been more generous.

On the plus side, this left plenty of appetite for dessert and this didn’t disappoint in any way at all. It was a raspberry creme brulee to bring a tear to the eye of any French chef worth his sel de mer. And as you can see, it was beautifully presented. The small glass of raspberry coulis was nice and tart but not enough to pucker your nose. I had to be forcibly restrained not to lick the whole lot clean.Pud

Filling our glasses was the house white for me and red for Simon. Together with the rosé, which we tried last time, they offer smooth, easy drinking. Happily, you can buy all three by the glass – £4.40 for a large 250ml measure – or by the bottle at £8.95. A carafe of tap water arrives on the table without having to ask.

We rounded off our tasty lunch with an espresso which, whilst it may not have won the heart of your average Italian, was nevertheless strong enough and wasn’t overly bitter.

Judging by the jars of ‘Teapig’ teabags on the counter, the tea is good here too. In fact, the cafe is open all day, and has some very tempting cakes tucked under the glass counter. On the day we visited there were some squidgy double chocolate and cream muffins on a buy one, get one free offer. That could be the perfect end to the Short Bude Cliff Walk featured in a previous edition of the Chronicle. It’s easy to start making up excuses for more visits!

The final bill for our lunch came to £34 – great value for two courses with wine and coffee. But there are no corners being cut here. The meat, for example, is top quality and is supplied courtesy of the family farm in Meddon. Next time, we plan to go along in the evening and sample the slow-roasted belly pork.

Owner Justin Lewis can be justifiably proud of what he has created here, and I, for one, am looking forward to his next venture, The Bank at Bude – not another business-busting, bonus-rich financial institution but a smart wooden hut at the opposite end of their car park, which will offer a selection of tapas, seafood and ice cream. By the time you read this, they will be busy working their way through the 700 or so bookings that have already been made for here. I can just imagine sitting out under the stars on the little wooden deck, devouring some tasty marine morsels on a balmy summer’s evening.

Hmmm, now that really could be a foolish thought!     01288 353070

Bude Cycle Centre, Bude, EX23 8TF

Helen Crossley

April 2013 (Spring issue)