The profusion of eateries cashing in on the ‘gastro pub’ title has resulted in a tendency to call any local that serves spruced up peanuts by the name, to the point where the word has been forbidden in The Good Food Guide. But if any chef has earned his restaurant the title of gastro pub, it’s Mark Dodson.
Dodson was Head Chef at the Michel Roux establishment The Waterside Inn in Bray for 12 years, working his way up from commis chef after eating an exceptional meal there and asking Roux for a job.
The Dodsons moved from Bray to Devon in 2005, opened The Masons Arms, and won a Michelin star only six months later. Today, when he’s not toiling away in the kitchen, Dodson has a successful sideline in cookery courses.
Dodson’s approach to food is built on bringing Michelin-level technique and presentation to bear on local ingredients – pork, beef, game, and dairy are all featured alongside fresh vegetables from the outsized garden that is Devon. He speaks the language of comfort food with Shakespearean fluency, turning perfectly formed elements into down-to-earth (but heavenly) compositions.
Critics are impressed – The Guardian called it ‘the sort of place that 20 years ago you'd have only encountered abroad and which would have made you complain about how we don't have anything like it back home’, while The Mobile Food Guide dubbed Dodson a ‘whiz-kid’, praising his ‘assurance, maturity and effortless flair’. He isn’t the kind of chef to sit still and be satisfied, though; he says, ‘Whatever your level, never accept something if you know you could do better. If you do good one day, you do good every day.’
The Michelin Guide
One Michelin star
Michelin Pub of the Year (2010)
Pub Chef Magazine
Top 30 Gastro pub
Top 100 places to eat in the UK
The Masons Arms
'The roomy interior of the Masons Arms seems custom-built to straddle the difficult line between luxury and comfort. 'Dining alfresco is available when weather permits, but diners may find it difficult to choose between bucolic Devon views and the inviting, spacious dining area complete with timber-beamed roof and pale wood accents'
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