Historic Topsham inn reveals exciting new changes

The new-look Salutation Inn in Topsham
-Credit: (Image: Nick Hook)

A Topsham inn with an impressive reputation for its fine dining has now undergone a stunning transformation to become a 'café by day and a restaurant by night'. The Salutation Inn only closed for four days for a refurbishment to be carried out and reopened last Friday, June 14.

The new look includes the amalgamation of its GlassHouse with its restaurant which is now open throughout the day, complete with a funky new bar with seating for guests to enjoy a drink. For those wanting to eat, new options are now available alongside its tasting menus.

It is 12 years since The Salutation Inn was bought by the well-known local Williams-Hawkes family who successfully turned it into a fine dining restaurant. They picked up the keys on New Year's Eve 2011 and opened it the following November after carrying out an extensive refurbishment.

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It has been named in The Michelin Guide for 12 years and is currently shortlisted for The Good Food Guide’s Top 100 Best Local Restaurant 2024. Today it is run by husband and wife team Tom, 42, and Amelia Williams-Hawkes, 34, who have a 20-month-old daughter called Delphi, with the help of a dedicated team of staff and continued input from family members.

The Salutation Inn in Topsham has a rich history
The Salutation Inn in Topsham has a rich history -Credit:Devon Live

Recalling its past before it was owed by the family, Amelia, the general manager, recalled: "The Salutation Inn was a Punch Taverns pub and had not been open for several years and was derelict. It was a bit of a traditional grimy boozer in the middle of town with sticky carpets and the lot, but it was well-loved by locals who were sad it had been left empty for so long.

"The Williams-Hawkes family put their stamp on it and transformed the inn from a pub into a fine-dining restaurant. What people are now looking for is different from 12 years ago.

"The climate has changed and we wanted to change with it and make it a bit more relaxed. The Salutation Inn has always been a restaurant with rooms and a GlassHouse. We are not a pub; it is table service.

Tom and Amelia Williams-Hawkes who run The Salutation Inn in Topsham
Tom and Amelia Williams-Hawkes who run The Salutation Inn in Topsham -Credit:Nick Hook

"The restaurant area was previously more formal dining with tables, linen and carpet and was only used in the evening. We have now opened up the GlassHouse and restaurant to work as one room that is open all day.

"It has increased our space and has also modernised the area. We had tried to create a more relaxed vibe where people can now come in for a light bite, glass of wine or coffee.

"There is now a bar area in the glasshouse to welcome people in just for a drink as well as food. The main focus of this refurbishment has been to try and welcome a new audience and make it a bit more accessible for everyone.

"It is now a cafe by day and a restaurant by night. We have had a great reaction and many compliments from people who have come in since we have reopened and they have said how much more fun it is in here because of the bright colours and it being more cosy."

The new-look Salutation Inn in Topsham
The new-look Salutation Inn in Topsham -Credit:Nick Hook

To coincide with the revamp of the inn, new menus have been created to include more sharing options and a light lunch menu. Its previously popular tasting menu is still available.

It has also introduced a new wine menu and continues to support as many local food and drink suppliers as possible. During lockdown, the inn launched a wet fish deli called Salt which is located at the front of the building. It has been retained due to a demand for fresh fish in the town as there had not been a fishmonger.

It is where Tom can mostly be found as he has vast fishmonger experience which stems from his dad having been a salmon fisherman for 30 years. His passion is sustainable fishing.

Inside Salt in 2020 -Credit:NICKHOOKPHOTO
Inside Salt in 2020 -Credit:NICKHOOKPHOTO

Tom was raised in The Imperial in Exeter, now a popular Wetherspoon pub and previously owned by his parents Gill and Ed Williams-Hawkes until the early '90s. He went on to become a chef and worked at Pétrus in London with Gordon Ramsey and Marcus Wareing for nearly 25 years and then came back to Devon to work for Michelin star chef Michael Caines at The Royal Clarence in Exeter as a sous chef and then became executive chef at Gidleigh Park Hotel in Chagford.

Amelia said: "We are not solely a fish restaurant, but we do have lots on the menu. The current head chef, Luke Heaver, has been at The Salutation Inn for five years. His creative menu evolves to serve the freshest market catch of the day."

The new lunch menu is said to exemplify the ‘sea to plate’ philosophy, allowing guests to see and choose their fish directly from Salt. Evening diners can expect an a la carte offering, as well as a surprise seafood tasting menu.

Fresh fish is served at The Salutation Inn in Topsham
Fresh fish is served at The Salutation Inn in Topsham -Credit:Nick Hook

Food and drinks can now be enjoyed in a now more welcoming and relaxed atmosphere. The assistance of Devon-based interior designer Sophie Walker was enlisted to create a botanical-inspired interior with a coral and turquoise colour scheme.

A new mackerel mural in the doorway has been painted by Topsham artist Hazel McCabe who is known as the Topsham Wood Carver and for once having run Topsham Ferry with her husband Dave many years ago.

A new sharing platter at The Salutation Inn in Topsham
A new sharing platter at The Salutation Inn in Topsham -Credit:Nick Hook

Inside there is an impressive array of new local artwork which has been collected by Ed over the years and is now proudly on show and is sympathetic with the building's historic past.

The Salutation has been an Inn since at least 1720 and was the main coaching inn in Topsham. Its main entrance 'porte cochère' - carriage porch - has been described by English Heritage as one of the largest single-leaf doors in the country.

The new-look Salutation Inn in Topsham
The new-look Salutation Inn in Topsham -Credit:Nick Hook

Above it is the Assembly room, regarded as one of Topsham's finest rooms with an architecturally unique Venetian window with 1774 graffiti etched onto the glass. The building is protected with a star listing.

Amelia hopes that its latest refurbishment with help preserve the future of the inn for many years to come.

She enthused: "We want locals and travellers alike to feel they can come and enjoy good food and good wine with good service. We are really proud to be a small, independent family business and we want to be here for a long time.

Staff at The Salutation Inn in Topsham
Staff at The Salutation Inn in Topsham -Credit:Nick Hook

Tom added: "Our refurbishment is a new chapter in the life of this historic coaching house, which has widely evolved over the centuries from being a rambunctious venue for gatherings - complete with wrestling arena, bowling green, hot air balloon launch pad and stables for horses, cows and elephants!

"The building has hosted celebrities, politicians and inspired writers. Our family are proud custodians of The Salutation Inn and are excited to continue its legacy."

The restaurant is open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Its seven accommodation rooms are available seven days a week. Promotional drink deals include Fizzy Fridays with £10 off fizz, and a £10 cocktail menu served Tuesday to Saturday from 4pm to 6pm.

The Salutation Inn also hosts events such as Italian wine dinner nights. On August 5 it is hosting Topsham Five to celebrate Topsham suppliers.