Anyone who’s been to South Devon knows that there are dozens of quality eateries in the area, from Michelin Star restaurants to cosy country pubs. Whatever your budget and taste you’re spoiled for choice.
In Dartmouth there’s one café in particular that has become an institution, a favourite with locals and tourists alike and that’s Café Alf Resco. This year Alf’s are celebrating their 20th birthday, which tells you something about not only their incredible award-winning food (more on that later) but also the wonderful atmosphere that Kate Ryder and her team create.
We caught up with Kate to find out more about Alf Resco’s success and what makes Dartmouth such an amazing place to live, work and holiday in.
When you started Alf Resco did you have a particular business aim in mind?
“The café was actually started by some good friends of ours. We helped them run the business for the first three years and then we took over. They enjoyed the idea of running a café but the day-today side of it really wasn’t for them. My husband and I wanted to live in Dartmouth, and back then there really weren’t any jobs here, you had to make your own work. We always wanted the café to be a social centre and a community institution, and that’s what it’s become over the years.”
You’re known for being family friendly. Is that an important part of Alf Resco’s success?
“Yes, definitely. I think until you have kids you don’t realise how difficult it is to go out and how unaccommodating many places can be to families. When you go abroad you see that children are so welcome in public places and because of that they actually behave better. We’re family friendly because if the kids are welcome they behave well, the parents can relax and then everyone has a great time. We’re also dog-friendly as dog owners also find it hard to find establishments that welcome dogs.”
How much of your ingredients do you source from local producers?
“We work with local producers as much as possible and always have. All our bread is made in Dartmouth, our eggs are local. I’m not so focussed on everything being organic, but buying local is important because then things haven’t done loads of food miles which is an attitude I think isn’t prevalent enough nationwide.”
You won an award for your breakfast recently?
“Yes, we won a Home Grown Cereals Association award for our homemade Granola. We make it onsite as a lighter option to cooked breakfast. We use British oats of course and we’re really chuffed, mainly because we don’t usually go in for things like that.“
What other specialities are on the menu?
“We always change the menu seasonally, which is all part of sourcing from local producers. And also your tastes change with the seasons. In the winter you want porridge and stews, things like that, but in the summer that’s not what you’re craving. Last year we began to introduce local crab to the lunchtime menu which has been very popular.
We get all the team involved in coming up with ideas. Different age groups want different things. We’ve started doing oat-based smoothies because that generation who are in their twenties are keen on power smoothies for breakfast, and that wasn’t something we did 20 years ago!”
What is your bestselling option on the menu?
“Definitely the Alf’s Full Breakfast. You get two eggs with a couple of slices of bacon, a sausage, tomato and toast.”
You talked about Alf Resco being part of the local Dartmouth community and you do quite a bit of charity work and work in schools, can you tell us more about that?
“We’re part of the community and I feel a responsibility to help out. We do private functions for local charities where we’ll supply the food and staff for free and a charity can put on a dinner and auction and raise money, things like that. We get the staff involved with it so they see that doing things for free for the community can be beneficial, not everything has to be for financial gain. We’ve also been going into local schools and providing free porridge for breakfast to promote the importance of a healthy breakfast.”
What do you think makes Dartmouth such a special place?
“I think it’s the fact that we still have a community. We still have a local baker, a butcher a green grocer. Going to local shops encourages people to interact, chat to the owners and other shoppers. All of that breeds community. We also have the Flavel Arts Centre which hosts all kinds of great events like music and films and acts as a hub.
Also people who do own Dartmouth holiday homes here come regularly. They don’t tend to be the sort of people who visit for a fortnight once a year. Instead they visit lots of times throughout the year and that means they’re also part of the community.
We’ve got the steam train running most of the year, the paddle steamer, the Greenway Estate. It’s just a beautiful place.”
If someone was thinking of coming to Dartmouth to stay in a holiday cottage what would be your top tips to enjoy the town?
“Definitely go to Castle Cove where they’ve rebuilt the steps, giving you a beach right in town which is lovely. Take a trip on the paddle steamer and go up to Totnes, because you’ll get to see all kinds of amazing wildlife on the way like herons and seals. Also look into going out on a sea safari with Monty Hall because they’re wonderful for families. You can go also go on kayak trips, which I’ve done. You go out to sea or up the river depending on the weather and you get to explore all kinds of deserted coves and beaches and enjoy a picnic.”
What’s coming up soon at Alf Resco?
“As part of the Dartmouth Comedy Week we’re hosting an evening with the poet Matt Harvey on Tuesday the 4th of March. There’s a meal from 7pm and Matt will be putting on his show at 8pm. It’ll be a wonderful evening. “
So if you want to experience the wonderful food and warm, relaxing atmosphere of Café Alf Resco, be sure to book some time away in one of our many Dartmouth holiday cottages we have available.