New Kids on the Block
Although it may not seem that there is a shortage of places to eat & drink in North Devon, we foodies still get excited when a new spot opens up. The latest addition to Barnstaple’s food scene is BLOCK, taking residence in a large section of Butchers Row. From the outside, it is understated and modern, enticing curious passers-by to peer in to the warm glow inside.
So, is it a coffee shop? Or is it a restaurant? Honestly, it feels like a perfect balance between the two. There’s a pretty chilled-out vibe in here. The northern soul playing in the background all day adds to the upbeat and welcoming environment. As a customer, you can slow down and enjoy a good book with only a coffee for company, or take time out for something more substantial from their ever-changing menu – and that’s a choice that few places tend to offer around here.
BLOCK is the brainchild of Andy & Tran Stephenson, who have travelled far and wide in their previous corporate careers – and this travelling has had a powerful influence on their relationship with food, and their approach towards dining.
Andy explains “Whether we were on a work trip to New York or on our honeymoon in Florence, we planned where to eat first. So when we chose to settle down in Barnstaple and set up our new venture, we took a good look at what was on offer. There are some fairly established restaurants, and new chains moving in, but there’s not really enough demand for a single cuisine. That was perfect for us.”
As a result, the menu at BLOCK is constantly changing. Dishes are rarely on the menu for longer than a week without being tweaked, improved, or altogether replaced with a new exciting dish. But the variety doesn’t end there. Even within the daily menu on you will find offerings of flavours from across the globe.
“I get bored easily,” Andy says “so I change the menu to keep myself entertained. But of course the customers seem to like it too, as it encourages them to try something new each time they visit.” This is really what sets BLOCK apart from the rest of the town’s eateries. The refusal to fall into routines and repeat a standard menu for weeks on end means that customers can keep returning for the same great service and warm atmosphere, while still having a seemingly endless choice of dishes to sample each time.
The couple have worked across the UK in the past few years, and they’ve noticed a big difference between dining out in the cities compared to smaller towns. “Most major cities have virtually every cuisine you can think of within a 10 minute walk.” Tran points out. “Whatever you are craving, you can get it quickly. It’s not that easy when you’re somewhere more rural or remote, so we want to offer that variety, filling in the gap where the more niche global restaurants can’t really start up.”
Typically, their menu will host a range of flavours, from Vietnamese Phở Gà, to Mexican Burrito Bowls, alongside Moroccan Meatball Wraps and a traditional French Croque Madame. Add to that a hearty breakfast menu and a great selection of fresh cakes & pastries, and there’s not much you could be missing.
As winter approaches and they get settled in, the BLOCK team are planning a series of ‘Seasons Feastings’ on the run up to Christmas. Of course, you shouldn’t expect to see any turkey dinners here. Andy explains “It’s not going to be your traditional Christmas party food being served up, instead it’ll be some exciting world flavours but with the same festive conviviality & warmth.”
It’s clear that every detail of BLOCK is resonant of Andy & Tran as people. They’ve put their hearts and souls into this great new venue, pairing a modern metropolitan design and global cuisine with a cosy and welcoming atmosphere that feels more like your own living room. It’s no wonder that they’re already one of the busiest places in town.