Date night. How did this phrase become relevant to my life?
I’d like to think that the quality of the time I spend with my man (and from this point onwards, my date) would render the words redundant. Realistically, for us and probably all other couples who have contact with each other more than once a week, it is sometimes necessary to designate an evening for nothing other but enjoyment of food, wine and each other.
After the recent excitement (and unavoidable stress) of moving in with said man/date, we were both a little frazzled, being surrounded by an amount of cardboard boxes that surprised even me, who’d packed them. We’d both taken a big step and felt the need to take stock and celebrate.
Date night it was.
Topsham felt like the place to go. A ten-minute train ride away from Exeter, it’s a pretty, appealing river-side small town with an excellent array of pubs, restaurants and shops. It is a lively (but not overwhelming), warm and friendly place.
The Quay Brasserie was chosen partly for its location (the quayside, unsurprisingly) and for the fact that it was one of the few places within our budget that neither of us had been to before. The menu helped too: delicious-sounding French dishes at reasonable prices. So on with our glad rags and off we went.
We’d booked a table for 7pm and arrived to an almost empty restaurant which did, however, fill up quickly. We were warmly welcomed into a spacious room with a vaulted ceiling (the building is a converted boat house), furnished in red leather and dark wood. The overall effect was elegant but not stuffy, relaxed but stylish.
The required romantic atmosphere might have been more easily attained in more intimate settings, but we were shown to a table by the window with a view over the water, which gave us something to look at once we tired of gazing longingly into each other’s eyes.
As it was a celebration, we decided to be a little daring and ordered snails to start. I had never eaten a snail before and I have to say as someone who will try almost anything, food-wise, I struggled to see the appeal. They were however served in a delicious garlic and herb butter and gobbled down with gusto by my date, whilst I sipped my Merlot, and looked forward to the main course.
So…food! I chose the Confit Duck with red cabbage, mash potato, green beans & Star Anis, which was a sticky, deep-flavoured delight. My date ate the pork fillet with mash potato, pak choi and mustard & chorizo butter (both dishes at £14.95) which put a wide, satisfied grin on his face. This is locally sourced food, simply presented and full of flavours reflecting the season. It doesn’t intimidate, it invites the knife and fork to begin the pleasurable process of devouring. In short, it’s really, really scrummy.
Afterwards, we shared a melting sticky toffee pudding (£5.95), but refrained from offering quivering mouthfuls to each other since you have to draw the line somewhere, even on date night.
And so, after a brief pub crawl in some of Topsham’s finest, we wandered homeward in a dream (and on the bus) replete, rejuvenated and ready to tackle those boxes.
The Quay Brasserie, The Strand, Topsham, EX3 0JB