Starz Bar & Restaurant, Exeter

Some of the more astute of you will remember a few years ago I wrote a review of Starz Bar and Restaurant in String Beans/Veget8 which you can read here.  Initially I was quite scathing about the lack of vegetarian options, the oppressive surroundings and well pretty much all of it.  In fact I was so scathing I felt guilty and decided to withdraw it on the basis that I would one day revisit it.

I did revisit it on Friday and I am glad that I did to be honest, the overall experience of all in my party was positive, but there are a few things to pick up on.

Starz Bar is an American Themed restaurant with creatively titled American Dishes and American sized portions.  A flip through the menu will show you that this place isn’t cheap in the slightest, the cheapest main on the menu was the burger at £7.20 but this was incredible value given the amount of food on the plate (see right).

Before the meal.

Booking a table at Starz is relatively easy although I was annoyed at the online form on their website, having tried to use it a few times it crashed.  I assumed that my booking had gone through but three days afterwards I had not received a confirmation so I rang up but to find out that it hadn’t been received.  OK, *deep breathe* so I spoke to a really nice guy who booked the table and explained about having to pre-order our meals given there were over 10 in the party.  Go to the website, download a form, get everyone’s orders and fill it out. Simple.

After getting everyone to choose what they were going to eat on the night, I took in the form and handed it to someone at the bar.  He explained that if there was anything that needed changing it would be fine to either order it on the evening or let them know before we arrived.  This was reassuring, as some of the guests were still unconfirmed.

The big night

Starz is located in what used to be an old brewery on one of the ground floors.  Starz also owns an award winning cocktail bar on the very bottom floor which we went to after the meal.  Disabled access is really good when entering the bar but once you’re inside the tables are incredibly close together, should one of our party had mobility issues we would have been shafted.  After telling us where our table was, and a worrying moment when I was convinced the waiter I was talking to was not going to find our booking, we sat and waited for our drink orders to be taken.  And we waited a little longer, until one of the brighter and more soberer sparks amongst our party realised that here, the drinks are ordered at the bar.  This was a good idea, alas it would have been better had someone actually told us.
So we carried on, ordered drinks and sat and squeezed ourselves amongst at least three other large parties over 10 people.  The feeling was that the money was really being squeezed (quite literally) out of the punters in that room.

The starters came out first, and here we realised that the non-existent service and the initimate surroundings were worth it after all.   Those in the party that had starters were very happy with the quality of the food and the portions.  So far so good.
Service appeared, whisked away the food and out came the main courses, and boy were they MAIN courses.  They all came out on time, at the same time and all the meals (twelve in all) were very warmly received.  I had an 8oz chicken burger with chips and twirls and added bacon and Monterrey jack cheese with some salad.  The chicken was dry but not inedible, the fries were perfect and the portion was immense.  The value for money (VFM) ratio was pretty high, and if I could rate it purely on this factor I would say this is the best restaurant I have ever been to, purely on VFM.

On the right, you will see Polly’s portion of American Ribs.  Quite literally half a cow covered in BBQ sauce.  This was reportedly really nice, but alas Pol didn’t finish all of it!

After the meal everyone felt thoroughly stuffed, we paid and went down to the lovely cocktail bar.  The bill was for a party of 12 £168.50. Given the service was speedy but mostly non-existent we felt we could only give a meagre tip.

The cocktail bar was generally nice, however the point where I went to order a Cosmopolitan cocktail, I was presented with an Italian (who is actually Greek I have found out! Sorry!!) barman who was nattering with another Greek and a blonde lady who was quite obviously learning the trade.  This was fine, although coming from a customer servicebackground and suffering this lack of service really put me off coming here again, the lady behind the bar however produced a really lovely cocktail.

Concluding thoughts

On the website, the banner is large and obvious.  It says Exeter‘s Number One Celebration Destination.  That is what it is, they are there to accommodate parties and celebrations.  They are not in it for fine dining, but they are there for good tasty portions and damn good steaks.  Every member of my party that had a steak said it was one of the best they had tasted.

My own food was great and the value for money was staggering, but, the whole experience was let down by the surroundings.  Too many bodies crammed in to a small venue, friendly yet scant service and expensive drinks make Starz a place to go occasionally but not regularly.

(Please read the comments left by Christo Archer, General Manager for Starz in the comments section)


One thought on “Starz Bar & Restaurant, Exeter

  1. This was Christo Archer’s original comments on the post when it appeared in Gower The Gourmand

    Hi there,

    Was just casually googling Starz and came across this absolute gold mine of a review! Thank you so much for your comments about Starz, they really will help towards educating some of my staff and also potentially changing some of our systems.
    As you have written such a frank and lengthy review, I will pass on your positive comments to all parties concerned (our grill chef was very pleased that everyone enjoyed their steaks, and I am delighted that you agree with our website banner).

    However with regard to your slight issues, I hope I can allay some fears and also attempt to explain some of the problems that you experienced the other night.


    Christo Archer says:
    23/04/2012 at 7:12 pm (Edit)
    0 0 Rate This
    Our website booking form has been crashing recently, but after testing and re-testing, we think we have got to the root of the problem, so it should be working fine now- apologies for that.
    With regard to the mobility issues, normally guests will tell us when they book their table about the need for wheelchair access or extra space, and we will underbook to allow for that on the evening in question. I do take your point about the fact that we do sometimes squeeze too many people in- unfortunately because we are so popular on the weekends it is a catch-22 situation; do you let 50 people eat in an evening and turn away 200 who really want to have their party at Starz, or let 150 people eat and only turn away 100?
    We do sometimes get it wrong, but hopefully we will be making some renovations towards the end of this year to increase the space for tables (without adding extra seats!) which will improve the overall dining experience (something I have wanted to do for the last two years). In terms of ordering your drinks at the bar, if you are a regular with large parties at Starz you will know that this is normal practice for us; however someone should have told you on the night, and I have told the guys to let organisers of large parties know our system on arrival where possible.
    In terms of service, we don’t go over the top (I find nothing more irritating than an over-attentive waiter personally) and we tend to serve food quickly, check back on everyone’s meals and let our parties get on with it- we aim to add to the atmosphere rather than be overbearing- however if the service was as scarce as you were suggesting, again I offer my apologies. Sometimes when we are busy, an occasional lack of attention to detail does happen,but hopefully it won’t on your next visit to us.
    Your comment about the chicken has been relaid to the grill chef as well as the one about the steaks, and he has taken both on board.
    Just an FYI, our ribs are pork not beef, but you could be forgiven for thinking they came from a cow due to their size!
    Also our ‘Italian’ bartender is actually Greek- one of the benefits of this is that a lot of Greeks come to Starz to celebrate and he knows all of them very well, they feel connected to the place because of him, but if you felt that you were let down because he was talking to a regular then fair enough. I have shown him your review and he promises me that he treats all customers the same, but sends his apologies if you felt snubbed. It was the female bartender’s second shift here in fairness, but she has 4 years of cocktail experience and I hope her drink made up for the service here.
    Also what part of the drinks did you think were expensive (ie pints, soft drinks, cocktails)? I would just be interested to know because I feel that our drinks prices are very competitive compared to our corporate cousins and other cocktail bars in the city.

    I hope my comments have answered your thoughts on Starz succinctly and helpfully, and if you require any further information, either leave a message here or email us. I really am delighted that such a thoughtful and interesting review is on the web, and hopefully your followers will come and give us a try if they haven’t already, and will experience all the positives and none of the negatives of your review

    Kind regards,

    General Manager

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