Back in January, I was invited to attend the press night of a new restaurant in Queen St. It was called Ruby Modern Diner and I was very excited. I went away from the night with a great sense of anticipation at what I reckoned was going to be a fantastic restaurant. So I jumped at the invitation to come down and sample some of their meaty delights!
Ruby Modern Diner has a distinct thread of the classic ‘American Diner‘ sewn together with a modern ‘London inspired’ eating experience. I added the London-inspired part, as the whole atmosphere makes you feel like a hip-young thing. The interior and the whole atmosphere made me feel fashionable just sitting there, waiting for my food. And that is quite an accomplishment as I have no fashion sense whatsoever.
This is my most anticipated review of the year, not just because I had said early on that I would give Ruby Burgers a few months to ‘bed-in’, as there is never much point giving an unbalanced review of a new restaurant as the chefs are still getting used to working together, service can be sketchy and I have always found the whole experience of dining in a freshly opened, just out of the box restaurant a little deflating at times. I loved the concept of a modern diner, and after nibbling some ‘Proper Chips’ as samples at the press night, I knew that this was going to be a culinary adventure, so I really wanted to give Ruby Burgers a fighting chance to prove what they were made of.
Ruby Burgers is an independent restaurant. Let me say that a bit louder. Ruby Modern Diner is an independent restaurant. It is ran by Erin Allgrove and Richard Harrison, who trade under the name of Modern Diners Ltd.
The name Ruby comes from the type of beef that goes into making their burgers. Ruby Beef herds from Copplestone Barton Farm (which is less than 15 miles away) are used to create their in-house patties. Using Locally sourced produce drives the ethos of Ruby Modern Diner, and this is evident in the taste alone! Click the link to get an idea at how local the suppliers are.
The prevalence of clone restaurants like Zizzi’s and ASK etc in Exeter only goes to make this establishment standout like a glorious burger shaped beacon. So, I am sold on the concept and I am appreciating the way they use locally sourced ingredients. But was it any good? Was it something that Eating Exeter would recommend? Our mission tonight was to decide whether this was a place that we wanted to recommend on the blog.
In Ruby, the floor space is divided into two parts. Self Service covers food that you can order at the bar which then appears at the kitchen window, and you pop over and collect it. The other area is a Waited area which has service, orders taken at the table and food brought over to you. There is an upstairs which is reserved for larger parties and is bookable.
Unlike my experience at a smaller cafe, just up the road, this was delineated clearly with big signs and a big menu on the wall for people who didn’t have a clue like me.
Which still didn’t stop me from sitting down at the wrong table at first.
We ended up in one of the ultra comfortable booths in the end, with a decanter of water presented to us and just enough time for us to make our minds up about drinks. Soft Drinks and Alcoholic or Hard Drinks as they are listed, are average restaurant prices, but one thing for me that did stand out was a curiously named Root Beer drink which upon further interrogation, we found out had to be imported directly from Australia! This was as authentic as Root Beer got, as one of the ingredients had been made illegal in the US and the EU, I imagine this is how it used to taste.
Tori had a Coca-Cola, both were £2.50 and both arrived quickly (no waiting around wondering if we had been forgotten which so often happens).
Whilst slurping on our drinks we considered the menu, and what a menu it is. The prices are not excessive, and this is an important point to remember when you first eat here. We’re not talking budget food, its no All Day 6 but is cheaper than ASK. I don’t like burgers I hear you cry? They have other stuff too under ‘Other Mains’ which includes Pulled Pork In A Bun, Hot Salt Beef – The Reuben and the Superfood Salads. All of them at reasonable prices which, given the nature of the ingredients, is pretty good.
If you are looking for a massive variety of burgers, then you might be disappointed. The menu is not overbearing in choice (too much choice IS a bad thing), but balanced in variety. There are seven types of burger, starting at £5.50 for the for Classic Burger and ending in The One which tops the scale at £10.00 but then, that is the most expensive item (excluding the ‘Sliders’ at £15) on the entire menu. Sides are separate, and there is an optional 10% service charge which is added to the bill at the end. Sides include Fries, Proper Chips and ‘Not Yo’ Mama’s Slaw’ (Coleslaw that is grated carrot and red cabbage in a punchy sauce).
So, ordering time. I ordered The One Burger (£10, TWO hamburgers, double Hawkridge Mature Cheddar, double smoked streaky bacon, loads of RUBY sauce) with a side of Proper Chips and some ‘Slaw. Tori went for the Piggy Burger (£9 6 oz hamburger topped with shredded smoky pulled pork, apple BBQ sauce) and Fries.
I have a bad habit of timing how long our food takes to get to the table from placing the order, this is something that I started doing after we went in to Sainsbury’s Cafe for a fry up and they forgot us. It is always interesting though, because I worry a little bit if food doesn’t take a bit of time. The food arrived promptly and was presented on white tin enamel plates, The One burger was the largest burger I had personally ever been presented with.
Proper Chips come in a big tin enamel bowl, enough to feed at least two people who have just ran the entire length of the High St dressed in full combat gear, both pulling buses. So of course, I felt I had to do just that! The size of the meal so far, plus with a generous portion of ‘Not Ya Mama Slaw’ meant we had a proper feast on our hands.
The superior taste of Ruby beef is apparent in Ruby’s Burgers, with a richness which doesn’t really get any better. The quote of the evening was from Tori, and it was ‘this is the best burger I have ever had’. In fact I could end the review there, but I have much more to say. The burgers were cooked medium by standard but you can have them cooked your way should you request it.
My burger was so large, and it had so much Ruby Sauce, eating it the traditional way would have meant that I would lose all dignity very quickly in the messiest way possible.
Eventually I dissected it and ate it with manners and cutlery.
Despite my best efforts, I was sadly defeated for the first time in a very long time. But it was so nice, so well cooked and put together, it was a worthy opponent. Tori being the gannett she was finished it off for me despite wolfing down her Piggy burger (shown left).
There are things on the Ruby Burgers menu that I haven’t tried and really wanted to. The ‘Five Dollar’ Shakes, The Hard Shakes (in particular The Peanut Butter Wolf), The Breakfast Menu, Pulled Pork In A Bun being a few that I salivated over whilst examining the menu. But that just means that I will have to go back and try them.
I like to write positive things about places that I visit because the places I visit tend to deserve them. But some places I visit, I really have to hunt for positive things to say and I have to, as a reviewer, be balanced with my criticism or feedback. Ruby Modern Diner have not put a foot wrong, my only thing that I had to mention was that the ‘Slaw was quite mustardy and not to everyone’s taste, but hell, its not Your Mama’s ‘Slaw…hence the name. I believe they deserve all the positive reviews they get.
For what you get, it is good value and it is genuinely good food. Locally sourced, well cooked burgers that make a really great dining experience. A glorious independent beacon in a city full of clone copies, this is a restaurant that is worth supporting and visiting if you can.