The Beer Engine, Newton St Cyres, Exeter (4/5)

I find the idea of sitting next to a pub, next to a railway line a really nice idea.  I like trains; being something of a closet train spotter myself. The first time I rolled in to The Beer Engine was about four years ago after doing a county-long pub crawl that started in Barnstaple and ended in Exeter as part of the Tarka Ale Trail.  If you picked up enough stamps from the pubs involved you could get a t-shirt, a  mug or even something else that showed how much of a real Ale fan you were by hitting each pub with decreasing levels of sanity and dignity.

The sad thing about my first ever visit to The Beer Engine was that I couldn’t remember much about it and I reckon I must have scared a few locals along the way.  So now seemed to be the perfect opportunity to make amends, and come to The Beer Engine and appreciate it for the strangely nice place that it is.

So, whats special about this pub?  Firstly, and most importantly for me, is the fact that it is a micro-brewery.  A rare find in the UK these days, a pub that serves its own Ale that is brewed in the same building.  They produce small batches at a time, and given the Ale is brewed on site, the prices are incredibly reasonable.  Rail Ale was £2.80 a pint, a lovely light hoppy pale ale which was unfortunately for me, very drinkable.
Secondly the food stands out as being some of the best this side of Exeter, the prices are not out of the realms of extortionate and the menu is varied and caters for many tastes.  Thirdly the service was second-to-none, the landlady (Jan I believe?) took our orders and made us feel welcome, it was a personable and warm reception and short of rolling out red carpet and having a small batch of fanfare trumpets, we were treated brilliantly.

So you most probably realize that I like this place? Did you guess? Strange that.

AA 2008 Good Food Guide says nice things about The Beer Engine:

“Striking whitewashed free house, once a railway hotel and these days acknowledged as one of Devon’s first micro-breweries. There’s daily fish deliveries from Brixham so expect sea bass, cod or haddock cooked in beer batter.”

In theory you could eat and enjoy a pint for just over a tenner, its not throat gaggingly expensive but you do pay for quality and although some dishes are given ample servings, the food would be best described as ‘taste over quantity’ especially if you’re used to the massive quantities of a Hungry Horse establishment such as the likes of The Bath House in Exmouth.

We had a starter in the form of Whole Baked Camembert with brioche, salad and chutney.  It was a perfect sharing size and it even came in the box too!  At £7.25 it was a good price for a starter for two people, although it’d have been nice to have more of the brioche (how about ordering an extra portion of bread for £1.20 with it?).  It was well balanced and had a very nice salad accompanying it.

I went for the Maple Glazed Louisiana Pork served with Bar-B-Que Sauce, Skinny Fries & Coleslaw for £11.95.  The pork was pulled and then compacted in to a sausage.  You are served slices of compacted pulled pork with a large helping of this gorgeous BBQ sauce to drizzle over everything.  I found that the best way to eat it was to cover the meat in the sauce and then mash the pork up so it mixed together.  I then discovered how much pork was really in these little slices, and the combination with the maple glaze was a sweet and savory meaty slap to the face, one of the nicest pork dishes I have had in a long time.
The skinny fries were crispy yet disappointingly, some of them were colder than they should have been (call me fussy!), but not worth complaining about given the taste was really top class.  The coleslaw was chunky and served in a sealed pot, this either preserved the flavour or possibly they created them in large batches before being served when they were needed perhaps?  It was a quirky touch if anything.   My other half had something from the specials board, a Pork and Suet pie in a red wine gravy.  It was reportedly very tasty, and the bits that I did taste of it confirmed this.

The reputation for good food is well deserved,  and the array of fish dishes available will make your day if you’re that way inclined.

The close proximity to Newton St Cyres station and the short distance away from the dark bustling streets of Exeter should not put you off taking a trip out to his awesome little pub.  Its not miles away, and is worth coming even for the Ale.  Don’t expect massive portions, but do expect a well put together cuisine which is worth sampling.

By telephone – 01392 851282, fax: 01392 851876

info@thebeerengine.co.uk http://www.thebeerengine.co.uk

The Beer Engine, Newton St Cyres, Exeter, EX5 5AX

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Express Review: Subway Breakfast Sub £2

It sounded so promising and looked so delicious as they always do on the boards outside.  For £2 you get a Bacon Sub and a cup of Coffee, or a hot drink of your choosing.  And for one who is coming up to the poor-end of payday, it seemed like a value option that was worth a try.

In my many years of eating terrible fast food and through my many successful attempts at ignoring health warnings about eating fast food, Subway has always come quite far up on the scale of places that you should visit when you are very drunk and insistent that you really need a delicious, salt packed dietary cataclysm.  And normally you regret it the next morning as you realize what you have been eating didn’t help with the resulting hangover from hell.

bad bacon buttySo an early morning trip to Subway was going to be a novel experience which, I have to say now, will never be repeated.

I got given a leaflet that said you could get a Bacon Sub and Coffee for £2.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, £2.  The low price is a bit suspect because ultimately you have to wonder where the profit margin is, and I suspect its pretty close to a place that would make most executives uncomfortable.
I am not even going to comment on the service in Subway because its a little like complaining that your leg hurts, after you have broken it.  Don’t complain as you know what you’re getting.  But I was suprised that the man behind the counter didn’t quite get the concept that I did not want a foot long sub, nor wanted three ingredients… No really, I don’t.

No brown sauce, no smile, no ‘thank you’.

I didn’t want a coffee either, I wanted a cup of tea.  So I got my cup of tea.  It had no milk, and there was no milk anywhere in the shop.  I was sent off with a tiny little sub, a cup of milkless tea and that distinct feeling that I have just been conned out of £2.  The sub was alright though, I had 9-grain bread and I got one slice of dry bacon and a thing that had at one point in its life been an egg.

So dear reader. Proceed with caution, take your own milk and brown sauce.

Just Eat: The online take away experience

Just Eat is a newish system of ordering Take Away food from local providers. It is perfect for those who fancy curry or chinese for instance, without having to ring up and talk to a human being. Bloody humans.

Login to the website http://www.justeat.co.uk and you go through some options, find the ideal take away, then go through an online menu. The relative ease of use means you can do this on a tablet if you wish or on a laptop, or even use a bit of dark magic should you want to.

In theory you get an estimated time of delivery, and then that’s it. So craving a curry after a day of interview prep, we decided to give it a go.

The first thing you realise is that a lot of the takeaways have limits to what they’ll deliver for. Some have lower limits than others. Also when you have decided what you want, and you go through to pay there is a 50p card charge which justeat.co.uk keep very quiet about, despite the fact it is the only way that you can pay.

Secondly once the payment has been accepted, you have to wait for the take-away to accept your order. This means staying on the page rather than getting bored and redoing it.

It gives you an estimated time, in our case it was 20:15. 10 minutes over but near enough.

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Curry is delicious. Generally happy with the whole experience.

Ignore the crap picture! I had a Pista Masala that was very nice for a milder curry and my other half had a Korma.  The whole thing was quite reasonable, the taste was brilliant.  Spice Magic really has lived up to its reputation of being one of the best places for curry in Exeter.

But unfortunately I am not writing about the curry itself, rather the experience of ordering it through a third party.  The curry review will come later, with better photos!

I found it easy to use.  Disappointing that we had to pay a 50p card charge (but then how much money do they make from the restaurants themselves?).  But really the whole point of JustEat.co.uk is a little pointless when you can easily ring up a curry house and get it delivered.  But its point is all about convenience and making take-aways more accessible, amongst other things.

Budleigh Salterton Food Festival (October 11th to 13th 2013)

A new food festival is hitting our radar here at Eating Exeter, and its taking place in Budleigh Salterton.  Not satisfied with already having a reputable literary festival, the new festival will showcase the best local produce that Budleigh has to offer as part of the Budleigh Business ‘Buy Local’ Campaign.

Lasting three days it’ll feature such wonderful things as Exeter mussels, Clinton Devon Estate’s very own venison and cakes from Otterton Mill.  Plus lots of local ales, cider and wine.

Read more on the Devon Bites website here or visit the Budleigh Food Festival website.

The Clock Tower Fish Bar, Queen Street

It has been a chippy since 1977, but the latest incarnation of this Fish and Chip shop has seen it spruced up and rebranded in to The Clock Tower Fish Bar.

So, what did I have? Well I had chips.  I was here to see how their chips fared up to the previous visit, when it was the Dolphin Fish Bar.  And to be honest, it was no match.  Prices very reasonable, £1.50 for a portion of chips and they do a standard Cod and Chips for a fiver too!

These were hot, crisp and it didn’t taste of dirty oil.  There was much to be said for the chips, and it inspired me to go back a few days later to see how the battered sausage fared up.  Battered Sausage was good, light and tasty batter with a standard jumbo sausage in the middle.

The service was quick, and the owner was chatty on my second visit.  They don’t have a website or any sort of social media channel yet, so the only way to experience the full wonder of this funny little chippy is to go and taste.

South Sands Hotel’s Coastal Forage – Event Report

South Sands Hotel hosted a Costal Forage led by expert Devon Forager David Harrison and Michelin-starred Chef Simon Hulstone and a surprise bug cookery demo by Peter Gorton!

Expert forager David Harrison led top chefs and catering students for South Devon College around the stunning South Sands cove, rocks and costal scrubland.  As the various edible plants and weeds were discovered, chef Simon Hulstone showed fellow chefs the best way to incorporate the haul of sea plantain, Wild Carrot and Mallow  into their restaurant menus.

“Sea Plantain is fabulous in risotto, this important thing is not to over-cook it so add it near the end of cooking time.  Rock Samphire is great as a cooked herb on top of roasted fish”!

Simon Hulstone, Chef Patron, The Elephant, Torquay

Rock Samphire, Sea Beet and Ivy Leaf Toad Flax all grow in abundance in and around South Sands Beach – Now Chefs’ Forum Member Chefs and students from South Devon College  know exactly how to identify and cook with these fabulous wild, free ingredients .

David also warned the group against mistaking similar looking species like confusing  deadly hemlock for harmless chervil.

The fantastic Peter Gorton then performed an impressive bug cookery demo of Thai-style meal worm risotto with a good helping of personality and humour, then garnished with samphire!

Peter Gorton recently held a ‘bug night’ with Mr Smitters (entomologist, Plymouth University) at his Devon restaurant ‘Gorton’s of Tavistock’.  The critters went down a storm at a sell-out evening – They proved equally popular with Chefs’ Forum Members at yesterday’s event, Peter Said:

“In a few years time, bugs will be far more mainstream. Other cultures eat them as a staple as they are an incredible source of protein.  You have to compare it to sushi 20 years ago.  People said they wouldn’t take it, but look at it now. You see it in a lot of restaurants and supermarkets, so who’s to say bugs can’t be the next superfood?

Chefs munched on meal worms, crunched crickets and lunched on locusts in the great tasting risotto cooked in the demo to around 50 top Devon Food Heroes!

Chefs also enjoyed a delicious barbeque cooked by Head Chef Stuart Downie of South Sands Hotel showcasing local fish and meat, then tutored coffee tasting by Owen’s Coffee, Modbury.

The Chefs’ Forum continues to go from strength to strength with more chefs realising the importance of inspiring the next generation and engaging with this extremely positive organisation.

The Chefs’ Forum aims to enhance the skill sets of top chefs in industry through updating them with the latest techniques being used by their peers – This time it was costal foraging for menus and the versatility of bugs as a credible ingredient – This also motivates and inspires students and shows them how amazing ‘chef life’ can be!

chefs forum