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