The Rusty Bike, 67 Howell Road

I am chuffed to present a Guest Post from fellow food blogger Emilee Tombs.  Emilee keeps a cracking food blog called Eaten by Emilee, which I strongly recommend you subscribe to :).  If you want to see the original post, have a look here.

When I told my brother last week that I was going to ask a meat-obsessed restaurant to cater for my vegetarian Mum’s palate he wished me good luck and hung up on me. I’d offered to book somewhere for dinner on Saturday night to celebrate Mum’s birthday, and I’d be damned if she had to settle for a dull and unimaginative plate of of stuffed peppers or butternut squash risotto for the zillionth time. Having been meat-free for over 10 years she’s suffered myriad boring vegetarian options in Exeter because, with the exception of Herbies on North Street, there really isn’t much choice when it comes to the smaller independent places, even the ones that do exist often rely on the same half-hearted offerings usually involving a lot of pasta, rice, sauce or all of the above.

So when I contacted the Rusty Bike last week to request the unrequestable, I was shocked to receive an email reply saying that the chef would be happy to prepare an entire bespoke menu especially for the birthday girl. Even more incredulous was I to learn that not only does the Rusty Bike specialise in the cooking of meat, but has its very own hunting team to go out and get it.

“We think doing it this way is actually much more humane than ordering-in bulk buy meat,” general manager Paul told me on our arrival. “Most bulk-bought meat has had a terrible life and has been frozen or travelled the length and breadth of the country before we see it. Here we go out to hunt for food  the week ahead and as a result our menus are planned around what we’ve managed to catch.”

I’m not surprised this trend for catching what you cook has surfaced of late, after a summer celebrating hedgerow finds at restaurants like Noma in Copenhagen and Michael Smith’s Pothminster Beach Café in St Ives, menus and epicureans all over the world are getting more involved in the process of sourcing their produce, and for the locavores among us this is great news.

The Rusty Bike interior is no bad thing either. In a former life the converted townhouse near Exeter’s Prison was occupied by the Eagle Tavern, a place popular in my Mum’s college days and avoided in mine. There remains no trace of the Eagle, save for a name- toting light box which now hangs on the exposed-brick wall above our table. The Rusty Bike is both the spirit-lovers pub of choice and the foodie’s haven, with seating for around 30 in the main dining area, a collection of tables for drinking and a separate room for functions on the other side of the bar (when we dined it was burns night and the place was awash with tartan and unshaven legs.) The furniture is deliberately mismatched and everything from the wall art to the flowers on the tables and the vintage crockery adorning the shelves has a hunted-down feel, just like the menu.

After an education in the varying degrees of botanicals in different gins we ordered nibbles and starters to share. Deep fried Sharpham Brie with homemade tomato swish, fennel seeded granary loaf with peppery butter and a canvas of beetroot, blue cheese and pickled walnuts, which satisfied both vegetarian and carnivores.

The menu is separated into two sections; ‘classic’ and ‘modern’, classic being ruby red ribeye steak, mash and wild (foraged) mushrooms, roasted pork loin, parsnips and prune sauce or fish and chips. Modern being salmon, brown crab and prawn (in two acts), Boudin of Langford lamb belly, goats cheese, kale and white anchovies and local pheasant, truffle oil mayo, partridge ham and pheasant sausages.

Intrigued by a double act of seafood I went for the salmoncrabprawns which arrived as promised, on two plates. On top the salmon was roasted to pink perfection and arrived lounging on a bed of finely chopped, salty leeks. The crab stood stage right, nestled in the soft embrace of a Chinese-style dumpling. On top of both was a halo of crispy seaweed straws and paprika dust. Plate two was a modern take on shrimp aspic, the dish spread out rather than moulded and dotted with watercress sprouts. Of the two I favoured plate one, but I’ve never been a great fan of gelatine and undoubtedly this dish would suit some more than others.

Mum, being utterly in awe of a menu made just for her, was indecisive, but eventually selected the green olive cake with honey and goats cheese, which split and melted gloriously into itself on the plate.

EE RecommendsThroughout the meal miniature bottles of homemade pink raspberry gin were brought to the table, expected to be shot back between mouthfulls. Regular-sized gins were matched to their best accompanying mixer; Pink Sicilian lemonade with Botanicals gin, elderflower presse with Millers and tonic with cucumber for the Hendricks.

We left a good three hours after sitting down, having devoured two cheese boards between us for desert. I’d clearly recommend dinner here to anyone be you locavore, carnivore or herbivore, but do remember to ask ahead of time if you’d like to steer clear of the meaty menu, because turning up unannounced with a taste only for veg here be tantamount to blasphemy here

Telephone: 01392 214440

Rusty Bike Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


The HubBox, 183 Sidwell Street

You could be forgiven that taking your first steps in to Exeter’s newest Burger joint, would be accompanied by signing in and finding a hard hat from the site manager’s office. But this fully functioning slice of New York inspired industrial chic has a quirky-vintage twang which needs to be appreciated as part of what makes The HubBox a completely unique establishment in Exeter.  I have been eager to get down and write about this place ever since it opened. I had to miss the press event, so now was my chance to see what partners Richard Boon and Alex Towill have created in the heart of Exeter.

Eating Exeter Recommends!Since I have been writing for Eating Exeter, I have not heard as much positive feedback about one newly opened restaurant as I have with HubBox. A lot of my fellow foodies had been down to sample some of their meaty delights, and I have heard nothing negative about their experience. This is pretty unusual, even for a strange little city like Exeter.  Take a peek at Tripadvisor and there are no reviews below ‘Very Good’.  The uninspiring, 1950s brickwork misery that it is housed in is, hopefully, due to be knocked down soon, so this adds the ‘Pop-up’ element of The HubBox.

The first thing that struck me was the size of the building that HubBox is located within. Some readers might remember when it was Ivor Dewdney’s Bakery?  There isn’t much space, but the wooden seating is arranged so that you can seat at least 24 in booths and the remaining  on stools with seating around the back and across the front of the restaurant. Although not the official figure I am sure, we reckoned you could fit at least 34 bodies in comfortably. At busy times you might have to wait to be seated, but if you have faith that these burgers are worth it, then you’ll be rewarded.  They have done well with what they have to work with, in terms of space.

The menu board is a is a glowing beacon of Americana, with a genuine ‘backwater diner’ rustic feeling to the signage throughout the restaurant, the lighting is provided by hanging lamps and strung dimmed lights from the bare exposed ceiling fittings. And in the centre of it all is a small shipping container that is the Hub of the HubBox with the kitchen and three hard working kitchenistas (Ross, Matt and Rob) busying away. Much of the design was brought with Alex Towill’s  time working in the US, along with the vision of award-winning restaurateur Richard Boon.

The menu is simple. Eleven types of burger created in-house fresh, three types of Hot Dogs, four kids meals, six types of sides. And not forgetting the specials. Drinks are ‘Softs’ including the usual sort of things and happily the invincible Bundaberg Root Beer and Bundaberg Ginger Beer which I discovered at Ruby Burgers.  Not only can you order to eat in but you can also opt to take-away and enjoy a HubBox burger at home, in the street, or even at the back of the bus home should you wish.  Now, the game changer for me, the bottled Craft Beers courtesy of the Bristol Beer Factory and Harbour Craft Beers, and classics such as Peroni, Sol, Brooklyn Lager and Cider.  I love that HubBox do really good craft beers, and at £3.95 a bottle for the craft beers, its not much more than a pint would be.

So is it expensive? Like many restaurants, its going to be as expensive as you make it.  A meal for two, with a shared side, and a couple of drinks could be under £20 if you didn’t mind one of the less expensive burgers.  If you just wanted a burger and a drink, yours for well under a tenner if you went for a cheaper burger.  I would not say that HubBox is overpriced, in fact for what you get it is brilliant value. The portion size was just enough, I didn’t waste anything but definitely didn’t feel like I needed more.

HubBox will let you share sides. We ordered one side of double fried fries and giant onion rings which they let us share between two plates. This is something that many places are reluctant to let you do, even though you might end up wasting a heap of food.
As we waited for our food we watched how Matt and Ross who were on the counter, interacted with customers with natural ease and a relaxed nature, despite the fact they were being kept on their toes by a steady stream of customers. One thing you can say about HubBox, is its relaxed.  Menus are printed on brown paper and you pick these up from the till when you order, at the tables you get a selection of sauces and wooden cutlery, our food arrived in less than than 15 minutes from ordering to the point it arrived on our tables. Pretty nifty timing,  it gave us enough time to admire the funky surroundings and contemplate the brick-artwork painted straight on to the walls.

The Big Kahuna burger that I ordered (£7.95) was two 7oz burgers, stacked with BBQ Pulled Pork, Onion Rings and Swiss Cheese. It was a beautifully juicy combination of burger and pulled pork that worked together wonderfully.  We were given the opportunity to try a portion of Burnt End Beans as well, which despite the name, was an amazing discovery.  Refried beans and the brisket ends and lumps of 12 hour marinated pulled pork, combined in a medley of BBQ bliss.  I would highly, no…strongly, very much recommend this as a side order.

If you are a vegetarian then don’t be put off coming to The HubBox.  There are two options for vegetarians out of the 11 different burgers; and the chips are cooked in rape-seed oil, not beef dripping or anything funny like calf mucus or the like.  Just ask before you order, just to make sure.

I couldn’t even think about rating this restaurant any lower than a big well deserved 5/5.  The interior is unique, the burgers are undeniably brilliant and the concept is a well executed culinary experience that is worth a shot.  So, you might be wondering what makes Exeter’s third burger joint different from the others, I would definitely recommend you pay them a visit and find out.

Address: 183 Sidwell Street, Exeter, Devon
Telephone: 01392 258737
Twitter: @HubBoxExeter

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