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.
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.