Full weekend breakfast plate…. (Foodporn)

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Fancy some breakfast? I certainly do.

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A Visual Guide To Cheese

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Calling all cheese lovers. Here is a handy infographic to help you recognise cheese. Just in case you needed to identify cheese for any particular reason.

Boston Tea Party, 84 Queen St

EE RecommendsI absolutely love going out for brunch, I don’t know why but I find it so much more exciting than any other meal out! It’s probably because most of the time I use the term brunch as an excuse to have a dessert as a main meal, pancakes at 6pm… “it’s fine it’s brunch!”

So when I met my boyfriend Jack in town on a sunny Sunday in Exeter without having breakfast, I jumped at the opportunity to go for 12 o’clock brunch at one of my favourite cafés in Exeter.

Boston Tea Party was always my go to hot chocolate stop on cold winters days at college so whenever I’m home I like to make a visit, if not for there gorgeous cakes but for their amazing coffee! The cafe was quite quiet so we chose to sit in the window seats and do a spot of people watching. Ordering at the bar I didn’t go for my customary sweet treat, instead I chose the poached eggs with ham on a toasted bagel with a Sandford Farm blackberry and apple juice. To my surprise jack chose the kedgeree (he’s normally a full English man) which is a spicy breakfast dish which had never appealed to me in the past, so I was excited to try it out!

As always the food came quickly and the staff were warm and friendly. Although the presentation of my meal wasn’t anything special, it tasted great and at brunch that’s all that matters. The yolks of the eggs were lovely and goey, the thick cut ham was perfectly salty and the bagel was soft and delicious. I also tried Jack’s kedgeree which was so tasty I wish I had ordered it my self. It had a great flavour of haddock which wasn’t too strong and complimented the slight spice of the dish. Topped with a cooling yoghurt and poached egg, this was definitely a winning option.

Luckily enough when we were waiting for our brunch to arrive the staff were handing out free samples of their burger. Now I’ve had the burger before and know it’s brilliant but I wasn’t going to turn down free food! Once again the meaty little package didn’t disappoint! A thick beef patty incased in a springy soft bun, smothered with a tangy burger sauce, what more could you want?

There’s no doubt I’ll be making another trip to Boston’s before I leave Exeter, I’m just praying they open one in Cardiff soon!

Read more from Kathryn at her blog http://adayinmyshoeskathryn.blogspot.co.uk/

Boston Tea Party on Urbanspoon

Which fish are OK to eat… (Infographic)

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As we know, some fish are endangered and others are bountiful. Want to know which ones to eat without guilt?

Beer, Burger and Beyond visit Ruby Modern Diner

Beer, Burger and Beyond visit Ruby Burgers

Beer, Burger and Beyond had an awesome time at Ruby Burgers last week.  They focus hard on locally sourced ingredients and have won a heap of awards recently.

Byron Hamburgers, Princesshay, Exeter.

It was now a few months ago that I saw a tweet somewhere in the twitter-sphere that said Byron Hamburgers were arriving in Exeter.  And what was the first thought I had?  BYRON ARE COMING TO EXETER!   So I was quite happy about this, but I had a few reservations given we already have a number of very nice burger restaurants in Exeter already.

First impressions of the restaurant was one that it had been styled by someone who really liked tiles, but the allusion to ‘vintage’ comes out in the design of the signage and other small tweaks throughout the restaurant.  The other thing I notice is that the staff are very youthful.  Young attractive things (I felt quite old!) moving around the vast space caring for a vast amount of covers, all within the eye-line of the open plan kitchen where the meaty symphony is conducted by the three grill chefs, masters of their corner of this well designed interior.  Throughout our visit we were served by Sam and Luke who made us feel nothing but comfortable.  The service throughout was friendly, chatty and very prompt and I had to mention these guys by name as one of the things that I can take away from the whole experience was that the service was something else.

Byron became synonymous with the Dirty Gourmet revolution that took off in the early noughties.  Gourmet Burger Kitchen started in 2001 and from there Byron was one of the London based spawns which have gradually spread across the country. They’ve been doing this for a while, and now they’re in Exeter with a prime spot in Princesshay and a chance to bring in the punters that La Tasca didn’t. Sorry La Tasca, but corporate tapas has had its day.  The restaurant chain has quite a following in London, so it will be interesting to see if they can repeat this in Exeter.

Byron Hamburgers today is quite different from the Byron Hamburgers that was founded by Tom Byng back in 2007, but they are strongly tied to their original ethos which is presented in this rather smooth video  and in little glossy pamphlets on each table in the restaurant.  Small menu, proper hamburgers, no frills and simplicity seem to be the way Byron roll.  As Tom Byng writes “We source good beef from Scotland. We mince it fresh and cook it medium so it’s pink, juicy and succulent. We place it in a soft, squishy bun with minimum fuss and fanfare. We serve it with a smile in a comfortable environment.”
So we arrived, we were greeted, we were seated, standard stuff.  The craft beer menu was good, I managed to persuade myself to have a can of Brew Dog Pale Ale which had taken up to this point as the whole concept of ‘Ale In A Can’ was one concept that has, up to now, taken me a while to get my head around.  Ignore the fact it is in a can, and you have a very good Ale which I savoured and am now preparing to source on-line because it was very drinkable.


There was a certain amount of umming, humming, eenying and mineying when it came to choosing the burger even though the menu isn’t expansive, but because my appetite hasn’t really recovered since last week’s visit from Mr Stomach Virus, I stuck to The Byron.  Cheese, Bacon, Tomato, Lettuce, Red Onion in a soft bun (no brioche here…) and a side of Double Fried Chips.  The other side of the table had the same thing, except with French fries which I ate most of.

The Byron is a simple burger, and it was cooked well.  With a similar taste to a burger you could pick up at The Hub Box for instance, the soft bun was lighter than I had imagined it to be with a good taste.  Using Scottish Aberdeen Angus beef, it is ground and made on site in to 6oz patties.  Then cooked to medium, whacked in a bun with the garnish and off it goes.  It took about 10 minutes from order to arrival so there wasn’t much waiting around, but just enough that we were able to start to count the cows.  If you do visit, you will see what I mean.  We managed to squeeze in a pudding in the form of a warm chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, which was simply lovely and rounded off with coffee.

Exeter now has four burger restaurants, but each one has its very own distinct personality.  Byron brings a polished hip image with an ethos that states that it brings good beef from Scotland (Agree. Beef tasted very nice) minced fresh and cooked medium so its pink, juicy and succulent (Agree.  Both burgers were pink and juicey) in a squishy bun (Agree. Bun was particularly squishy) and served in a comfortable environment (Agree. The seats were very comfortable).  Whether you choose from one of the independent restaurants, or decide to do a Byron, you won’t be disappointed.

Eating Exeter were guests of Byron Hamburgers.

 

26 Bedford Street
Princesshay
Exeter
EX1 1GJ 

Telephone: 01392 433340
Twitter: @byronhamburgers

 
Byron Burgers on Urbanspoon

The Magdalen Chapter, Magdalen Road

Being a student means that I don’t often have the chance to visit fine dining restaurants, not just due to the high prices but as the vast majority of my friends are also students, the opportunity doesn’t pass me by all too often. So when I was invited to lunch at The Magdalen Chapter, one of Exeter’s most exclusive restaurants, for an old work friends hen party, I couldn’t wait to sample the food.

The first things you notice upon arriving at the hotel is how unlike a hotel it actually is! Entering the former eye hospital you’re first greeted by some amazing contemporary art work, which spans the extent of the hotel. My favourite piece was a fantastic collage of a spoon made from beauty advertisements, which I was advised by one of the staff, depicted the way in which women were spoon fed societal values by the media. I thought this was great, supporting original artists and something a little different!

The hotel cradles a beautiful court yard, complemented by the glorious Devon sunshine, which is over looked by their stylish, glass panelled restaurant. As we were a large party we had a private room at the front of the building which was modern and spacious. The room held a wide wooden table which was a perfect fit for the 15 of us, meaning we could all interact and no one was left stranded at the end of a table.

We kicked off the festivities with drinks in the lounge bar. As the sun was shining I opted for the customary summer Pimms (£5). The tall drink was served with freshly sliced strawberries, cucumber and mint, which, I know this may sound silly, made the glass really refreshing and flavoursome, opposed to some bars which will chuck in fruit which you can tell has been sitting around for days. Most of my fellow diners chose exciting looking cocktails (£8) from the extensive menu which included an exotic range of fruity concoctions.

After a few moments exploring the grounds with drinks we were shown to our seats in our private room by our server for the day. The service was brilliant and was one of the elements of the day which really stood out for me. Our water glasses were repeatedly filled, nothing was too much to ask but also they weren’t too over bearing which I have found in the past in more expensive restaurants. We were left to enjoy ourselves with our own space, without feeling we were being watched over.

The lunch menu was concise but included a trail of appetising flavours. At first I was tempted by the monkfish stew but ended up going for the spinach and ricotta gnocchi served with roasted tomatoes and courgette, topped with Parmesan and pine nuts (£12). After ordering the plates arrived at our tables within 20 minutes. Whilst waiting I tried the bread on the table which was beautiful in itself as the crust was baked with herbs and sea salt.

EE RecommendsThe gnocchi dish was absolutely delicious. The spinach and ricotta gnocchi was slightly gooey from the cheese so had a pleasing texture and was complemented well by the crunch of the courgette and pine nuts. I was apprehensive that the gnocchi may of been a little dry as it wasn’t served with a sauce,  however the juice from the plump cherry tomatoes served that purpose well. My fellow guests meals all looked and sounded great as well. The flat iron steak served with chips and roast tomato was cooked to perfection, and the roast chicken topped with chickpeas and chard smelt delicious.

I honestly couldn’t fault The Magdalen Chapter for the food, service or even price. Although many of the meals were way beyond my normal price range (my gnocchi was modestly priced compared to other dishes) I believe the excellent quality of food and first class service make it worth while. I would highly recommend the restaurant for a special occasion and I will be pestering my boyfriend to take me for a nights stay in the gorgeous hotel until he breaks!

To read more from Kathryn, head over to http://adayinmyshoeskathryn.blogspot.co.uk/ and subscribe to her wonderful blog 🙂

http://www.themagdalenchapter.com/

Magdalen Street, Exeter, EX2 4HY

Telephone 01392 281000
Email: magdalen@chapterhotels.com

 

Magdalen Chapter Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The Old Firehouse, 50 New North Road

Tucked away in the corner of the city centre, sandwiched between two looming grey office blocks, is The Old Firehouse, Exeter’s own little secret garden. Walking through the flowered arched entrance you could be stepping back in time into the bustling beer garden, if it wasn’t for the fairy lights dotted around the walls.

One of my favourite places to visit when back home in Exeter, I jumped at the chance to go for dinner with a couple of friends one summery evening. Taking a seat upstairs in the pub, come restaurant, we chose one of the long, vintage wooden tables, perfect for long nights of laughter with friends in one of the cities social hubs. The extensive menu includes alluring options for all (including extensive vegetarian and vegan options), I found it difficult to decide between the intriguing range of burgers (featuring wild boar, a variety of cheeses and an exciting looking list of sauces and relishes) and the diverse range of baked potato toppings (the mushroom and blue cheese was very tempting).

The popular venue attracts visitors of all ages with local ales and ciders, but proves particularly popular with students due to their drink deals and quiz evenings. We chose to share a pitcher of elderflower cider (£5 for 2 pints) which was delicious. Not too sweet like many fruit ciders generally are and carried a really pleasant hint of elderflower.

EE RecommendsI opted for the roasted butternut squash, topped with three bean chilli and goats cheese, accompanied by salad slaw (£5.80). Their menu is great as it has the perfect mix of treats and indulgences but also has lighter options to choose from. The service was quick (although it was a quiet Tuesday evening) and the food was extremely tasty. The squash was lovely and soft and the goats cheese complemented the rich chilli sauce. In all the meal was gorgeous, but it was just a little on the small side and I was left wanting more, if the salad slaw was a little larger it would have been perfect! The lasagne also looked delicious, smothered in cheese sauce, served with crusty bread, and received Laura’s seal of approval. What’s more Emily’s hearty burger caught my eye several times and was definitely worth the £7.50 price tag!

All in all I had another great experience at the Old Firehouse, lovely food with great service for an impressive price. I will definitely be visiting again, if not to try more of their tasty flavoured ciders but to try out their late night pizza baskets!

Read more from Kathryn at her blog 

Jack Sprat’s Cafe Restaurant, 18 The Strand, Dawlish

When most people think about Dawlish, most associate it with chips and takeaway by the beach on a summer’s day and not with a place to go for an evening meal.

However there is a hidden gem along the main shopping street (The Strand) and it goes by the name of Jack Sprat’s.

Now I’ve been to this place during the daytime for morning coffee and cake and it is certainly a step up from your average seaside cafe so when looking for somewhere new to take my good lady out for dinner I decided to give Jacks a try with the added advantage it was close enough to home that no one would have to drive!

So with table for two booked we arrived to a different sort of atmosphere to its daytime persona, it was quiet and sophisticated and had the perfect ambiance for a romantic meal for two.

The menu is excellent with a wide range of choice, favoring Italian but including many other options.

After much deliberation we chose Tuna Crostini and Tri-coloured hummus and focaccia for starters and Chicken Milanese and a Pepperoni Pizza for our main courses.

Only after they arrived did we realise that we may have over ordered on the starters but that’s the problem when everything sounds so good.  The Tuna Crostini was heavenly with the perfect combination of tuna, creamy mayonnaise and onion spread onto the fresh warm bread, while the hummus (garlic and lemon, pesto and spicy chilli flavours) provided an interesting and tasty starter and led to much discussion on which was the best of the three.

Jack Sprat’s is lucky enough to have its own proper pizza oven and the Pepperoni pizza that arrived was first class done in a thin Italian style.  Meanwhile the chicken was well cooked, moist and very well-seasoned in the crumb and the accompanying chips were freshly cooked and hot. Both meals were thoroughly enjoyed and even though we could not eat all the pizza they were more than happy to give us a box to take the rest home in (bonus for breakfast!).

Whilst tempting, we decided not to go for the dessert menu this time but definitely think another trip would be in order to go and do so on another occasion. With a bottle of wine include the whole bill came to under £50 which was excellent value for money and I would whole heartedly recommend a visit to this little gem of a restaurant.

18 The Strand, Dawlish, Devon, EX7 9PS

Tel: 01626 865556

COMPETITION! Two pairs of tickets to Naked Wines tasting event: 22nd June

Do you know someone in your life who just loves wine? Not just LOVES it but appreciates all the grape varieties and the heritage of wine making? Well if you do, fancy taking yourself and them to the Naked Wine, Wine Tasting event on Sunday 22nd June at the Exeter University Great Hall?

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Naked Wines, an online wine retailer who supports independent winemakers from around the world, is heading to Exeter on Sunday 22nd June to host a BIG wine tasting with 40 of their winemakers and we have two pairs of free tickets up for grabs.

To be in with a chance of winning a pair of free tickets, simply do the following:

Comment on this blog post below with your favourite variety of wine AND
Retweet this post (or the original tweet) making sure you include @eatingexeter and @nakedwines so that we know you’ve done it 🙂

To find out more about Naked Wines and their tasting event, visit www.nakedwines.com/tastings

Closing date is Wednesday 18th June, so lets get commenting and tweeting!

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Route Restaurant 303, A303 Yarcombe, Devon

As a frequent traveller on the A303 I have often passed what once used to be The Newcott Chef and has since been transformed into the Route Restaurant 303 (it has a twin in Cornwall on the A38) but to date had yet to go there.

BURGER STEVE

Well Friday saw me on my travels eastward again and this seemed to be the opportune place to stop especially if I wanted to avoid only being able to get a day old sandwich from a garage later on in the journey.

Inside the whole place is decked out to resemble a classic American diner and it certainly is proving popular as several tables were already reserved (including one for a birthday) and the rest of the diner was busy, which is usually a good sign when going somewhere new.

The menu looked great with a wide variety and obviously a big lean towards burgers but also covering many other American diner staples. Both of us chose the Rodeo burger which consists of a quarter pounder burger, 2 onion rings, a huge slab of melted Jack cheese, two rashers of bacon and BBQ sauce. (and if I’m quite honest my mouth is watering as I write this description), all for only £8.95.  We were not disappointed when it arrived, being an American style diner they have embrace American portions too as said burger arrived with what I would estimate to be over half a pound of fries (oh and a little bit of salad to make you feel healthy J ).

Once I had worked out the best way to attack this behemoth of a burger I went for the first bite, attempting to get a bit of everything.  Well dear reader, there are times that words are hard to find and this is one when it comes to describing how good this burger is, cooked to ‘medium’ it was moist and meaty and one hell of a combo of flavours, suffice to say, it didn’t disappoint! Favouring the burger over the fries (as I know my limitations) it was an incredible meal and I plan to visit again to try one of the other options.

Open 7am – late, 7 days a week.

 

The Beach Cafe, Dawlish

Eating Exeter welcomes Dr Steve Price to team as an official contributor!

There are some days when you wake up in the morning and you just have the urge for a good fry up and Wednesday was one of those days. So with nothing in the fridge and the major advantage of living in a seaside town, daughter and I headed off in search of sustenance.

Down near the beach and railway station in Dawlish we came to one of our regular stops, The Beach Café.  The interior has recently been refurbished with rustic style tables and chairs and the place has a really nice feel about it and all the staff are friendly.

Breakfast Cafe DawlishWe chose between us the Traditional Breakfast (sausage, bacon, beans, fried egg, hash brown, fried bread, tomatoes and toast) for £6.25 and the Children’s breakfast (sausage, egg, beans, bacon and hash brown) for £4.25, and sat back with our tea and coffee while we waited for it to arrive.

In less than 10 minutes we were served with our food that was piping hot and incredibly good.  The bacon was two nice thick rashers, not the watery thin type sometimes favoured by seaside establishments to maximise profit and the eggs were cooked to perfection. It was obvious that The Beach Café put quality first and we both enjoyed our breakfast and to be honest the portions were so generous that I did not need to bother with lunch!

The great thing is that they also serve this all day so you can partake of the wonder that is the Full English whenever your heart desires, and dear reader, if you think you can manage it, there’s even a Mega Breakfast.

So if you’re down Dawlish way and feeling in the need, it’s well worth a visit.

Doctor S

16 Piermont Pl, Town Centre, Dawlish EX7 9PH

Phone:01626 888824

Hub Box, Exeter

Emilee visits The Hub Box! Ah it looks so nice. Please visit eatenbyemilee.wordpress.com and subscribe!

Eaten by Emilee

Hubbox

It’s my birthday! Well it was, this weekend just passed, and how did I celebrate? With food of course!

I went home for the weekend to a very wet Exeter and delved into a brand new foody venture recommended to me by the lovely Chris from Eating Exeter. Hub Box is owned by a few guys who hail from Cornwall and as well as two Hubs past the Devon border there is now the Exeter location, the biggest of the three. The basic premise is American diner, but with a British design twist, think open red-brick walls painted with cartoon food murals, seating and tables made out of clap board and replica vintage signage fashioned from clap board remnants, stencils and back-lighting. The hub for which I assume the place is named is a large shipping container-turned kitchen in the centre of the dining area. It’s small in here, seating for…

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Bickleigh Mill: The Bistro Restaurant & Bar – Sliders Night

The village of Bickleigh. It is geographically almost slap bang in the middle of Devon and sits on the River Exe like it has done since before the Domesday Book. Mentioned in that classic tome as Bicca’s Meadow – I wonder if Mr Bicca could ever have imagined Bickleigh being the destination that it has become now.
In foodie circles, Bickleigh Mill has always been a name related to quality and fine dining. And after being invited down to see exactly what goes on at the Bistro Restaurant & Bar, I couldn’t wait to see for myself what sort of thing we would be eating on one of their themed nights. The night that I particularly wanted to try out was the Sliders night. What is a Slider? Well the menu handily informs us that Sliders are small burgers or sandwiches that are filled with delicious ingredients. Originally featured on menus from The White Castle Restaurant in Kansas which is a chain formed in 1921.

Other nights include their Seafood Evening and their Sizzling Steak night, these nights let the chefs really show off. Other times they have a daytime menu, an evening menu and a Sunday menu that looks amazing. There are a few others too, so have a look at their page on the website.

The Bistro is open all day and to evening visitors Thursdays to Saturdays. Evening visitors enter through the shop and in to the restaurant itself. At first glance it looks quite small but when you take a wander around, the restaurant is large with private areas and opportunities for peaceful dining.
The walls are adorned with artwork and items that are for sale too, the exposed traditional stonework really brings home the fact that you’re eating in a Mill and that it was, until the sixties, a working Mill that produced flour from grains supplied by local farmers. Fun fact of the evening was that my wife mentioned Mother-in-law remembered working at Bickleigh Mill in the sixties when she justmoved down from Liverpool. I digress.


Presented with the Sliders Menu, we were able to peruse twelve different types of burgers (see pic) with some classic titles like the Plain Jane and the Ready Eddie burger, but others such as the Gone Fishing and The Teriyaki Mushroom were new ones to me. The cost of the meal included the starter, three sliders of our choice, chips and salad. It did take us a while to decide exactly what we were going to have. In fact it took us so long, we were asked about three times and we were still having a hard time deciding. But in the end the decisions were made and we ordered happily. I went for the Jerk Chicken, The Hay Stack and The Southern Fried Chicken Burger. Madam went for the Hawaiian, Ready Eddie and Little Piggy.

It seems these theme nights are popular, the restaurant filled quickly with diners through the course of the meal and it was easy to see why. When we spied a table being brought their burgers we realised that, even though they were sliders which tend to be smaller than normal burgers. These were pretty much the size of normal burgers, with filling and salad as well.
The first thing to appear was our starter, a well portioned plate of nachos drizzled in sour cream and cheese. They were a perfect little aperitif, anything more than this would have meant far too much food especially when the Sliders appeared.

The burgers, three to a plate, were arranged neatly with name tags to tell what they were. Salad arranged in the middle and a side of chips between two. You didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise that the portion of chips is just enough to cater for the fact that there is SO MUCH BURGER.


The first thing I realised about these burgers were that the buns were super soft, almost brioche in texture but not sweet. The second thing I realised was the taste of the meat itself. The chicken was perfectly cooked and the burgers were well done and tasted good. The Jerk Chicken came in a delicious BBQ sauce and the Southern Fried Chicken burger was perfectly cooked and seasoned. From across the table the Little Piggy held the award for ‘Best Pulled Pork’ yet in our burger adventures.

Bickleigh Mill sources all of its ingredients locally. The meat comes from surrounding farms and producers and the buns are baked on site by their in-house baker. You’re not going to find many things on your plate that has travelled for miles and miles. With many places that stay local, you can taste the difference and the Bickleigh burgers were certainly different.  As the bun was soft, there was no dissection and reassembling as with many gourmet burgers. For the first time in quite a while I was able to get the whole thing in my mouth without losing every ounce of dignity.

Afterwards we ended up with the dessert menu staring at us temptingly but alas we were both defeated. But don’t worry if you can’t eat the whole meal, you get a box to take away your unfinished burgers.

As a day-out, Bickleigh Mill is a perfect eating and shopping destination. It has a wonderful shop stocked with gifts and locally produced crafts products and a restaurant & bar that allows the destination to expand its appeal to tourists and locals. The food is all locally sourced where possible and, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at how accessible the menu was. For a place that prides itself with such quality of food it’s not pretentious about its portions and it’s proud of its connections with the local producers.

Bickleigh Mill is located near Tiverton and is easily accessible by bus and car. The nearest station is Tiverton Parkway but there is a bus link from this station which runs regularly.

Eating Exeter were guests of Bickleigh Mill.

Riverside Shopping, Restaurant Bistro & Bar
Bickleigh
Tiverton
Devon
EX16 8RG

enquiries at bickleighmill.com

Opening Times:
Monday 10am till 5.30pm (Shop and Bistro)
Tuesday 10am till 5.30pm (Shop and Bistro)
Wednesday 10am till 5.30pm (Shop and Bistro)
Thursday 10am till 7.30pm (Shop and Bistro) plus evening dining in the Bistro until late
Friday 10am till 7.30pm (Shop and Bistro) plus evening dining in the Bistro until late
Saturday 10am till 7.30pm (Shop and Bistro) plus evening dining in the Bistro until late
Sunday 10am till 5.30pm (Shop and Bistro)

Closes on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but open every other day of the year.

Perfect for breakfast :)

http://londonrestaurants.tumblr.com/post/88065151955/londonrestaurants

The Half Moon, Clyst St Mary, Exeter

Sunday lunches are quite a British thing, correct me if I am wrong but I don’t know of another culture that will insist on having roast dinners even in the middle of Summer whilst its baking hot outside.  But like many things in the culinary universe, it is very very easy to (excuse the French) f**k up.

For a number of years the legendary Sunday lunch at The Half Moon in Clyst St Mary has been a source of curiosity as more than one person has recommended it to me.  So, given we were invited down for a recent birthday, how could I not give it the Eating Exeter treatment.

Before I go on, I have to say that I am completely biased when writing about The Half Moon simply because I was a resident of Clyst St Mary for about six years, and through the years, the village itself has changed in a lot of ways.  But one constant has been this funny little pub that has sat on the corner in the village for a very long time.

Clyst St Mary is a strange village that suffers from ‘Blink and You Miss It’ Syndrome.  The roundabout is the one feature of this village that most people are familiar with, its not a destination, just a small squirt on an ever encroaching urban landscape.  There is a medieval bridge that crosses the marsh next door which saw a large battle in The Prayer Book Rebellion, and a shop that sells things and and…the Village Hall.  There is also a church but this is conveniently situated a mile away on the other side of the Winslade Park estate.

So where does The Half Moon fit in to all of this? It was here that I tried to out-drink my father when I was newly and managed to fail.  It has been 14 years since I have had a pint of Addlingtons Cider and I won’t be in a rush. Sorry Addlingtons!  As you might imagine, he got in trouble when I returned home and returned the contents of my stomach in a glorious and embarrassing fashion.

It was in this pub I spent a couple of new years and it was in this pub that I gave away a winning meat raffle ticket, only to have found out it would have won a massive joint of pork. So unfortunately this review has turned in to more of a nostalgic ramble…oh well.
One of my best friends worked here for years, and after the demise of The Malster’s Pub which was situated further up the visit, The Half Moon became the only pub.  A sad and inevitable fact of life these days is that pubs are increasingly under threat, but given the popularity of this place and the popularity of the Sunday Lunches here, it would be surprising if The Half Moon faced such a threat.

There are two bars, a drinking bar and the restaurant side.  Both of them are not overly spacious, but I would be happy to say that although it is cosy, the surroundings are definitely not claustrophobic.  The menu at The Half Moon allow large and small portions which makes sense given how much food can end up being wasted by being overly generous with portions.  Specials on the wall, Sunday lunch menu on the table.   I went for the Topside Beef which was £8.95, and a bit cheaper for a smaller portion.  Accompanied by a pint of Hanlon’s Half Moon, which really just had to be done.

Trying to reserve a table for Sunday lunch at The Half Moon is something you really need to do in advance.  The pub was packed and it is easy to see why as I have to fully endorse this as one of the better pub roasts I have had in quite a while.  Crispy Roast potatoes, well cooked Beef (it was so thick I really could have done with a steak knife!) accompanied with home-made horseradish sauce.I have little else to say.  Brilliant roasts, very attentive service and real ales. Village pub atmosphere. What else could you ask for?

Dining at Highbullen Hotel, Golf & Country Club: Part 2/2

I don’t envy Dean Griffin, who is Head Chef at The Highbullen Hotel, Golf & Country Club.  Providing a menu that will satisfy the most demanding of high-end diners in The Devon View Restaurant, then a cheaper yet quality ‘pub-based’ menu for The Cellar Bar that is designed to appeal to those who want to pay gastro-pub prices, then a breakfast menu and bespoke menus for those shooting parties who might want to eat game or golfers who want Fish & Chips (see previous post).  And even then the wedding parties and the mass provision of catering for 100 or so guests on top of keeping it all running like clockwork.

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Having previously been at The Barcelo Imperial Hotel in Torquay, Dean has brought 25 years of experience to Highbullen, and through his small team of dedicated chefs, they rise to the occasion.  Our meal at The Devon View Restaurant was smooth culinary bliss with seamless friendly service in this ‘smart-casual dining’ experience.  The Devon View Restaurant is not about formal dining, but they do ask in the hotel information that you wear smart casual attire.  So no muddy trainers here thank you.
I managed to miss the concept of ‘wear some nice trousers and look presentable’ and got a good telling off from my marital unit for packing what I believed were comfortable yet smart clothes but alas were actually thinning and creased, which left me feeling very much like the scruff-bag in the corner.  The era of packing my own suitcase will be a distant memory from now on.

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We got to sample the more traditional three course menu which is new for spring.  It twists the modernism that you would expect from a contemporary hotel with the traditional English style influenced by the setting of this amazing hotel; the balance between the experimental and safe was struck well with this expertly engineered menu that made me wish every eating place had such a well thought out selection.  This is accessible high dining.  Not in the socialist way, but in a way that says ‘come in we don’t bite!’

I kicked off my meal with the Goats Cheese Mouse served with an Apple and Vanilla puree and micro-coriander, Tori started her side with Cauliflower Soup with Cheddar Cheese croutons.  The Goat’s Cheese was mild and had an intriguing texture that worked well with the Apple and Vanilla purée.  The Cauliflower Soup had a classic taste to it that reminded me of Cauliflower Cheese, but stronger and with much more body on the palette.

The main was going to be a tough choice, torn between Oven Fried Breast of Corn Fed Chicken and the Pan Fried Cod Fillet; the Pan Friend Cod Fillet with Chorizo, Chick Pea and Lemon Cassoulet won me over as I was intrigued to see how the strong tastes of Chorizo was used with a delicate taste like Cod.  I was pleasantly surprised when I found that the Cassoulet was as delicately seasoned as the fish was and acted as a perfect accompaniment as only small flakes of Chorizo was used to punch through the tastes of the lemon.  Tori had as similar problem deciding what her main should be and ended up choosing Oven Baked Duck Breast.  The duck melted off the fork and from what I tasted, it was a quality piece of meat cooked expertly.

There are a few things that every foody should try at some point in their life and a good Creme Brulee is one of my ‘must try’ items.  Oddly I had looked at the Desserts first before even thinking about the rest of the meal. And I wasn’t disappointed; it shattered like glass and tasted like a textbook example of how it should be done.  Tori went for the Vanilla and Orange Parfait which consisted of an orange sorbet and a raspberry coulis and from the noises from the other side of the table, it sounded divine!

The meal was accompanied by a very nice bottle of Santa Helena 2013 Merlot from their Wine List which consisted of no less than 64 different wines.  It was balanced and well bodied and was a good all-rounder with the meal.

The service has to be noted as things happen here that make you realise that you are in a high calibre restaurant.  On the night, the service was near perfect, ensuring we had something in front of us when we were supposed to and when we were finished, it was gone.  At the end of the meal we were still drinking wine and we were allowed to sit and drink our wine first before having teas and coffees, at no point did we feel rushed.  Douglas Muir the Restaurant Manager went from table to table talking to the guests and making sure that everything was acceptable, and this I liked.  The high level of customer care and service at Highbullen is something that has to be experienced, and in my opinion it is something that they have managed to get spot-on.

Breakfast

Our stay included a breakfast as well.  Luckily for us, they serve breakfast until 10:30am as we are lazy and like lying in on Saturday mornings. Guests are given the choice between just a continental breakfast or a continental and cooked breakfast.  Fatso here restrained himself from having both, but could have quite easily gorged himself on Croissants before hitting the fried stuff.

The numerous times I have stayed in hotels across the UK with packages that include breakfast, you get used to a certain standard of cheap breakfast.  Sausages boiled in their own grease, soggy croissants and a general feeling that some hotels are just not trying with their breakfasts.  A sort of breakfast apathy which always surprises me given the breakfast is still part of the ‘experience’. Thankfully I can report that Highbullen takes their breakfasts quite seriously, using a high quality ingredients and cooked well.

Also bonus points to Highbullen for the size of their teapot.  There is always a distinct lack of tea with ‘included’ breakfasts.

As we left Highbullen we had a lovely conversation with Keira who was on reception.  And this embodied, for me, the entire experience just through this one conversation.  Highbullen has an understanding of their customers’ needs that makes this hotel stand out from other similar hotels.  You pay for a touch of luxury, a friendly face and staff who will go that extra mile for you.  You pay for an impressive range of activities and access to some of the most dramatic and spectacular scenery in the UK and what better place to do it from?

In my last post I mentioned the fact that Highbullen are widening their appeal, and they are have widened it a little further with a new package that has just been created.  The Garden Break includes the following:

Gardens Break in Devon

On our Gardens Break you can enjoy a short break at Highbullen Hotel coupled with visits to two of the best gardens in North Devon. This special break includes 2 nights’ accommodation in a standard room, a hearty Devon cooked breakfast each morning, dinner each night in The Devon View Restaurant, plus 2 tickets to both RHS Rosemoor and Castle Hill gardens, both within a short distance of Highbullen Hotel.

Low Season – £259

Mid-Season – £319

Gardens Breaks are subject to availability. Price is per 2 night package, based on 2 people sharing a double or twin standard room. Low Season is January, February, November and December; Mid-Season is March to June and September to October. Room upgrades are available.

Eating Exeter were guests of Highbullen Hotel. http://www.highbullen.co.uk/

Highbullen Hotel, Golf & Country Club
Chittlehamholt, Umberleigh, 
North Devon, EX37 9HD

Email: welcome@highbullen.co.uk 

T 01769 540561
F 01769 540492

International Tel: +44 1769 540561
International Fax: +44 1769 540492