OPINION: Vote for the restaurants you want to see in The Guildhall Dining Quarter

Just had to stick my oar in with this one.  The Express and Echo have put this up on their website and I can’t resist having my two cents about some of the options.  You don’t have to agree with me, please comment in the comments box, it’d be nice to have a bit of debate going.

(image mercilessly stolen from The Express and Echo)

“Guildhall Shopping Centre is remaining tight lipped about which eateries will open in its new restaurant quarter – but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a guess.

As part of the £7m plans the existing Higher Market Ambulatory arcade and the former Poundland store will be converted into 13 restaurants of varying sizes, including a rooftop bar.

Those behind the scheme hope to attract a mix of national restaurateurs and “local food heroes” serving everything from breakfast to fine dining.”


But if there is any truth in this list, then here are the definitive reasons why you should, or should not, vote for the following restaurants.

TGI Fridays – Started in 1965 to help Alan Stillman meet women, it has a long history mostly made up of franchises and the usual things that chain restaurants get up to. Plymouth has one. Says it all really.  Focuses on an American themed casual dining menu with an emphasis on alcohol.  Was the first to have ladies nights.  Menu contains gluten free options though…

Frankie and Benny’s – No one truly knows who Franky is.  Some believe him to be a mystical figure from Sicily who appeared to travellers on stormy nights, others believe that it is the name of the dog of the CEO who feeds him on Lasagne’s and Pastrami.  One thing we know is that this chain of restaurants is as generic as you can get; we’re already getting one in Marsh Barton. Deep joy…

Pieminister – The grapevine has brought good words about Pieminister to my ears.  Read their story here  which in itself is quite entertaining.  They have won so many awards their shelves have buckled and they are currently stacked on a coffee table.  With a Bristol heritage, they are a success story the South West can be proud of.  Plus they sell pies out of a van too.. that is so cool!  They have strong ethics and support charities with their sales.  Would be very happy to have a Pieminister opening in Exeter.

Pret A Manger – I’ve always managed to avoid them if I’m in London after a few disappointing experiences.  One of my favourite blogs The London Review of Sandwiches has this entertaining post about an experience in a Pret. It doesn’t make me want one, its a faceless chain that started with good intentions but just seems like another sandwich shop.  Unfortunately Pret just doesn’t do it for me.

Chipotle – Gourmet Burrito anyone? With 6 branches in the UK already, could Exeter be the first place in the UK outside of London to have a Chipotle restaurant?  Personally I am a fan of Mexican food, so I would be quite happy welcoming one of these in to our fair city.  We need more Mexican/Latin food choice.

LEON – “We opened Leon because we wanted to prove that it was possible to serve food that both tastes good and does you good. We want to make it easy for people to eat well on the high street. We want to do this in every major city in the world” – Need I say more? http://www.leonrestaurants.co.uk

Aberdeen Angus Steak House – Forgive me for being a little scathing here, but my one time in an Aberdeen Angus Steak House involved a protracted argument with the manager who tried to convince me that tough steak was good steak.  I liked this quote from Wikipedia “In 2011, actor and comedian David Mitchell championed the cause of Aberdeen Angus Steak Houses in his Guardian opinion column, proposing that they be a nominee for a British World Heritage bid, citing them as being “unique to British culture” because of their “proud heritage of serving shoe leather with Béarnaise sauce to neon-addled out-of-towners.”

Spud-U-Like – Some of you might remember that Exeter used to have a Spud-U-Like in South Street years ago.  Spuds with stuff on, basic and cheap food which filled you.  Haven’t been to one in years, so can’t say if its cheap anymore.  Fun fact: Spud-U-Like was taken over by the British School of Motoring who expanded its franchise business.  Spud-U-Like is still going because people are driven mad for baked potatoes…haha.  I would quite like to see one open in Exeter, again, Like LEON, it provides a healthy alternative to High Street food.

Krispy Kreme – Specializing in early death and morbid obesity, Krispy Kreme donuts are expensive and over priced glazed donuts with interesting fillings and stupid price tags.  They are addictive and delicious and it is only after you’ve eaten them all you realise you spent £5 on clogging your arteries with a few bits of dough.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen – Go away… we have four burger restaurants already.

Wimpy – I remember Burger King before it was Burger King on our High St.  It was a Wimpy as far as I can remember and I can still remember the Beefeater cartoon mascot that would often come over and terrorize small children.  Great fun.
There is a great degree of nostalgia for this brand.  Now owned by a South African company, they have gone back to using the logo and colour scheme that was used in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. The menu is basic, the decor is unoffensive and its quite cheap.  It is a British classic, like the Mini Cooper and drinking tea.

Strada – Pseudo Italian average corporate committee created menus. No thanks. It closed for a reason.

So there you have it, I’ve had my two cents worth.

I still hope that we will have a balanced range of eateries in the new Dining Quarter.  It would be unrealistic to expect the whole quarter to be taken up with purely independent establishments all using organic locally produced food.  But if we are faced with the prospect of 13 more chain eateries without giving the little guy a chance, it will be a disappointing result for what I believe is one of the most exciting developments on the Exeter food scene in years.

7 thoughts on “OPINION: Vote for the restaurants you want to see in The Guildhall Dining Quarter

  1. Well there won’t be a debate here, I completely agree with you on all of these. I say yes to Pieminister, Chipotle (although would love some more authentic Mexican or Tex Mex, I’ve not had anything I consider proper in this country) and Leon, plus any other independents or small chains. Hell no to any more burger joints or an Italian chain (an independent Italian would be amazing – I can only think of one in the whole of Exeter). Great article and I look forward to what we end up with!

  2. I find Krispy Kreme doughnuts disappointing. Apart from being vastly overpriced they’re too sweet and too greasy. I’d sell my grandmother to get the Canadian coffee store Tim Hortons (best coffee and doughnuts) in Exeter, but that is definitely not going to happen, sadly.

  3. Whilst I no longer live in Exeter it’s great to see the regeneration it has desperately needed.
    Typical Exeter council choices with Spud U Like and Wimpy, is it 1986 again?
    I would say that the best options for the Guildhall, realistically would be Chipotle, Krispy Kream and Frankie & Benny’s. I like the sound of Leon and Pieminister though.

  4. Whilst I no longer live in Exeter it is fantastic to see the regeneration it so desperately needed.
    Some typical backward thinking like Spud U Like and Wimpy but the other options are promising. I would say the best options for a well rounded experience would be Chipotle, Krispy Kreme and Frankie & Benny’s. Pieminister and Leon sound good too.

  5. On the Aberdeen Angus message you say us “out of towners” will eat a shoe leather steak,this is not true as we eat proper steak from the farmers market.
    i dont think we need another restaurant, it would be better if we had a good pub, especially in that location

    1. Hi Alex, thanks for your comment. The section you refer to is quoted from David Mitchell who was referring to people outside of London, as Aberdeen Angus Restaurants are nearly all found in London. Obviously we are in that case, all ‘out of towners’ and yes, I would assume we all eat fine Devon meat. A good pub would be welcome in The Guildhall, I agree.

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