Crazy carrot cutting skills –


New Exhibitors queuing to be part of the Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink!

Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink is celebrating an exciting increase in the number of new exhibitors it will be welcoming to its 12th festival. Taking place this April from its city centre location at Exeter Castle and Northernhay Gardens, the Exeter Food Festival is a multi-award winning annual event that celebrates the very best of south west produce and producers as a not-for-profit initiative.

As Michael Caines MBE, festival co-founder who champions the event voluntarily explains: ‘As ever, competition for pitches was stiff for our 2015 festival and we are delighted to see new producers coming through. The Exeter Food Festival is all about highlighting the fantastic hospitality and delicious food and drink that we are producing here in the south west and I am delighted that new and growing companies      as well as much loved brands are coming to be part of if.’

As Michael continues: ‘The number of applications received from new exhibitors grew by 40% this year. It’s really exciting and demonstrates the growth in food and drink companies in this region and their interest in coming to the Exeter Food Festival.”

Visitors to the festival can expect to find a wide array of items to purchase, to eat and to drink including another collection of Fresh at the Festival exhibitors – championing those who’ve been in business fewer than 3 years. Fresh at the Festival exhibitors are offered discounted participation, training and free promotion; one of the initiatives of Exeter Food Festival to lend a hand to local start-ups.

One such company is Boom Kitchen who won last year’s most innovative product award from Taste of the West. The newcomers from Braunton, North Devon have reinvented the classic British Indian curry with their gluten free curry kits. Each kit contains freshly ground spice mix, their secret Boom Base™ and other chuck in the pan components that let you cook from scratch restaurant beating curries in less time than it takes to order a take away.

James Doel, co-founder of Boom Kitchen says: ‘We’re over the moon to have been selected for Exeter Food Festival for the first time this year. The South West has an incredible number of artisan producers and gastronomes so we’re really excited to be alongside some of the region’s finest names in food and drink. Most of all we’re looking forward to meeting like-minded foodies who share our passion for quality ingredients and a decent curry.’

Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink 2015 runs from Friday 24th to Sunday 26th April in Exeter Castle and Northernhay Gardens, with Festival After Dark parties from Thursday 23rd running until late. The three-day festival celebrates the outstanding food and drink of the South West, featuring more than one hundred regional producers, top chefs, workshops, live music and food-themed activities for all the family.

Now in its twelfth year, the Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink is supported by Exeter City Council. The festival is a not for profit event.

Tickets can be booked in advance and are available will be available online. For more information or to buy tickets visit:

Rob Dawe’s Pop-Up Restaurant at The Heart of Oak, Pinhoe

In writing this blog, I have met some people and eaten some food that I might not have been able to even consider.  I’ve been given some ‘awesome food moments’ for me to write about and remember for years to come, and certainly the Pop-up restaurants that I have reviewed have given me plenty of material to digest and photograph.  They are special, one-time menus that you might never experience again cooked by chefs with vision and experience.

On Tuesday night we were invited to Rob Dawe’s Pop-up Restaurant which was taking place at The Heart of Oak in Pinhoe; I can happily add this evening to my list of ‘awesome food moments’ and it makes me reaffirm why I write this blog with my spare time.

Rob Dawe (formerly senior sous chef at the RAC Club Pall Mall and Head Chef at The Puffing Billy) is a chef tutor at the prestigous Ashburton Cookery School and now he is adding to his many strung bow, by putting on pop-up restaurants in select restaurant locations in and around the Exeter area.  Each evening of his Pop-up restaurants have been a sell-out so far, and Rob is now looking at adding members to his exclusive mailing list which you can do by reading to the bottom of this review.

The Pop-up Restaurant scene has really taken off in Exeter and Devon over the last two years with Chefs such as Josh McDonald-Johnson (Pickle Shack) and Jonny Jefferies (Jonny Does Dinner) doing regular events throughout the county. Tim Maddams, of River Cottage Fame started a Pop-up event using Village Halls as the main locations for his pop-ups, through his Hall and Hearty evenings and I expect there are others too.  But Rob’s Pop-up Restaurants stand out for me as they are mostly in Exeter, and so far they are all in established restaurants.

The recently refurbished Heart Of Oak in Pinhoe was a fantastic setting for the evening, which saw diners treated to a 6 course tasting menu.  The Heart of Oak itself is a pub which has undergone quite a transformation recently.  The clean, modern interior was comfortable, and I hope I’ll be able to do a review of the food here at some point soon.  The menu was a well balanced exploration of tastes, ingredients and presentations which was accessible yet perfectly executed.  As we sat at our table, we were presented with Spicy Duck Canapes to mull over as we inspected the menu.

Rob kicked off the evening with a Sweet Potato, Ginger and Coconut Veloute (generally a soup thickened with either butter, egg yolks and cream).  This was accompanied by artisan garlic bread which warmed up the taste buds.  I loved the coconut and sweet potato combination.

Our next course was a first for both myself and my able assistant, as we are not overly fond of seafood.  Black Bream with a Mussel, Butternut Squash and Fennel Fricasse.  Yes, here is someone who writes about food who doesn’t like seafood and has no desire to eat things with shells.  But that feeling of accomplishment and discovery that we both really quite enjoyed the Mussels both shelled and in the beautiful Fennel Fricasse was overriding. Unfortunately my benchmark of Mussels are now set pretty high, whether I will ever have mussels that good again is unlikely.  But thank you Rob, for introducing me to Mussels.

After the fishy feast, what better way to clear the palette than a Gin & Tonic Sorbet presented in frosted glasses.  This refreshed the palette and got it ready for what I personally saw as the highlight of the evening.

Sous Vide Rump of Beef with a Horseradish Mash, Honey Glazed Carrots and a Port and Thyme Jus was a massive highlight for me and my love of meat.  Sous-vide is a method of cooking using airtight bags with increased cooking times, which results in a beautiful tender texture.

Next out was a Lemon Posset and vanilla shortbread which was beautifully presented.  The ‘topping’ was a layer of raspberry which worked with the tangy zestyness of the lemon.  Add in the shortbread, and it presented the palette with a crumbly, buttery, lemony spectrum of flavours that had me scraping the last few bits out with my spoon.

And then from tangy and creamy, was the glorious taste of salted caramel in the shape of Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart with Honeycomb Ice Cream.  The consistency and texture of the chocolate was literally like slicing through velvet.  Up to this point we had been having a quiet conversation about this and that, narrating the food, talking about what we were eating but at this point our table fell silent and we were quite overcome with the amazing taste.

The menu was rounded off with Coffee and Homemade Pistachio Macarons.

The evening was, for us, a resounding delight.  The service (hand picked by Rob) was excellent and really attentive, food came out quickly and drinks (although not BYOB) were served speedily and elegantly.
The combination of location and the quality of the food would be for any foody, a memorable food moment. For the prices that Rob charges, for instance our night was £35 per head, you are unlikely to get such good value for a tasting menu as well put together. Had we paid £70 per head, then it would have been a true reflection on our evening.

If I could make this the next culinary sensation that everyone talks about in Exeter, I would.  But that is up to whether you put your name on the mailing list for the latest news and dates.
At the moment Rob’s mailing list and word-of-mouth is the only advert for dates of future Pop-ups.

There are two more coming up at The Salty Pigeon on Sunday 1st March and Monday 2nd March. If you would like to book a place, please text Rob on 07745438481.  Drinks are BYO.

There are plans for a website and a greater social media presence.  You can follow Rob on Twitter as well @RobertdaweRob

To join the mailing list, email Rob at

Restaurants line up for Exeter’s £12m Guildhall development (via Express and Echo)

Quite a large article on the new Dining Quarter in The Express and Echo.  So far all that has beenartigiano revealed is that Artigiano is in talks to create a flagship venue (sounds expensive) and the developers are trying to get a balance between National and Regional chains.  But alas no mention of independent establishments…


Michael Caines with Silver South West Tourism Award_February 2015Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink is celebrating another win after the South West Tourism Awards on Thursday 12th February 2015. Exeter’s only city centre festival scooped Silver in the Tourism Event of the Year category sponsored by Bristol Airport for its 11thannual event which took place in April 2014.

Michael Caines MBE, Festival champion and co-founder said of the win: ‘I am absolutely delighted with our Silver at the South West Tourism Awards 2015! The Exeter Food Festival is a celebration of all the fantastic food and drink producers in the South West as well as our region’s rich agricultural and coastal heritage. To be shortlisted with other wonderful events in the South West is an honour and we look forward to bringing our festival to Exeter again this April.’

Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink 2015 runs from Friday 24th to Sunday 26th April in Exeter Castle and Northernhay Gardens, with Festival After Dark parties from Thursday 23rd running until late. The three-day festival celebrates the outstanding food and drink of the South West, featuring more than one hundred regional producers, top chefs, workshops, live music and food-themed activities for all the family.

This year’s festival has received a significant increase in applications from new food and drink producers and those who are applying to take a stand for the first time. Of this rise in interest, Michael Caines added: ‘we have been very pleased to not only welcome back valued stall holders but also companies new to the festival. It’s testament to the thriving foodie culture and the quality of produce and hospitality we have here in the South West.’

Now in its twelfth year, the Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink is supported by Exeter City Council. The festival is a not for profit event.

Tickets can be booked in advance and are available online. For more information or to buy tickets visit:

Trill Spring Seasons Box


A special seasonal treat for nature & earth lovers is the Trill Spring Seasons Box, the latest of the quarterly lifestyle subscription boxes offered from Trill organic farm in Devon, the brain child of Dr Romy Fraser OBE, founder of Neal’s Yard Remedies.

The exact contents of the Spring box is a surprise, but each seasonal box of delights includes a selection of high quality, organically grown and responsibly-made products carefully curated based on what’s in season and abundant from all parts of Trill Farm: food and drink, natural health and beauty, homewares and garden.

Each item is skilfully made on the farm, using minimal packaging and resources, by the the community of small businesses that are supported by Trill and share the collective ethos; healthy and responsible living and education to teach the skills required to live lightly on the land.

Previous box contents have included herbal teas, sea salt body conditioner, woodland soap, self heal salve, honey, chutney, rose & elderflower cordial, egg cups & cosies, a selection of seeds, and much more.

The Trill Spring Seasons Box costs £75 or just £68.75 when purchased as part of a annual subscription (four seasonal boxes). The combined value of the products far exceeds the cost of the box. Purchase of an annual subscription includes exclusive invitations to seasonal events and 20% off all the Trill Trust healthy living courses throughout 2015.

Due to the availability of produce on the farm, a limited number of boxes are produced each season. Orders are being taken now for the Spring Seasons Box, which will be sent overnight for delivery on 16th April. Gift vouchers are available for those wishing to purchase the Spring Seasons box as a Valentine’s Gift or a Mothers’ Day Present.

Trill Farm,
Pudleylake Road,
EX13 8TU

Tel: 01297 631 113
twitter @trill_farm

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Jamie’s Italian, Bedford Street, Princesshay, Exeter, EX1 1GJ

It doesn’t seem that long ago that Strada closed its doors and soon after Jamie’s Italian announced that it was going to open in its place.  In those five months, the Jamie’s Italian fans I know and love, whipped themselves up in to a frenzy at the fact that Mr Oliver had said he was opening another shining beacon of Italian-ness in Exeter.  And given the opportunity to sample this new establishment, I couldn’t resist see what all the fuss was about.

Started in Oxford in 2008 (click the link to read Matthew Norman’s review) it has grown from the one restaurant to incorporate restaurants all over Great Britain and also internationally.  There is Jamie’s Italians in Sydney, Dublin, Hong Kong and even Portsmouth.  Most of them seem to be in London and the middle bit of the map, but now they can add Exeter on to the rostrum of locations of this expanding enterprise.

You might remember a while back I rather sceptically wrote the following post when I found out that Jamie Oliver was destined to open in Princesshay.   I asked him to impress me. Whether or not he ever reads every single piece of Internet that mentions his name is unknown and unlikely. But I had this phrase in my head as we sat down at our table on a busy Friday evening, ready to be impressed.

Scanning across the menu it was clearly obvious that compared to ASK, Zizzi and Bella Italia…well lets say there is no comparison.  The menu has been developed to represent authentic, rustic Italian cuisine with a Jamie Oliver twist.  The ‘Bread and Nibbles’ has, for instance, Crispy Music Bread (with slices of pecorino Sardo & little dots of chilli jam mostarda) and Pork Scratchings (with spiced fennel salt & orchard dipping sauce)  which could be classed as Jamie Oliver with an Italian twist.  The ‘Bruschetta and Antipasta’ returns to its Italian side with such things as Tuscan Style Chicken Liver Bruschetta (smooth Italian paté with pancetta, vin santo & Parmesan) and Sicilian Caponata Bruschetta (spiced aubergine, hard ricotta & pine nuts).

This variation between ‘proper Italian’ and ‘Jamie Oliver Italian’ continues throughout the menu. Take ‘The Mains’ section which has The Jamie’s Italian Burger (Juicy prime British beef with mortadella, balsamic onions, tomato, melted smoked mozzarella, pickles & chillies) which is accompanied throughout with such Italian dishes as Osso Buco (free-range pork, slow-cooked with saffron, onion, tomatoes & Trebbiano white wine, served with Sicilian-style orange gremolata) and Lobster Al Forno (Half a marinated & roasted lobster with silky Parmesan sauce & spaghetti pomodoro).  There is clearly a great deal of originality in the way the menu has been created.

Flip over the double sided A3 and you have the reams of Cocktails, Wines and…well…everything else.  The prices as you might expect from a restaurant in the location that it is, doing the thing that it is doing, are levelled at ‘Special Night Out’ or ‘I have money and can’t be bothered to cook’ level.  Take your wife out here if you wish to apologise for something, take a first date if you want a memory to remember.  It is not cheap, but not any more expensive in comparison to its neighbours (Cafe Rouge, Coal etc.).

The kitchen is open enough for diners to see what’s happening.  I loved this touch in the restaurant design which gave a certain element of theatre to the dinner.  A corner of the restaurant is taken up by the pasta machine which makes fresh pasta daily and a small selection of Jamie Oliver merch.  There is a deli during the day as well for JO fans who might want the real thing.

We decided to share a starter of Pork Scratchings, given this was the first time I had ever seen this as an option on a menu, I couldn’t deny myself some fatty protein.  Being a complete Burger-head I had to go for The Jamie’s Italian Burger (10.95 or bundled with chips for for an extra £3) with Polenta Chips, and my able assistant chose the special of the day which was a pasta dish with lamb and tomato in a red wine sauce.

The starter came reasonably quickly given the fact it was so busy.  The delicate flavours really came out, and it was seasoned perfectly.  The Roasted Pear and Tomato dip had a gentle kick to it but subtle enough for it to work with the seasoning of the scratchings and not cause any mouth related spice-burn.
The scratchings were cooked evenly and presented in a bronze goblet which, to me, was the perfect method of delivery.  Starter finished, we languished ourselves in conversation.  We waited about 20 minutes for our main course (pretty good for a busy Friday night!) through which the drama of a busy kitchen played out in front of us.

To say that the burger heaved in to view was an understatement.  The table next to us had ordered a burger as well and got it slightly before us, I think I stared a little too long for comfort.

A stacked skyscraper of meat, pickles, chilli and cheese made this one of my all-time burgers.  Add in the Polenta Chips which were beautifully cooked and topped with lashings of parmasan and rosemary, you had a most amazing meal; one that I will come back again for when I feel I need it in my life.
Although it required disassembling, it was a burger to be attacked.  As Jamie Oliver said himself to Ellie Goulding in the second episode of his latest series the best burgers are ones that you just need to attack.  This I did.  It was an enjoyable combination of a burger that was at least 9oz, pickles and chilli’s with Mortadella and mozzarella which I devoured far too quickly.  The result was burger impatience disorder that I could only fill with more burgers, but tonight was not the night that I was going to do this.

My able assistant found her Lamb and Tomato thing quite spicy, this being a special it wasn’t something that was mentioned when the waitress told us what the specials were at the beginning of the meal.  There was no pretext saying that this was going to be ‘spicy’.  Luckily we are both spice fans but I know many people who would have been calling the manager over asking for a replacement or a refund.  Was it meant to be spicy? Was there meant to be a warning? Who knows.

With the meal finished, we were too full for dessert.  I had been tempted with such delights as Amalfi Lemon Meringue Cheesecake (velvety mascarpone & lemon cheesecake topped with Italian meringue, served with lemon curd & blackcurrants) and the Epic Brownie (warm fudgy brownie with vanilla ice cream & caramelised popcorn).  But there really was no room at the inn.

Jamie’s Italian is a new and original take on something Britain does quite poorly sometimes.  Italian restaurants are pretty much everywhere in various disguises, the ‘pseudo-Italian’ label is one that we can stick on many restaurants on our high street.  For once, there is now a place that I can say “fancy Italian tonight? Go to Jamie’s Italian…”.  It celebrates the fact it is what it is, and gives the diner a menu that is…

“…rooted in authenticity. We’re all about fantastic, rustic dishes created using tried and tested recipes. Jamie’s friend and mentor, Gennaro Contaldo, has added substance to what is now the essence of Jamie’s Italian – tradition combined with current, innovative ideas and a Jamie twist.”

Its not pretentious, its not snobby.  Like many establishments you make it as expensive as you make it.

Jamie’s Italian, Exeter
20 Bedford Street

01392 348 448

Opening Times
12 noon-10pm

12 noon-11pm

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