Eating Exeter – Christmas update

We have made it.  I am writing this on Boxing Day. The last few weeks (or months) has been leading up to Christmas Day, the Turkey has been eaten and most probably like other families across the nation, you have a fridge full of left-overs and will be eating bubble & squeak for the next three weeks.

We had a Hacking Family Christmas which included lots of food, the biggest trifle in the History of Trifles, deep fried Breaded Brie, an organic Turkey from Claire Abjohns out by Ottery St Mary and lots to drink.

Now the food is digesting, the presents opened etc. Life can continue.  I made a solemn vow that I wouldn’t be writing any blog posts over the Christmas period, but I have failed miserably.

I thought I would make some changes to the design (again).  I am trying to achieve a balance between minimal clutter, but still have important information on the sidebar.  I have sacrificed a few sections that were just messy, but we have a new ‘News & Events’ option at the top right along with the usual ‘Read Reviews’ option too.  I am trying to work out whether I am happy with having no categories at all on show, but I might cave in yet.

I have commissioned Tori to create some newer buildings for the front again, as the ones that I have are low-res and are not transferring over to the new design as well.  In the meantime I have selected some images from the Eating Exeter image archive to display on the header image section.

Eating Exeter now has a new domain name too.  Along with eatingexeter.co.uk, I now own eatingexeter.co which is one of the newer suffixes that came in last year.  The email address is still the classic Gmail one, as I can’t be bothered migrating it over and it works nicely on my harem of digital devices.

You might also notice that there are no adverts.  This is because I have made a small investment to WordPress for more storage and a few other perks that should make life a little easier.

There is a sponge baking in the oven, it is coffee & chocolate which we are taking over to my grandfather’s when we visit later.

Look out for my write up or our La Belle Assiette evening, just waiting for the photos to come from the photographer and I’ll publish it.

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The HH Restaurant, now permanently closed…

I had heard on the grapevine that this restaurant had shut its doors for good.  RIP The HH Restaurant in Broadclyst.

This is such a shame as it received such good reviews, and our own visit a few months ago was a culinary delight.  But, we were the only customers throughout the evening which is not a good sign for any restaurant.

It’ll be interesting to see who takes up the site next and what they decide to do with it.

Eating Exeter Update – December

Hi foodie types,

Christmas is very much upon us and with it comes the gluttony and great eating that inspires everyone to take up Yoga or running for their new year’s resolutions.

We’ve had a busy couple of weeks with Tara’s Busy Kitchen Presents… and the Beer V Wine Event at The Pig & Pallet.  Next week is the climax of our culinary year with a meal at Ruby Burgers and an event on Wednesday which I am going to keep as secret as I can until Wednesday evening.  Stay tuned to Instagram where I will be live tweeting/Instagramming the night

Then from 18th December, I’ll be closing Eating Exeter for the Christmas period except for Tweeting and Instagram, but no posts or emails until 4th January.

The new year is destined to be a busy one and Eating Exeter is going to return, slightly redesigned and hopefully slightly different.  I will be doing some bits and pieces behind the scenes which will make the site a bit more useful and a bit more cleaner too.

I am amazed that our combined following is on the up-scale towards 4,000 people following via Social Media and email subscription.  I can’t wait to hit that big 4 🙂

Cheers,
Chris

Beer vs. Wine at The Pig and Pallet, Topsham

It is an almost impossible question to answer.

What is better with food? Beer or Wine?

Grrr
Competitors ready?

Throughout my culinary adventures I have often ignored wine.  I have had a few bad experiences at the hands of a box of wine, and although the occasional glass is acceptable, I made my mind up long ago that Beer was the only way forward.  One thing I learnt from a terrible Roland Emmerich film (apocalyptic ‘2012’) however, is that in order to achieve enlightenment, one must first empty your cup.  This evening I left my prejudices at the door, I was open to suggestions.

The Pig and Pallet in Topsham set out to try and answer this great philosophical question at the Beer vs. Wine Evening on the 3rd December. Two masters in their fields went head to head to prove that ultimately their alcoholic beverage is better with food.

The competitors:

Ben Richards – Accredited Beer Sommelier and general beer nerd, Ben hosts events and workshops.  He can be found writing about beer, researching it and (strangely enough) drinking the stuff too.  Ben was  very approachable and ridiculously knowledgeable about his subject. www.beerwithben.co.uk

Jim Kingston – Jim runs Topsham Wines, and with this a vast amount of knowledge and experience of buying and tasting some of the finest wines available. Here was another walking encyclopedia. Before each wine Jim gave us a really good talk through (as did Ben) what we were about to be drinking, its heritage and why he believed it matched the food we were about to eat. www.topshamwines.co.uk

It had been a good seven or maybe eight months since we last visted The Pig And Pallet when it first opened. When we first visted, Pete Woodham-Kay took me through the interior which he had mostly hand-built himself from reclaimed wood and pallets. Now have a kitchen serving a well put together menu, which we will return to visit and sample at a later date.

I really love this place, Good Game and everything it stands for, so I was dead excited have been given the opportunity to witness such an important battle between two sides of a particularly divisive subject.

Steve Williams (one of the other halves of Good Game) introduced the courses, what made them special and who supplied them if they hadn’t been made in store.  I made notes as I went, but as you might expect the writing did get a bit squiffy towards the end so forgive me if some of the details are wrong.

After each course, the table voted either Beer or Wine.  My note taking became squiffier and slightly sporadic with the more I drank…



First Course:

We started things off with a Venison and Liver Pate served with crisp bread and Cornish Butter.  

Jim’s first left hook was some Dr Loosen Estate Riesling, a sweet yet dry white with some citrus notes which I really liked. Ben came in for the defence with a dark bottlle of Westmalle Trappist Dubbel, which split us down the middle.  I went for the Westmalle and Tori decided she preferred the Riesling.

Second Course:

We moved swiftly on Pig & Pallet Christmas Sliders with made from Smoked Turkey Thighs and Sausage Meat between Shaldon Bakery made Brioche Buns with ‘Christmas Slaw’ and an Alabama BBQ Sauce.  Jim’s next left hook was a Black Shiraz from Bob Berton Vineyards, this was dry and not overly sugary.  I really liked this wine, but I was impressed with Ben’s upper cut in the shape of a Thornbridge Dark Raven IPA.  A hoppy dark malted beer, it was beautiful.

Third Course:

Our sweet dish was an Exploding Bakery gluten free Belgian Almond Chocolate Brownie.  This brownie is the sort that just melts, even if you just look at it.  It gave us to see how well a wine or beer could be matched with a very sweet dish. Ben introduced us to a lambit beer called Framboise by Lindemans which was a deliciously fruity and sweet concoction.  It wasn’t like drinking a beer, moreso a fermented fruity drink.  It was a little too sweet and too apart from the traditional beer, Jim definitely went on the offensive with a Cantina di Negrar Valpolicella Ricotta.  This was a divisive round as it was 18 votes to 18.

Fourth and final course:

This was our cheese course, a taster of genuine Devon Blue cheese.  The Blue Boy stilton was a mild and savory cheese that was simply beautiful.  Jim’s offering was another sweet wine, a De Bortoli Botrytis Semillon which was a delictable wine.  It went down very well at our table, especially with Tori.  Ben’s offering for this course would have to be a good one, and it was quite impressive, being a Samuel Smith brewery Imperial Stout.

The overall winner of the evening was wine.

It was strange how quickly it seemed to finish, not because it was a quick event (we left at 10:45pm which equated to at least two and a half hours) but because it was so much fun.  We met Teresa and Ben, who we shared a table with who were excellent tasting companions.  As in, we didn’t eat them as well, but we couldn’t have asked for two better tablemates.

Will there be a rematch? I asked Steve after the event.  I very much hope so.  It was a unique and memorable evening that I hope other diners get to take part in.  I am hoping to persuade Ben to write a guest post for Eating Exeter at some point in the future.

Tara’s Busy Kitchen presents…Afternoon Tea

The concept of the ‘Pop-up’ has enjoyed a raft of success as a concept in recent years.  Pop-up shops, pop-up restaurants and even pop-up galleries make this a really sharp tool for creating a buzz and spreading word-of-mouth with ‘never to be repeated’ experiences (for instance having dinner in a polytunnel at Trill Farm).  In Exeter we are lucky to have at least three pop-up food events that happen regularly, and now we might be welcoming a fourth in the form of ‘Tara’s Busy Kitchen Presents…Afternoon Tea’

A High Tea Pop-up? Yup. Count me in.

Will there be cake? Yup.


Will there be tea? Yup.


Will there be sparkling alcoholic stuff from Sharpham’s Vineyard? Yup.

Tara’s Busy Kitchen is not just the name of the itself event but also a spiffing blog that is written by Tara Smith.  Ballet teacher by day, lifestyle-food blogger by night.  It was the first time that I had met a fellow Exonian blogger, and the first time I had met any blogger whose writing I read regularly.  It was strange how much information you are able to recall, and you realise just by the nature of blogging itself that writing a blog is a very personal thing.

Her writing has a clear voice.  Tara uses lots of photos and she has consistency which I wish I could replicate! So to be invited over for tea with a host of other foodies was an honour and a half

The baking was done by the hostess.  The sheer amount of prep work that went in to the whole thing was outstanding.  The baking, the vintage crockery, the tables, Tara had turned her modern living room in to a classic tea room setup which looked, for lack of a better word, awesome.

The tea was from Miles Teas, the sparkling white was a Sharpham’s Sparkling Reserva and the jams & condiments were from Louise’s Larder.

I liked the little goody bags we were given to take away and the little A6 sheet that gave all of the suppliers of the different elements.  The cosiness of our surroundings made the whole experience exceptionally welcoming to the lonewolf who suffers from social anxiety, there were no awkward moments and it was lovely talking to so many other foodies.

Unfortunately for Tara, she had quite a lot of washing up afterwards!


Tara has posted about the event on her blog, so go forth and read it. And subscribe to her blog too.

www.tarasbusykitchen.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Orestone Manor Hotel & Restaurant

Rockhouse Lane, Maidencombe, Torquay TQ1 4SX Tel: 01803 500397
http://www.orestonemanor.com/

EE RecommendsMaidencombe.  It is a village in its own right.  The first part of the great swathe of the towns and villages that make up Torbay.  After Maidencombe you hit Babbacombe and further on you are deep in the heart of Torquay, with the tourists and its quirky shops; the advertising campaign that GWR ran all those years ago promoted the area as ‘The English Riviera’ and it stuck.

In my comprehension of the geography, Maidencombe is nearly part of this elaborate network of bungalows and bingo halls. But it is still a village, the last outpost before the sprawl of Torbay stretches its tentacles further up the coast.

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll most probably know that I am quite fond of this part of the world.  With a population that exceeds that of Exeter, there is a lot that happens south of the River Teign that most Exonians largely ignore or just miss out.

My sporadic spots on the Steve Price Show that airs on Riviera FM on Tuesday nights gives me a warmth for the area that might see me changing the title of the blog to something such as Tear-To-Share Torquay…or Tit-Bits of Torquay…Eating Torquay. It hasn’t got the same ring to it. What I am trying to say is, forgive me this isn’t Exeter. But even if you live in Exeter, Orestone Manor is a definite ‘must-visit’ for city foodies.

We were invited along to witness, as the website states, the ‘creaky character’ of this historic hotel which is owned and run by the D’Allen family.  The hotel itself had been a former home of the famous Victorian painter (and inventor of the Christmas Card) John Calcott Horsley.  Horsley’s famous Brother-In-Law was the esteemed Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who had a number of prolonged visits to the house when he was constructing the last stretch of the GWR.  It is said that Brunel was planning to retire to the area  after he had finished his great project, but his life was cut short by illness not long after the railway had reached Plymouth.

With such a history, you might be forgiven to think that Orestone Manor is an overly austere and, for lack of a better word, ‘snooty’ establishment. The evening we spent at the Orestone was incredibly warm and welcoming, there was no pretension, no pomp, just a cosy warm atmosphere, lots of sofas and some absolutely exquisite food.

The table was booked for seven thirty.  It takes about forty five minutes to get to Maidencombe from Exeter, coming through Teignmouth (opposed to going via Newton Abbot) and via Shaldon.  The turning off the A379 is somewhat tight, it goes down a steep hill double backing on itself which needs a careful approach.

Stepping through the front door, we were welcomed in and ushered to the lounge area.  Our orders were taken whilst we were lounging on a sofa, sipping our wine and admiring the newly refurbished decor.  The lounge is nicely kitted out with modern sofas, books and a newly installed bespoke bar that has literally been crafted to the hotels exacting standards. Built from iron and glass on the front, the bar is a mixological tribute to Brunel with a suspension bridge and what looks like rivets, presented in a tasteful matt black finish with red glass on the front.

We were ushered in to the dining room via another lounge, to take our place ready for our courses.  The dining room, decked in festive lights, was a dark red. It was heavy but had an allusion to the house’s Victorian heritage.

The menu is split in to two.  An A la carte menu and and table d’hote, both of which were well put together.  We went for the table d’hote menu (fixed price) which included three courses for £27 or two for £21.  I started off with an Orestone Fishcake for a starter, Tori went for Asparagus and Poached Egg in a Hollandaise Sauce

The Fishcake was without a single shadow of a doubt one of the nicest fishcakes I’ve had in a long time, if not ever. Yes I’ve had a sheltered life. My school days gave me dense lumps of fish in breaded discs, the fishcakes you are able to buy from the supermarket are no better, so this wonderful deep fried cylinder with a cacophony of different types of fish inside, was something to behold.

The poached egg was cooked well, and it ‘went’ with the Asparagus which was a delightful combination.  There was much approval at the expert egg poaching from the other side of the table, but frankly my fishcake was far too nice I generally forgot to ask ‘so, how is it?’.

For the mains, I decided to push the boat out and go for the Aromatic Spiced Venison Haunch Steaks, Pomme Fondant served with Market Vegetables.  If you come across a restaurant the cooks Venison so well that it dissolves on your tongue, refuse to leave until you’ve had at least three portions.  And never forget the experience as this is exactly how the Venison was cooked, and it was beautiful.  Venison can quite often be tough if it is not cooked accurately and with care, so this was technically a really tough thing to pull off. Pun intended.

Tori went for 6oz Fillet Steak Medallions, Confit Tomatoes, Mushroom, Fries, and Peppercorn Sauce.  This, again, was meat cooked with absolute care. The steak itself wasn’t overpowering in flavour, it was delicate and cooked medium rare.  The peppercorn sauce was a little strong in flavour for delicate palettes but this was forgiven as it was accompanied by beautifully cooked fries and vine tomatoes.

Throughout the whole process the service was brilliant.  We were looked after by Charlotte who struck a professional balance between interaction and service, which can be a hard equilibrium to strike.

The Dessert course meant finding my inner pudding stomach.  This wasn’t hard to do, so always one to go for desserts I can’t buy or make myself, the Vanilla Crème Brulee with Shortbread Biscuit shouted at me from the page.  Tori being the chocolate fiend that she is, defied the Table D’Hote menu and went for a dessert from the main menu, which we were able to do on this occasion.  Predictably (sorry darling) going for a Baked Chocolate Fondant served with Apple & Sloe Sorbet.

The brulee had an intricate flavour.  I want to say that it was quietly sweet. In fact I will say “It was quietly sweet…” even though that simply doesn’t make much sense. It wasn’t overpoweringly sickly and as you can see from the photos, it was caramelized just about right.  Tori’s Fondant was a wonderfully runny, chocolatey, gooey affair that had the most amazing tart/sour sorbet that contrasted brilliantly with the chocolate.  A really memorable dessert, and one I am sure we’ll have again when we come back.


We retreated to the lounge, had some tea and coffee and generally felt very full and very satisfied.  It was a strange feeling, whilst sitting and slowly sinking in to the plush sofa, as it really felt that we could just amble up to our room, and at no point was there a feeling that you were not a resident.

The D’Allen family have created a hidden gem.  A fine dining destination to be proud of.  Here is an independent hotel & restaurant with two AA Rosettes (they could have had a third one, but they chose not to), a restaurant which is featured in the Michelin Guide with a reputation for exceptional food and a welcoming atmosphere.

You don’t need a tuxedo to visit, neither do you need to drive a car worth over £30,000 and you won’t get looked up and down with disdain if you wear smart casual to dinner.

Accessible and affordable fine food.  For once I agree with the multitude of positivity on TripAdvisor, that this place really is “just stunning..”