NOW CLOSED Base & Barley, Longbrook St.

Tel: 01392 279393, Portland House, Longbrook St, Exeter EX4 6AB www.baseandbarley.com

EE RecommendsTake a stroll down Longbrook Street, you might have noticed the large letters on the side of the windows of Exeter’s newest restaurant.  Base & Barley opened for business before Christmas with a series of soft openings and an active social media campaign.  Like the large lettering emblazoning their front windows, the buzz was big and full power, Base & Barley have officially entered the building.

They gave away sourdough starter kits.  They chalked the pavement.  Even if you were not on social media, this effective launch campaign really showed Exeter B&B meant business. I managed to get my hands on a kit, but had a mishap which involved gravity and a mop, but I hear that there have been some successful sourdough babies from these kits.

But its not like they haven’t done this before.  Their sister ship, Artigiano was founded by Joe Hill who has ambitious plans for the expansion of the B&B and Artigiano brands with a winning combination of excellent value handmade pizza and artisan coffee.  We were lucky enough to be invited along to see what makes B&B the talk of Exeter’s dining scene.

Situated on one of the main student arterial routes in to town, the footfall this restaurant could have is significant.  Coupled with an excellent value menu, it is easy to pop in one way home for a quick take-away pizza or to sit down in the stylish interior, peppered with fairy lights and candle lit tables.

As the name suggests, there are two important elements to making B&B.  The base of the pizza, and the beers on offer.  The pizza is base is important… so says their website.

“Our pizzas could hold their own in the back yards of Napoli.  It’s all about the base.  We prep our sourdough the day (not the night) before.  

And before you ask, it doesn’t go off.  It goes up…thanks to the finest grade 00 flour.  It’s so soft you could sleep on it.”

I decided not to test out their claim that you could sleep on the flour, mostly because I would get covered in the stuff, but also because they might not let me.

B&B also brew their own beer too which is served alongside a small and select range of other craft beers.

The menu is quite straight forward.  Starters, Pizzas, Salads, Sides then desserts.  There isn’t really much else to it.  None of the pizzas are over £8 which makes it very good value compared to Pizza Depress or ASK.  One thought that resounded in my head throughout the meal was why anyone would want to go to a chain pizza place when they have somewhere like this on their doorstep.

The pizzas are cooked in a vast pizza oven which is one of the first things you see when you enter the restaurant, colourful and decoratively coated in paint and illustrations, it is the focus of the restaurant.  Diners can see the oven from their seats, and your eyes are drawn to it when you enter, this a very important element of what makes this pizza restaurant awesome…

For starters Tori had the DOUGH STICKS served with garlic herb butter (£3.95) and I took a recommendation from my good blogger friend Tara from Tara’s Busy Kitchen and went for OVEN ROASTED CHORIZO in a red wine Jus (£4.95).  The Chorizo was tender and combined with the Jus it worked really well.  The garlic herb butter and fresh doughsticks worked really well as a light introduction to the main show.

The range of pizzas have been put together thoughtfully.  You’re not getting pages of different toppings, it is a simple yet delicious offering of carefully thought out to cater for diners with different tastes.
My taste is for spicy so I went for the No. 6 (Tomato, mozzarella, fiery n’duja sausage paste, salami + roquito peppers) £7.95 and Tori, who is a lover of chicken and pesto went for a No. 8 (Tomato, mozzarella, chicken, roasted red pepper + green pesto) £7.95.  In a fit of health guilt we plumped for a Green Salad too, which was particularly impressive.

The Pizzas were evenly cooked, no soggy middle.  The toppings tasted like something straight from an Italian pizzeria.  Everything that should be cripsy was, and the bits that were meant to taste of tomato, tasted of tomato.  The chicken on Tori’s pizzas was tender, my pizza was spicy without over-burn, the whole thing was a dough based thing beauty. Again…why would you go to Pizza Depress.

We couldn’t fit in a dessert, although they all sounded very nice.  Gelato and Affagato are two things that tempted me…but we rounded the evening off with coffee.

Our waitress Sydney (who happened to be an old college friend of Tori’s) was attentive and I liked the fact that the service regularly walked through the restaurant making sure diners were tended to.

Base and Barley have a winning combination.  Cheap pizzas, lush craft beer and stylish surroundings.  For non-pizza lovers you are tempted with salad and fresh River Exe mussels accompanied with a well thought out wine list.

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10 Questions with Tom Charman from KOMPAS

Forty years ago, eating out in a strange city was a bit of a gamble.  If you were lucky you would have a guide book, or newspapers to help you make a decision.  But most of the time you’d have to ask someone, maybe at the hotel or wander around before you found somewhere that looked nice.  Given that competition for custom wasn’t as intense as it is in 2016, the experience could often be hit-and-miss.

In 2016 we have Tripadvisor, Blogs, Food Magazines, Review sites like Zomato, SquareTable, Bookatable, newspapers, Google Reviews, Yelp…the list goes on.  But quantity is sometimes sacrificed over quality, and often those reviewing on user submitted sites are looking to convey a subjective opinion without maintaining any journalistic standards.  So (with my librarian hat on) when a new source of guide and review comes along that give high-quality information, which is not only well written but has nice photos too, I get quite excited.

I recently discovered a company, born here in Exeter by a team from Exeter University called KOMPAS.  You can have a look at their Instagram account which is full of delectable photos and gives an idea of what this app is going to be about.  I am already checking it for recommendations!  So given how awesome the whole thing was looking, I just had to ask  Kompas CMO Tom Charman 10 Questions about KOMPAS.

KOMPAS2Could you describe what KOMPAS is?
Absolutely, KOMPAS is a mobile application for the travel industry that we’re currently building. Using an individual’s personal interests, as well as their previously visited locations, we create an itinerary using smart algorithms. This means that we’re constantly learning about you, and what you want to do, not what people assume you’ll want to do. There’ll be no more wasted time when planning a visit to a new city, nor working out how to get around when you arrive, as KOMPAS does it all for you. For us, we believe everyone is different, and will have different views of places that they visit, which is why we build itineraries that we know you’re going to love. You can think of us as your personal travel assistant, guiding you around the urban jungles of the world.

Where did you get the inspiration to start KOMPAS?
KOMPAS really began to take shape while we were out on our year abroad, under the name Hidden Planet (or Hidden Munich; http://www.instagram.com/hiddenmunich). We realised that there was so much of a city that your conventional guide book doesn’t include, things that we would have hated to have missed out on. We built an Instagram account, promoted those hidden and unique places and that’s transformed into what KOMPAS is today! We want people all over the world to have the opportunity to experience the true story of a city in its various forms. Which cities does KOMPAS cover at the moment? While we’re still in BETA, we’re using Instagram and various other social channels to showcase what we’re building. That said we’re currently operating in 34 cities across the world, though most of these are based in Europe. We’ve got great teams in the likes of Berlin, Paris, Munich, Düsseldorf and Leipzig, as well as some fantastic writers out in La Paz and other international cities! You’ll find a complete list of the countries that we’re covering on our blog (www.blog.kompasapp.com).

You’re currently studying at the University of Exeter, what is eating out like for students in Exeter? Myself and one of my co-founders Olivia are indeed, and there is just so much to choose from! Admittedly, before we launched KOMPAS in Exeter, I didn’t know too much about the sort of things that were available, and tended to stick to the hangouts known by most students. However, after beginning to explore Exeter, I found that there’s just so much to choose from, and one of the best things in my opinion is how easy it is to find locally sourced food. I’ve always been a big believer in eating local, and supporting local businesses, which is one of the reasons Exeter is so appealing to me.

If you had to have a final meal from a place in Exeter, where would it be from and what would it be? That’s a tough one! It’s a toss-up between one of the famous Firehouse pizzas or a roast on Sunday from Tea On The Green. Both serve great food, but it would depend on whether I wanted something casual to share with friends over a few ciders and beers, or whether I wanted one of my all-time favourite roasts!

You spent a year out in Munich, was there a German food (product or dish) that you just can’t replicate over here?
Well, I think I’ve just about mastered the Currywurst now, although I admit, that’s not typical Bavarian food! One of the things that I can’t seem to find anywhere though is a Schweinshaxn or ‘roasted ham hock’, because there’s a particular way in which the Bavarians serve it! Plus, I don’t think it’s really the same without a Maß (1 litre) of Helles Augustiner Beer. That said, I’m headed back over to Munich in 2 weeks, and I’m looking forward to enjoying a cold German beer with some traditional Bavarian food! If you had one message/advice for someone who was going to launch a venture of this scale, what would it be? The most important thing in my opinion, is that you keep focus and don’t give up. There are lots of ups and downs, and while you may find yourself at the top of the world one minute, you can easily find yourself in a slump the next. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, but push through and work hard. Naturally, be sure to test your market and iterate as much as possible, but focus, drive and passion really are key. Right! I’ve signed up for the BETA.
KOMPAS1When will the full version of the app be available?
We’re aiming to launch the BETA in March, and we’re giving 2,000 people the chance to get involved with what we’re doing and shape the future of KOMPAS. We’re then going to be commercially launching in the Summer of 2016, in a select number of cities while we build a database of places in other cities. From there we’re going to follow an approach similar to that of Deliveroo and Citymapper, by slowly expanding into cities all over the world! How do restaurants and venues get included? Do you have a criteria? We don’t have criteria as such, but we personally check every place that we cover, meaning that not only is everything personally vetted by us, but it means that we can guarantee that one of our team has visited, tested and reviewed each location. When we’re looking for places, we tend to search for local, independent stores and venues, or those that are part of a small chain. If there’s something that’s specific to a city, then we’re almost certainly going to include it. The goal for us, is to showcase a city, and highlight the hidden places within it.

What does the future hold for KOMPAS?
Will it literally be world domination? We’ve got a huge amount planned for the future! At the moment we’re raising finance which will allow us to build the commercial product, as well as work on building stronger networks within the cities that we’re operating in. We’re looking at having good coverage of Europe in the next two years, before looking to the wider International markets including the U.S. and Asia in 2018! We’ve got an exciting journey ahead of us, and we’re looking forward to sharing it with everyone, and building something that will not only make travelling easier, but will become a necessary app for finding out where to go, whether you’re local to a city, or visiting for the first time! We’ll also be updating all our early adopters monthly, as everyone that is part of the BETA really is fundamental to the building of the project!

House Wong, Bonhay Road

EE Recommends

House Wong, 100 Bonhay Rd, Exeter, Devon, EX4 4BL  01392 435682Open 5:00pm – 10:30pm everyday apart from Tuesday.

Eating Exeter is not just about fine/casual dining restaurants with local ingredients and local produce.  Sometimes we go that extra mile for the readers to bring you a comprehensive guide to where to eat in Exeter, even if they don’t take debit cards.

Exeter has a fair number of Chinese takeaways dotted throughout the city.  The ‘traditional’ British Chinese takeaway serves a greasier version of what is considered traditional Chinese cuisine, and like the curries of India, we have westernised it to our liking. It is not too weird, and includes things that we’re familiar with.  Most of the flavours are acceptable to a western palette and there are no surprises, generally.  They are as synonymous to Britain as Fish & Chip Shops, red telephone boxes, The Monarchy and saying sorry a lot.

We’ve used various takeaway services over the last year.  Deliveroo is great, couldn’t recommend them enough.  JustEat is generally OK, but we’ve had a few problems with them in the past.  But if you’re willing to go and collect your food, then a world of opportunity opens up.
There are still loads of great takeaways who have not bought in to the online delivery concept, and House Wong is one of them.  There is no online review until now, in fact (and this is often the case for many Chinese takeaways) I am not sure there is any online presence at all apart from inclusion on various business listing websites.  Neither is there an official online menu (we did find one, but all the prices were very out of date, and it cost a lot more than we had anticipated).

When I was growing up, we used to get our takeaway from The Bamboo Fryer in Topsham.  It was always crazily busy and always really good, and then went downhill after it changed hands. Supposedly.  That was nearly 18 years ago, so don’t take that as an official recommendation, but the value of the ‘treat’ was there, and for me, it still is today.
At the time I was convinced that there was an army of wizards out the back who made the food from magic as it didn’t take very long to arrive and compared to how long a Sunday Roast took, it was impossible for my young brain to fathom that food can be prepared in minutes.  I digress.

I love the fact this is a traditional British Chinese, there are a few oriental ornaments dotted around and there is a selection of well-thumbed glamour magazines to read through as you wait for the culinary wizardry out back to conjure up your meal.  Having sampled their pancake rolls before, I knew with certainty that the most anticipated part of the meal would be good.

As I was poorly sick, Tori went off to get the food.  The turnaround time was pretty speedy, it took 10 minutes or so from placing the order to getting the grub.  As we live 5 minutes away by car, the bag was still piping hot when she got back.

We went for Pancake Rolls £2.20 each, Egg Fried Rice £2.50, Prawn Crackers £1.80, Sweet & Sour Pork Balls £4.50, Beef Chow Mein £4.50 and Kung Po Chicken £5.20

Nothing out of the ordinary, but definitely ordering with our eyes as we were both hungry.

So here it is.  New Year’s diet totally out of the window along with ethical eating and cholesterol awareness.  Compared to a few takeaways that we’ve had via JustEat the portion sizes are immense.  You could easily feed three people with one item.

The chicken had that slightly strange taste that you get with cheap meat, the pork was the same, but no less enjoyable.  The rice was sticky and eggy, the beef was tender and not overly chewy; everything tasted, overall, very nice.  Definitely good value.

The Pancake Rolls were very greasy, so we had to pat them down, but still edible.  The Kung Po Chicken had so many cashew nuts, something that is often skimped on with chinese takeaway dishes but not overly spicy for a ‘hot and spicy’ item.  Tori noted that the Sweet and Sour sauce had a more of a natural colour to it, and wasn’t fluorescent orange which some are.  It had a sweet taste to it and wasn’t overly acidic.

We ate. We felt stuffed. There are leftovers which we can nibble at, and I am happy to say that House Wong definitely gets an ‘Eating Exeter Recommended’ status as I would happily recommend this place given its large portion sizes and tasty (but greasy) pancake rolls.

An evening with Chef Nina Groves, courtesy of La Belle Assiette.

This meal was provided for guests by Belle Assiette

A quick scour across the lifestyle magazines and foody websites will inevitably show you that private dining is a thing.  Its also a growing thing, with the trend for bringing in a private chef to cook for special meals being on the increase.  Companies like La Belle Assiette make it easy for diners and chefs to hook up, and we were lucky enough to be asked by Millie from LBA to host a private meal to be cooked by Chef Nina Groves as part of her validation for being a La Belle Assiette chef.

I live in a smallish flat.  But the kitchen is decidedly Parisian.  Had we wanted to even consider hosting an event like this, the first thing we would have had to consider is, well, the space.

Had it not been the fact that our flat has a distinctively ‘creative’ vibe to it, then I would have been jumping for joy at the fact that someone would be coming to cook for us in our house, but with the lack of storage space and my obsession with piling things on top of other things, we thought it best not to subject a skilled chef such as Chef Nina to the ordeal that might ensue trying to cook a la carte standard food in a teeny weeny kitchen.

Luckily I know people who have BIGGER kitchens so after some umming and arring, I asked my good friend Dr Steve Price if he could host it.  His house is bigger than ours and its a lot less chaotic.  But after a conversation with Vanessa (a friend of his), it was decided that we would host it at her wonderful house which even nicer than Steve’s.  It had an amazing kitchen but also a separate dining area that would be perfect for the event.

Nina Groves is a Dawlish based chef who has had a varied and exciting career cooking in resorts and on private yachts.  She has cooked for the rich and famous including one of the founders of Google.

We all signed up to LBA’s in-house event system with our email addresses and we were all invited officially. With the menu sorted, it was very much a case of just appearing on the night.

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The evening would start at 7:30pm with arrival at 7:00pm for an aperitif of Soft boiled Quail’s eggs with celery salt, game terrine with onion marmalade and fresh peas and sugar snap peas wrapped around Prawn tails.  They were a lovely start to the evening and, as you might think, divine; and so well presented on mirrored plates.

This evening I was under strict instructions not to worry about photos, as the pro photographer was there to cover this, but I still took a few sneaky snaps (can’t resist..).

For starter we were treated to Crab Tian, layers of fresh Brixham crab, concass tomato and avocado which was a light and refreshing combination that was, well light and refreshing…bloomin’ lovely. The Tomato and Avacado as a combination is quite familiar, but throw some fresh Brixham Crab in to the combination and it works so well.  These were immaculately presented and I felt sad that I had to actually eat it. I know this is generally the idea with food, but I had to admire it.

The main was a Fillet of Ruby Devon Beef with Mushroom Fondant, Celeriac and Potato Dauphinois and Asparagus.  The fillets had been sourced from GT Orsman of Shaldon which I happened to visit last year, given their care and expertise in our fillet we bought last year, this was going to be a good fillet!

As we tucked in, the table went quiet, our chatter and laughter stopped as we all took a step back to realise how delicious it was. Slow cooked and braised, it was one of the highlights of the meal, and not only was the texture perfect but the taste hit the spot dead on.

We had a little time to recover from the main course then we were presented with our dessert.

For dessert we were treated to Pineapple Tarte Tatin with Vanilla Ice-cream.  Full of flavours and varying textures and temperatures, it was a delightful way to round up an amazing evening.

Private dining might not be for everyone, but for that extra special evening with friends or even just as a couple, it is an experience that is hard to forget.  Chef Nina bought all of the ingredients, there was some negotiation about what sort of resources Nina would have before the date and as Vanessa mentioned, the meal itself nearly didn’t happen due to the oven going phutt two days before hand but it ran smoothly, like clockwork.

Would I do it again? Absolutely.  Chef Nina was discreet and generally lovely, there is little hassle in the organisation of such an event and so long as you can get over the fact there is a chef in your kitchen producing culinary magnificence then I would definitely recommend it.

Fore more information, head to their website.

Photos provided by La Belle Assiette

Chunk Pies of Devon – Turning the heat up…

I am dead excited at this new flavour of pie from local pie makers Chunk!

Inspired by a recent visit to Mexico by one of Chunk’s hunks, the award-winning Devon pie maker has launched a spicy new chilli Mex pie to turn up the heat on taste buds this January. Chief Pie Maker – Richard, now known to one and all as Ricardo – was so impressed with the tantalising flavours of the Mexican cuisine he experienced on his travels, that he returned to the UK with a burning desire to add a little heat to the Chunk product line.

In shops from 4th January, Ricardo’s Pie, is a delicious chilli pie jammed with vibrant peppers, highly nutritious kidney beans, mild chilli and saucy salsa – all packed with the flavours of Mexico. Offering a spicy alternative to Chunk’s homity pie or cheddar and onion pasty, Ricardo’s Pie is ‘mucho tasty’. It is also suitable for vegetarians, as it uses Quorn – a healthy source of protein – and is topped with crushed tortilla chips and mouth wateringly melty cheddar. Not to mention being encased in Chunk’s usual high quality of delicious hot water pastry.

Simon Bryon-Edmonds, Owner of Chunk, says: “We are always on the lookout for new and exciting products to add to our growing line, so it did not take much to convince us to try out Ricardo’s suggestion. Our recent Christmas product line – featuring hearty new Venison and Port Pie, Pork, Chicken and Ham Pie, Turkey, Ham and Cranberry Pasty and good old traditional Pork Pie – has been going down famously and we are confident that Ricardo’s Pie will be just as popular.”

Recipient of over 70 awards across its range of pies, pasties and savoury snacks, Chunk of Devon continues to challenge the stereotype of pies being stodgy, unhealthy food. With this new product, packed with healthy ingredients as well as being full of flavour, the producer is set to gain even more foodie fans.

 

Food Magazine’s Reader Award 2016 (and Exeter Living article)

In terms of the blog, this year has got off to quite a good start.  I found out yesterday that Eating Exeter had managed to get to the Grand Final at The Food Magazine Readers Awards 2016, which means an awards ceremony at Yeo Valley HQ and the possibility that I might win an award.  Although I doubt it highly, the experience itself will be enough to keep me happy.

reader-awards-logoIn my strange head, being nominated to the Grand Final is as good as winning.  So a massive thank you to everyone that voted, it never occurred to me that so many people actually read it.

Burger Article

And on the same day, my first attempt at freelance writing was published in Exeter Living!  The new edition is out now, and features a massive photo of a burger and my analysis of Exeter’s burger restaurants.

If the rest of the year carries on like it has so far, it might be world domination for me yet. Bwha ha ha…

Top Three Eating Exeter moments from 2015

2015 has been a crazily busy year for Eating Exeter.  I wanted to sit down and write a month-by-month review of everything that happened.  But I quickly realised that I wouldn’t have time and there is too much…TOO MUCH to put in.

I couldn’t say for sure if there was a particular favourite event or review, as that would be favoritism, so I have decided to do a ‘Top Three Moments’ from 2015 in no particular order.

3. The Exeter Cookery School launch held in Sapphire Spaces back in May.  Jim and Lucy Fisher are two people I have a ton of respect for on the Exeter foody scene at the moment, not just because they are lovely people, but also because they have been so committed and dedicated to the launch of the Exeter Cookery School despite a few setbacks.

The evening was a resounding success, with Jim demonstrating his cooking and teaching skills in the gorgeous kitchen showroom.

Their dedicated space is going to be opening in early 2016, check out the website for more info!

2.  Our visit to Harry’s Restaurant in Longbrook Street.  I love this restaurant. It is an independent establishment that has been going for years thanks to its quality food, friendly service and it is staunchly independent.  Sitting in its eye-catching Victorian redbrick surroundings, its hard to miss as you’re walking in to town.

  1. The South West Chef Of The Year – Grand Final at Exeter College was a complete treat as a photographer and a blogger.  To be able to record the day and meet some of the press was a bit of a dream-come-true.  I wasn’t judging, but if they ever need a ‘foody opinion’ I’ll put myself first in the queue!

    This is by no means a comprehensive list. There have been some great moments including our visit to Circa 1924 and Dining In The Dark Press evening, and who could forget the more recent highlights including the Beer & Wine Evening at The Pig and Pallet and our private dining event, which I am yet to write up.  Many of these events were thanks to Natalie, Sarah and The Team at Attention Media who are based in behind Jamie’s Italian in Princesshay, so a big thank you to all of them for their support throughout 2015.

    Don’t forget that voting closes for the Food Magazine Reader Awards which ends tomorrow at midday.  The link is on the top right of the page, and I will post a reminder on social media later today too.  Give us a vote and make me ecstatically happy!

    reader-awards-logo

    I am hoping that 2016 is going to be a busy year for Exeter.  January will include a review of Taco-Macho (didn’t quite go according to plan last month), a competition and a heap of other bits.  Oh! And keep an eye out for the latest edition of Exeter Living too, you might recognise one of the contributors 🙂