Cafe Rouge in Princesshay reopens!

Café Rouge Exeter unveiled a beautifully redesigned bistro on the 23rd February with a theme that celebrates all the glamour and style of the famous French Riviera. Set in the vibrant Princesshay shopping centre, the new look is set to wow!

Diners at the 158 cover restaurant can expect dramatic rouge red curtains at the entrance, vintage style artwork depicting images of a bygone era of the South of France and bespoke feature lighting throughout.  Some of the best wines from the region will also be on display. The spacious outside seating area with room for over 30 diners has also received a classic Rouge rejuve.

The jewel in the crown will be the newly created party room to the rear of the restaurant. A spectacular chandelier will hang above a feature table with a South of France themed glazed table-top. With room for up to 50 guests the space will be ideal for every occasion from birthdays, celebrations and get-togethers through to business lunches and meetings.

The bistro will be serving their ‘Best of the Best’ menu from 9am, all day every day. Executive Chef Duncan McEwan has explored 26 years of Café Rouge dishes and French cuisine – from their debut recipes in 1989 right through to current French food trends. The menu now includes classic Paris Snails, Confit de Canard, Poulet Breton and Seabass En Papillote alongside their signature dish steak frites, and decadent desserts with a fabulous French wine list.

On the re-launch, Restaurant Manager Sean Blake said, “It’s been all systems go here, gearing up for the opening. The increased restaurant capacity has meant we have had to recruit for new team members. With a new look restaurant and exciting new additions to our food and drink menu on the horizon, it’s a really exciting time to come on board.”

To celebrate, we’ve got a little Eating Exeter exclusive! Print off this voucher and get 25% off at Cafe Rouge Exeter (valid until 21st March)

Bon Appétit!

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The Eating Exeter Coffee Marathon

In Exeter we do Coffee Shops really well.  Cafes, Coffee Houses, no matter what you call them, are everywhere and although we have a number of the standard bland depressing chain coffee shops, we also have a raft of excellent cafes that do something with coffee that you’re unlikely to find in Costalot or Starbucks.

To celebrate this fact, I came up with The Eating Exeter Coffee Marathon, a quest to find the best cup of coffee in Exeter.  This would be an unscientific exploration of coffee shops and an experience that would help to personify why people go to coffee shops in the first place, because after all it isn’t just the coffee.

The marathon was less of an endurance race, but moreso a gentle tour of the places that Exonians like to go to have coffee.  There are a raft of wonderful independent cafes and a hoarde of chains that are still quite popular  and in the great coffee marathon we can’t ignore them completely. So last week on one of my sacred days off, we held our first marathon.

There has been some sort of place serving coffee in Exeter since at least the 18th century. Mol’s Coffee House is often stated as one of these early places, although it didn’t actually last that long (it stopped functioning as a Coffee House in 1837) the name stuck.
Dellers Cafe in the High St., The Clock Tower Cafe, El Zamba in Fore St. are all cafes that have existed but still remain fondly in the memories of older Exonians.  But times and tastes change and the café scene in Exeter has changed beyond recognition over the last twenty years.  Luckily I had my copy of the South West Independent Coffee Guide produced by Salt Media which includes at least five Exeter based coffee shops worth visiting and we managed to visit two of them.  Tori was joining me on this caffinated quest, sketchbook in bag, ready to draw something in each place we visited.

1. Pret A Manger

I’ve done quite well ignoring this place.  London is littered with these little shops, all of them small clones of each other serving the same sort of coffee.  And they are always frantic.  The Exeter branch is no different, a busy bustling hell-a-bub of bodies, babies, buggies and lunchtime shoppers, shoving and moving.  Eating, drinking, chatting, and so much noise.

But there are big windows, perfect for people watching, and lots of natural light.  The coffee was inexpensive compared to Costalot, an Americano and a Cortada was under £5 for both of us.

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Pret Manger interior

The coffee wasn’t undrinkable.  Tori quite enjoyed the experience, and the surroundings were certainly an improvement over the majority of London branches, but the feeling that this was just another chain doing the same thing as the rest of them was hard to shift.  But wait…am I right in thinking Pret give away unsold food at the end of the day to homeless? Compared to Costa who chuck it in a bag and weigh it? Yup.  According to an ex-Costa employee that we spoke to later that afternoon, this is something that actually happens. This just gave Pret some browny points.

Our coffee marathon was intersected with a trip to the wonderful Circa 1924 to sample their lovely Pop-up lunch menu. Which you read by clicking the link.

After a lovely stuffed feeling, we walked off our food with a quick visit to a couple of shops. But after a small mooch, we got back on the caffiene trail and headed over the Chadnos Deli.

2. Chandos Deli

– Apologies to Chandos Deli, my auto-correct decided to rename it Chadnos! Now edited!

I have to admit, I have never stepped foot through the doors of this cool little Deli-Cafe. The little brother of the other four based in Bristol, Chandos is hidden behind the retail megaliths that make up Princesshay.  Such a shame, as this is the only real Deli in this part of Exeter.

The coffee is from Brian Wogan, the only other place in Exeter that serves this brand is Dart’s Farm.  I went for a flat white, it was full of flavour and quite bitter.

There was a good range of items available to purchase in the shop, the sandwiches and baguettes are renowned for being well made and very full.  A good lunchtime spot for more people watching with more big windows and the perfect viewpoint.

3. Devon Coffee – www.devoncoffee.co.uk

At this point I was giggling like a mad thing and saying ‘bibble’ a lot.  So we decided that given my highly caffinated ramblings and the fact we were running out of time, that the marathon would stop at Devon Coffee.

Devon Coffee has recently given birth to Exe Coffee Roasters.  They have opened a new premises opposite The Pyramids swimming baths, and I am sure that I’ll be paying them a visit in the future.  But for the moment, this is the original Devon Coffee.

Its a cosy affair with a wall covered in the original wooden cladding that was exposed during the refurbishment of the shop.  Posters that had not been seen for generations are now back on display, albeit a little battered, but nonetheless impressive.  And, like this fantastic wall, the coffee is quite lovely.  Their roast changes regularly, and along with the coffee they also sell Luscombe drinks, cakes and other assorted bits to eat. I like cake.

We had a good natter with the barista who let us take some photos.

We got home, I buzzed my way through the evening but still managed to sleep through the night.  But the next day I had a caffiene hangover, not even a fried breakfast could cure.

Will I do another marathon? Possibly.  I wanted to visit The Exploding Bakery and Artigianos (I am a bit of a regular there) as they are listed in my copy of the South West’s best coffee guide.

For coffee lovers, you really need to get yourself a copy of the South West Independent Coffee Guide.  They are on number two now, which just shows that it is going from strength to strength and is a definite read for those who take their coffee seriously.

The best cup of coffee in Exeter is quite a title, I think Devon Coffee was my winner this afternoon, but who will score on the next Eating Exeter Coffee Marathon?

Zizzi’s Restaurant, Gandy Street by Lauren Heath

Zizzi’s Restaurant, 21 GANDY STREET, EX4 3LS   Tel: 01392 274737

Over Christmas time, we visited Zizzi in Bristol whilst away on a family mini break. For a chain, we were suitably impressed by the food considering its mass appeal. We also found it spacious and well decorated with a cool vibe.

We decided to give the Exeter one a go for our date night this month and although a chain is definitely not our first choice, we had some vouchers to use up so thought it a good enough reason to give Zizzi another go. From a blogging point of view, we were very interested in what appeals to the masses, and that is consistency. So would this be the same, and as good, as Bristol?

I work opposite Zizzi and always admire its spacious appearance, especially with the light and airy conservatory at the rear so was quite looking forward to it.

On arrival at 7:15pm, we were very promptly greeted by a smiley member of staff. The place was already fairly full and as we were led to our table to the right, a little way near the back of the restaurant, I noted how little space there was between the tables and the fact I had to go around a fake tree (!). Thankfully, our table was in a spacious corner.

We had a browse of the menu online earlier in the day as due to my love of all food, I tend to procrastinate when choosing as I could quite happily eat a bit of everything. Steve would have normally gone for the squid, which was really good at Bristol, but I nudged him to go for something we wouldn’t normally make at home so he chose the Fonduta Formaggi, a melting pot of gorgonzola, gruyère and pecorino cheese with ‘little soul’ bread for dipping priced at £5.95.

TFonduta Formaggihe soul breads were little baked nuggets of light and fluffy bread with a crisp outer shell, served well seasoned and super-hot, he had to withhold immediate dunking even with his asbestos hands.

The bread was a perfect portion to match the quantity of cheese. The fondue itself almost spot on; a good balance of flavours, great temperature without burning your mouth but would have liked the addition of a stringy cheese for some fondue fun. The pecorina really shone through at the height of the flavour, with a non-sickly sweetness – it was delicious.

They had a Mushroom Brindisi on the specials for £5.95 and so I went for this as I adore mushrooms. The description stated creamy mushrooms and smoked mozzarella oven baked on their dough, then finished with chopped parsley, grated riserva, crispy sage & smoked garlic oil. When it arrived, my heart sank a little.

It was an average portion size for a starter, but it was a bit sparse on the quantity of sauce and physical mushrooms. The base of the bread was a little too crispy which made it difficult to cut without flinging a piece from my table to the next. It was nice; not a great word when it comes to food. I couldn’t taste any garlic oil and I can’t recall anything cheesy apart from the mozzarella and I had to season it as well. Due to lack of sauce, I had some crusty bits left naked, and gladly leant across the table to steal some of Steve’s fondue! A dish that needs improvement I’d say.

The restaurant was definitely getting busier at this point. Chains have their place; they tend to please all tastes and budgets. There was an eclectic mix of people – various ages, couples, groups, all out for an easy meal, comfortable social situation and dinner without having to cook it. The kitchens are ‘open’ so you can see the chef’s cooking and you could see across the whole restaurant and feel the buzz of the evening.

We had a few minutes break after our starters, before the waitress turned up with our mains having not cleared our starter plates. Our impression is the kitchen had cooked it without her signal, perhaps in haste to cope with the ever filling restaurant but she coped with the situation with ease.

Carnosa Pizza Rustica

Steve had ordered the Rustica Pizza Carnoso, a white base of Fior di Latte and smoked mozzarella, truffle-infused salami, crispy wild boar prosciutto, mushrooms, Grana Padano, crispy sage leaves & smoked garlic oil. This is where Zizzi’s has found a small place in his heart – a pizza chain that does a pizza without a tomato base. A good size, very attractively decorated and a truffle triumph that any truffle sniffing pig would seek out from a mile away. This does was it says on the tin! The truffle in the salami is very evident and sings in your mouth but does not overpower the dish. The meats complement each other well and the crispy sage cuts through the overall richness. An indulgent pizza fairly priced at £13.25.

Steve also opted for the side of Tuscan potatoes, they were well roasted, but that’s as far as it goes. Not particularly well flavoured and at £3.50 for 6 new potatoes cut in half, was a bit overpriced. They also arrived after we questioned their whereabouts.

My choice of Calzone Pollo Spinaci was also delicious, although the dough was not as well cooked on the top as I would have liked. Well filled with roast chicken, speck, spinach, mushrooms and thyme in a creamy mozzarella and béchamel sauce it is also topped with crispy coppa ham which just adds a bit of extra smoke and crunch to a very saucy affair. It seemed smaller than I recall from Bristol but the flavour was exactly the same and I enjoyed it just as much second time round – there you go, consistency has been found. It came with a nice little dipping pot of tomato passata-come-salsa which was great for dipping the calzone edges in. A filling main at £11.95.

Sticky Salted Caramel Pudding

We could just about fit a pudding in, deciding to share one and went for the Sticky Salted Caramel Pudding, described as warm and gooey served with crushed honeycomb, salted caramel and lavender sauce and a white chocolate and caramel pecan swirl gelato. The caramel sauce was cold and we weren’t sure if this was an error or deliberate, but it was silky smooth in texture. We believe it should have been warm in order to pour over the pudding but that’s just our take on it. The pudding was hot, light and tasty and the ice cream and sauce delicious, however we were questioning what the original description was as we both noted there was no taste of lavender and the ice cream seemed to be missing any swirls or other flavours.

An hour and 15 minutes had gone by and we had come to the end of our visit at Zizzi’s. I must say the waitress was very good and she smiled genuinely throughout. It was a short affair but that suited us in that it had left plenty of evening left to go and indulge in some drinks elsewhere…so off we went down the cobbles of Gandy Street back into the heart of the city, content overall, knowing where it wasn’t perfect they would gain consistency through doing it all over again the next day and the day after that for others to enjoy.

Circa 1924 presents Skandel@Circa1924

6 Northernhay Place, Exeter, EX4 3QJ  Tel: 01392 438545  Twitter: @circa1924

The end of the week is here, another rare day off for me on a day that is not a weekend! So what a better way to spend it by visiting Circa 1924 and indulging in a Coffee Marathon! That is for a later post, but we broke up our caffeine binge with a lunchtime treat.  We had been invited along to sample a culinary innovation that I would love to see take off for the team in the Northernhay Place based restaurant.

One of the best things about Exeter being that there is always something innovating going on within restaurants and cafes that grace our city.  Circa 1924 is hosting a Scandinavian Pop-up lunch menu called Skandel@Circa1924, envisioned and developed by Circa’s own Scandi chef Lauri Hilli.  The price is cheap, but the meal itself is not reflected in the price, a top-notch slice of fine dining from one of Exeter’s best independent restaurants.

The menu is a simple but attractive affair with Swedish named dishes and a concise description of the dish itself; its OK, put away those Swedish-English dictionaries! Based downstairs in the Bootleg bar area, diners get to properly see the wood paneling and the speakeasy inspired design that gives this restaurant the aesthetic edge

One of my dining rules is to always go for the fish.  This is often a good indicator of the skill of the chef, as fish can be tricky to get right.  We don’t tend to eat a lot of fish at home, so it is a special occasion to have a fish based meal when the opportunity arises.

For our drinks we chose a delicious Cloudy Lemonade non-alcoholic cocktail made with lemon cordial, an almond based syrup called Orgeat, dill and crushed Ice.  It had a strong flavour, but the combination of almonds and lemon was a surprising success at our table and, as our waiter Zac pointed out, it worked really well with the flavors of the lunch menu too.


As I am reviewing a fixed price meal, I am not putting down prices.  Two courses costs £10.95 per head which I feel is fantastic value.  For starters I went for Gravad Lax which is Smoked Salmon, Swedish Potato Salad and Pickles.  Tori went for the Jagar Toast which consists of creamed mushrooms & Vasterbotten cheese on toasted sourdough.

Given I have not traveled extensively throughout the Scandinavian regions, this is the first time I’ve really come face to face with Nordic dining.  I’m always up for new things, and if this is anything to go by then I am officially a fan.

The smoked salmon was delicately smoked, not overbearing in flavour so much it out-weighed everything else.  The potato salad and the pickles were delicate, so it balanced out well with the salmon.  Tori made approving noises from her side of the table, she was happy that there were lots of pea-shoots as she is a bit of a fan.  She liked the sourdough bread and the creamy mushroom was a hit too.

Our main course was a tough choice, but given I am one for stereotypes and a Scandi menu wouldn’t be authentic if there were not meatballs on there somewhere, I had to go for the Kottbullar – Devon Venison meatballs served with Lingonberries, New potatoes served in a cream sauce.  Tori went for the Kyckling & Rotmos – Chicken Schnitzel with a dill & lemon butter and a root veg mash.

My Venison meatballs had a wonderful meaty aroma on first biting in to them, and a lean density that you could tell was a quality Devon meat.  Ultimately all meat in Devon is superior, and that is a fact.  And yes, I am bias.

The cream sauce with the new potato combined beautifully to create a homely comforting feeling that you might get with that combination of flavour.  But then add a Lingonberry in there too and it takes it to another level.  They are sweet, gently tart little berries that are not as harsh as cranberries but not as fruity as pomegranate, a really superior-berry-sharpness middle ground.

Tori’s chicken was moist, again adorned with pea-shoots and combined with the butter and the lemon, made for a very happy Tori.

So we reached that stage of meal called The Pleasantly Stuffed Phase.  I am generally only a two-course kind of person, but our waiter Zac managed to sell the Ligonberry Ice Cream to us.  We decided to share it, as ultimately it would be nice to have a sweet thing, but not a whole one.

The sweet rye bread crumb provided a satisfying crunch and the caramel constrasted with the delicate tartness of the ice cream.  It was very rich,  so we were both glad we only went for one dessert between us.  Zac said that we needed this dessert in our lives, and I am glad it is now added to the list of things I have tasted and will have again.  Thank you Zac.

It was a nice surprise to bump in to one of my blogger mates, Tara from Tara’s Busy Kitchen who was also having lunch and doing a write-up.  We shared notes, I recommended the Cloudy Lemon and had a brief natter before we left.  Being a food blogger in a smaller city like Exeter means you can sometimes be a little isolated from other bloggers.  It makes me realise that we need some sort of Food Blogger/Foody Social thing, so watch this space as I might be organizing something in the not too distant future.  I digress.

Skandel@Circa1924 is a fantastic concept from an innovative restaurant, driven by clean food and fresh ingredients.  There is simply nothing else like it in Exeter at the moment, and I would strongly urge all foodies to take up the opportunity to visit.  Lunch is served between 12 – 14:30 on Mondays to Saturdays.

 

Breakfast at Harry’s Restaurant

86 Longbrook St, Exeter EX4 6AP  Tel: 01392 202234  Twitter:@HarrysExeter

I don’t get out much.  For someone that writes a food blog, you’d think that I spend my days frequenting fine restaurants and hob-nobbing with the fooderati of Devon, but unfortunately I pay my bills, not via writing, but through a standard job that pays wages. It has nothing to do with food and given I dwell under the umbrella of education means that days off where I can go and have a breakfast or a lunch is a complete treat.  With a couple of days off for half term, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to sample the newest breakfast offering in Exeter from one of cities most established restaurants.

You might remember that I absolutely loved my visit to Harry’s Restaurant last year  and that I also counted in one of my Top Three Dining moments from 2015.  So I was thrilled to be invited along to have a look-see at their brand new breakfast menu.

The menu is a classic affair produced using the same excellent ethos that makes this restaurant one of my favourites.  Fancy something small? Bacon Roll.  Fancy something light? Avacodo Smash.  Fancy something epic to keep you going for the rest of the day? The Works (£9.50).  And being the greedy sod that I am, it was an inevitable choice.

Meat is sourced from Heal Farm at South Molton.  The sausage was a wondrous cylinder of meat that kept its shape, it really stood out for me as a highlight; along with the thick cut bacon too.  The beans are neatly kept in a ramekin, not spoiling the rest of the food which baked beans have a tendency of doing.  I like baked beans, but often the tomato sauce spills everywhere and overpowers anything that it comes in to contact with.  Baked beans need control and discipline, and Harry’s have control of their baked beans.

There is flexibility.  If you don’t like something you can order it without, swap it and exchange it.  And you get a choice about how you have your eggs too.  Tori doesn’t like Black Pudding, I’m always game for something different so she was able to hold back the Black Pudding and have her eggs flipped.  The eggs came exactly how we asked for them, everything was cooked wonderfully. Faultless.

The fact that Harry’s Restaurant has started doing breakfasts doesn’t take away from the core of the business, that being producing amazing food to a carefully composed menu. They are unpretentious, friendly, flexible and I will definitely be back soon to have more.

The Pig & Pallet, Topsham Quay by Lauren Heath

7 Strand, Topsham, Exeter EX3 0JB   Tel: 07920 527691  Twitter: @pigandpallet

EE RecommendsEarlier this year, we found ourselves child-free (don’t worry we hadn’t lost him – it was the blessing of holiday club) and decided to treat ourselves to a bit of brunch. Although we have a fairly well behaved and seasoned foodie version of a 5 year old son, eating sans enfant just adds a bit more freedom to the event.

When in this situation, it can be almost possible to choose where to go in order to make this chance of relaxation worthwhile. We settled on The Pig and Pallet in Topsham; we have been aware of Good Game and their charcuterie for a couple of years now, seeing them at the various festivals we attended

in Devon as well as enjoying their Beer and Bacon Festival in Topsham last September. The guys are always very friendly and warm and evidently appreciative of their customers and more importantly – the taste and quality of their produce is fantastic.

It was a soggy morning, so we were delighted, on entry, to find ourselves almost in another world. It was a wooden shack, like something we had been to in St Petersburg, Florida – a place where the food does the talking. All they are missing is the view to the water. We settled down to a large table near the back; I like to be able to see everything and people watch.

On browsing the menu, we decided on the Full Devon Fry Up. It is one of the higher priced items on the menu but consisted of house sausage, dry cured bacon, 2 Devon free range eggs, BBQ beans (which contain meat), black pudding, sweet potato, fried potato tots and toast. There was a good selection of other meaty options but for the vegetarians among you it also includes a tasty sounding Herbivore bap (smoked halloumi, portobello mushroom, and tomato with cheese).

The Pig and Pallet has a real rustic charm to it; seats made out of recycled pallets, cushions made of coffee bean sacks and sailcloth from a neighbouring company, books on the shelves, lightshades made out of veg crates and glass jars –simple and non-fussy yet cool and calm. There were some smaller tables but plenty of large bench tables, perfect for group or family gatherings.

Our breakfast arrived in good time and looked well stacked. What I would say is a bigger plate would have been good, and this is not a negative, but the food had been layered and looked smaller than I anticipated but was actually hiding a lot of loveliness underneath! Perhaps that is part of the plan, the element of surprise.

The eggs were perfect with wonderful sunshine yellow yolks, very tasty petite sausages, some incredibly tasty bacon with even tastier and crispier pieces on top which just made you close your eyes and think of bacon heaven. The beans were an absolute triumph – a variety of beans coated in a southern type smokey BBQ sauce with even more meat in them in case you didn’t have enough on your plate and the sweet potato was a clever addition to this very savoury dish. Another delightful addition was the crispy potato tot.

All in all, we loved it! Knowing this produce hadn’t come far, and we were supporting a local company and enjoying something totally different just adds to the satisfaction and it was money well spent.

I have recently seen posters by P&P explaining their price structure to justify to some customers why they charge what they do. If you want real food, produced locally, with care and without preservative junk that you get elsewhere, this is the place for you. As their posters says, “why ask what’s in a £10 burger…you should be asking what is in a burger that costs 99p?”

They also sell some of their produce near the entrance if you wish to take something home with you.

Strangely, I also recommend using the facilities (translation: toilets) – I recall chuckling whilst in there, perhaps it was the sink made out of a metal bucket – I can’t quite recall. We shall definitely be back again…perhaps even let the boy in our on little secret.

Thanks to Guest Blogger Lauren Heath for this great post! Follow Lauren on LinkedIn and Twitter

Chiquito Restaurant, Marsh Barton Road

Last year I got very excited that Exeter was to receive two new restaurants on Alphington Road.  The long derelict site that had once been MST (the tractor dealers) had been home to advertising hoardings and some sort of car washing operation in recent years. It wasn’t a great advertisement for Exeter.  The bulldozers moved in a couple of years ago and in less than six months, up popped two chain restaurants.  I am sure they just added water…

Chiquito and Franky & Benny’s overlooks a non-descript junction somewhere on Alphington Road, opposite a retail complex, next door to a Vauxhall dealership.  This piece of prime location has had four (maybe five) properties squeezed on to a small piece of land with a rather small car park between them.  There are no trees, there is little else but the bright neon glow of their signs beaming out across the night sky.

We were eating with some good friends of ours, one of them had been before.  The scene was set, the table booked, it was going to be a great evening.  And it was, just a shame about the portions and the price.

The outside of the restaurant is a beige box-like affair. But step inside and it becomes very different.  Dark browns, reds, a cocktail bar with illuminated yellow glass, an open kitchen and booths. Although there is a proliferation of booths, there is a very open plan feel to the restaurant which made the inside feel bigger than it was.  If Mexican telly produced their own version of Doctor Who, I am sure their Tardis would look very similar to this restaurant.

I’ve found on previous visits to these sorts of restaurants that the service, although polite and friendly, can be pretty pushy at getting a decision out of you.  We sat down, we talked for 40 odd seconds and the service came back to ask if we had decided what we wanted to drink. Of course we hadn’t but she said she’d come back.  This continued twice more, we suggested that she give us more than one drinks menu which might speed up the process.

The cocktails had good reports from the ladies, I went for a Brahma and my other companion was on the Magner’s Cider.  Prices were at the steeper end of the chain-drink-markup scale.

The menu is presented as a small book, and its pretty good.  There is a considered balance between the ‘traditional’ Mexican and the more generic types of food that Brits love like Burgers and stuff involving chicken in various forms.

The prices throughout the menu were on the upper-end of what I would be happy paying at a chain.  But then who knows how much the land rent is, given the position and potential for massive footfall in a spot like this.

The menu included curiosities such as ‘Street Food’ and they even had a Burger called the Hero Burger that I nearly went for.  But I settled on a BBQ Texan Chicken Melt (Grilled marinated chicken breast with chorizo & sweetcorn, covered with melted cheese. Served with skin-on-fries, corn on the cob, onion rings, homemade slaw and BBQ sauce) for £14.95 and Tori had a go at the Street Food, Three for £12.95 offer.

It was a Friday night, so the restaurant was busy.  There was a children’s party next door to us (they were all very well behaved so this wasn’t even an issue) and lots of families.  This sort of restaurant has a varied clientele; couples and family groups were all enjoying the experience and given the speed that the food came out, it didn’t feel like we had really been waiting that long.

The food arrived and my heart sank a little.  I had 27 skin-on fries, and what seemed to be a square of chicken which was about the size of two Findus Crispy Pancakes put together on the long-edge side.  And yes, before you ask, Crispy Pancakes can be used as a legitimate unit of measurement for measuring area on a plate.
Tori’s Street Food came out, three tiny bowls with a small portion of food on each.  These were less than two Crispy Pancakes each, and given the concept of Street Food I have been introduced to by the likes of Eat The Smoke, La Catina etc. that make Chiquito portions look a bit stingy to say the least.

But the taste was good.  It was a well cooked bit of chicken that was moist, it was seasoned really nicely and the accompaniments worked together.  The onion rings were perfect cylinders, and what there was of the coleslaw was really well made.  From around the table, the Street Food tasted good, everything was cooked well and there was nothing that we wouldn’t have had again.

The dessert menu was a big temptation after the portion sizes of the mains (psychological trick methinks?) So Tori and I shared a ‘Mexican Mess’ (Churros, chocolate brownie, chocolate sauce, strawberry pieces, raspberry ripple ice cream and strawberry yoghurt topped with cream, served in our cinnamon tortilla basket) £5.95 mostly because of the brownie element of it.

It came out and the fig-leaf had clearly failed on this one.  If you don’t quite get it, look closely and tell me what you see?  It provided much amusement to our dirty minds.

The dessert surpassed my expectation in terms of size, but then we discovered the brownie element was quite literally a spoonful (as shown), which I believe in Crispy Pancake measurement is about 0.25 Crispy Pancakes.  There was one Churro, that being the phallic thing sticking out of it, and it was 80% aerosol cream.

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I can’t say that our time at Chiquito was terrible because it wasn’t.  The company was fantastic, the service was functional and quick.  There was a wait for desserts but the service came and told us exactly why there was a wait, the atmosphere was vibrant and busy, it was a nice place and if you’re not fussed about money then I would recommend it.

But if you are like me and getting value for money is at the heart of your ethos when eating out, then this isn’t the place for you.  If you’re on a tight budget, then this isn’t the place for you.  If you’re hungry and need a large portion to fill you up, then depending on what you have (I haven’t had the whole menu so it might be that I was just unlucky), then I wouldn’t recommend it.

But if you really really want good Mexican, catch Gus at Taco Macho in Fore St.when he’s open and get cheap wholesome Mexican food made by a real Mexican.

Exeter University group treat commuters to an ABBA-tastic performance

An acapella group from the University of Exeter will be popping up on selected commuter trains on their way into Exeter on 9th, 10th and 16th February. The impromptu performance will be helping to shine the light on an exciting new Scandi pop-up restaurant launching in the city this month. A group of 14 singers from the popular group Semi-Toned will be performing their unique rendition of an Abba medley to herald the arrival of new Scandi pop-up restaurant, Skandel@Circa – featuring an Express Menu fresh from the hot new Scandinavian food brand straight out of London’s über-fashionable King’s Road.

There won’t be any London prices, though, as you will be able to enjoy a delicious two-course lunch for just £10.95.

The performance will be a real treat for commuters, as Semi-Toned will be fresh from winning the Exete Quarter Finals of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella 2016, an international competition that attracts hundreds of college a cappella groups each year. Next up for this talented group is a US tour, where thanks to TV shows such as Glee, a capella is more popular than ever.

Circa 1924 Co-owner Rob Weeks, says: “Thanks to our Swedish Chef, Lauri Hilli, we wanted to introduce something innovative and fresh and so thought it deserved a launch with a difference. We hope commuters will get involved and share the performances on social media using #CircaSkandel and including @Circa1924 and @SemiToned to help us create a bit of a buzz.”

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A Belated Happy Birthday to Ruby Burgers!

I am rubbish with birthdays, and you might have noticed if you’re a fan of Ruby Modern Diner that they have just celebrated their third birthday.  Eating Exeter has been there from the start, we attended their press night, and have done numerous enjoyable reviews for this fantastic restaurant.  They’ve won countless awards, all deserved!

Ruby Modern Diner opened on January 28th 2013 and was one of the first restaurants to bring the trend of American street food to Exeter, Ruby serves American classics made with local ingredients like 7oz real hamburgers, pulled meats, chocolate brownies and thick malt milkshakes.
Erin Harrison, Co-owner, comments,
“Our customers love the value, quality and provenance of our ingredients. Almost all of our produce is sourced from Devon, including our beef and free range chicken from MC Kelly, brioche buns from Emma’s Bread, fruit and veg from Dart Fresh and ice cream from Otter Valley.

Since 2013 Ruby has won several prestigious awards, including three Taste of the West Gold awards (the only restaurant in Exeter to have done this three years in a row) and Taste of Devon’s Best Takeaway 2013.
Erin adds,
“Despite increasing competition it’s great to see that people in Exeter still prefer to support local independents offering a local and transparent supply chain. Sourcing locally not only enables us to offer unrivalled quality but also great value.

#popup Kitchens at The Oddfellows, Exeter

Fancy doing something tonight?  The Oddfellows is providing some excellent choices in both of their pubs in Exeter & Exmouth (see my previous post about their Exmouth comedy night tonight).

There has been a bit of a theme over the last week on Eating Exeter, and following through with the Pop-up theme is The Oddfellow’s #popup Kitchen evenings that happen most Sunday evenings.

For me The Oddfellows in New North Road is one of the shining beacons in Exeter’s foody scene.  Founded and run by Yvan and Faye Williams, they have recently opened a second pub in Exmouth on the storming success of the original one in New North Road; they are a progressive pub that is not afraid to try new ideas and go beyond the Gastropub label.


One of the early reviews for Eating Exeter was our visit to their @meateasynight which happened on Thursday nights.  It was an excellent burger, and just went to show the dedication to good food that this pub has.  And this really shows in the selection of Pop-up kitchens that have been invited to take over The Oddfellows.

Each Sunday, a different Pop-up Kitchen serves up something exciting and fresh.

1st Sunday – Taco Macho
Taco MachoThe crazy-yet-talented Gus from Taco Macho and his beautiful Burritos take over the kitchen with the flamboyance and skill that has made Taco Macho one of the most talked about food places in Exeter.  Normally based from a small premises in Fore Street, Gus brings his genuine Mexican zazz to The Oddfellows kitchens.

2nd Sunday – Eat The Smoke @EatTheSmokeBBQ
Christian & Pete from Eat The Smoke bring a bit of the Deep South to Devon via their BBQ Pit Sauces and Rubs.  Using genuine American liquid smoke and locally sourced herbs & spices, it comes straight from Exmouth in a range of crafted products that is available for purchase online and through their street food stalls, Eat The Smoke really comes in to its own within a proper restaurant.

The guys from Eat The Smoke have been working hard to get their products to the foodies of Devon and beyond, they have a few new ranges out which I am hoping to get my hands on soon for a product review.

3rd Sunday – Rob Dawe: The Pop-up Chef – Twitter @RobertdaweRob
Last year I wrote this… “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.”  Over the last year Rob has been putting on Pop-up events on some of the best restaurants in Exeter, and now he is making an appearance at The Oddfellows.

Rob’s classic style and attention to detail made our visit to The Heart of Oak in Pinhoe a one of my food moments of 2015.

4th Sunday – Irregular with a possible appearances from Pickle Shack 


Its a bit of a gamble on the 4th Sunday.  But it might be visited by The Pickle Shack?  We visited The Pickle Shack last year when they held a Tapas Evening at McCoy’s Arcade. Fronted by talented chef Josh Mcdonald-Johnson, this award winning Pop-up Grub Club could make an appearance soon!

Dates are subject to change, the best thing to do is to keep an eye on The Oddfellows social media for the latest goings on.

Oddfellows Exeter on Twitter – Oddfellows Exeter on Facebook
Oddfellows Exmouth on Twitter – Oddfellows Exmouth on Facebook

 

 

Fancy writing for Eating Exeter? Looking for guest bloggers!

Eating Exeter has evolved over the years.  Its not just restaurant reviews, I also write about dining events, launch parties and anything to do with ‘local food’ in Exeter & Devon. I was lucky enough to be a grand finalist at the Food Magazine Reader Awards this year which was a massive honour, one of the elements that has made Eating Exeter the awesome blog (gets out personal trumpet and blows it a bit) is that I love to accept guest posts from novice and experienced bloggers.

Most recently Ditch Townsend of www.devoncreamteas.info  wrote some cream tea reviews for Eating Exeter, which were well accepted and a perfect example of the power of collaboration.  It’s really great to be able to get other writers perspectives, especially when you’re writing a blog which can, by definition, get very insular sometimes.

Payment is moreso in smugness and experience, but we are currently on course to broach the 4000 subscribers mark (through email subscriptions and social media) so Eating Exeter works as an excellent platform for those looking for a bit of exposure.

If you’re interested in writing a guest post, be it a review or covering a dining event in Exeter or Devon, please use the contact page and drop me a line. eatingexeter@gmail.com 

Comedy at The Oddfellows, Exmouth

If you fancy a laugh, and some great Eat The Smoke BBQ Street Food, then head down to The Oddfellows in Exmouth tomorrow night, where Yvan has organised a Comedy Night!

Tickets are £5 per person, doors open at 7:00pm and the night kicks off at 8:30pm.  Available will be, not only the great food & drink that The Oddfellow’s serve, but also Eat The Smoke BBQ pit street food, 1 ltr Kilner Cocktail jars but selected bottled beers and ales and wine will be available at great prices.

This is the full line up confirmed for Sunday 7th Feb!

Compere – Aideen McQueen
Opening Act – Johnny Kats
Middle Acts – Aaron Levene & Matt Hobs
Closing Act – Simon King http://www.thisissimonking.com/on-paper

Available:
“Eat the Smoke” Pitt BBQ street food – £6
Kilner Cocktail – 1 litre liner jars of cocktails £12
Selected bottle beers – £2.50
Wine – £10 a bottle
Ales – £3 pint

SCANDI POP-UP LAUNCHES IN CIRCA 1924 FOR LUNCH

Launched in June 2015 by two local guys, Rob Weeks and James Waddington, Circa 1924 has quickly made a name for itself as one of the coolest places to dine out in Exeter. Due to popular demand, the funky 1920s-inspired seafood & steak house will be opening its doors for lunch as of 2nd February, with an on-trend new pop-up restaurant. ‘Skandel’, London’s hottest new Scandinavian food brand first launched on London’s über-fashionable King’s Road, is looking to take the pulse on South Devon’s taste for Nordic cuisine.

Set in Circa’s bootleg bar, skandel@Circa1924 is aimed at all comers and will offer an affordable express lunch menu priced at £10.95 for two courses.

James Hagen and Lauri Hilli (skandel group) say: “Skandel will be showcasing red hot seasonal Nordic cuisine. With access to fantastic local produce, rather similar to what we have available in Scandinavia, we will not compromise on our commitment of delivering clean, natural dining that is full on taste, featuring flavours from the crystal fjords and misty mountains of our home.”

Rob Weeks, Co-founder of Circa 1924 comments: “We have been overwhelmed by people asking for us to open at lunch times, and we are always looking for unique and interesting ways to expand our offering. We were really excited when Lauri, our head chef and director, told us about skandel’s desire to test the water in the South West, because it allows us to provide customers with a menu perfectly designed for a quick bite for lunch. If customers love the concept as much as we do, we are looking forward to skandel@Circa1924 being at the heart of Exeter’s lunch offering for a long time to come.

Starting from Tuesday, 2nd February, skandel@Circa1924’s express lunch will be served from 12pm to 14.30pm, Tuesday to Saturday, and at cost of £10.95 for two courses, represents amazing value for money. Circa is looking forward to welcoming all types of diners for lunch, the only requirement is a love of clean, locally sourced food.

New Pop-up Event! Introducing Pop-up Polsloe

POPUP POLSLOEExeter beams with a foody vibe these days, and with the growing trend for Pop-up dining events, it is thrilling to introduce a new Pop-up dining event on to the scene. Presenting Pop-up Polsloe!

“Pop-up Polsloe offers a unique alternative to restaurant dining but with flavours we hope can compete some of the best in the area. We will be “popping up” in various unusual venues in Exeter (the first is Chef Pegler’s dining room for example) – these will be confirmed as and when you book your spot via our facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

At each event, guests will be treated to a lovingly designed menu, courtesy of the pretty amazing chef Pegler (more about him later). If you’re lucky, there might even be a complimentary cocktail thrown in! Fear not, you are also welcome (in fact encouraged) to bring your own bottles or even barrels! At the end of the evening, we will provide you with an envelope in which we kindly ask that you leave a contribution – the amount you truly believe your experience was worth.

A bit more about us!

Your chef is the award winning (so he tells me) Nick Pegler. Having worked in a load of fancy restaurants this guy really knows what he is doing! I might be a little bias, but he’s really not half bad! And I, Issey, am the brains behind this whole operation and will be looking after you!

For more details about our first event, including the menu please have a look at our facebook page and don’t hesitate to get in touch!”

Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Saturday 6th February’s event is all booked up, but the next one after this will be on Sunday 28th Feb.  Keep an eye on their social media for more info.

Exeter Cookery School seals deal to fit out Quayside venue with designer kitchen

Exeter Cookery School, due to open in a converted 1930s warehouse on the city’s historic Quayside, has announced a key collaboration with luxury kitchen and bathroom showroom Sapphire Spaces to install a beautifully hand-crafted Bulthaup kitchen, installed with the finest Gaggenau appliances. Following extensive research of the best kitchens available, the exciting new culinary venture’s founders, Jim and Lucy Fisher, chose this winning combination to offer private and corporate cookery course participants a most luxurious experience.

Synonymous with high end kitchens and bathrooms, Sapphire Spaces was a clear front-runner as the luxury showroom brings to the relationship cutting-edge design and a high-calibre, personalised service. It is also the exclusive South West showroom of Bulthaup, a highly respected name among leading architects and designers. Established in 1949 and inspired by the Bauhaus movement, the Bulthaup brand exudes confidence and success and reflects timeless, effortless style – and in turn will provide an ideal backdrop for Exeter Cookery School’s range of culinary courses. Through Sapphire Spaces Jim and Lucy have also procured an illustrious partnership with Gaggenau, manufacturer of some of the finest, most innovative kitchen appliances in the world.

Jim comments: “We have been in serious talks with a number of brilliant kitchen suppliers and manufactures, but we decided that the collaboration with Sapphire Spaces, Bulthaup and Gaggenau will take Exeter Cookery School to new heights. Since holding our pre-launch event at Sapphire in 2015, we have hosted several pop-up events there and cooking on Gaggenau appliances has been a dream. We wanted to give that same luxury experience to all our cookery course participants.”

Mark Newbery from Sapphire Spaces comments: “We are very excited to be working with Jim and Lucy to create a stand-out kitchen for their new venue. We are passionate about collaborating with businesses that share our core values of exquisite design featuring cutting edge technology. Exeter Cookery School will also act as a showcase of what we can achieve at the heart of the vibrant Quayside.”

Exeter Cookery School is now due to launch in the spring, just after the Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink. The delayed opening date is due to an extended installation schedule and the complex nature of working with transforming a historic Listed building into a state-of-the-art cookery school. However, with the huge level of interest in the new venture, and the growing popularity of this likeable duo, there is already a growing waiting list of people wishing to undertake expert tuition at Exeter Cookery School.

10 Questions for Tara Smith from Tara’s Busy Kitchen

Tara Smith is a busy person.  She writes local food & lifestyle blog Tara’s Busy Kitchen, she teaches ballet, she also works at a big named salon AND she manages to go nice places whilst writing about her adventures and providing some awesome recipes too.  I’ve been a fan of the blog since she started it last year (I think I’ve been reading it since the summer) so I couldn’t resist asking Tara to answer a few questions for a ’10 Questions’ feature.
TARA2And to add to all of this, she is starting ‘Tara’s Busy Kitchen Presents…’ a series of Pop-up events starting with Afternoon Tea.  All cakes are crafted by Tara herself, tea is in unlimited supply using Tara’s very own vintage china collection.  The first Afternoon Tea event was a success and covered by Hazel from Bedboat Magazine on the Bedboat Magazine blog; I was there too read my account of it here.

Tickets are £19.95 each and spaces are very limited.  Nearly a quarter of the tickets have sold for the next event on the 28th February, for more information email Tara at tara@tarasbusykitchen.com

What gave you the inspiration to start Tara’s Busy Kitchen?
My aunt has always been a massive inspiration to me from being a little girl to the here and now. She is a fabulous cook and entertainer and I vowed to be just like her when I grew up! Hopefully I am getting there in some form or another. She was my initial inspiration alongside numerous friends telling me I should share my love of cooking and entertaining with others. So one morning in May last year I wrote and published my first post and the rest is history. Tara’s Busy Kitchen was born.

I’ve followed your blog for a while now, you’re quite a cook! What do you love cooking more than anything else?
I love anything with a Mediterranean twist. Fresh fruit, vegetables and fish get a big thumbs up from me. I like serving my home cooked dishes on big vintage platters in the middle of the table so everybody can dig in.

Tara

Is there any authors or big-name bloggers who inspire your writing?
The first person that springs to mind is Yotam Ottolengi. I love his style of cooking. Lots of salads, vegetable and fish dishes for communal dining.. I find his books very inspiring, particularly Plenty.  I follow numerous foodie bloggers but my favourites at the moment are Deliciously Ella for her easy, healthy recipes and Secret Squirrel for her love and passion for food. That girl can eat!

For most bloggers there is a ‘real-life’, what is your day job?
I have two jobs in and around Tara’s Busy Kitchen. I am a self employed Royal Academy of Dance trained ballet teacher. Alongside this I work part-time on reception at a well known hairdressers. I’m a busy bee!

What is currently your favourite place to eat out in Exeter?
That has to be The Hour Glass. It’s my “go to” place whenever I want fantastic quality in a relaxed informal setting. I have never had a bad meal there. It’s always “top notch” in my book.

I hear you love Vintage china, what’s your favourite item in your collection?
That is a tough one..I have a rather wonderful Royal Vale white and gold tea set that I add to every time I spot a piece on my travels but I would probably choose my big blue and white serving platters. They get used on a daily bases and I love them dearly.

For those who don’t already know, what is ‘Tara’s Busy Kitchen presents’?
Tara’s Busy Kitchen Presents.. Is my take on the popular supper clubs and underground restaurants that are springing up everywhere. I didn’t want to limit myself to just supper so I decided on afternoon tea as a starting point and hope to branch out. Who knows where it might lead.. Tara’s Busy Kitchen Presents..Brunch, Lunch, Cocktails. The list goes on. It’s exciting to think where it might lead in the future.

I bet there’s a heck of a lot of preparation?
There is! The menu is the main thing obviously. I keep changing my mind but know it will all come together on the day!

What have you got in store for diners on the 28th February?
A beautifully styled “pop up” tea room at my house with vintage china, sparkling wine and delicious homemade goodies. You will be greeted with a welcome glass of fizz. A chance to mingle with other guests before finding a seat at one of the vintage themed tables. From this point on indulge yourselves in the edible goodies that come your way. Savoury treats, finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam and a selection of cakes. All of this is washed down with as much tea as you care to drink. I try and use as many local producers as possible when putting my menu together so you can be assured of fabulous quality.

Any plans for the future, where do you want to be with the blog by next year?
I don’t have plans set in stone but I am focusing heavily on making the blog as successful as I possibly can. 2016 is going to an exciting year for me watching the blog grow. Don’t forget my first post was less than a year ago. (May 2015) I love sharing my experiences with my followers and readers and hope that they continue to enjoy what I do. Onwards and upwards as they say!

I would like to do more Tara’s Busy Kitchen Presents .. Too. Perhaps you and your readers can come up with some awesome ideas for future events?

Visit www.tarasbusykitchen.com for more information about the next Tara’s Busy Kitchen Presents event.