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.