10 Questions for Ben Richards: Beer Sommelier

I first met Ben at The Pig & Pallet Beer Versus Wine event that we attended before Christmas last year.  The event was well attended, and it introduced me to the mind bending beer knowledge of Ben Richards; one of the few individuals who can call themselves an accredited Beer Sommelier.

Ben was kind enough to answer a 10 Questions for Eating Exeter on being a beer sommelier and a truly unique beer experience which Ben hosts.

1. How did you start your journey to becoming a Beer Sommelier?
I’ve always made my own beer and explored various styles, but I really got started a few years ago Brichardswhen talking to a friend about beer in general. He was tinkering with the idea of setting up a brewery, and when I explained I wanted to start hosting tasting events that was it – we both agreed to go for it properly. 
To become accredited I then needed to attend various courses and exams whilst documenting the work I do, before passing a final exam involving blind taste tests of beer from around the world, food matching and flavour taints.


  1. What would do you reckon are the important factors to matching beer and food?

Beer is a far more complex drink than many people think, and it offers quite a lot to consider when pairing with food but there are 2 basic factors I use when matching a beer to a dish. The first is to look at how light or heavy the dish is to see whether the beer needs to subtly complement the food or be strong and robust enough to stand up to big flavours. Then it’s a case of identifying the key elements in both the food and the beer, to work out which ones should complement and which should contrast. A good example would be fish and chips with a wheat beer, or a BBQ dish with porter. Both beers are well suited in type and strength of flavour for that dish, but swap them around and you’ll probably loose the light, refreshing elements of the wheat beer in a sea of charred meat, whilst the porter would dominate the fish with it’s roasted malt, chocolate or coffee flavours.

  1. How popular are the services of a beer sommelier, are you kept busy?

Yes – as drinkers become more interested in finding really good quality or adventurous, international beers I get such an array of requests and events now. Traditionally I find myself hosting corporate tastings, stag parties, sessions at beer festivals or food matching events such as Beer v Wine, but over the past year I’m had a lot more launch parties for breweries or bars as the industry grows.

  1. Why do you think Beer is so popular at the moment?

Drinkers are starting to expect the same level of variety and quality from beer as they have from their food for years, and there are now lots of breweries who are focused on making the very best beer they can, drawing their influences from styles and flavours all over the world. There are some amazing stories to tell because beer has always been such a major part of so many cultures, and this is really fuelling drinkers’ desires to explore and try new things.

  1. Do you reckon there is a particularly underrated type of beer that you would recommend to any budding beer nerds?

Rather than a style I’d recommend trying a new way of approaching beer. I’m a big fan of drink less but drink better, which means that I’m really open to trying beers that may cost a little more, or come in at a much higher abv but that offer a really interesting experience. A well made double IPA may cost £3-4 for 330ml, but at 7,8 or 9% it can offer offer a brilliantly balanced mix of intense, fruity hops and rich, sweet, malt flavours.

  1. Is there a particular person or group of people in the Beer World that you respect or hold to high esteem?

About 10 years ago the first beer writer that really captured my imagination was Pete Brown, who manages to combine beer, history, travel and entertainment really well. His early books helped me to realise that there is much, much more to beer than most people think, and was a big factor in my decision to really get into beer and brewing events.

  1. I’m not going to ask what your favourite beer is, but have you ever tasted one that you’ve taken a particular liking to?

I have got a handful of beers that are at the top of my list and it’s not very often that a new entry gets in. That said, I’m a huge fan of the dry, sour beers that belong to the lambic family of beers from Belgium. They’re not easy to find in Devon, but if you ever need a favour from me, asking with a bottle of elderflower Gueuze in your hand is a pretty good start.

  1. So, tell me a little about ‘Build-A-Beer’, it sounds like an amazing. What gave you the idea?

I’ve always loved learning about and brewing beer, and it came out of a desire to share that with groups of people. In short, we spend a long afternoon or evening tasting a really wide range of beers from all over the world, learning about flavours, ingredients, styles and the stories behind them. As we do this, we’re also creating a unique recipe and bottle design just for that group that is taken away afterwards and professionally brewed – everyone attending then gets a case of their beer, bottled and labelled.

It’s probably the event I enjoy hosting the most, as we get to be really adventurous with the tastings and regardless of whether it’s a personal or work group, everyone usually gets really excited about designing their own beer.

  1. Who brews the beer?

That’s my old friend I mentioned earlier, Toby from The Occasional Brewing Company. They specialise in smaller batches of unusual or adventurous beers and are always open to trying something new, so are an ideal partner for Build a Beer. He’s also quite a nice guy.

  1. Do you have any imminent plans for the future? Anything we should look out for?

There will be more Beer v Wine and festival or event talks in the coming months, but the dates aren’t quite finalised yet. As I’m increasingly doing private bookings I’m really looking forward to doing more of the Build a Beer days and I’ll be taking things a further afield from just Devon this year too. On the personal side, I’ve just got in some new brewing equipment so I’ll be tinkering and playing with that over the coming days and weeks as well!



Eating Exeter Update – April

Well April is already here, and so far I’ve been as busy as ever with blog stuff.  Life and health has got in the way slightly more than last year, but the show continues as ever.

April is the highlight of the foodie calendar in Exeter with the fantastic Exeter Food Festival which took place over the weekend.  I wasn’t able to attend the festival, but the latest member of the Eating Exeter tribe, the wonderful Lauren Heath, has done a great write-up.

I want to give Lauren a big public thank you for all she has done so far, and I am officially welcoming as part of the ‘team’.  Its in inverted commas because essentially its just me, and Tori…kind of.  And the guinea pigs.  You’ll see more of Lauren’s foodie adventures appearing on the blog I hope.

So far this April:

Tomorrow I have another 10 Questions post (you’ll see more tomorrow) which I am really excited about.  I really like the 10 Questions format, and I really hope we can get some more 10 Question victims soon (there are a couple more in the pipeline already!)

As ever if there is an event you want to mention or somewhere you think myself or Lauren should review, comment on this post or contact us via social media or email.


Exeter Festival of South West Food and Drink – by Lauren Heath

Wow – what a weekend! I hope everyone who attended the festival had a great time, I certainly did. We are avid food market and festival go-ers in Devon, Cornwall and beyond, and I believe this is the largest and best food festival in the South West. Now in its 13th year, it is still going from strength to strength.

My poor Samsung phone was used and abused with the amount of pictures I took, so this review will be more of a feast for the eyes, in order to capture the spirit and joy of such an event.


I attended the event on Saturday and Sunday; the former on my own so I could whizz round a bit more, catch up with some foodie acquaintances who were exhibiting, and also enjoy the VIP lounge and the latter with my chef husband and my 6yr old son. I enjoyed myself thoroughly both days – this is certainly a festival for anyone – singletons, couples, groups and families. The initial area around the castle contains the ‘take-away’ food tents serving an eclectic mix of meals, along with a newly placed and larger bar area, with the music stage in the usual place.

VIP Lounge

Leading off the castle terrace is the VIP lounge which is a great treat if you purchase the upgraded ticket. It includes VIP access to a room where you can escape the hustle and bustle, enjoy a coffee at any time, 2 drinks from the bar, afternoon tea as well as a relaxing treat from a massage therapist (provided this year by the award winning Wear Park Spa, based at Exeter Golf and Country Club) – all included in the price! I sat down and enjoyed a wonderful hand exfoliation and massage, treating my weary typing hands to stress relief for 15 minutes. I grabbed one of my free refreshments in a take-away cup from the bar, and off I went, feeling refreshed.

I popped into the ballroom, just beside the stage area, to say a quick hello to Susy Atkins who kindly took part in my ’10 Questions’ feature last week (https://eatingexeter.co/2016/04/18/10-questions-with-susy-atkins-by-lauren-heath/) before she proceeded to host and educate enthusiastic tasters to an informative wine tasting session – a new and diverse addition to the schedule this year.

I continued down to Northernhay Gardens and caught a cookery demo in both the Cookery Theatre, hosted by co-founder Michael Caines MBE (pictured below with me) and the Westcountry Bakery hosted by Great British Bake Off contestant and local teacher-turned-cookbook author Glenn Cosby. Plenty of room for people to sit and enjoy the various demo’s from the array of local talent we are lucky to have in the county.

I sat at home that evening feeling very satisfied and on a bit of a high actually from a really delightful couple of hours.

The Sunday was a more thorough adventure, working our way through the Food and Drink Pavilions with over 100 artisan food and drink producers – I made a concious decision to have very little breakfast in order to really savour the delights on offer. Endless treats in offer – beer, wine, gin, cheese, desserts, jerky, cured meats, curry kits, pies, preserves – the list goes on. Well laid out, with enough room between each stand – this event is pushchair and wheelchair friendly thanks to the wide aisles in the tent – although on a very busy day it could prove a slight struggle but by no fault of the organisers, more so the effect of such a good reputation that many flock here in their droves.

We sat in the Food is Fun Teepee on a pretty yet simply decorated bench table to enjoy a demo from Darts Farm’s head chef Paul Matthews who cooked salmon over applewood smoke, the juiciest ever pork belly and then lemon mousse, whilst some matching wines from the renowned Pebblebed were discussed by an expert. Delicious tasters were passed round on wooden platters, along with wine tasters to match. All extremely delightful!

Behind us children were enjoying making their own pizzas, decorating cupcakes and then being entertained with food science by Fun Kitchen. Further along from the Food Pavilions was Little Cookies with Fun Fast Food (healthier alternatives), Food is Fun Kids Cooking and Kenniford Farm with their beautiful farm animals, as well a some face painting and junk modelling – enough to keep the children entertained.

A few craft stalls were place down the Queen Street end of the gardens if you fancied a purchase for your home, yourself or perhaps a gift for someone else. Walking back up the hill, we re-entered the Food Pavilions for round 2 and some final purchases.

All in all, a fantastic event for any food lover, in fact, anyone who wants a good time with food, drink and music a plenty. The After Dark Festival was on again this year, with live music going on until late, for which you could buy tickets separately and just have a good night out even if you didn’t want to attend the main festival in the day.

I can only imagine the amount of work that goes into making this a smoothly running and enjoyable day so a huge thanks and congrats to co-founder Michael Caines MBE and his teams for their vision and hard work. Of course all hail the brave and hardworking local suppliers too, without them there would be nothing to enjoy.

Thanks to mother nature for the fabulous weather on Saturday and Sunday, which makes this type of event all the more enjoyable. I can’t wait until next year! If you can’t wait either, I can tell you the dates to put in your diary already: 21st – 23rd April 2017. See you there!

Queen St Dining announces the ‘Find A Foodie’ Competition Launch…

Opening in August 2016, Exeter’s exciting new Queen St dining quarter will be the
city’s premium dining location. This £12m culinary hub will be home to eight
restaurants serving food and drink to cater for all tastes and budgets, day and night.

If that wasn’t exciting enough the Queen St team have now launched their search for a
budding chef, secret baker, gastronomic genius or someone who produces ‘great grub’

Find a Foodie is an opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to be part of this ‘best in class’ dining revolution and receive an incredible package of support and guidance from leading industry figures to help make someones dreams a reality.

The aim of Find A Foodie is to discover an entrepreneur, an individual or a team with an enterprising idea, a signature dish or an innovative product, created at home or already trading on a small scale, and helping them bring it to bigger audience at Queen St.

Once found, the ‘Queen St Foodie’ will receive:
• A purpose built kiosk to trade from free of charge in Queen St, for 3 months
• Branding advice and identity development from a leading premium brand agency
• Marketing/PR planning and support from the agencies launching Queen St.
• A free advertising package to assist launch the venture
• Mentoring from a successful food entrepreneu
• Free legal, finance and business advice from Exeter based practices and high
street bank

The Find a Foodie coaching and mentoring team will be announced in May when the first round of keen Foodies will also be revealed.

Help us Find a Foodie

It’s takes creativity, skills, drive and determination to take a kitchen table idea and turn it into a business. Queen St’s Find a Foodie provides a route, that vital next step, to help a budding foodie to realise their ambitions, with specialist support and guidance along the way.

Fledgling foodies are invited to register their interest in this opportunity to showcase their culinary skills via Queen St website: http://www.queenst-exeter.com and provide some details about themselves, their product, dish or innovative food related enterprise.

Entrants will be shortlisted by an especially selected expert panel, made up of business and food industry judges. Those selected will be invited to showcase their menus and products and compete against other entrants during the summer at the Queen St. Street Food Markets where the general public will get to vote for their favourites in a taste test round.


The winner will then receive the life changing opportunity to trade for 3 month’s free of charge, with expert advice and support from business mentors, marketing and branding, legal and finance and overall promotion of the Queen St dining quarter.

Queen St want to hear from people who think they have or know someone that could become the ‘next big thing’ in food.

Visit the website www.queenst-exeter.com and click on the ‘Find a Foodie’ tab for more information, the prize, terms and conditions and how to enter.

Fully open by the end of August, the Queen St line up is Absurd Bird, Comptoir Libanais, Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), Grillstock, KuPP, The Stable, The Terrace and Turtle Bay. The dining quarter also has wonderful and welcoming new open air spaces designed especially for food events, markets and entertainment.

Absurd Bird announced to open in the Queen St Dining Quarter

Image credit: Absurd Bird

Aviva Investors, the global asset management business of Aviva plc (‘Aviva’), confirmed yesterday (Thursday 21 April 2016) that a new Southern US inspired gourmet chicken brand, Absurd Bird, will be the eighth restaurant, completing the line up at Exeter’s exciting new Queen St dining quarter.

With their restaurant in London’s Spitalfields opening just last month and another branch opening in Soho very soon, Exeter has been selected by Absurd Bird for the opening of their first restaurant outside the capital. For Aviva Investors, signing up Absurd Bird marks a culinary milestone for Exeter’s Queen St dining, the final name to be announced in this £12m redevelopment.

Describing themselves as ‘Chicken by Birth, Crazy by Nature’, Absurd Bird has been three years in the making and the brainchild of a whimsical entrepreneur and dedicated foodie, the attention to detail is both extraordinary and highly impressive. Absurd Bird crashed in to the London scene with a wholly encompassing brand philosophy: celebrate difference by celebrating the absurd. The food itself is like the ambience that accompanies it, modern yet nostalgic, sophisticated yet humble, comfortable yet innovative.

Combining the talents of a renowned fine dining chef with the creativity of a wildly imaginative global restaurateur and a team of world-class operational management. With traditional free range, slow farm rearing specialist Fosse Meadows Farm as their suppliers, Absurd Bird use Cotswold White and Cotswold Gold chickens, all smoked on site at Queen St dining.

The food promises to startle: whole spatch-cocked smoked chicken which is hot smoked in house or the crispy, fried chicken on a waffle – marinated overnight in buttermilk is all they would tell us. Simon Green, Director of Aviva Investors said: “Aviva Investors is delighted to be able to announce Absurd Bird as the final name in the Queen St dining line-up. They have made quite an impact in London, generating a lot of excitement among the capital’s diners. Absurd Bird will be taking just under 4000 sq. ft of Queen St dining across restaurant, bar and outside seating space. We are really thrilled to have them on board, complimenting the mix of exciting eateries we have already announced.”

Not just Chicken!

Exeter will be introduced to “jalapeno cheese biscuits”, “hurricane popcorn”, “corn bread pudding” and “sweet potato marshmallow bake”. Then to follow there’s “orange honey coleslaw”, “crack pie” or for adults only, “dipsy cake”! The drinks are of the highest quality thanks to a partnership with expert mixologists, Soul Shakers. Moonshine is making a comeback at The Absurd Bird Bar, a chic area located beneath the restaurant.

Mark Hall from Absurd Bird said: “We were very keen to bring Absurd outside of London, where we think there is an opportunity in the market for our brand. Exeter was always a city on our radar, with a vibrant heart to the city centre, and a great demographic to enjoy our offer. We were also knocked out by the fantastic development of Queen St dining, and the opportunity to be part of something brand new.”

Absurd Bird complete the Queen St dining line up joining Comptoir Libanais, Turtle Bay, The Stable, Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), The Terrace, Grillstock and KuPP. With all the top quality food and drink operators who will be taking up Queen St dining’s fixed outlets now made public, Aviva’s vision to create ‘the place’ to eat, drink and socialise in Exeter, day or night, will move in to the next stage as each individual restaurant begins to shape.

Over the coming months, there are a number of exciting initiatives still to be revealed, which will allow Exeter residents to get involved in the city’s emerging dining quarter. Queen St dining will be fully open by the end of August, complete with all the new open air spaces which have been especially redesigned for markets, entertainment and other food events to complement the exciting wide range of restaurants, bars and cafes.

The Queen St project is seeing the Guildhall Shopping Centre’s neo-classical façade on Queen Street transformed, a new entrance from the high street is underway and the three public spaces within the centre itself are being re-invented: Market Square, bordered by amphitheatre-style seating areas, St Pancras Square overlooking the beautiful 13th-Century St Pancras Church and Goldsmith Square, making them all more welcoming and attractive to shoppers and diners alike.


Michael Caines receives Freedom of the City – by Lauren Heath

Last July, Exeter City Council unanimously agreed at an extraordinary meeting to bestow the honour of Freedom of the City on Michael Caines MBE.


On Thursday 21st April, after a lunchtime ceremony at the city’s historic Guildhall, Michael ‘drove’ a pair of sheep down the High Street. Those unaware of the planned sheep herding were left a little bemused, but the local press (and I) were out to capture this celebratory and unusual moment.

Michael seemed in excellent spirits, holding on tight as the sheep seemed to behave themselves, even when the occasional press camera was in their path.

It’s been a busy week for the 2 star Michelin chef with an exquisite 7 Chef’s Dinner being held earlier in the week, and the 21st April also being the launch night of the excellent Exeter Food and Drink Festival, of which Michael is co-founder. The festival takes place from Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th and is now in its 13th year.

Freedom of the City is an honorary position which the City Council can bestow on anyone who has, in its opinion, undertaken something which is outstanding or has helped enhance the reputation of the city.

As stated on Exeter City Council website – Caines has been recognised for his achievements in the field of cookery. Born and bred in Exeter, Caines has helped put Exeter’s name on the world map as a city that supports cookery.

This year will be the 10th anniversary since receiving his MBE; amongst other projects, Michael is currently working on renovating the former Courtlands House into his own vision that is Lympstone Manor, which is due to open on Valentines Day in 2017.

Congratulations Chef!


Comptoir Libanais announced to open in the Queen St Dining Quarter

All images credit Comptoir Libanais

Aviva Investors, the global asset management business of Aviva plc (‘Aviva’) confirmed today (Thursday 21 April 2016) that Lebanese restaurant Comptoir Libanais, will be the seventh restaurant to join Exeter’s exciting new Queen St dining quarter. In signing up Comptoir Libanais, this announcement from Aviva Investors is being heralded as another major coup for Queen St dining, Exeter and the South West.

The hugely popular Comptoir Libanais, has twelve restaurants in the UK, eight of which are in central London, will be located on the corner of the newly re-modelled Market Square and St Pancras Square and will cover just under 3,300 sq. ft of Queen St dining including outside seating space. Comptoir Libanais specialises in fresh, healthy and affordable Lebanese dishes, from lamb kofta and shish taouk cooked on a charcoal grill to wholesome and hearty slow-cooked tagines.

Open all day for breakfast, lunch and dinner to eat in or take out, the beautiful souk-like interiors of their canteen and delicatessens have a buzzy, Middle Eastern café feel. Decorative ceramic tiles are a feature of Comptoir Libanais restaurants and all feature the face of the Arabic actress, Sirine Jamal al Dine on the walls, menus and takeaway packaging. Chaker Hanna, CEO of Comptoir Libanais said: “We are delighted to be opening our first restaurant in The West Country. Queen St is such an amazing development in a thriving city.

We are working closely with Aviva Investors to create a restaurant to showcase the best of Lebanese cuisine to the local community, businesses and families as well as the millions of visitors to Exeter from the UK and afar at very affordable prices.” Tony Kitous, Founder & Creative Director of Comptoir Libanais added: “We cannot wait to open in Exeter – it’s so exciting to be spreading the food, culture and hospitality of Lebanon to such an amazing and invigorating city. Our cuisine is healthy, fresh and colourful and has been created for everyone including families and vegetarians. We look forward to opening our doors to lots of mezze-lovers!” Aviva has attracted a wide variety of top quality food and drink operators to Queen St dining, to create ‘the place’ to eat, drink and socialise in Exeter day or night.

Anticipation among city residents and visitors continues to grow as regeneration of the buildings and public spaces begin to reveal themselves to the public. Simon Green, Director of Aviva Investors said: “Aviva Investors is thrilled to be able to bring Comptoir Libanais to join us at Queen St dining. Adding Lebanese cuisine to the mix brings something totally unique to the Dining Quarter and their prominent position overlooking two of our new public spaces provides the perfect location for this incredibly popular and exciting restaurant.

Comptoir Libanais welcome everybody through their doors and it won’t be long now before city diners get the chance to enjoy the flavours of the Middle East at Queen St Dining.” The new open air spaces designed especially for food events, markets and entertainment along with all eight restaurants which make up Queen St Dining will be fully open by the end of August. Comptoir Libanais join Turtle Bay, The Stable, Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), The Terrace, Grillstock and KuPP the final remaining restaurant to be revealed by Aviva imminently.

The Queen St project is seeing the Guildhall Shopping Centre’s neo-classical façade on Queen Street transformed, a new entrance from the high street is underway and the three public spaces within the centre itself are being reinvented: Market Square, bordered by amphitheatre-style seating areas, St Pancras Square overlooking the beautiful 13th-Century St Pancras Church and Goldsmith Square, making them all more welcoming and attractive to shoppers and diners alike.

For further information about Comptoir Libanais visit www.comptoirlibanais.com / for more information about the Queen St redevelopment, please visit: www.queenst-exeter.com

The Pinhoe Hoard, Pinhoe Rd.

2 Bakers Way, Exeter EX4 8GA – 01392 690655 – www.pinhoehoardpubexeter.co.uk – Twitter

EE RecommendsSitting opposite the Pinhoe branch of Aldi, and next door the Sainsbury’s supermarket, The Pinhoe Hoard is Exeter’s newest
mega-gastro-chain pub that is catering to the widest spectrum of punters with its large dining area, kids play facilities ample car parking and convenient placement.

You don’t have to travel narrow lanes, to reach this pub as it is all handily plonked on the side of one of the main arterial routes in to Exeter.  According to their website, just a short drive to Dartmoor too; I would challenge their definition of short given that it is nearly half an hour away.

2016-04-14 08.26.18 1

The Pinhoe Hoard was named after, the ‘Pinhoe Hoard’ which was a small collection of bronze age axes or palstaves discovered by metal detectorists on the present site of the pub.

They serve what I call functional food.  There are many things that it is not, but it fills a hole and definitely has its place in the diverse array of places to eat out in Exeter.

My recent experiences of Marston Inns has been getting steadily better recently.  My low-point was The Waterloo Cross in Uffculme with our disastrous wedding anniversary meal a few years ago.  Then The Red Deer in Crediton; apathetic at first but each time we’ve been its been getting better, and finally culminating in a generally pleasant experience at The Pinhoe Hoard after a mad day out.  Despite the mixed bag of reviews on Tripadvisor, there is a trend towards the Excellent’s and Very Good’s but not without the Terrible reviews which is filled with the usual whining and moaning that seems to grace every restaurant’s page.

Given it was a busy Friday night, we had to wait a few minutes for our table.  So we sat at the bar area and waited for our buzzing/vibrating/beeping thing to go off in around 10 minutes.  It did in about 8 minutes, to indicate that our table was ready.  The gentleman on the podium/till/touchscreen-of-power was friendly and took us to our readied table.  We already had our drinks that we had been able to add to our tab easily with the buzzing/vibrating/beeping thing.  I went for a European pilsner which was pleasant enough.

The Pinhoe Hoard is a Rotisserie Pub.  This means it has a Rotisserie and a slightly different menu from other Marston’s.  For a full ‘spotters guide’ of Marston Inn pubs head to their website.

It was quite a large menu (PDF), there was a lot of text and with these sorts of  gastropubs it takes a while to fully  browse everything.  To give the serving staff their credit we weren’t hurried in to a decision; we often end up playing Menu Battles with over eager staff but either we were feeling particularly decisive or we were given enough time to fully take in the vast amount of options, there was little pressure to ORDER FOOD NOW.

I went for a Buttermilk Chicken Burger served with fries and coleslaw for £10.95.  Tori went for 10oz Gammon with Skin-On Fries and Peas.

One of my biggest bug-bears with Marston Inns is their apathy when it comes with coleslaw.  Compared to the lovely large portions that you can enjoy at other restaurants, the coleslaw comes in a teeny pot which is just enough to feed a voracious shrew, not an overweight 34 year old with an appetite.  However ‘Coleslaw Apathy’ is something endemic to large chain gastropubs, Wetherspoon’s being the worst offender.

This is my only negative, the chips and the burger were well cooked and was definitely a burger I would have again.  Tori’s Gammon was evenly cooked and tasted nice.  Though the portions were a little on the small side, I would come again and maybe have one of their speciality Rotisserie meals which seem to have a larger portion size.

For functional chain-gastro-pub food this was a pleasant experience and I would recommend this place for what it is.  The modern interior is inoffensive; the staff were imeppcably friendly and swift throughout our visit; the toilets were clean; the table was level; the cutlery was clean; the price for the whole meal was reasonable despite it being a very busy evening there was no sense of panic.

I’ll see you again pub…

10 Questions with Susy Atkins – by Lauren Heath

Susy Atkins is the weekly columnist for the Sunday Telegraph’s Stella magazine, as well as drinks editor of the brilliant and stylish ‘delicious’ magazine. She also writes a wine column for the South West’s own magazine ‘food’. She appears regularly on BBC1’s flagship cookery show ‘Saturday Kitchen’ as wine expert, from time to time on BBC radio, local and national, and has written or edited eleven books on wine and drinks.  She is also Champagne Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards Short Copy Columnist award winner 2014.

In the run up to her appearance at the Exeter Food and Drink Festival, I thought I’d ask Susy a few questions about this fabulous event, her favourite food and whether or not she only drinks wine.

1. You’re hosting some wine and cheese tastings this year, what can people look forward to?

The cheese and wine tastings will feature a wide range of wines, English and international, with tutored tastings from a range of experts ranging from the winemakers to the importers, with me hosting most of the events and talking to the guest speakers. And there will be at least 4 delicious south-west cheeses to sample with them at each one!

2. Do you get to wander around and immerse yourself in the atmosphere as well as enjoying lots of tasters from the suppliers?

Yes, I always find time for a wander around at the Festival – so many things to sample and people to say hi to.

3. What is your favourite type of grape or country producing wine at the moment?

It’s a tricky one, I would have to say Spain fascinates me more than any other wine country right now – the sheer variety of the wines (including sherry, I am a big fan of that!) is brilliant, and the newly emerging areas of the north-west are worth watching… then again, Chile is another remarkable wine country at the moment, moving into new areas of vineyard planting – can I have then both?!

4. Do you only drink wine or are there drinks do you enjoy?

I am mostly a wine girl – there aren’t many other drinks I ever order over wine, but I do like good cider and also enjoy the occasional gin and tonic, especially now there are so many fine gins on the scene.

5. If someone was new to wine, what would you suggest they start with?

If you are new to wine, you could start with our own English whites – as they are light, and crisp and refreshing and relatively easy going, they are a lovely way into the subject. There will be plenty of opportunities to sample South-west English wines at the Festival. I’ll be showing some to guests on Saturday pm at the Dart’s Farm tipi – come along and join us…


6. We are lucky to have quite a few vineyards in Devon; how do English wines compare to warmer climates?

Because of our cool climate we tend to make wines with quite high acidity (so crisp fresh qualities) in England, and our wines tend to be relatively low in alcohol compared to wines from hotter parts of the world.

7. On the food side, any favourite food or meal discoveries lately, locally or abroad?

I’ve just come back from the Douro Valley in northern Portugal which is port country and enjoyed some fabulous food while there. The seafood is great and they have wonderful custard tarts with flaky pastry and cinnamon on top called pasteis de nata with coffee which are dangerously moreish…

8. During your travels, I’m sure you eat out a lot but when you are home near Exeter where do you navigate towards for a nice meal?

Yes I do eat out far and wide. But close to my home in the Teign Valley (8 miles west of Exeter) we eat out at The Nobody Inn, and we love a family Sunday lunch at our ‘local’, the Bridford Inn. In Exeter itself, I am a huge fan of The Curry Leaf for the sort of Indian food – much of it vegetarian – that I used to love when I lived in London.

9. When not tasting, discovering or talking about wine, what do you like to do to relax?

To relax I swim quite a lot – mainly with my sons who are now faster than me! – and I go out walking on Dartmoor with our huge labradoodle, Truman.  Last weekend my husband Ian and I took Truman up to Mardon Down for a beautiful early evening walk. I also sing with a couple of local choral societies.

10. What are your plans for the Summer and beyond?

This summer we’ll be going on a family holiday in France as well as taking several trips to Dartmouth which is a town I love. But it has to fit around the various food festivals where I’ll be giving talks and holding tastings this year – Exeter is the first one of the Spring and I love this festival especially as it is my home city – but I’ll be heading off around the country later on!

Thanks Susie!

More info about Susie and her upcoming events can be found on her website http://www.susyatkins.co.uk or on her Twitter account @SusyAtkins

For information on Susy’s tastings at the Exeter Food Festival visit www.exeterfoodanddrinkfestival.co.uk/Cheese-and-Wine-Tutored-Tasting

Images care of Susy Atkins website and Twitter

Celebrate Thai New Year with Burt’s Chips & The South Devon Chilli Farm

April is a month normally associated with showers, rain and just a glimpse of Spring, so you might not know that Thai New Year, Songkran is coming up from the 13th – 15th April. In Thailand, this means three days of festivals, spicy feasts and an almighty water fight in the streets.


To celebrate, Devon-based companies Burts Chips and the South Devon Chilli Farm have teamed up to offer one lucky person the chance to win an array of tasty goodies, including Burts Thai Sweet Chilli Chips and a delicious Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce from South Devon Chilli Farm – ideal for dipping the chips!

Bursting with Asian flavour and Devon-grown spice, the hamper is perfect for adding some warmth into an otherwise wet month – and all prizes are not only delicious but also suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

To find out more about Burts Chips visit the website at www.burtschips.com, like on Facebook, follow on Twitter or Instagram. To stay up to date with news on the South Devon Chilli Farm visit their website at: www.southdevonchillifarm.co.uk

To be in for a chance of winning, simply answer the question below:

In Thailand, what is the traditional word used to celebrate Thai New Year?

A)     Pathaya

B)     Songkran

C)     Sawasadee

To enter either:

Head over to Twitter and use the hashtag #burtsthaicomp and mention @eatingexeter with your correct answer


Head to our Facebook page and let us know the right answer by posting your comment with the hashtag #burtsthaicomp

Good luck! Closing date will be Midnight on the 15th April

Oddfellow’s Exmouth Comedy Night

If you fancy a laugh, and some great Eat The Smoke BBQ Street Food, then head down to The Oddfellows in Exmouth tonight, where Yvan has organised another 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 3rd April

Closing Matt Price
Opening Matthew Baylis
Compere Alex Perry
Open spot Charlie Barnes –
Open spot Chelsea Hart

“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

Cafe Rouge, Princesshay

Princesshay, Bedford St, Exeter, Devon EX1 1LL- 01392 251042 – www.caferouge.com

Now and again we like to head to one of Exeter’s chain restaurants, they have their place and there is definitely a space in my heart for a few of them.  One restaurant that we’ve been many times over the last few years has been Cafe Rouge, a take on classic french cuisine in a nice package served by friendly staff.

We were given the opportunity to have a look at their newly refurbished Exeter restaurant and to have a peek at their new menu which came out last week.

The modernist outside is deceptive when you walk through the classic styled doors, lots of dark woods and an interior that evokes a 1920s Parisian restaurant or bistro; a magnificent gold mirror looks over the bar area and is one of the main features that you notice when you first walk in.  The first thing that I note is the restaurant seems to have gotten a whole lot smaller? When I was last here it seemed to drift off in to the distance to a window at the back as well.

The layout has changed a bit, the large cavernous restaurant area has now been sectioned in to two separate areas.  The main restaurant is used every day, but a second smaller area is now bookable for corporate events or functions, or as overspill if the main restaurant fills up.  Paint and decorative elements have changed, nice new chairs and tables, still keeping that Parisian charm, but with a fresh edge.

With a change of decor also comes a new menu.  The website gives you the official news about it but there have been changes to the Risottos; the addition of Bouillabaisse (a longstanding Rouge favourite) has been added back onto the menu – sea bream, mussels, king prawns and squid in a rich tomato and saffron broth with delicious rouille and Gruyère; introduction of Bistro Salads and the arrival of Charolais steak and burgers to the bistro menu.

The scene was set, the table laid and the drinks ordered.  We both went for Stella Artois given I rarely ever have it, but given our choice of food tonight Tori also ordered a Red Wine (Malbec on the recommendation of our server) which would come out at the same time as our main.

For starters we decided to go for a classic Cafe Rouge starter CHAMPIGNONS À L’AIL (£4.50) which we shared.  The Rye toast was a perfect accompaniment to this classic favourite starter that we’ve had at Cafe Rouge before.  The garlicy creaminess of the mushrooms were mopped up with the fresh bread and olives that we had with our drinks.

Our main course was one that I had decided on days beforehand, and a brand new addition to the menu.  The  32OZ CÔTE DE BOEUF (£45); Charolais Côte de Boeuf, dry-aged for a minimum of 35 days. This beautiful butterflied rib steak, served on the bone, is also known as a ‘bull’s head’.  With this epic piece of meat you also get two sides (Frites and Tomato & Onion Salad for us) and two sauces (Peppercorn and Bordelaise) served in teeny saucepans which we both loved.

The meat was delicious, it was meaty and I can imagine that before it was cooked, it was marbled with little fat.  We had a small operation to divide the two main parts of the meat, lots of cutting and pulling, and as the meat was so soft it wasn’t much good pulling the bone! The whole thing had was beautifully presented on its own stand, with some lovely seasoned frites too.  I now have 20+ photos of this epic piece of meat on my laptop.  The four that you see here are the maximum that I have allowed myself.  It was a superbly cooked steak; it was beautiful in that way that meat can be beautiful.

After something so large, we were both very full.  We had wanted to go for a couple of the new desserts, the Parfait being one of them but they had sold out given they are so popular at the moment.  So we went for a coffee instead to finish off the meal.

Our server was Tracey and she was lovely; she was incredibly attentive and has been with Cafe Rouge for 10 years.  Assistant Manager James also explained that the tip we left at the end of the meal goes straight to the staff and not in to some ethereal pot in the management heavens which other chain restaurants tend to do.

Even if you’re not a frequent visitor to Princesshay, Cafe Rouge is one restaurant that is worth trying.  Their newly added steak range adds an extra dimension to some of the types of meat that you can get in steak form.  To my knowledge there is no other place serving Charolais meat in Exeter in this format, which in itself is quite a USP.

EE RecommendsThe staff are friendly, the atmosphere is romantic, the interior is themed but tastefully so and there are many positives for a meal out at Cafe Rouge.  Let me know how it goes in the comment box if you do go.