Clyst Honiton, Exeter EX5 2LJ – @marcosexeter – 01392 348111
On the east side of Exeter, off a lane at the back of the airport, lies a hotel in a convenient location for travellers. Beside said hotel is a restaurant which, in my opinion, is conveniently located for locals. With easy access by car off the M5, A30, surrounding villages that lie east of the city and with plenty of free parking is Marco’s New York Italian.
Having been open 3 years now, I was invited to give it a try so on Friday night Steve and I went to see what it was all about. We are well aware of the story of Marco Pierre White and, at the same time, are aware that a restaurant associated with a chef’s name can be a let down as they inevitably don’t cook there, with prices to imply that they do.
Having looked over the menu last year, I recall seeing items such as hot dogs – and for some reason this made me think that, for a restaurant, perhaps the food was a bit too basic and not going to be good. Thankfully, the menu has since changed slightly, and we already had our eye on one or two items before our arrival.
On entry, it is designed so that you wait by a reception desk and, if you wish, start off your evening in the smart bar with its casual seating or stools.The bar area is very cool; dark wood, good lighting – matching the italian/american theme.
Having been seated at our table, we browsed the wine menu which is well laid out first of all by colour, then by what food it would suit. For a change I chose the Pino Grigio Rose (£6.65 for 250ml) and Steve was intrigued by Passori Rosso which was under the subheading of spicy peppery red as well as having the MR (Marco Recommends) next to it and described as simply stunning (£9.25 for 250ml). My wine was delightfully light with a hint of rose and Steve was very impressed with his wine – sweet, rich, peppery; he agreed it was something different as the menu had described.
We then set ourselves on the food menu; Steve had already decided on the Grilled Jumbo Shrimps (£9.75) served alone in all their glory, but brushed with rosemary, garlic butter and sea salt and a sprinkling of baby coriander leaves. Some may feel this was a bit ‘naked’ but he believes seafood should be served as simply as possible. He couldn’t locate any rosemary flavouring but his words were “they were cooked to perfection”. A huge and rare compliment indeed from a seafood lover with over two decades of culinary experience. Maybe one or two more on the plate would have been nice, but he was pleased to have had a light starter.
I, on the other hand, decided to be a little bit brave (polite word for greedy) and go for the Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Nachos (under the heading ‘For the Table’; £6.50). I was informed this could be a sharer but I went for it anyway as I love nachos. It was a really tasty dish, served with what tasted more like BBQ coated pork along with melted cheese (Monteray Jack possibly), homemade guacamole which was lovely and chunky, as well as a very nice sweet chilli sauce-come-salsa. I can see that it could be a sharer between 2 people for a light starter each or even between 3 for nibbles.
For mains I knew I wanted a pizza so opted for the Americano (£9.50) and asked if I could have mushrooms on it as well which was accepted without any issue. Steve chose the Great American Beef Burger with BBQ sauce, bacon, Monterey Jack cheese, served with seasoned fries (£11.50). The pizza was approximately 10 inches at a guess, and was right on the money. Stonebaked base, well cooked with crispy edges. The meat was not pepperoni, but like a milano salami which was very tasty with a good amount of tomato and cheese supporting it. It also came with its own pizza cutter which was very uself. Steve’s burger was juicy and a good thickness, served with partially skin on fries. He also enjoyed the cheese but post meal we realised that he didn’t recall any BBQ sauce; it was, however, served with its own individual sealed tomato ketchup pot.
Somehow we found room for pudding. Having a savoury tooth, Steve was very pleased to see a cheeseboard and ordered the Selection of Italian Cheeses (£7.50). When this arrived, it was very appealing visually. Served with high quality biscuits and with two ramekins of accompaniments, one of which was a beautiful honey. The cheeses were mozzarella (definitely not your average shop bought mozzarella), parmesan, goats cheese and gorgonzola. He enjoyed it immensely.
I went for the Classic Affogato; vanilla ice cream served with a shot of espresso and amaretti biscuits (£5.25). I am not totally sure how you are meant to eat this dessert but I love that you can eat and drink it. I have had this pudding before elsewhere, and normally the coffee is served in an espresso cup that when you try and pour it on the ice cream it goes everywhere, so I was delighted to see it in a mini gravy boat which was also rather cute! My only critique would be the presentation; it would have looked great served on a board or slate to bring it all together – but if that’s my only complaint then they have nothing to worry about. The vanilla ice cream was absolutely delicious – full on vanilla flavour and so creamy; the coffee was excellent and very strong.
In between courses we looked at our surroundings and mused; there is an open kitchen but it’s a tiny shame the seating near it has such high backs that you are unable to enjoy it in full view and the same goes for the bar area – hidden by high backs of the end booth area. On the plus side, I love the chequered floor and thankfully the seating and tablecloths are plain and simple so as not to clash. A nice mirror at the end gives further depth to an already large dining area capable of seating around 90 and I am aware they can cater for large parties which is useful to know. There is plenty of space between tables so your conversations at the table are your own, and we noted you could definitly fit prams or wheelchairs in without coming close to the next table which is a big plus as many chain restaurants really cram the tables in.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable meal for a what we believe to be a good price (approx £50 for 2 people with 3 courses each excluding drinks). The food was uncomplicated and very tasty and the restaurant is smart but relaxed. I’m not sure how many locals or city dwellers go here for lunch or dinner, but it isn’t just for hotel guests or flight passengers. Yes, Marco’s face is on the walls here and there with his name above the door but if the name puts you off by giving visions of shouty chefs, expensive food or just another chain – I suggest you ignore the name (except for when you put it in your sat nav!) and I urge you to give it a try. Filling, tasty and good value for money. Yes Chef!