Online reservations: http://www.circa1924.co.uk/#!make-a-reservation/cg3s
Open Tuesday to Saturday 12pm – 2:30pm and 6pm – late. (Food serve 12 -2 and 6 – 9:30pm). Express lunch 2 courses for £10.95
Circa 1924 is 1 years old – Happy Birthday! A great achievement for a bar and restaurant run by two young friends Rob and James. It is city centre but slightly back from the high street which affords it a great location but with a slight air of secrecy and exclusivity to it and on a quiet street. I have enjoyed post-dinner cocktails before and Chris (head honcho here at EE) tried their pop-up lunches (Circa 1924 presents Skandel@Circa1924 ) earlier this year with much delight.
So when Rob invited us to try their current express lunch offering, I jumped at the chance to experience their food for myself. Working in Exeter city centre, the choices are quite endless, if not, a little overwhelming. Express lunch appeals to me as, like anyone with a 45 minute lunch, it’s nice to know you can eat restaurant food without worrying constantly about the time and actually enjoy the experience.
The concept of the express lunch is simple, honest, tasty and local food served in good time. The menu changes every few days or even daily depending on what their local suppliers have available, dictated slightly by seasonality too. The menu is handwritten, it is that freshly put together and can change at the swipe of their pen. I started off by choosing a drink that was under the cocktail section, but clearly non alcoholic – so I assumed it would be something a bit different, and I was right. Temperance Cloudy Lemonade (£5), which would not be my top choice, but I was intrigued by the flavours of lemon, vanilla sugar syrup, and dill. I was presented with a lovely large icy glass of cool, sweet and slightly sharp lemon heaven, a great drink do go with lunch.
Priced at £10.95 for two courses, this seems extremely reasonable and almost too good to be true. The small menu read well, with fish, vegetarian and meat options. I have said before, I am terrible at choosing. So even on a starter menu of 3 items, I couldn’t decide between two – so I was pleased to be allowed both, for research purposes of course!
I chose the Heritage Tomato and Mozzarella Salad and the Venison Carpaccio. Both were presented beautifully. The salad had very tasty tomato slices, a lovely and generous pesto drizzle, a light textured mozzarella and some really tasty crunchy bread for texture. With lemon balm micro herbs this just gave it another interesting angle – it was delightful. My second starter came with the same tasty bread, layered slices of venison, again generously drizzled with dijon mustard sauce and atop with cornichons (small pickled gherkins for those who don’t know). The meat was so incredibly soft, the dressing was slightly creamy, and the vinegar of the cornichons cut through perfectly – another wonderful little dish.
Now for my main of Fillet Mignon with Skin on Fries and Garlic Butter (£2 extra supplement). Now…I am not particularly keen on set price menus having an upgrade price for an item, but I have to say, even at £12.95 for one of the starters and then this main would be totally worthit. I imagined thin slivers of meat with maybe half a dozen stacked chips, but what I got was so much better. 3 beautiful well proportioned pieces of fillet, cooked to perfection; the meat was cooked medium and was so succulent and tender, accompanied by plenty of thick well seasoned skin on fries and with a blob of fabulously garlicky butter which just pulled it all together. I felt as if I was on the continent. I absolutely loved this dish, it was a triumph. I almost wanted to tell some customers that had just walked in that they must choose it. All served on a hot plate; a simple touch yet often overlooked in some establishments and I am not sure my photo does it justice.
I would say this was one of the nicest lunches I have had in a long time – just spot on, delicious and unfussy food that tasted so good and at a price that you can barely get a main dish for in Exeter. Even with me eating an extra item or two, I was in and out within 40 minutes. Of course, if you’re not in a hurry, then relax and stay awhile.
There are 3 tables in the bar area, another half dozen or so a bit further on in their ground floor area and then 3 tables out the front if you wish to dine al fresco. A great wine menu, an excellent beer, ale and stout menu and of course, their excellent cocktail list too. If you’re circumnavigating town for the best lunch your money can buy, whilst wanting to support an independent, head to Circa1924!