From the archives – The Oddfellows, New North Road.

I’m not really allowed to have favourites when writing a blog like this.  But I have certain places that I have a massive amount of respect for in what they do, their ethos and the drive they have behind what they serve.  Yvan and Faye Williams are both passionate about their business and their high culinary standards.

Back in 2014 when they introduced their @meateasyexeter nights, we were invited along to sample one of their immensely satisfying burgers.  Click the image below to read the review.

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Launch date announced for The Terrace – A new venue for Exeter

The Terrace, Queen Street Dining’s flagship and most eagerly anticipated venue, has announced it will be opening its doors for the first time on Friday 30 September from midday.The two-story multi-million-pound development promises to bring a heady blend of great food and drink, live music and DJ’s.

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Set across two floors including the rooftop terrace, its owners hope it will fast become the go-to venue for those seeking a sophisticated place to dine, drink or enjoy a night out. The rooftop features cathedral views and a stylish design.

Customers can expect an adventurous menu with personality using great quality locally sourced products. Combine that with carefully selected beers and wines from some of the best producers, live music, cocktails and an upbeat atmosphere both day and night.

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The First Floor has a different vibe from the rooftop. During the day the curtains are opened and the lavish décor and space can be used to enjoy drinks and the full restaurant menu. At night the space transforms into a club lounge with DJ’s and dancing. The First Floor is good enough to rival the best in the UK and is set to be Exeter’s most exclusive venue.

Guests will be able to enjoy acoustic music on the rooftop from around 10pm, every Thursday Friday & Saturday night with DJs featuring on the the first floor. Ticketed events are already underway and The Terrace’s first big line up will feature XY&O, with support from North Devon band The Tuesday Syndicate on Friday 21st October.

Fried scallop  with sesame seeds, balsamic sauce and asparagus
Fried scallop with sesame seeds and balsamic sauce, asparagus, lemon and green peas on a black plate

Tickets for this are available through Eventbrite. Brainchild of local entrepreneurs, Joe Hill and Steve Keough, The Terrace marks the third installment of the duos rapidly expanding restaurant group which already includes high-street wine and coffee bar, Artigiano and sourdough pizza and craft beer restaurant, Base + Barley.

“We have an extremely talented team to deliver this concept which includes one of the regions best head chefs, a dedicated sommelier and an award winning mixologist. We are also committed to bringing some of the UK’s best DJs and live music acts to Exeter,” says Joe Hill, co-owner of The Terrace.

Spanish dinner and red wine ready on the table
Spanish dinner cooked and served on the table

Joe goes on to say “The Terrace will bring a whole new style to Exeter and it’s going to be a real first for the city. We are really excited to witness the reaction and can’t wait to open the doors,”

Restaurant bookings are being taken from Sunday 2nd October.

10 Questions for Marcus from the CountryWoodSmoke Blog & UK BBQ Magazine

Marcus Bawdon is a bit of a personality on the UK BBQ scene.  Being editor of the UK BBQ Magazine and writer of the fantastic CountryWoodSmoke blog, he regularly judges at Grillstock and has a wealth of knowledge about BBQ that just stretches off in to the distance!  He has given workshops, been published in the Telegraph Food section and is

When I first started blogging about food in earnest, Marcus was one of the first bloggers I had contact with after he commented on one of my early posts.  Since then I have eagerly followed his adventures via his blog and social media too.  So I threw 10 Questions at him to see what makes him tick.

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At the weekend, Marcus will be appearing at the Powderham Food Festival with other local BBQ’ers in the”Theatre of Fire and Smoke”! This will include demos, watching the BBQ masters at work!

Recently he invited me and a few other foodies to witness some BBQ magic at CWS HQ.  Read about it here!

1. How long have you been blogging? Did you set out cover BBQ initially or has this been something that has evolved over time?

I started CountryWoodSmoke 5 years ago. It was initially a record of my wood fired oven build, but people seemed to enjoy my recipes and pics…so did more and more, the bbq has definitely grown in the last few years.

2. When you’re not writing about BBQ, what keeps you busy?

Family… I have 3 lovely little ones who are little foodies already.

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3. What is your favourite piece of BBQ equipment you currently own at the moment?That would be like saying which is my favourite child….I like to use the relevant bit of kit for the food I’m cooking…. Wood fired oven for pizza, smoker for low n slow, grills for high heat grilling.

4. Meat is important in any cooking, I imagine this is the same for BBQ.  Where do you get your meat from?

I’m very particular about the meat I feed my family and friends, I get a lot from a local butcher and from my lovely friends at the Devon Meatbox Co. there are some great producers such as Forest Beef who do some wonderful Longhorn Beef. I also get sent some epic dry aged Aberdeen Angus beef from a butcher friend in Aberdeen, Andrew Gordon.

5. So, if you were stranded on a desert island, do you reckon you’d be able to catch animals and roast them slowly over a makeshift BBQ?

Absolutely….but I am a bit of a softie when it comes to killing animals, and if I ever have to, do it with the utmost respect. I was a vegetarian for 14 years…

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6. I love the UK BBQ magazine that you edit. For those who might not know what it is, what is it and how can we download a copy?

Thank you, there was a massive gap for an independent online BBQ magazine for the UK, so I started UK BBQ Mag, you can pick it up for free at www.ukbbqmag.com it’s free to subscribe.

7. For anyone reading this who might be thinking about taking their BBQ more seriously, what tips would you give to someone who wanted to go beyond sausages and burgers?

Start simply with a large kettle BBQ with a lid, learn to cook with 2 zones, direct and indirect with the lid on.

8. Gas or Charcoal?

Charcoal, but I was recently sent a huge gas BBQ with a smoker box that I’m cooking on that is brilliant.

9. What is the most exotic thing you’ve BBQ’d?

A whole pigs head recently, made wonderful rich pulled pork.

10. And finally, is there a person/s in the BBQ world who you particularly admire? Anyone who particularly inspired you when you were first getting in to BBQ?

It would have to be Francis Mallmann, the super inspiring Argentine chef who cooks on fire. I was particularly inspired by Steven Raichlen, Adam Perry Laing and Dr BBQ (Ray Lampe).

Follow Marcus on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.  Download your the latest copy of UK BBQ Magazine too!

Gourmet Burger Kitchen – Press Night

Last week (or was it the week before last?) we were invited along to the opening of Gourmet Burger Kitchen, the second restaurant to open as part of The Queen St Dining Quarter.  With a lump in my throat for the recent loss of Ruby Burgers (loss for us but definite WIN for Exmouth!) this new kid on the burger block has reputation and heritage in the world of burgers – having been the first proper restaurant to serve Gourmet Burgers in the UK back in 2001 – it is certainly one of the largest burger chains in the UK.

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My love of burgers stretches back many years. I started a blog about them, I tend to choose the burger option in restaurants that we review and I love cooking them (with varying degrees of success), so the prospect of a GBK opening is Exeter has been an exciting one for me.  Given the reputation and the amount of positive feedback that I’ve received about other GBKs, I don’t seem to be the only one who is looking forward to its arrival.  EDIT: It’s arrived! Opened 12th September!

After my recent reviews in esteemed establishments such as The Salutation Inn and The Pig Hotel, it was nice to get down and dirty with a burger.

The stylish interior has clearly been thought about, and with the vast window looking out on to Queen Street it is the perfect recipe for people watching!

The range of burgers is impressive with upwards of 24 different varieties.  The burger meat is grass fed Aberdeen Angus from Laverstoke, so not locally local like Zita’s or Urban Burger.

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Tori went for ‘The Stack’ (£10.95) – Grilled chorizo, Red Leicester cheese, house onion ring, smoked chilli mayo, rocket, pickled onions, house relish and I went for The Mighty (£12.45) – Two 6oz patties, mature Cheddar, crispy bacon, garlic mayo, relish, dill pickle.  We went for a side of Truffle Cheese Fries £3.95 – chunky skin-on fries with truffle cheese sauce and grana padano.

The burgers were lovely, well cooked and as tasty as I had been led to believe by all of the positive comments I’d heard about GBK before.  The fries were nice, the truffle sauce was a little odd at first but a definite improvement on the traditional cheesy chips.

With friendly staff and a sexy interior (never thought I would describe an interior as sexy!) I can see this restaurant being one we’ll be visiting again.  As an alternative to the misery of Byron Burgers, GBK is definitely the one to fill it. Although it won’t replace Ruby Burgers, it will fill a much needed burger shaped hole.

 

Afternoon Tea at The Mercure Southgate Hotel – by Chris Gower

Southernhay East, Exeter, EX1 1QF  – Tel : 01392 412812

It was great to meet up with Latoyah and Nick again from Sugar Pink Food, fellow foodies and lovers of good things.

I can’t forget to mention that this was the first time that I’ve ever been to Afternoon Tea at a posh hotel, and the concept of ‘afternoon tea’ in my mind has been blown out of the water after our sampling of this delightful offering.

Since it was built, The Southgate Hotel has passed hands many times.  It’s most recent owners are Mercure who have invested money in to upgrading and modernising The Gate House restaurant.  Tea is served during the daytime in the Lounge Bar with its sleek design and spacious surrondings offering privacy and comfort.

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This is my wine cellar now…all mine.

Afternoon Tea is one of the quintessial British things that the world thinks we like doing regularly, yet I can imagine most of us with a UK passport have never gone OUT to have afternoon tea.  And why not? Most probably because the idea we have in our heads about what afternoon tea should be isn’t overly appealing? Sandwiches, boring cake, massive teapot…

So when we took our seats, pot of tea at one side and a glass of prosecco on the other side, I genuinely didn’t know what to expect.  The arrival of these tastefully presented treats made me rethink my plans for dinner later that day – this was amazing.

The first slate to appear had warm Pork Pies and freshly prepared home-made Scotch Eggs with servings of piccalilli.

 At this point whilst we were still taking in the sight in front of us the second slate came in…

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Beef & Tomato and Smoked Salmon open sandwiches to accompany the pies and scotch eggs.  But it wasn’t over…

Our final slate contained the sweet section. Creamy cheesecake, brownies and a coffee & chocolate gateaux.  All of it was quite sublime.

As my partner-in-crime Tori wasn’t there to help out we got some doggy-boxes as we couldn’t eat it all.  The open sandwiches were fresh and tasty with fresh ingredients, the pies were light, moist and not stodgy as you might imagine them to be and the brownies were absolutely perfect.

We chatted, caught up, shared stories and generally had a lovely few hours in the plush surroundings of this favourite Exeter hotel which I would recommend to anyone looking for an Afternoon Tea with a difference.

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Absurd Bird lands in Exeter!

Absurd Bird is bringing its soul-warming comfort food of the American South to Exeter’s Queen St Dining Quarter at the end of next month. The first Absurd Bird restaurant to open outside the Capital, the new location will bring with it a warm Southern spirit, coupled with a quirky sense of humour that will light up the vibrant Exeter food scene.

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With its interior taking inspiration from New Orleans, Bayou and Louisiana, the restaurant is sure to delight as the décor is bursting with interesting details for diners to discover. With features including a mix of reclaimed / worn timber, huge ceiling fans and iron balustrading.

Mark Hall, from Absurd Bird, said: “We were very keen to bring Absurd outside 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.”

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With a love for the American Deep-South and their culinary traditions, Absurd Bird features a menu like the ambiance that accompanies it: eclectic, unexpected, improvisational, modern yet nostalgic, sophisticated yet humble, comfortable yet innovative. Look out for signature Waffle Cones with Popcorn Chicken, Buffalo Wings, Sweet Potato Bake, Spinach & Artichoke Dip as well as Jalapeno Mac and Cheese.

Whether fried or grilled, only ethically sourced free-range chickens are used from Fosse Meadows Farm, all of which will be smoked on site, marinated in secret recipe sauces and teamed with some irresistible sides. But hey it’s not all about the chicken, Absurd’s famous Crack Pie will leave diners with a sweet taste in their mouth and a strong desire to come back for more.

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Meanwhile, the bar will offer Absurd Moonshine and a creative cocktail list (all cocktails £5 every day from 5pm – 7pm), put together by London’s mixology masterminds at Soulshakers. Whether visiting for dinner or drinks, or even hosting a private function upstairs, Absurd Bird will no doubt prove a perfect place for some after work fun.

Discover more at Absurd Bird Exeter: 

Follow the latest from Absurd Bird: Twitter: @AbsurdBirdExe: Instagram: @absurdbirduk Facebook: facebook.com/AbsurdBirdUK

Absurd Bird Exeter 

Queen St Dining, Queen Street, Exeter EX4 3HP

www.absurdbird.com

Turtle Bay, Exeter – by Lauren Heath

Guildhall, Queen Street, Exeter, EX4 3HP     Tel: 01392  690868

www.turtlebay.co.uk/locations/exeter

Turtle Bay is the first of the Queen Street Dining Quarter restaurants to open in Exeter’s highly anticipated new food destination; the Caribbean street food concept has been going since 2011 and has been the latest project for the man who co-founded Las Iguanas.

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Investigating what was on offer prior to opening, we noted the large menu consisted of starters including pulled pork salad, duck roll and garlic and herb flatbread to name but a few. Lunch ‘n lighter included salads and wraps with a variety of meat and fish fillings whilst dinner options are split into one-pots and jerk pit BBQ. There seemed to be 1 or 2 vegetarian options in each section, and if you are pescatarian, your choice does enlarge fourfold. A good selection of puddings and an even larger selection of cocktails await your arrival.

So after receiving our invite to come along and see what was on offer, we visited mid-week, mainly because they were already fully booked over the first few weekends.

On arrival, we were seated to the right of the doorway, in a ‘dog-leg’ section as it were. I was quite happy to be in the corner here so I could people watch towards the other way, but later on in the evening when I walked around to take some photos, I realised that actually we had missed out on being right in the thick of it in the main restaurant area. Nevermind – I must say throughout the whole evening, there was an excellent ‘marketplace’ buzz.

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We both ordered cocktails to start; Steve chose the Koko Colada whilst I went for my old favourite – the Espresso Martini (both £6.95 each). Mine was what you would expect in appearance, if a little too sweet though actually and not quite coffee enough for me. Perhaps I should leave this one to one of my other favourite local independents to rustle up for me in future. Steve’s drink was delicious however, an easy drinker – smooth, creamy and coconutty.

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The waitress was incredibly friendly, and also clearly knowledgeable, so well done to her and the assumed training she received.

For starters I chose Sweetcorn Fritters and Steve chose the Island bait (whitebait, both priced £5.10). Imagining flat pancake like fritters, I was pleasantly suprised to receive four big sweetcorn fritter balls; they had a lovely crunchy outer and a soft doughy middle, containing sweetcorn and cooked onions – the latter with enough bite to balance the textures. It had a lovely flavour with a bit of zing, although I indulged in mixing one if the spicy tables sauces with my mayo to create a spicy dip. The whitebait were a good size, a petite portion and fried perfectly with no oil left dripping in the bucket. Good start.

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Being chilli lovers, we were pleased to see the selection of spicy sauces at the table in order to up the anty on our food. We noted the cocktails were 2-4-1 before 7pm and after 10pm, and thought this was a good place for pre or post dinner drinks.

Now for main; Steve ordered the Fish Curry One Pot (£9.70) and I ordered the Red Snapper (£12.50), choosing the sweet potato mash as my accompaniment. We had seen some pots go out that looked like mussel pots so were suprised to see a glass pyrex dish arrive with the one pot in. Unfortunately the bowl was cold, so we had to send it back as the food was tepid. They did, however, make a new one fairly swiftly but my plate was cold too so this is clearly something  that needs looking at. Thankfully, the way my fish had been cooked, in a foil parcel, meant it was still hot.

The one pot was flavoursome with earthy and zingy flavours, that I haven’t tasted in other offerings around the city. Steve thought it was good, but not outstanding and it could have been a larger portion and spicier. My fish was nice, and the sauce was really flavoursome. Unfortunately the sweet potato and salad were a let down – the sweet potato was like babyfood and there wasn’t much of it, I wish had gone for a sturdier starch. The salad was just leaves with a dressing on and maybe one shaving of coconut, I think they could have done so much more with this on the side of a nice piece of fish.

As we looked up around us, the surroundings included tin roof walling, graffiti style art, mismatched old speakers, woven baskets, and industrial hanging lighting although they are too low, as staff kept having to duck which was a distraction – these are impractical and really should be pulled up a smidgen. It was quite dim, which hindered menu reading (& the quality of my photos), and perhaps this explains why they have the hanging lights so low, even the shorter staff would hit their head. The main area of the restaurant consisted of a circular bar, surrounded by a variety of table types, and with an open kitchen. Lots of string lights all over the place and plenty of colour – it is a vibrant design.

Thankfully, the puddings picked us up from imperfect mains; I ordered the rum and raisin bread pudding and Steve had the rum cake – both were delicious, moist and full of rum and even pleased my savoury loving husband (both £4.85).

Drinks wise, we ended the evening on a homemade ginger beer for Steve and a peanut butter and banana smoothie for me (both £3.60). The smoothie was very tasty and a good consistency and Steve loved the very gingery ginger beer and would buy it to take home if he could.

So our verdict on this eaterie was mixed really; a good start and finish, but a very average middle and fairly priced in places…I guess you’ll have to visit to find out for yourself. It is a very different beast, and if you’re going to be different you need to do it very well or not at all. We’ll see how they get on when the rest of the competition move in.

Hornbrook Kitchen’s Venison Ragu

Life is busy at the moment for Hornbrook Kitchen, but Chef Tom Allbrook has brought us another delicious Recipe Of The Week!  I love venison, and this recipe really brings out of the best in this rich meat.

Ingredients: (Serves 5 people)

1x carrot
1x red onion
3x garlic cloves
2x celery sticks
½ beef tomato
120 ml cooking red wine
Good grating of fresh nutmeg
1x tin of plum tomatoes
300ml beef stock
400g venison mince
Splash balsamic
75 ml extra virgin olive oil

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Method:

Finely dice the carrot, onion, garlic and celery and sweat them off in a little oil on a medium heat for about 5-8 minutes. Whilst you are doing this you will want to add the salt, pepper and nutmeg.

After the veg is nicely sweated and has become transparent it’s time to turn up the heat and add the mince. Fry this off until golden brown before adding the wine and balsamic to de-glaze the pan; cook this out for a couple more minutes before turning the heat right back down. Add your stock, tin tomatoes and beef tomato and allow this to simmer away for about 25 to 30 mins.

You can serve this dish with whatever pasta you like best. For this recipe I have chosen penne as it has to be one of my favourites along with pappardelle. I cook my pasta for about 7 mins with a pinch of salt and then drain it and leave to stand for 1 minute before adding the ragu.

Simply mix the ragu through your pasta serve in a deep pasta dish with a grating of parmesan and a few crispy breadcrumbs and you will be well away.

Absurd Bird Bloggers event at Exeter Cookery School

Last week we were invited along to Exeter Cookery School to witness and experience some of the things that make Absurd Bird a restaurant to look forward to.

Eating Exeter were lucky enough to be invited along with other notable food/life bloggers from the Exeter area – we were in for a treat.

Food Bloggers, like bears, are generally solitary creatures.  They roam restaurants, eating food and visiting events, but rarely do they gather in one place.  This is a terrible analogy as bears can be grumpy and smell terrible (so I am told), and as far as I know the food bloggers that I know all smell lovely and are not grumpy in the slightest.  My point is that it can be a solitary occupation, so it was great to meet-up and take lots of photos (449 on the memory card afterwards!).  I can’t wait to get that bunch of bloggers together again!

So why had we gathered in the beautiful surroundings of Exeter Cookery School? Well we were here to witness what Absurd Bird was all about, with their third restaurant opening in the Queen Street Dining Quarter very soon and their first restaurant outside London, this was a unique way of connecting with bloggers and getting their message across.

There were three elements to the evening: cocktails, demonstrated by Soul Shakers; A demo from Andrew Hazel, director of food operations; and a chance for us to get our hands dirty and have a go for ourselves.

But first, cocktails provided by Soul Shakers made with Absurd’s very own moonshine, a type of bourbon believe it or not.

We had a demo, then another sample…

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Some of Absurd Bird’s very own Moonshine!

So what is Absurd Bird? Based on Deep South comfort food, their menu has been developed to put them ahead of many of the other High St chains.  Using good quality chicken from Foss Meadow Farm, they are striving to put themselves above other restaurants in quality and experience.  Mark Hall gave a brief talk on why Absurd Bird had chosen Exeter as their first city outside London (they have two other restaurants in LDN).

Our demo this evening was going to be given by the Head of Food Operations, Andy Hazell, who had travelled down from London that day.

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Mark Hall, Group Operations Director

Andy was going to demonstrate some dishes tonight including Spinach, Jalapeno and Artochoke Dip, Quinoa Salad (which we’d be making), Deep Fried Chicken in Boa Buns with Kewpie Mayo and their take on Mac & Cheese.

Absurd Bird tend to fry, smoke or grill their chicken.  Soaked in brine to keep it succulent, all smoking happens in-house.  Every part of the chicken that can be used is used.

Fresh ingredients are bought in each day.

Finally we got to see our Quinoa Salad, one of the items that we’d be preparing ourselves in our own teams!

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I partnered with Nick and Latoyah from Sugar Pink Food.

Although we didn’t win any prizes for presentation, team name or taste it was a great end to a unique event.  Jim and Lucy Fisher judged our plates, but sadly they were not bowled over by our ‘Jurassic Park’ inspired creation!

Stay tuned for more news about Absurd Bird this week!

http://www.absurdbird.com/

Firezza opens in Exeter The proper pizza revolution hits Exeter: Amazing pizza from £6

September 19, 2016: Firezza, the proper pizza company, will open in Exeter on Monday, September 19th with an opening party at the store on Wednesday, September 21st from 5-7.30pm. Come along for your free pizza and prosecco.

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Famous for crafting large 25cm hand-stretched pizzas “with passion”, Firezza only uses premium ingredients. Each pizza is handmade and fire-baked superfast in Neapolitan fire-breathing ovens by experienced pizzaiolos.

Although Firezza is high quality, it believes that proper pizza should be accessible with low and easy-to-understand prices. For instance, the price for a Margherita starts at just £5.95.

Amazing pizza at everyday prices is a big part of the “proper pizza revolution”, as is the fight-back against dodgy ingredients and marketing-driven features like greasy, stuffed crusts.

Instead, Firezza pizza is available at low prices, every day, all day. It’s that simple.

Customers also have the flexibility to add toppings to any pizza, or design a unique “Create Your Own” pizza, by selecting ingredients from Firezza’s considerable range.

With 17 locations across London in addition to Tunbridge Wells and Milton Keynes, Firezza’s brand of proper pizza has proved extremely popular with those who appreciate artisan food.

Firezza Exeter is open for deliveries and collections. Located on Sidwell Street and taking over the site from sister company Pizza Express, which is still available via Deliveroo. Firezza has already created 25 jobs, with more to come as the team grows.

Neil Lambert, joint managing director, Firezza, comments: “We’ve heard great things about Exeter from our sister company Pizza Express. Firezza offers the best of both worlds, amazing taste and low prices, and we’re sure the people of Exeter will understand exactly what we mean by ‘proper pizza’ when they try one of our handmade fire-baked creations.”

Edin Basic, founder, Firezza, comments: “Exeter is a beautiful city, full of history and culture. We’re excited about opening our first location in the South West and where better to introduce proper pizza than Devon’s proper capital. We look forward to being part of the Exeter’s growing foodie community.”

http://firezza.com/

The Salutation Inn, Topsham – Chris Gower

The Salutation Inn, 68 Fore Street,Topsham, Exeter, Devon, EX3 0HL – 

01392 873060
info@salutationtopsham.co.uk

http://www.salutationtopsham.co.uk/

Topsham is one of my favourite places.   It sits on a peninsular of land between the River Exe and the River Clyst, both opening out in to the magnificent Exe Estuary.  From Topsham Quay you can see right down to Exmouth with some of the nicest views in the area experienced from The Goatwalk or Bowling Green marsh.  It is dominated by the sea, its history as a port is evident everywhere.

This nauticality (I know it isn’t a word!) seems to infuse itself in to the way of life in Topsham.  Little reminders that the sea was one of the principle sources of income for many who lived and worked in the town, the bricks of the Dutch houses that line the riverside are made from bricks brought over as ballast in vessels from Holland, the numerous wharfs and quays used to house shipbuilders and rope makers, sail lofts and other trades related to shipbuilding were prevalent in Topsham’s hey-day.

And as you might imagine, there were a significant number of pubs for a town that had such large number of sailors.  Although the pubs have dwindled – the infamous Topsham Ten pub crawl is now moreso the Topsham Seven – one of these pubs got a new lease of life three years ago when it was taken over and renovated by Chef Tom Williams and his family.

Tom’s grandfather had owned Deller’s Cafe, a popular destination in pre-war Exeter known for its high-tea and music acts.  His parents used to run The Imperial Hotel before it became a Wetherspoon’s; and now The Salutation Inn continues this family tradition with this independent establishment showcasing fine accommodation and exquisite food

This was recognised when The Salutation Inn won Best Bed and Breakfast at the Food and Travel  Reader Awards 2016 that took place on the 12th September in London!

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Tom attended Exeter College as a chef trainee for three years graduating as Top Student then to Gordon Ramsey at Hospital Road in Chelsea.  After that he took up position at Petrus under Marcus Waring before returning to Devon and working his way up to Sous Chef at Gidleigh for Michael Caines.  During the refurbishment of Gidleigh Tom had a spell in France for the Rothschilds and immediately prior to The Salutation Inn Tom was at Abode in Exeter as Executive Chef for three years.

The Salutation Inn, a Grade 2 listed property, was previously a bit of an old man pub – there was a lot wrong with it.  It was owned by Punch Taverns and provided a rather sedate pub menu with a range of ‘the usual’ beers on draught.  It wasn’t particularly memorable.  When the Tom’s family bought the Inn on new years eve 2010, the long process of turning an empty shell into a fine dining 30 cover fine dining restaurant with accommodation and 45 cover glass atrium began in earnest.

A lot of hard graft went in to getting what it looks like today.  Working with English Heritage, the Salutation Inn’s unique features have been sensitively preserved; this includes their porte cochère’ (carriage porch)  which has been described by English Heritage as, one of the largest single leaf doors in the country.

I have been eager to dine here since it opened so when were were invited along to see The Salutation Inn for ourselves, I was over the moon!

Our tasting menu tonight had been carefully put together by Tom and cooked by himself personally – it was a showcase of this chef’s talent and exacting nature with the dishes that leave the Salutation’s kitchen.

Arriving through the historic single leaf door, we were greeted by Amelia (Tom’s partner & Hotel Manager) and her team. Taking a comfortable seat in the modern and tasteful drawing room, we selected our wine on recommendation, which was a delightful 2014 Banfi, Toscana San Angelo Pinot Grigio which was the perfect accompaniment to our meal.

Before our meal though were three delicious canapes, perfectly balanced morsels presented tastefully on slate.

The duck liver parfait and celeriac was presented in a tiny jar with an even tinier spoon to scoop.  Both being fans of parfait and small spoons, we were excited when we were presented with this lovely selection.

With our parfait we also had a Cheese Choux Gougere and Tomato & Basil Arancini as well, both delicate and quite delectable.

Our table ready, we were moved into the main restaurant for the first course in our tasting menu.  The restaurant is tasteful, modern and relaxing without too much distraction from the main pieces of artwork that were plate-based.  The seats were particularly comfortable, the cutlery was clean and the glasses shone.  The attention to detail is not just reflected in the food.

On route to the restaurant, Tori had remembered how much she loved Tom’s scallops having had them previously at an event last year.  Two things she loves is scallops and peashoots so imagine the joy when the apperitif appeared.

Just as we had both remembered, the scallops had a soft silkiness to them and with the earthiness of the peas and the savory palette of the bacon; it came together.  Having never had a seafood item with bacon, this is something I would love to try again.

Our next course was a Beetroot Salmon Gravadlax with Horseradish Ice Cream.  A colourful cacophony visually and in its taste.  Gravadlax is cured Salmon; typically buried in salt, sugar and dill – this is a Scandinavian method of curing fish which I’ve never tried before – which was delicious.  The River Exe salmon that The Salutation Inn serves is one of the few places in Exeter serve this rarity, given the fishing of these fish are controlled so strictly.  During the season Tom’s father, Ed Willams-Hawkes catches the fish and walks them up to the restaurant freshly caught.

Lightly curried Monkfish, mussel and apricot cannelloni served with leeks and saffron sauce was our first main.  Perfectly presented, the saffron sauce and monkfish worked together with the earthiness of the mussels.  The mussels were silky and expertly cooked.

Our final main was Brixham turbot, lobster, asparagus and wild mushrooms.  A beautiful buttery sauce and the richness of the lobster certainly had me.  We had previously seen Tom cook a lobster at the Food & Design Festival at Sapphire Spaces last year, so this was a definite highlight of the meal.  Lobster is tender and sweet, a meat that can take a bit of getting used to if you’re new to it, but very rich in taste and not ‘fishy’ like some seafood can be.

After such a variety of dishes we finished off the meal with a White Chocolate Granny Smith, white chocolate ice-cream with a wall of apple crumble lining the perimeter.

After the meal diners can retire to the drawing room for tea and coffee.  We received Petit Fours as compliments from the chef, which included macarons, fudge and a wonderfully refreshing iced mint glace.

This is what The Salutation Inn is all about.  Luxury, local produce in a menu that changes dependent on season and ingredients cooked by a talented chef who healms one of the most desirable places to stay in the UK…

After our petit fours I caught up with Tom and his talented team including Ethan (right) and Jack Sharland who is going to be competing in South West Chef of The Year semi-finals in October (Good luck Jack!).  Their passion and expertise is evident just talking to these guys.

The Salutation Inn is a local benchmark for fine dining for me.  Steered by a select team whose passion for what they do is evident in conversation and in a much deserved award.

If you fancy experiencing it for yourself, there is a special evening coming up hosted by Liam Stevenson called

“A journey through the Languedoc-Roussillon… with a Master of Wine”

http://www.salutationtopsham.co.uk/liam-stevenson-wine-dinner-a-journey-through-the-languedoc-roussillon/

It sounds like a fantastic experience for wine lovers and is definitely worth considering as I doubt this will be repeated.

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The Salutation Inn scoops Best Bed and Breakfast of the year

Photography credit: Adam Oseland

On Monday 12th of September at The RAC CLUB, Pall Mall the Williams-Hawkes family and staff were awarded Food and Travel Bed and Breakfast of the Year 2016.

The Salutation Inn is owned by the Williams- Hawkes family South Western Hotel & Catering Company Ltd (who previously owned The Imperial, Exeter) and was purchased on New Year’s Eve 2010 from Punch Taverns.

The property had been empty for two years and was in need of care. The Grade 2 * listed building was granted planning permission in late 2011 when the rebuilding project commenced, creating a 45 cover glazed atrium cafe, a 30 cover Fine-Dining Restaurant and now most importantly four lovingly restored en-suite guest bedroom accommodation and two additional suites. Now run by Tom Williams-Hawkes and partner Amelia Boalch they have a young vibrant team attracting many regulars locally and further afield.

Tom attended Exeter College as a chef trainee for three years graduating as Top Student, then on to Gordon Ramsey at Hospital Road, Chelsea then to Petrus under Marcus Wareing before returning to Devon and working his way up to Sous Chef at Gidleigh for Michael, a spell in France followed for the Rothschilds during Gidleigh refurbishment and then on to the Abode in Exeter as Executive Chef for three years.

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“With dinner and breakfast cooked by Tom and his wonderful brigade, served with fabulous smiles after a great night sleep Naturalmat bed we have won.  We cannot thank you enough for the votes, support and lovely words, we feel very blessed! To be alongside the names on this list of winners hopefully speaks for itself..”

The Salutation Inn, Bed and Breakfast of the year looks forward to welcoming you soon.

Read our review of The Salutation Inn tomorrow from 17:30!

South West Chef of the Year 2016 – Semi Finalists announced

Judges of South West Chef of the Year have chosen the semi-finalists who will go forward to the closing stages of this year’s prestigious competition. Chefs from around the region battled it out for a place in the next stage of their category. Founder and co-judge Michael Caines MBE has praised the standard of culinary skill already shown in this stage of the competition. The full list of semi-finalists and finalists has been published on the South West Chef of the Year competition website: www.southwestchef.co.uk/2016-semifinalists/.

Michael said: “The first round is very hard because chefs need to demonstrate from just a menu what they are capable of producing in the kitchen. Their menus must also have an emphasis on sustainability and use specific ingredients that we give them. The results were, once again, fantastic with some great taste combinations and the right amount of inventiveness. I can’t wait for these menus to be recreated in the semi-finals.”

Chefs chosen for the Professional, Young Professional and Student Chef of the Year classes will now go through to the semi-finals held at Exeter College on Saturday 8th October. This year, Jack Sharland – who won the South West Student Chef of the Year award in 2015 has successfully gained a place at the Young Professional category and is working as a full-time chef.

Jack said: “Winning the Student award last year has brought about so many opportunities. It was a great chance to find out what other people thought of my cooking and I learned so much from the other competitors and what they did. With another year’s experience, I wanted to put myself up for the challenge again in the next stage of the competition and hopefully learn even more.”

Finalists of the Junior Chef of the Year – who have been selected from county-based semi-finals held at catering colleges throughout June and July, will now go through to a grand final at Ashburton Cookery School on Saturday 15th October. They will be joined by Home Cook finalists who have been selected by the judges based on their two course menus and which they will now be asked to prepare. Last year, Andrew Callaghan was the joint winner of the South West Junior Chef of the Year award and has this year been selected for the final of the Home Cook category. Although not studying catering at the moment, he is still considering this as a potential career path.

Andrew said: “The South West Chef of the Year competition has given me many opportunities, skills and the confidence to learn about life as a chef. Mentoring, work experience, opportunity after opportunity – it has changed my life. To all those junior cooks out there, enter, try and whether you succeed or not, never give up, keep learning. I’m delighted to reach the final of the Home Cook category this year and look forward to the challenge ahead when I can put my new skills and imagination into something I love doing.”

Several chefs see the competition as an annual challenge with entrants coming back each year. With many crediting the competition with giving them valuable professional development opportunities, some progress from South West Chef of the Year to the next stage in their career.

A grand final for the two professional classes and the student chef class will take place on Monday 24th October at Exeter College swiftly followed by a lavish awards ceremony and dinner held at Exeter Golf & Country Club that evening.

Hosted by the judges including Michael Caines MBE, the awards dinner is a culinary feast comprising courses prepared by three top chefs from the region. This year, the chefs selected to cook at the awards dinner are Hywel Jones who will also be judging this year’s competition and is a Michelin-starred Executive Chef at Lucknam Park, Bath; Jamie Rogers, a previous winner of South West Chef of the Year (2015) and Head Chef at Belgrave Sands Hotel, Torquay and Scott Paton, also a previous winner of South West Young Professional Chef of the Year (2009) and Head Chef at Boringdon Hall Hotel, Plymouth. Hywel, Jamie and Scott will be supported in the kitchen and front of house by students of the Michael Caines Academy.

Members of the public can buy tickets to the South West Chef of the Year Annual Awards Dinner, priced at £80 per person and enjoy sumptuous food and drink throughout the evening. A further information and ticket reservation email address has been set up: info@southwestchef.co.uk.

The Pig at Combe, Honiton

East Devon is quickly becoming the place-to-be for foodies.  The Otter Valley itself hosts The Rusty Pig & Ottery St Mary with all its delicious offerings; Ottery Brewey, Otterton Mill and Otter Valley Ice Cream to mention just a few.

Earlier this year a hotel opened just outside Honiton that is set to firmly establish East Devon as a national foodie hotspot – along with MC’s Lympstone development taking shape at the other end, the whole region is blossoming with quality food-stops and destinations.

We were invited along to The Pig at Combe to experience for ourselves The Pig Hotel.  The hotel is located in the small village of Gittisham just outside of Honiton.

If you are coming from Exeter, be prepared to go in to Honiton itself and up through the Heathpark Business Estate and then follow the country lanes along to Gittisham.  The entrance with its large gold pig on the sign is the beginning of a long pleasant drive up to the hotel through verdant green fields.

The history of this house is extensive.  Listed in the Domesday Book, the village and the Combe Estate share connections that stretch back to time immemorial.  .

The village of Gittisham appears (as Gidesham) in the Domesday Book – a survey of England undertaken for William the Conqueror, and completed in 1086. Combe manor was recorded as belonging to the King’s half-brother, Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux. It passed through several families over the next 350 years, by which time a house – probably consisting of no more than one large room, a kitchen and a buttery, with two bedchambers above – had been built.

By 1424, the Beaumonts were living in the manor house of Combe. The family held it for almost 200 years. At one stage, during the reign of Henry VII, it passed to an illegitimate son, John Bodrugan. It was his son, Henry, who built the Combe House that we see today.

The property passed through two more families – the Putts, and the Markers – before being leased out and turned into one of England’s first country-house hotels in 1968.” – http://www.hotelsthatwerenot.com

But history aside, The Pig Hotel brand took over the lease in October 2015 (having previously been the Combe House Hotel) – by July 2016 it had been well and truly ‘piggified’ and open for business.  Within days it was fully booked.

The strength of The Pig brand has been something of a success story in the hotel world and during our visit, it was clear to see why.  The Pig founder Robin Hutson has really created something in touch with the zeitgeist

An informal yet quirky interior, married with friendly conversational service. From the minute we walked through the beautiful front door into the bar area, there was a member of staff ready to help.

At The Pig at Combe, there is no reception desk; guests walk straight in to a bar area, adorned with walnut wood paneling and comfy sofas, this is where you can wait for your table to become ready, enjoy a drink and warm yourself by the fire.

The Folly

The Pig Hotel has two restaurants, the Devon Restaurant and The Folly which you walk past on the way to the main house from the car park. Before piggification, this had been The Orangery but hadn’t served much function apart from being large and strangely placed.  It is semi-restored and sensitively decorated, bringing function and making use of valuable space.

The menu here is based around the large wood fired pizza oven.  Here pizzas and flatbreads are the order of the day; there are no reservations, just turn up and make yourself comfortable outside or inside.  We didn’t eat here, but came and had a nose around after our meal.

I had a conversation with one of the chefs (I didn’t catch his name), who gave me the low-down on what sorts of things they serve in The Folly and a bit more about The Pig’s ethos. Throughout our visit, the one thing that came across was the genuine warmth from each member of staff, who were all more than willing to chat.

After passing The Folly, guests are lead down a path to the front of the hotel and it is here that we can finally admire the view.

What a view!!, looking down from Gittisham Hill; had it not been such a hazy day we could have seen all the way to Dartmoor…

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The Devon Restaurant

It was our turn to walk through the front door to a small welcoming party.  We were handed our drinks menu, given a bowl of home-made lemon & seaweed popcorn and made to feel incredibly welcome.  We were going to experience the Devon Restaurant and it’s daily changing menu, sourced from their extensive Kitchen Gardens and select nearby producers.

My drink this lunchtime was going to be a bottle of Otter Bright in honour of the fact that we are in the Otter Valley and that Otter Brewery is a matter of minutes away from Combe, I felt the need to honour one of our local brewery success stories.  Tori went for the Sherry Puerto Fino which she sipped happily whilst I poked fun at her for being such an old lady in her spirit choices.

The bar area is one of the highlights of The Pig at Combe.  A long line of genuine classic first/second edition Penguin paperbacks line the mantlepiece above the fireplace, behind the bar sits glass shelves with vintage coloured cocktail glasses that gives this room a cosy unique atmosphere.

Whilst sat sipping our drinks, we were handed one of the main menus.  This is the 25 Mile Menu with nearly everything on the menu coming from either in the grounds, or from producers within a 25 mile radius.  There were some familiar names on the menu including Creedy Carver who produce some exquisitely tasting ducks and Piper’s Farm who we all know and love!  The menu changes each day depending on ingredients available.

Once our table was ready, we were led in to a large dining room, languishing in light from large windows and adorned with herbs and a spectacular collection of moths and butterfly display cases.

We had already ordered our food in the bar area, so all we had to do was sit down and take in our surroundings.

Strewn across the dining room, and in fact the whole hotel, pots of herbs and plants that went in to food and drinks served at the hotel; the window sills were forest-like with mint and rosemary, fragrant leaves adding to the interior design elements that would not be out of place in the pages of a style magazine.

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The menu includes a fantastic vegetarian selection, but also a section called Piggy Bits – aperitif style dishes created as a warm-up act before the headliner.

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I went for Ham Hock Eggs made with quail eggs from The Pig’s very own flock of quails, Tori and her secret love of pork scratchings made her go for Pork Crackling & Apple Sauce – both (£3.75).  Perfect aperitifs to the main show!

The Hock Eggs, small and perfectly formed with a seasoned ham encapsulated in breadcrumbs and garnished with herbs and a tangy drizzle.  Had we been given three large plates of Hock Eggs I would have been happy!  The crackling was served in long strips with apple sauce to dip, perfectly seasoned and crispy in the right places!

As we waited briefly for our courses to arrive we couldn’t help look around the room; a group of ladies lunching, couples on holiday, chatting away over glasses of wine enjoying the natural light coming through the large windows which had been covered up until the recent piggification.

For starters I went for the “A Pinch of Salt” Cured Meats (£8) and Tori decided on a Courgette and Walnut Soup (£6) from the ‘Literally Picked This Morning’ section of this already inspiring menu – which, as you might have guessed, was produced with courgettes from the kitchen garden.

The Cured Meats, served on a wooden platter with a home-made chutney was garnished in greens from the kitchen garden and green olives.  The whole dish was well thought-out and put together, the meats were not overly greasy as smoked meats can be and worked really well with the chutney.  Tori enjoyed her soup that came with freshly baked bread and a toasted nut garnish across the top.

For main course I went for the Creedy Carver Duck Breast served with Roasted Carrots, Chard & Rowan Berry Sauce (£19) with a Flower Pot of Triple Cooked Chips (£3.75) and Tori plumped for the Trimlett Fam Pork Collar (£16) with a side of Buttered New Potatoes (£3.75).

For me texture of meat is as important as taste.  A tasty steak is let down if I have to chew it 100 times before swallowing.  The duck breast was cooked to perfection, silky and soft as it bathed in a light gravy; it had a richness that balanced with the accompanying vegetables really well.  And yes. I had chips with it, but what chips.  Freshly cooked and clearly made out of potato, and not an indiscriminate mash, these were perfect chips.

Tori’s pork collar was tender and as expected, perfectly cooked with a sumptuous helping of buttered new potatoes, these went down very well from the other side of the table.

We finished off the meal outside with teas and coffee, kids played happily on the large lawn outside whilst couples relaxed in the wooden loungers overlooking the wonderful view.

After relaxing outside for a bit we decided to go for a wander around the house.  The piggification of Combe House has been sympathetic to many original features, and given it is a Grade 1 listed house there is only so much one can do.

The interiors promote cosiness and a place to come and enjoy should the weather change, or just somewhere to snuggle up on a cold night.

After bumping in to the wonderful Robin Rea (hi Robin!) Chef-Proprietor of The Rusty Pig in Ottery St Mary, we strolled up the hill behind the main hotel to explore the vast Kitchen Gardens that the kitchen use to supply their daily changing menu.

The Pig at Combe showcases some of the best we have to offer in Devon.  Set in beautiful surroundings amongst verdantly green fields on Gittisham Hill overlooking rolling hills off towards Exeter.  Using home grown ingredients; some of the best local producers within a small radius and presented in a modern relaxed atmosphere.

The menu changes daily depending on season and availability of ingredients, you’ll need more than one visit to properly take in this location and appreciate some of the fine foods that are being served within its walls.

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Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) is celebrating the opening of its new Exeter restaurant with a big burger giveaway.

GBKSpreading the burger joy from its brand new location at Queen St Dining, in the Guildhall Shopping Centre, GBK Exeter will be giving away 100 cheeseburgers from midday on opening day – 12th September. Be sure to arrive early so you don’t miss out.

Proud of serving gourmet burgers since 2001, GBK kick-started the premium burger trend and was the first to introduce gourmet burgers to the London market. Setting itself apart from the rest with a huge range of adventurous crafted burgers, GBK uses 100% prime beef, hand selected and traditionally reared on independent farms across the South West counties. GBK only ever uses the freshest ingredients and creates sauces from scratch every day.

In 2001, three kiwi guys set up the first GBK in Battersea, South London. Their philosophy was simple – to create a fresh, quality burger reminiscent of the gourmet burgers they were used to back in New Zealand. They were the first to introduce gourmet burgers to the London market and we still pride ourselves on serving up the freshest burgers; combining 100% prime beef, hand selected and traditionally reared on independent farms across the South West counties, with the freshest ingredients and sauces made from scratch every day in each GBK kitchen.

GBK Marketing Manager, Laura Pettingale comments: “There’s been a lot of buzz around our arrival and we couldn’t be more excited to finally welcome the burger lovers of Exeter through our doors. We wanted to open with a bang and what better way to celebrate than with free burgers?”

GBK Exeter will be the restaurant’s 76th to open. Located in the Guildhall Shopping Centre, and opening on 12 September, the restaurant will create 45 jobs in the local area.

For exclusive burger rewards and benefits, download the GBK app. Take advantage of our Order & Collect service, to pre-order burgers from GBK Exeter and collect at a time that suits you.

GBK Exeter, Guildhall Shopping Centre, Exeter, EX4 3EB