Eating Exeter has teamed up with the Exeter Business Improvement District to offer one lucky winner a meal for two in Comptoir Libanais and vouchers to spend in Sainsbury’s*.
This festive foodie prize includes a mezze platter for two and a bottle of house wine in Comptoir Libanais and a £10 voucher to spend in Sainsbury’s, perfect for enjoying a meal out in Exeter and making a head start on the Christmas shopping.
Comptoir Libanais is situated in the recently opened Queen St Dining Quarter, next to the Guildhall Shopping Centre. Specialising in wholesome and healthy Lebanese food from breakfast through to dinner, this relaxed souk-like restaurant is perfect for a meal out in Exeter.
Stock up the fridge with Christmas food and drinks, or pick up some Christmas gifts for family and friends with £10 to spend in Sainsbury’s, found in the Guildhall Shopping Centre.
Once you have had your fill of Lebanese food and picked up your shopping explore the rest of Exeter city centre. Don’t forget late night shopping ends on December 22nd.
Explore everything Exeter has to offer including shopping, eating and drinking, where to stay and what’s on over the festive period at inexeter.com.
*To enter, please retweet our pinned Twitter post linked to this page or share the Facebook post relating to this competition. Competition ends Midnight on Friday 9th December 2016. and is exclusive to Eating Exeter.
Recently I was over the moon to be invited to join a host of other foodie, family and lifestyle bloggers at River Cottage HQ, to experience their facilities and offering. The event was being hosted blogger groups Foodies100 and HIBS100.
I have been to HQ before for one of the annual Summer Fairs but it has been some years now. Most of you would know of River Cottage I’m sure, and the fantastic Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who has lovingly developed the farm, his book collection as well as using his knowledge and power for good.
If you don’t know much about River Cottage and Hugh, here’s a little snippet:
‘River Cottage HQ, found on the Devon and Dorset border, is home to everything they do and is the base for their Cookery and Chefs’ School, unique dining experiences and memorable events.
There are four Canteens, the award-winning restaurants and delis based in the South West where they combine their philosophy with the finest producers in Axminster, Bristol, Plymouth and – most recently – Winchester.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a multi-award-winning writer and broadcaster widely known for his uncompromising commitment to seasonal, ethically produced food.
He has earned a huge following through his River Cottage TV series and books, as well as campaigns such as Hugh’s Fish Fight and the most recent- Saving Africa’s Elephants: Hugh and the Ivory War
Hugh’s early smallholding experiences were shown in the Channel 4 River Cottage series and led to the publication of The River Cottage Cookbook (2001) which won the Glenfiddich Trophy and the André Simon Food Book of the Year award (and was republished in an expanded 10-year-anniversary edition in 2011). Ten more books have followed, including the acclaimed River Cottage Meat Book and the hugely successful River Cottage Veg Everyday and the most recent A-Z of Ingredients.’
As we arrived in the unassuming car park, we gathered in the wooden hut along with other bloggers who had already arrived and waited patiently for more to trickle in with the final count being 55 I believe. We were all like children knowing we would inevitably have a tractor ride down to the farm – we weren’t disappointed, although what a bouncy journey!
After being welcomed into the twinkling barn with drinks and delightful drop scones, topped with yogurt and honey, we settled in for a demo. This demo was all about enhancing your Christmas meats including making your own ham, how to brine a chicken or turkey and how to make venison bresaola. All three sounded so simple and I will certainly be looking to give one or two a go! Of course the tasters were delicious.
After indulging in said tasters, the group split into two with half networking and talking all things blog and social media in the famous River Cottage HQ main house where lots of filming has taken place and the other half piling into the yurt, warmed by the beautiful log burner in order to take on a Guess What’s in the Box challenge. The challenge involved putting your hand in said box and feeling around and guessing what the items were, with some being unexpectedly sticky such as candied ginger and a bit daunting at first.
Now for the main event! We gathered inside the barn again, now transformed for our dinner. I say dinner, it was a grazing fest – we were fed for almost three and a half hours. It started off with a lovely warming apple liqueur, along with canapes of Devon mussels with cider apples and diced red onion, leg of pork croquettes with a bechamel sauce inside, as well as bruschetta of goats cheese, beetroot, cider vinegar and fennel. Every morsel a delight.
We were then treated to a pre-starter of pulled rabbit, and romanesco puree followed by a starter of celeriac ravioli with wild mushrooms and leaves. The main was River Cottage cider brined ham, carrot puree, fried savoy cabbage and braised beans. Full yet? Maybe a little…but then what followed was the most beautiful honeycomb creme brulee with apple puree and apple crisps – it was heavenly, every morsel eaten with my eyes shut, I wish I could have had more!
Everything was absolutely gorgeous, flavoursome and texturally well thought out but then what would you expect of such high calibre chefs and environment.
During courses we were welcomed by chef Sam Lomas (below far left) to wander round and even be nosy in the kitchen. The chefs kindly showed us the cookery school, where they hold the usual courses including fish, meat and baking to the more unusual of beekeeping, wild food cookery and even foraging courses.
Did you know you could get married here? Well you do now…and in the lovely veg patch I believe! It’s a really charming environment with charming staff to boot.
Around 10pm or so it was time to go, our carriage (I mean tractor) awaited to return us to our cars. We left with quite a smile on our faces, bellies very full. It certainly was a culinary experience.
So if you are struggling to think of that ideal gift for a friend or loved one, think of #RiverCottageChristmas or any time of the year for that matter – remember cookery skills are for life, and not just for Christmas!
Eating Exeter may be our name, and we certainly love to discover local eateries, producers and events. However, our adventures extend much further into the county we live in; we’re very lucky that within around an hours drive of Exeter, many Devon delights await. This is certainly the case with The Coach House.
The Coach House by Michael Caines is situated in the grounds of Kentisbury Grange Hotel in North Devon, on the edge of Exmoor. Open to residents and non-residents, they serve lunch, dinner (with a choice of taster or a la carte) and afternoon tea. It has recently been awarded two AA rosettes as well as Gold award for Restaurant/Bistro of the Year by South West Tourism Awards – quite an accolade considering the talent in the region. The menus consist of local, seasonal produce cooked sympathetically by staff Michael Caines MBE himself has chosen as well as him overseeing operations there to ensure quality and consistency akin to his established reputation.
When we were invited to come and try their culinary delights, Steve and I immediately sorted childcare so we could go out and enjoy each others company in what we hoped would be a gastronomic lunch. We also love a little ‘road trip’ and knowing North Devon’s lovely coastline, packed some good walking boots for post lunch adventures.
The journey to Kentisbury was lovely, motorway to start but then an easy main route past Tiverton through some beautiful scenery on a lovely crisp Sunday morning. The restaurant is situated in a beautiful 17th Century former coaching house, it is slightly tucked away off a good A road, and up a short driveway, making it feel slightly secret but not too far off the beaten track.
On arrival we were warmly greeted and offered a drink in the bar area pre lunch. We were well and truly ready for lunch so opted to be shown straight to our table – a lovely curved booth by the window with us sitting facing inwards to the restaurant so I could people watch along with having a view towards the kitchen.
Hearing and reading about the food offering here, I thought we were in for a very upmarket restaurant setting – but actually it wasn’t like that at all, which was perfect for us as we enjoy somewhere we can relax and feel easy. Rich velvet and comfortable chairs, warm lighting along with natural light, a walnut and marble bar, dark wood flooring and touches of modern with the glass lined banister. It was comfortably sumptuous – it gave me a good feeling for what was to come.
We were pleased to see a good selection of wines and beers; ranging from a champagne with MC’s name on it and yet a local stout that we hadn’t heard of before. Having ordered our drinks, we salivated over the lunch menu – I could have ordered it all. Some gorgeous warm fresh homemade breads and salty butter were served while we were deciding. I finally settled on Mushroom Raviolo and Steve chose the Smoked Salmon Mousse.
My raviolo was a perfect size, beautifully made and cooked stuffed to the brim with wild mushrooms and spinach. The white wine foam actually tasted as such and provided a delicate coating for the moist pasta, allowing the other flavours to shine through. A scattering of nasturtium leaves added an even fresher and earthier dimension; I loved it. Steve’s smoked salmon cigar was well filled with creamy mousse with was beautifully well balanced with light, acidic, and stronger accompaniments of cucumber, wasabi yoghurt and honey and soy vinaigrette. A great start.
For mains I chose the Confit Duck Leg,whilst Steve opted for the Pan Fried Sea Bream.
The duck was incredibly succulent, meaty and with a crispy skin. What wasn’t on the menu but I was delighted to see was the duck bon bon – delicately soft yet fully flavoured meat with a crispy outer, my favourite type of food item. The sauce was rich and bold with a hint of orange to lift it and the softer texture of the chicory complimented it well. Steve’s fish was possibly the best fish he has had in a long time; the skin was still on the fish and was so crispy, yet the fish perfectly cooked. The light vanilla, sweet parsnip, meaty chicken sauce and touches of pickled ginger supported the fish perfectly.
Now for puds. Being a bit of a lemon curd fan I chose the Lemon Curd and Steve who is less of a pudding person and more a cheese man, opted for the Milk Chocolate Mousse.
The lemon curd was firm but not overly so and well flavoured with zingy lemon. The pistachio cake was as it should be and the cassis sorbet certainly packed a blackcurrant punch. I found it a bit disjointed as a pudding if I’m honest, but enjoyed the items individually. Steve’s was a chocolate triumph; a light crumbly biscuit base, silky smooth milk chocolate topped with crunchy hazelnut and pistachio crumb along with a light caramel ice cream – I was totally jealous and managed to thieve a tiny morsel.
Service was attentive yet not over bearing, the staff seemed confident and relaxed and Steve was even impressed by the ‘crumbing down’ that he witnessed having not seen that for quite along time (something even he learned in catering college).
Ending our lunch with a cup of coffee (which can also be enjoyed on the loft lounge sofas), and with the buzz of some other tables around us including a well sized birthday group consisting of very young to very old, I feel The Coach House is a great venue for any occasion and certainly for a weekend lunch. It’s quite frankly a steal at £19.95 for 2 courses or £24.95 for 3. Add this to the easy yet scenic journey to get here and the fact we stopped off for a lunch burning stroll in nearby Lynmouth afterwards, it all equals a perfect Sunday out.
For a more special occasion, perhaps book for their 6 course tasting menu and team this with a night in the hotel for a truly relaxing weekend away. I would certainly recommend you try it for yourself.
A long term favourite of mine has to be On The Waterfront; a restaurant based in the old ship buildings down on the Quay, it is well known for its ‘dustbin lid’ pizzas as well as a great drinking venue for the summer with punters spilling out on the riverside cobbles.
Long boatrooms with sloped ceilings, small and large tables able to cater for all party types, for young and old alike.
Large 16″ pizzas served in a wicker pizza tray – many try, some succeed and others fail. If you don’t succeed, you get to take it home and have round 2 the next day – so you don’t lose really.
I’ve been here as a couple, a family get together, group of friends and a large work outing with my most recent visit being a group family dinner for my Dad’s birthday. It was the perfect venue; a menu of fish, burgers and pizzas I knew it would satisfy the easy going one, the fussy one, the seafood lover (not least my 6 year old!) and the very hungry one in my family.
Due to the lighting my photos probably don’t do it justice, all I can say is that everyone was satisfied and it is excellent value and never disappoints.
Dustbin lid pizza’s can be enjoyed as a ‘half and half’ enabling you to indulge in two of their exciting toppings and they certainly don’t scrimp!
Among the items that were devoured were half and half Fiesta Mexicana and No Meat Aloud, a half and half Fully Loaded and Fiesta Mexican, the Fiery Inferno, a half and half Tikka Chicken special and Fully Loaded as well as two bowls of Fruits de Mer which were served with chunky ciabatta fingers – great for soaking up the sauce.
Puddings included Elderflower Pannacotta with Peppered Strawberries, Salted Caramel Chocolate Brownie and Chocolate filled Spanish Churros Fritters with Baileys Cream.
You hungry yet? You won’t be when you leave! Grab some family or friends and get down there pronto…you may need a walk around the canal to burn it off.
Since I’ve been writing this blog one restaurant has been steady and consistent in quality. That restaurant is Harry’s. If you want to read about our other visits, head here and here. My last review was The Oddfellows which is just up the road; on the theme of fantastic independent restaurants, here is another one of my much-loved haunts.
Harry’s is an institution in Exeter that goes beyond being just a ‘restaurant’. Established in 1993, there are classic favourite items on the menu that would cause uproar if you took them off (Nachos, The Harry’s Heart-attack etc.) but there are always new dishes being added depending on season and availability of ingredients. Using local suppliers where possible, the kitchen is a hive of activity and is manned by Owner-Chef Sam Pounds and her dedicated team.
86 Longbrook Street was purpose built for a successful businessman named Harry Hems, who ran a church fitting business from the premises. Hems had made a name for himself with his carvings and ornamentation which had gained international reputation for its quality. The workshop was built in the 1880s and designed by R Medley Fulford.
It remained a workshop until 1938 when his son Wilfred and business partner retired. It subsequently became a leather workshop, wine-sellers and later Harry’s Restaurant in 1993. For a full history head to Exeter Memories.
We were invited over to have a look at some new items that have appeared on their menu and give some feed-back. The lovely Amy (we are both big fans of Amy) was running things at the front of house, and as ever the service was friendly, attentive and knowledgeable about their food.
Among some of the favourites that I’ve seen before are some new dishes which we were eager to try. We went for two starters, two mains and one pudding accompanied with a glass of wine.
For starters Tori went for Seasonal Soup Of The Day (£5.00), served with croutons and garnished with colourful edible flowers. The soup today was Cauliflower which is, in my experience, a comforting dish that sits well on a cold evening. It was creamy and seasoned well, the consistency was perfect not being too thick but not too watery either.
My starter was Popcorn Shrimp (£6.00) served with garlic mayo. Battering anything is an art form and there are so many places we’ve been to that have ruined a perfectly good piece of fish by messing up the batter. But Harry’s expertly battered shrimp, served with a lovely garlic mayo was a pleasure to eat; crisp and light batter around large juicy shrimp was the perfect entry to our meal.
When we eat out I tend to head more towards fish options as we don’t really cook it at home. Tonight I chose a Shoreline from Lyme Bay Winery, Axe Valley, Devon. “Uber-dry & refreshing local wine. Complex notes of rose petal, lemon, nettle and grapefruit. Fab with all things fishy”
I went for the Seared Tuna Steak (£15) served with chimichurri, roast cherry tomatoes, avocado, and rocket. A plump slab of tuna cooked brilliantly and contrasting nicely with the savoury palette of the chimichurri. I was particularly taken with the Rocket which mixed with the lemon juices and the olive oil to create a delicious side. The avacado/tuna steak combo isn’t something I have tried before and it worked so well together!
Tori went for the special of the day that could very well appear on the Harry’s Christmas menu. Pork Belly with Mash in Apple Jus which created many nice noises from her side of the table. Pork Belly is, in her experience, very hard to get right and Harrys really got it right. The smoothness of the mash and the apple jus made it for Tori, and we both thought this would be a delightful addition to the menu if they bring it out for Christmas.
For me the dessert was an easy choice. For Tori it was a harder decision as she was quite full by this point so she decided to duck out of dessert after all. But I was still game for something sweet.
Harry’s is the home of the ‘Harry’s Heart Attack (£10)‘, a legendary dessert with the tagline ‘Two will struggle, one will fail’. On a previous visit to Harry’s earlier in the year we tried it out and yes…we had two between us and it was a struggle! But there were allsorts of things, so many different sweets, brownie, ice cream, whipped cream, it was epic!
But on this occasion I was more than happy to have the Peanut Butter & Oreo Cheesecake (£6) with peanut brittle and chocolate ice cream.
The infamous Harry’s Heart Attack we had on a previous visit…
The best way to eat this is to dip the cheesecake in the Peanut Brittle and then scoop a bit of ice cream with it. This method is called the ‘Dip and Scoop’, and it was this method that made me fall in love with this gorgeous dessert.
Harry’s Restaurant has soul. It is family run, completely independent and the staff here are, it seems, like a family in themselves. They are always attentive and on the occasions that I’ve eaten here before, the welcome has always been incredibly warm.
I would happily rate this restaurant as one of my top-spots for a meal out!
Powderkeg Brewery, based in Woodbury Salterton near Exeter, has gone straight to the top with its first award, having won Best Lager at The Beer Awards for its pilsner ‘Cut Loose’.
The Beer Awards are run by the world-renowned IWSC (International Wine & Spirit Competition), with the beers judged in a blind tasting by leading figures from the international beer industry. Winning ‘Best in Show’ in its category, Cut Loose was described as ‘one of the 16 best beers in the world’. Needless to say, it’s a big award for a microbrewery tucked away in a corner of the Devon countryside.
Powderkeg is run by husband and wife team John and Jess Magill. John, who makes the beer, had this to say, “It’s really amazing. We’re overjoyed. Our intention has always been to make the best beer we can and it’s fantastic that has been recognised. But it does make me chuckle that a little Devon micro can be a world-beater when you simplify things down to just what is in the glass.”
Describing the brewery’s approach, John explained “Cut Loose is a classic full-flavoured German Pilsner in almost every way, but we add a new breed of hop called Motueka which infuses a subtle lemon and lime finish, before letting the beer mature for a full six weeks. That sums up what we are all about – progressive beers, great ingredients and not cutting corners – it’s a simple approach, but it’s surprisingly rare!”
Jess Magill went on to say, “We’re delighted to have put Devon beer on the international map. Our intention has always been to move Devon beer forwards – to shake things up, improve the quality and introduce new styles and flavours. We don’t have the budget, history or influence of other breweries, so we just let the beer do the talking – and people are clearly listening. Powderkeg is still very young and this award is just the beginning.”
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the great local businesses and open-minded beer drinkers that have supported us over the last year. There are so many people in Devon that care about quality local produce, and it is to those people that we raise a celebratory pint today.”
Powderkeg only opened for business in the Summer of 2015, but already had plans in place to expand by the end of the year as a result of a successful start to life, having brewed over 200,000 pints in its first year of trading.
But don’t expect to see Cut Loose everywhere you go from now on. “We’ll hopefully increase production in the new year, but to be honest – it can’t be by much. It will remain a small batch beer, and we’ll mostly keep it for the local market. The world’s beer drinkers will have to come to Devon if they want some.”
‘Speak Easy’, Powderkeg’s Transatlantic Pale Ale, was also recognised with an award at the competition.
Back in September, as a late birthday surprise, I was treated to Sunday lunch at Hotel Du Vin, Exeter. Previously called The Magdalen Chapter, the building that was originally an Eye Infirmary was taken over by the luxury chain earlier this year.
Along with rooms, a spa, walled garden and guest areas, it also has a bistro which welcomes both residents and non-residents. Having seen a post on Twitter politely boasting a table full of seafood and following further menu investigation, I was pleased that my retweet and subtle suggestion to my husband worked wonders.
Due to limited parking, we parked in the very nearby in Magdalen Street Car Park and walked over. On entering the hotel and meandering to the rear of the property, I was pleasantly surprised at how large and light the Bistro was, overlooking the private and well kept garden, containing a few al-fresco tables.
Having seen the menu and the price, at a not-so-eye-watering price of £22.95 per person for 4 courses, I was slightly dubious at what would really be on offer. To my delight, there was the ‘French Market Table’ area covered in seafood, pates, a leg of ham, continental meats, potted shrimp, breads, olives et al.
As we were seated and served drinks by our friendly waiter, we were told there was no hurry. No hurry to eat, no hurry to order the soup or our mains, just enjoy your Sunday – this felt nice. The real hurry was the urge felt by my food mad son, and his desperation to get to the buffet offering and help himself. There is a childrens menu consisting of 3 courses for £10 which had some good items on, but actually I would have been happy to pay the child money and just let him eat once course – as much buffet as he could muster.
So after eating our soup, helping ourselves (quite a few times) to the market table, eating our main of beautifully tender Pipers Farm roast beef with homemade yorkshire puddings and oodles of gravy (a request fulfilled without any disapproval – I do love gravy!), we somehow found room for pudding…
I enjoyed a sweet and sticky apple tartin whilst the boys devoured the ice cream. The ice cream alone is worth a mention; all homemade on the premises, it consisted of the creamiest vanilla, chocolatiest and not too sweet chocolate, and the best pistachio ice cream we have ever tasted – fantastic ‘eye-scream’, we nearly fought over it!
Overall, a lovely setting, tasty and plentiful food and choice, good service and incredible value. It would be a great place to not hurry – either as a couple or with a group of friends catching up over a long lunch. You could, quite frankly, eat til your eyes pop…matron!