Harry’s Restaurant, Longbrook St – by Chris Gower

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86 Longbrook Street, Exeter, EX4 6AP – Book a table here

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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!

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