Five Guys, Queen Street


74 Queen Street, Exeter EX4 3RX – 01392 276744

As we waved goodbye to Ruby Burgers, muffled reports came in that there would be a large well known chain Burger restaurant moving in.  The doors closed and we waited with baited anticipation to discover who it was going to be.  MeatLIQUOR? Patty and Bun? Five Guys?

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Five Guys is like some sort of neon advertisement for modern Americana.  Here you’re offered a refillable ‘Soda’ not a fizzy drink.  To those who know Five Guys from the States you’ll not find much difference as the format is pretty much identical.  You won’t have to wait too long for your food, but you’ll have to unwrap it and you don’t get a tray (at least none that I can see).  But you do get free monkey nuts…

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Maybe it is immensely unfair to compare Five Guys to McDonalds? The burgers are far better, the chips (fries) are a universe away from anything you would find in the neon-hell of Maccy Dee’s and the prices are on quite different levels, but essentially the format is the same.

Five Guys were started in 1986 by Janie and Jerry Murrell; Jerry and the couple’s sons, Jim, Matt, Chad, and Ben were the original “Five Guys.  To this day the business is a family affair with the sons being responsible for different aspects of the business.

In the UK there are 27 Five Guys branches after the first one opened in London back in 2013.  Since then there has been a big expansion throughout the rest of the country with Five Guys filling an unoccupied niche for fast-food style gourmet burgers.

We visited with some friends after a swanky party at the RAMM.  It was 09:30pm and the restaurant had smatterings of people coming back from the pub or just out for a bite to eat.  Customers walk up to the till, choose from a small menu of burgers or hot dogs, choose the toppings which are all free and choose fries and or a refillable bottomless soda or something else to drink.  That is it.

There are no airs-graces or bells, whistles, twiddly bits or knobs.  This is a stripped down experience with the food at the centre stage.

And they won’t let you forget it; the walls are adorned with testimonials from customers and press.  This is just weird.  There is a feeling that they need to constantly remind you as you are eating your food how amazing others find it, and if you feel anything that isn’t complete happiness then you’re just plain wrong.

Burgers are prepared in full view.  If you’re sharp-eyed you can see your burger being prepped and cooked in front of you.

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We found that a lot of the tables were quite grubby.  On reflection we most probably should have moved away from the door as we were visited by a homeless lady who wanted money or food.

As she came in to the restaurant there was no effort from the staff to ask her to leave. This is a tricky situation, and given the problem of homelessness in Exeter not all too surprising.

I had a Bacon Cheeseburger. This comprises of two generous flat-patties of Irish Beef with ‘fake’ cheese and Bacon.  It was £8.95 with Little Fries at £2.95 and the Refillable Soda also £2.95* I can’t remember and given their website has absolutely no prices on the online menu.

The website states about the burger that ‘Our beef is 120-day grain finished from family owned farms in Ireland. Less than 1% of all UK beef qualifies. We serve our patties juicy, glistening and well done.’ – So when did Ireland join the UK?

Ultimately this is a chain restaurant.  It doesn’t support local businesses by buying local, it just exists in its own microcosm.  If you want a burger like this, then head down the road to Urban Burger and buy local.  The burgers were very nice, but the whole thing had a twinge of guilt connected to it, the same guilt one feels when one is sitting in Burger King.

The burgers are cooked fresh, everything is good, but unfortunately for Five Guys they’re just another restaurant in an already crowded market which Exeter doesn’t really need.

I can’t bring myself to give it a recommended status on the blog, mostly because it has too many echoes of the large fast-food chains.  The service was impersonal, it felt like any other fast food chain but just much more expensive and with nicer food.

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Vegans to Celebrate with First National Festival

The Vegan Festival of Britain

20 May –10 June 2017

From Aberdeen and Newcastle to Bristol, Exeter and Norwich, events are taking place all over the UK as part of the first Vegan Festival of Britain.

The three-week festival has been coordinated by Animal Aid to celebrate its 40th anniversary. The idea is for the rapidly growing vegan movement to inspire others by displaying its full range of creative talents. Events already organised include:

Food and living festivals

Cookery demonstrations

Restaurant promotions

Vegan markets

Talks and cookery lessons offered to every secondary school in the UK

A sponsored bike ride.

The Vegan Festival of Britain is to be launched at Vegfest UK, Bristol – Europe’s biggest vegan gathering – on 20 May, where 2000 slices of a giant vegan birthday cake will be handed out to the public.

Festival Organiser Mark Gold said today:

Few will deny that veganism is the diet of the moment, with opinion polls showing a massive rise in the number of people switching to plant-based nutrition. But as well as celebrating this surge in popularity, the Vegan Festival of Britain is looking to the future, with a nationwide programme of events to whet the appetite of all those who are open to the growing evidence that vegan food is better for our health and the environment and, of course, better for animals. What’s more, the food is fabulous!

For more information on The Vegan Festival of Britain – including a full list of events and a history of Animal Aid – go to http://veganfestivalofbritain.org.uk

Three events will be held in Exeter during May and June, see the dates and details here.

Valentine’s Day Gifts from Chococo

For Valentine’s Day 2017, Dorset-based artisan chocolatier Chococo has created a collection of gorgeous chocolates to delight chocolate lovers.

Aspiring cupids can select from the following gifts in their 2017 Valentine Collection: Chococo’s NEW Valentine’s Club – a unique subscription gift; NEW freshly handmade Valentine’s selection boxes; a NEW range of delicious and fun Valentine’s Chocolate Hearts; NEW boxes of Salted Caramel lips; and NEW boxes of little chocolate hearts.

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Carefully developed by the team, led by founders Claire and Andy Burnet, all the gifts are freshly handmade in Purbeck, Dorset, from fine origin chocolate from Madagascar (dark chocolate 67% cocoa) and Venezuela (milk chocolate 43% – which is very high in cocoa solids and lower in sugar) – so the object of your amorous intentions will get the best possible fine chocolate rush.  Chococo has always been a firm believer in working with chocolate high in cocoa solids & low in sugar, as it believes in giving its customers a fine chocolate, not a sugar, experience.

Also, to make the chocolates even more desirable, Chococo will be offering a free Valentine’s gift wrap on all selection boxes that are ordered online.

All the items listed below are available online on its websitewww.chococo.co.uk and from Chococo’s three Chocolate Houses in Swanage, Dorset; Winchester, Hampshire; and the NEWExeter, Devon, location. Alternatively you can call 01929 421777 to order some tempting Valentine delights.

The 2017 Valentine’s Collection includes:

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Chococo Valentine’s Club (£56.40 for three-months) – Give your true love the ultimate Valentine’s Day Gift with this three-month Chococo Valentine’s Club subscription. Every month your love will receive a box of 16 award-winning, fresh chocolates. The first box will be one of their Valentine’s Selections including; NEWpassionfruit caramel, calamansi & marc de champagne, sakura tea, rose, Madagascan vanilla, raspberry, Dorset black summer truffle, rhubarb & vanilla, cherry, Dorset honey, lemon curd, arbequina olive oil and smoked sea salt caramel. The first delivery will also include a free 75g Half & Half Heart – half Venezuelan origin milk chocolate and half Colombian origin white chocolate studded with freeze-dried raspberry pieces. Price includes p&p & free Valentine’s gift wrap on first selection box delivery.

Chococo’s Valentine’s Selection Boxes (Large £19.95 – 25 chocolates/ Medium £14.95 – 16 chocolates) – Say it with these delicious selection boxes packed with Chococo’s handmade hearts and truffles. They will include; NEW passionfruit caramel, calamansi & marc de champagne, sakura tea, rose, Madagascan vanilla, raspberry, Dorset black summer truffle, rhubarb & vanilla, cherry, Dorset honey, lemon curd, arbequina olive oil and smoked sea salt caramel. Both boxes will have two of each flavour, so that romantic couples can share. Price includes free Valentine’s gift wrap around the selection box.

Chococo’s Valentine’s Gift Set (£17.95) – This scrumptious gift set includes a medium selection box of Chococo’s fresh Valentine’s chocolates and a Half & Half Heart (75g) – Half Venezuelan origin milk chocolate and half Colombian origin white chocolate studded with freeze-dried raspberry pieces. Price includes free Valentine’s gift wrap around the selection box. (photo at top of page applies)

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Chococo’s Valentine Hearts – As it’s Valentine’s, Chococo has created a range of chocolate hearts  to celebrate. All handmade and hand-decorated, they come in a variety of flavour combinations. Look out for the NEW abstract art-inspired heart – a masterpiece made from Venezuelan origin milk chocolate.

Chococo’s Valentine Hearts  (£9.95/200g) – Choose from:

  • Arty Heart – A Venezuelan origin milk chocolate heart hand-decorated with naturally coloured white chocolate pink, blue and yellow splatters.
  • Half & Half Heart – Half Venezuelan origin milk chocolate and half Colombian origin white chocolate studded with freeze-dried raspberry pieces round the edge.
  • Lovebots Heart – Half Venezuelan origin milk chocolate and half Colombian origin white chocolate with one white chocolate C181 “lovebot” and one milk chocolate C181 “lovebot”…perfect for sharing!
  • Cupids Love Heart – Madagascan origin dark chocolate heart studded with dark chocolate cupids and hearts, dusted with rose gold shimmer. (vegan)
  • Heavenly Honeycombe Hearts – Origin milk or dark chocolate studded with chunks of honeycombe handmade at Chococo with Dorset honey and dusted with gorgeous shimmers.

Other gifts:

NEW Milk Chocolate Hearts in a cube (£5.95/100g) – Inside this clear box rest seven mini 43% Venezuelan origin milk chocolate hearts wrapped in pink, lilac and pale pink foils.

NEW Sea Salt Caramel Lips in a cube (£6.50/80g) – Eight red and pink foil-wrapped mini Madagascan dark chocolate lips filled with smoked sea salt caramel rest in this box just waiting to be set free.

 

Exeter’s First Bavarian Bar Announces Launch Date

Twitter: @bierkellerexe

BierKeller, Exeter’s highly anticipated new Bavarian themed bar, has announced that it will open its doors to the public for the first time on Friday 17th February. Transformed from what was Pizza Stein located on Exeter’s Quay, the authentic German beer hall promises a jam-packed line-up of regular events, plenty of fun and an abundance of beer.

The bar’s big launch night kicks off at 7pm and the team are urging people to get their early and claim one of the first 50 half price steins. To encourage punters to get into the spirit of things they we will also be offering half price steins to fancy dressed reveler, an offer that will be a solid fixture moving forwards. The resident Oompah band will be playing throughout the night, creating a truly Bavarian bonanza.

The après ski-style, alpine bar, with wood-heavy interior boasts eight large screens, playing live sport and an extra-long bar serving 26 different draught beers from Germany, Europe and Britain. All the beers will be available in mini five litre table kegs, for groups or those settled in for the night.

Paul Matthews, BierKeller Owner, comments: “Our sizeable beer offering genuinely has something for everyone, including German brands, other well-known popular beers and some great craft brews. To line the stomach, we will also be serving tasty bar snacks, including traditional Bratwurst and Currywurst, as well as charcuterie, and nachos.”

BierKeller will host a great range of entertainment, with events scheduled for each night of the week, including a traditional resident Oompah band, comedy nights, international music nights and a weekly quiz. Big name acts will also feature every month, available to book through the BierKeller website.

Paul continues: “We are confident the concept, teamed with our eclectic mix of events will appeal to a large cross section of people. We want it to be the type of bar where everyone can be guaranteed a fun, party atmosphere seven days a week.”

In addition to the main beer hall, there is also a separate wood-clad private room, which will be available for group bookings. The mini ski-lodge boasts its own chunky sharing table and bar, which can be setup with guests’ kegs of choice.

Paul adds: “We’re looking forward to throwing open the doors and seeing what people think.”

Why Would a New Yorker Move to a Little Village in Devon to Sell Chicken Wings?

What would make someone in their 20’s move from New York to the village of Croyde in Devon?

Well, it turns out, to sell the American staple food, chicken wings!

Having been born and raised in NY and spent three years studying Food Service and Event Management at NYSU Oneonta, Lauren McGill moved to Manchester, England for the final semester of her college degree. She never intended to stay much longer than the original semester, but having met her now partner, Si on an airplane heading out on an impromptu trip to mainland Europe, she stayed a little longer. Then, after going to a few UK festivals and street food events they knew something was missing from the food line ups… authentic New York style chicken wings!

Now, you wouldn’t have thought that the little of village of Croyde (where Lauren and Si were now living) would be the best place to start selling New York style chicken wings, so that’s why they started a food truck and now travel around the UK feeding those crying out for some authentic wings, having traded at Grillstock, the UK’s biggest BBQ festival, the NFL in London and the British Street Food Awards, demand keeps on growing – having been invited to trade at the award winning street food event, Street Food Circus and with big plans for 2017.

www.lolaswings.co.uk

www.facebook.com/Lolaswingss/

www.instagram.com/lolaswings/

Rockfish Double Win at National Seafish Awards

Rockfish is named as the best multiple operator for fish & chips in the UK and wins the sustainability award.

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Seafood restaurant group Rockfish, who’ve just opened their fifth outlet in Exmouth, have been crowned best group operators in the National Seafish Awards and also win the Good Catch sustainability award.

 
The business run by restaurateurs and chefs Mitch Tonks & Mat Prowse are not new to awards having won a bucketful since they began in the business some 16 years ago, winning for best seafood restaurant, best independent, best newcomer, best fishmonger, restaurateur of the year for their Rockfish restaurants, the Seahorse restaurant and their books, but as Mitch says winning gets no easier,

“This is fantastic news and I’m really proud of what everyone at Rockfish achieves. There are challenges in growing a business but for us it is all about maintaining quality and being on a constant journey to be the very best we can be, every day. Rockfish is built on some great values which are inherent in all we do. We want to our guests to love seafood and the coastal life as much as we do and believe that a journey to the seaside to enjoy the best fish in the world is well worth making, it doesn’t get better than eating it on the day it was landed especially here on the south coast which is home to some of the finest fish in the world. Everyone at Rockfish is overjoyed to have their efforts recognised, especially amongst so many other brilliant restaurants and takeaways.”

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www.mitchtonks.co.uk
www.therockfish.co.uk

Ruby Kitchen at The Grapevine Brewhouse, Exmouth

For burger fans in Exeter, we lost one of the best Burger joints in Exeter as Ruby Modern Diner closed the doors on its Queen St restaurant. But the saving grace to the story was that it wasn’t the end, in fact it was just the beginning of a new chapter in the story of Ruby Burgers.

2 Victoria Rd, Exmouth EX8 1DL – @TheGrapevineExm @RUBYBURGERS

www.rubyburgers.com

www.thegrapevineexmouth.com

For burger fans in Exeter, we lost one of the best Burger joints in Exeter as Ruby Modern Diner closed the doors on its Queen St restaurant.  But the saving grace to the story was that it wasn’t the end, in fact it was just the beginning of a new chapter in the story of Ruby Burgers.

We were lucky enough to be invited over to visit The Grapevine Brewhouse in Exmouth to welcome in their new kitchen-in-residence.

Whilst in Queen Street they won Taste Of The West Gold for three years running along with a host of other awards.  So what made Dicky and Erin Harrison want to move operations to Exmouth?

Erin Harrison, co-owner – “The opportunity for a kitchen residence came up at the Grapevine and was too good to miss! Its a fantastic pub and Exmouth has a great vibe and plenty of independent restaurants and bars, we thought Ruby would be a great fit. Also we were unsure of the impact of the Guildhall and other new developments in the centre of Exeter and felt that Exmouth would be a better home for us.”

For Burgerlad (one of the UK’s foremost burger bloggers) Ruby Modern Diner had been recommended to him countless times on Twitter and when he visited them in Queen Street it lived up to his expectations.  Every time we visited we were always full and very happy with every visit.

The Grapevine Brewhouse is a fantastic independent establishment owned by Oliver and Demelza Bainbridge.  It is also home to Ollie’s brewing operations named Crossed Anchors, which brews its product on-site. The perfect combination – local beer and local burgers, and throw in some regular live music events along with a vast selection of guest ales and continental beers, and you have a winning combination.

Erin says “The pub hosts great bands every week and is really busy and buzzy and of course I have to say the BEER! Crossed Anchors is the on site brewery and they are creating some awesome craft beer and ales. Ollie also stocks a huge range of international beers – so there is something for everyone and of course their beer is the perfect match for our burgers”

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With the wood paneled walls, shelves adorned with decorative paraphernalia there is a cosiness to this pub that invites you in from the cold.  The warmth of lamps and the low lighting makes this an inviting sight on a cold winter night and on the food tables are the all too familiar mustard and ketchup. Just like it was in Exeter.

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Ruby have changed their menu to adapt to their new home.  All Burgers come with fries, home-made ‘slaw and a pickle.  Before these were items that you could add separately and the prices reflect this change, but the classic names are still on the menu.

The Bad Man, Piggy, Blue, Scorchio are all names I’ve missed! But here they are, as good as they were and back in my life.  Luckily for Ruby, the two Head Chefs who steered the boat in Exeter (excuse the pun) are still at the healm! Erin added “We’re lucky and proud to say our two head chefs from Exeter, Rob and Mark made the move with us and are really happy in their new home. they’ve worked really hard to bring Ruby to the Grapevine and we think our burgers are better than ever.”

Ruby are still using  local suppliers and their local ethos is still at the heart of what they do. Roger The Farmer from Copplestone provides their beef, Exploding Bakery in Exeter provides brownies, Darts Fresh provides veg, Hawkridge from Crediton still provides cheeses etc.

It is a testament to a restaurant when you get chatting to a regular who sing the praises of the pub and Ruby Burgers.  As I was taking photos I got in to a bit of banter with some gentlemen sat by the iconic Ruby Burgers hatch who praised the consistency and quality of the food.

Our burgers for tonight would be the Blue 7oz beef patty, chestnut mushrooms, caramelised onions and Devon Blue cheese (£12.50) and the Piggy 7oz beef patty, home smoked pulled pork, smoked Applewood cheddar, smoked streaky bacon, Ruby sauce (£13.50).

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My Blue Burger was a delight to eat.  Chestnut mushrooms and the tang of the blue cheese made the burger feel more steak-like; it contrasted well with the sweetness of the caramelised onions.  The fries were, naturally, fresh and hot and it was presented on that iconic Ruby logo paper.  The bun was intact throughout the meal and not a soggy bottom in sight.

Tori’s was Piggy was quite a burger to behold as it was packed generously with pulled pork and bacon – it was brimming!  So much that half way through taking photos, it lurched to the side and suffered from the burger-topple effect.

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But this was no barrier to the taste.  It was a charming and delightful burger with a sweet smokiness throughout.  The home smoked pulled pork was a winning combination with the tasteful Devon Ruby beef.

The beer at The Grapevine Brewhouse is extensive in choice.  One of the region’s best selections of international beers coupled with their own delectable in-house brewed beers and ales make it an absolute mecca for local beer lovers.  As we sipped our pint of C.S.H (stands for Cascading Smash Hopburst) which was a spritely hoppy blonde ale at 3.8%ABV, I imagined afternoons cycling down to Exmouth and having a few pints and a burger at The Grapevine before hopping back on a train feeling slightly merry and full.

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There is something quite epic about the combination of a beautifully crafted local beer and a burger made from ingredients from this wonderful county.  And although we’ve lost a fantastic Exeter name on our restaurant scene, we have given it to Exmouth and they love it.

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Ruby Burgers has been open since October and in that short space of time it feels like they’ve imprinted themselves in to the fabric of the town; the partnership between The Grapevine Brewhouse and Ruby Kitchen seems so natural.  Not just because beer and burgers go so well together, but because here are two businesses that are already doing great things

TONIGHT! Anyone For a Plate of Grasshoppers? Exeter Phoenix’s Cinema serves up Danish Doc Bugs Alongside a Feast of Edible Insects

Fans of world cinema and Nordic Noir are in for a treat over the coming months, as Scandifilm returns to Exeter Phoenix for a third year of unique and enchanting film experiences, all centred around Scandinavian cinema. More than just a film festival, visitors will be given the opportunity to live, eat and breathe Scandi. The season takes place throughout January, February and March, and features over 20 events, with Viking storytelling and Scandinavian craft workshops alongside a core programme of immersive and engaging film screenings.

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The season is crammed full of experiences that go beyond your average trip to the cinema, offering film fans the opportunity to really immerse themselves. One of the season’s highlights is a special screening of Danish documentary Bugs, which was nominated for Best Documentary Feature Film at Edinburgh Film Festival and Jury Award at Tribeca Film Festival. This thought-provoking film examines whether a plate full of maggots or thumb-sized grubs might one day make our mouths water, in response to the UN’s recent recommendation that edible insects may one day combat world hunger.

After the screening, ticket holders will get a chance to try out the delicacy themselves, in a special insect tasting workshop led by Cornish Edible Insects.

Bugs screens on Wed 25 Jan at 7:30pm. Tickets from just £6 for the film and tasting workshop from scandifilm.co.uk

Scandifilm takes place at Exeter Phoenix’s cinema Studio 74 from 20th January to 21st March.

10 Questions for Polpo co-founder Russell Norman

Last week Eating Exeter excitedly broke the news that Polpo was coming to the Queen St Dining Quarter. We tracked down co-founder Russell Norman to find out what lies in-store for Exeter diners.

Last week Eating Exeter excitedly broke the news that Polpo was coming to the Queen St Dining Quarter.  We tracked down co-founder Russell Norman to find out what lies in-store for Exeter diners.  Take five minutes to have a look at the video at the bottom, it gives a really good idea what Polpo is all about.

Photos are courtesy Polpo Restaurants

  1. What are you most looking forward to about the new restaurant in Exeter?

We have made some significant changes for our opening in Exeter and I’m looking forward to launching a Polpo with so many points of difference. We will be open for breakfast. We will have a fantastic value set menu in addition to the a la carte menu. There will be some dishes made and served table-side. And I’m really looking forward to lazy, sunny afternoons on our beautiful terrace sipping Campari and nibbling cicheti (Venetian snacks).

  1. How ‘Italian’ is Venentian cuisine? Does it differ widely from some of the more well-known Italian dishes?

Venice has a very different food culture to the rest of Italy and the Polpo menu has been very much influenced by that. Seafood, of course, a little pasta and some tomato-less pizzas, but the culture of small plates is what has influenced us the most. Venetians love sharing food, family-style, and so do we!

  1. Seasonal menus must be important to a brand like Polpo?

We change the menu 5 to 6 times a year to follow the seasons. It’s very important to go with the natural rhythms of the year in terms of ingredients and dishes. Exeter will be opening at my favourite time of the year in terms of food: Spring. So fresh, green vibrant and happy.

  1. What is your ethos in regards to sourcing ingredients?

We take our inspiration from Italy, but always source locally where we can. Our fish and seafood comes from the south coast and our grocer works with farmers in Kent, Sussex, Dorset and Devon.

  1. Why Venice? What made you want to recreate a Venetian bacaro back in 2009?

I first went to Venice as a student in the late 1980s and I’m afraid I rather fell in love with the city and have been going back several times a year ever since. When it came to opening my own restaurant, the food I knew best was Venetian, so it seemed like a sensible idea to stick with what I knew.

  1. You started your journey in the restaurant world as a waiter and worked up the ranks. How important do you think this experience was to you when you were starting Polpo?

It’s always a good idea to work your way up. That way, you know what it’s like to be waiting tables, cleaning fridges, sweeping the floor, working long shifts and, most importantly, looking after customers.

  1. If you had to choose two particular dishes to recommend to diners who are completely new to Polpo and Venetian dining, which ones would they be?

Always order the fritto misto. Always order a spritz!

  1. How easy will it be to book a table in the evening at our new Polpo?

We are being totally relaxed about reservations at Polpo Exeter. You can book, walk-in, sit at the bar, sit outside, take a booth, whatever you want. We have online booking, too. So the short answer is: “Very easy.” But because we keep tables back for walk-ins, you can even get a table when we are fully booked.

  1. The interiors of your restaurants are lovely. Do you still take charge in designing the interior of new restaurants?

I love places that look lived-in, so I take charge of all the designs and try to use as many antiques and reclaimed materials as possible.

  1. Finally, the Venetians love their wine. What is your favourite Venetian wine?

The most Venetian wine on the list is the Malibran Glera “Col Fondo”. This is a prosecco with tiny bubbles, not sweet at all, and very slightly cloudy because it has been left on the lees. Delicious.

Season’s best… Recipe inspirations from Exeter Cookery School

Located on the city’s picturesque quayside, Exeter Cookery School courses take great inspiration from south west France, where founders Jim and Lucy Fisher used to run a residential cookery school. For a tempting seasonal treat, try out the following classic recipes from the Dordogne.

Confit de Canard

Sarlat, a beautiful medieval town near to where we lived in the Dordogne, SW France, has around 60 or so restaurants. Confit – a dish of salted duck legs cooked and preserved in duck fat – is served in every single one of them.

Ubiquitous to the point of obsession, it just happens to be one of the tastiest and most gratifying dishes of the region. Packed into sterile jars along with its cooking fat, Confit will keep in a cool place for up to a year.

We serve Confit, as the Dordogne locals do, with Pommes Sarladaises, a dish of sliced potatoes and garlic fried in – surprise, surprise – duck fat! 

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Ingredients (Serves four)

  • 4 duck legs, skin on
  • 4 tbsp sea salt
  • 1.5 ltrs duck or goose fat (use lard or even vegetable oil at a push) 

Method

Rub the salt into the duck legs. Place them in a glass or stainless steel bowl, cover with clingfilm and allow to cure overnight in the fridge.

Drain the legs, discarding the liquid left behind, and rinse well in plenty of clean water.  Pat dry.

Gently melt the duck or goose fat in a large saucepan and immerse the legs in the fat. Simmer very, very gently for three hours, checking them every hour to make sure they aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pan. When fall-off-the-bone tender, turn off the heat and remove the legs (at which point you can pop them under the grill to crisp the skin and serve straight away) allowing them to cool to room temperature.

When cool, place in plastic containers. Keep in the fridge for up to a month or freeze them.

To serve, allow the Confit to soften to room temperature, then remove them to a roasting tray. Re-heat gently in a medium-hot oven (170°C), then grill the skin until brown and crisp.

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Pommes Sarladaises
(pronounced “Pom Sarladez”)

The ‘mashed potato’ of south west France, Pommes Sarladaise is served in every one of Sarlat’s sixty or so restaurants.  Ubiquitous to the point of exhaustion this filling local staple is, nevertheless, fantastic if made well.

Basically, the dish is just potatoes and garlic sautéed in duck or goose fat, but of course you could use olive oil for a healthier alternative.

My version contains sautéed onion and some parsley, or basil.

Ingredients (Serves four)

  • 1 to 1.5kg potatoes, peeled and sliced to the thickness of a Pound coin
  • 1 onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • handful of roughly chopped parsley or basil
  • 3 tbsp duck or goose fat or olive oil

Method

Heat the olive oil in a roomy non-stick frying pan, then throw in the potatoes, onion and garlic. Fry over a low to medium flame for between twenty and thirty minutes, tossing every five minutes or so until the potatoes are tender.

Season well, then toss with the parsley or basil.

Now let the potatoes sit in the pan on the heat until brown and crisp on the bottom.

Serve spooned into a warmed serving dish with the browned bottom uppermost.

Inspired to find out more? Why not book onto one of Exeter Cookery School’s fab cookery courses, many of which take inspiration from Jim and Lucy’s time in the Dordogne. You can learn how to make the confit duck dish – as well as a melt in the mouth leg of lamb and sensational steak frites – on their French Bistro Mains cookery course.

Kupp, Queen St. – The Bottomless Brunch by Chris Gower

Kupp has taken on the dubious mantle of being ‘one of my favourite places’ in the Queen St Dining quarter.  As a food blogger in Exeter I feel it is wrong to have favourites as one must be objective, but I am starting to realise that actually it is perfectly OK to have favourites.  I fell in love with KuPP after their launch evening, this is one of the more aesthetically pleasing restaurants currently in Exeter.  After being invited along to review their Bottomless Brunch offering, and after sampling this offering, I’m firmly in the fanclub!

KuPP is a fresh take on Scandi themed casual dining and with this interpretation comes a gorgeously designed restaurant and friendly staff.  The concept behind the restaurant is “to create a quality casual, all day, food & drink concept with a strong focus on speciality coffee that would be attractive in both the Scandinavian & UK markets” (http://www.kupp.co/about/).

The coffee is Bristol roasted by Extract and you can pop in and pick up a coffee to-go with one of their lovely pastries as a perfect accompaniment.  As prices go, it would be ‘mid-range’; it isn’t dirt cheap but  you get the entire KuPP experience including really friendly staff.

We’ve now visited a few times to have coffee and work.  The WiFi is reliable and the seats are comfy.  If you want to just visit for coffee or a more substantial meal then you are able to do whatever you wish. It is one of those rare places which transcends just being a restaurant, but can multi-task as a stylish cafe as well.

One of their current offerings is their Bottomless Brunch deals which is currently only offered in Exeter.  For £30pp you have 90 minutes to eat and drink as much as you like, as many Pilsners and boards as you can stomach!

So what makes up The Bottomless Brunch?  The Bords available cater for many tastes.

“The KuPP. Bord
Our Special house smoked pork meatballs, potted rabbit, chorizo sausage roll, Västerbotten cheese, KuPP potato salad, pickled vegetables, sourdough & Leksands Knacker crispbread.

The Veggie. Bord
Wild mushroom & tarragon tart, oven baked quinoa, kale & butternut bites, chilli lemon & goats curd dip, smashed avocado & Dukkah, soft boiled egg, Danish Blue, roast beetroot & smoked red onions, Västerbotten cheese, pickled vegetables, Leksands Knacker crispbread & toasted sourdough. 

The Smokin’ Roast. Bord
Smoked fore rib of beef, chive buttered smoked onion, honey smoked beetroot, roasted new potatoes & butternut squash, lingonberry jam & red wine gravy.

Drinks
Bottomless Czech Pilsner Krusovice or a choice of two of KuPP’s signature cocktails ‘Aquavit Bloody Mary’ or ‘Scandi Collins’.”

Lauren and myself tried The KuPP Bord and The Smokin’ Roast Bord, and  The Fiske Bord with a couple of pints of Czech Pilsner.

The Kupp Board

This was packed with lots of pickled veg, peashoots and breads including Potted Rabbit which was a strange yet delightful taste.  I really liked the Chorizo Sausage Roll and the meatballs were smokey & dense.  Each forkful gave a complex range of flavours loaded with fresh ingredients and lots of savoury items, it was nibble-heaven.

The Smoked Meat Board

This was like a small roast dinner on one board.  There were sweetly roasted butternut squash, honey roasted beetroot and the most tender smoked meat.  Everything had this wonderful smokiness infused through it, especially the roast new potatoes.  Although pouring the gravy was interesting (it did tend to dribble off the side) it was definitely an enjoyable combination of flavours.

Lauren’s thoughts and The Fiske Board

I asked EE Assitant Editor Lauren to write a few words about her thoughts on KuPP.

“I find KuPP is not crowded, is nice spacing. I was impressed with the service on the VIP night, and same again this time.

I think it’s a great deal if you are hungry and can drink. Possibly less so with a small appetite. So a lot for 2 courses essentially. But I thought it was all absolutely delicious.

The Fiske Board was fantastic. I thought you had to choose a board and you would keep eating that one so I was pleased to be able to have them all. And unlike a buffet, you get served and you don’t have to leave your guests.

It’s all served warm and fresh; this food offering is different to other places in Exeter!”

At £30pp but the value is really good.  We managed to pack in two and a half boards each (each board is £25 for two normally) and two pints of Czech Pilsner (per pint normally it is nearly £5).  After the meal it was clear that the food would have cost much more had we wanted the same items at any other time.

The offer runs from Midday to 5PM each Sunday and you have 90 minutes to cram as much as you can.  Perfect for those who have a big appetite.

Ben Richards is Growing Beer in partnership with There’s A Beer For That

As the clock struck midnight on 31st December most people chose an obvious New Years’ Resolution – stop smoking, lose weight, exercise more – but local Beer Sommelier Ben Richards wanted a real challenge for 2017.  Which is why he’s growing beer on his allotment in Devon.

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On an 8m by 8m plot, he’s launching an experiment to see if it’s possible to grow or collect everything he needs to brew beer in one place.  He’s working in partnership with There’s A Beer For That, the industry campaign that raises awareness of the diversity, versatility and quality of beer, and will draw on the help and advice of experts in their field as he tackles the highs and lows of his quest.  Already lined up to offer advice are BBC presenter Toby Buckland, Microbiologist Steve Livens of the British Beer and Pub Association and Brewer John Magill from Powderkeg Brewery.

After starting to dig up his allotment, Ben Richards explained “As a Beer Sommelier I know about the versatility of beer and diverse range of styles but few of us, including me, realise just how much effort and how many people are involved in getting that beer into the glass, bottle or can.”

“People have more interest in how beer is made, these days; how the ingredients are sourced and how brewers are inspired in their recipe creation. I love drinking beers of different styles from across the world, and know a fair bit about how they’re brewed, but I really want to better understand what it takes to grow and process the raw ingredients needed whilst finding out more about more our national and local brewing history. Every time I look a little deeper into brewing beer, I come up with more questions and that’s why I decided to try and find the answers by growing beer myself.”

Traditionally, the ingredients for brewing beer would be harvested and gathered from all over the country – if not worldwide – so Ben’s going to have to be on his toes if his ambition is to become a reality.

“I’m working with 8m by 8m of rough, unloved land and one major rule: all of the ingredients must be grown or collected on site” continued Richards.  “This means preparing the land, growing or gathering and then harvesting all the ingredients before the final brew.”

If he’s to stick to his schedule and meet the timescale that he’s set himself, Ben needs to achieve the best growing conditions as quickly as possible to get everything up and running.  He’ll then have to juggle everything he knows about brewing with everything he doesn’t know about horticulture, microbiology, agriculture and perseverance so that he can round off the project with a party to sample the beer he’s produced in the Autumn.

David Cunningham, Programme Director of There’s A Beer For That is one of those backing Ben for success, saying “Beer attracts an increasingly enthusiastic and diverse range of drinkers and we are always seeking new ways to encourage people to think differently about beer and discover new styles & flavours.  By making a commitment to the `Growing Beer` project, Ben will unearth no end of discussion topics on Britain’s national drink that we believe will spark interest and get people talking about it which can only be a good thing for Britain’s rejuvenated and evolving beer industry.

“There are over 140 styles and 12,000 quality beers to choose from but they largely all originate from the same four natural ingredients. Through this project, Ben will be discovering what it takes to make beer and why it is such a versatile and enjoyable drink” continued Cunningham “so it’s only natural that There’s A Beer For That partners with him as he tries to answer the questions that the ubiquitous ‘folk down the pub’ want to know about their favourite drink.”

Ben will catalogue every move he makes on the allotment, sharing his updates periodically through social media, podcasts and photos.  His year is expected to provide a fascinating insight into many areas of brewing and allotment life, offering a narrative on everything from the importance of quality ingredients in our food and drink through to dealing with everything that mother-nature throws at you.

 

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Follow Bens progress at: www.growingbeer.co.uk or on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram /growingbeer

You can also find out more about Ben in our 10 Q&A with him from last year.

10 Questions with Tony Coulson of Ebb Tides Seaweed by Lauren Heath

Ebb Tides is a fledgling in the food world; having been established only in May last year, we came across them at their first ‘outing’ at Dartington Food Fair (which can be found here) and wished them luck on their future journey. My husband, Steve, loves seaweed and really enjoyed the flavours and easy use packaging of their products. They had tasters on the table, as well as seaweed mixed into a variety of homemade dips, to show you what you could do with them.

Later on in the year, we met again at Dorset Chilli Festival, and saw that there was great interest being shown by potential punters. Since then, I have seen them increase their awareness on social media, as well as having some great exposure in print and other online sources. In fact, Tony has been so busy that, it has taken a while to get the answers to this Q&A – but that’s never a problem to us, business first! We’re pleased to give exposure to his Devon business and now it’s January and most people are on a health kick, seaweed could be the perfect ingredient to liven up your diet in flavour and health benefits – but remember, it can be used all year round with any foods, the only limit is your culinary imagination.

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In a nutshell, what is your background? My original background was working as a psychotherapist in Nottinghamshire, my county of birth. I fell in love with fly fishing and decided to follow  my passion moving to Scotland to study Aquaculture and Fisheries. After I qualified I stayed in Scotland working on Salmon Conservation Trusts, Salmon Farms, Trout Farms, Shellfish Fisheries and my own Fly Fishery near Edinburgh.

When did Ebb Tides all start?  Ebb Tides began trading May 2016. Prior to that I spent a year in research around the coast lines and  assessing the species and biomass of seaweeds locally. Along with working alongside Natural England, The Crown Estate, Environmental Health and Trading Standards. Prior to the research stage I was working for the Environment Agency  which was robbing me of my soul and personality so I handed my notice in and left .

Where are you based? Sidmouth East Devon.

Why seaweed? Why indeed, this is a question I have been asked many times. Intellectually it’s difficult for me to articulate this question. When living in Scotland I first began including seaweeds into my diet and from the beginning my body was immediately nourished along with a sense of wellbeing.  I could say it’s the healthiest plant on the planet, or there is the same area of seaweeds around the UK as there is forestry inland why not utilise this incredible natural resource. However it’s more intuitive than left side brain, Ebb Tides seems to be leading me and I just help facilitate the dynamic of the company. Not what business consultants want to hear but there you go.

I’m sure there are secrets but what can you tell us about the process from shore to grinder? Hardly any secrets I cut no more than half of any seaweed with a pair of scissors and rotate the harvesting sites for sustainability reasons. I then dry the seaweed in dehydrators and pack into resealable pouches or flake mix and pack into the grinders. The seaweeds are the stars so I add nothing I let them shine. I worked with the award winning chef Noel Corston who is head chef and owner of EX34 in Woolacombe, who helped put the seaweed mixes together.

Can you describe the 3 flavours; which one is your favourite? Sea Salad is a mix of three seaweeds and has recently won a Silver Award with Food and Drink Devon. Delicate green flavours with a touch of pepper and marine notes – people often say shellfish after tasting; great with fish.

Dulse this is my favourite I just love the colour, texture and smoky depth of dulse. Rich and spicy with a taste of paprika. Vegetarians use it as a bacon substitute and for carnivores fabulous with meats especially burgers and great for baking. Dulse is such a star that it’s not mixed with other species as it shines alone. Dulse is high in protein most mornings I start the day with a dulse, banana and yoghurt smoothie.

Kelp gives that savoury umami flavour, earthy and versatile.The backbone of Japanese cooking is dashi the basic stock for most meals simply kelp and fish flakes. Good in casserole’s, curry’s and beans – I just love kelp on egg and beans on toast.

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Some people are scared of using seaweed, how would you convince them? I don’t, I just say ‘no one’s died yet’.  I am not on a mission to convert the world towards seaweeds I just want to be with the waves, produce great products, earn a living, and enjoy life. Maybe perhaps make a very small difference in the wellbeing of people with Ebb Tides.

What’s the best way to use it to introduce people to trying it? EbbTides has the uniqueness of grinders we are making seaweeds consumer friendly. Grinders or grinder can be placed on the table (throw the salt seaweeds have natural forming salts) and grind onto ones meal. Unless I am making a specific seaweed recipe the seaweeds are more of an afterthought. An example recently I was making a barley pottage while soaking the barley it came into my mind that kelp could work with it. Grinded in the kelp with the barley and wow it worked and incredibly nourishing.

We have recently launched a new product called Ocean Spice based on a Moroccan spice blend but with the added ingredient of dulse which gives Ocean Spice a deep smokey spicy flavour. This is a great way to introduce people to the world of seaweeds they simply add oil to the blend and marinate on meats, poultry, fish or vegetables giving not just a spicy depth to ones meals but also the goodness of seaweed.

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Where can people buy your products? Online @ ebbtides.co.uk, Dartington Food Shop, Darts Farm, Ammonite Lyme Regis, The Deli at Dartmouth and Food Shows throughout Devon.

What are the benefits of seaweed? The benefits are numerous and I could go on and on but you may get bored. Constantly at Food Fairs I hear “seaweeds they are good for you but what can I do with them”. So that’s were my work comes in helping people become aware of the countless possibilities of cooking with seaweeds. I have been pleasantly surprised how open people are to try seaweeds. People do seem to want to experiment and experience on a culinary level so much more than even a few years back which I think is smashing. Often they are surprised by the flavours once they get past the perception they may have around seaweeds. They taste good and are full of goodness so that’s a win win . There are numerous health benefits attached to seaweeds below is copy of the poster that’s on the table at food shows that helps explain the benefits.However I do tend to focus more on the taste. A product may have numerous health benefits but people also want the flavour to go with the benefits or it’s a none starter. I say to people “have a play and let me know what you create for I am genuinely interested”.

7 Reasons to Eat Seaweeds

Adding seaweeds to your diet  gives taste and texture to your foods andbenefits your health. They have been described as the most nutritious form of vegetation on the planet.

  • Highly versatile for culinary use. Easy to eat and cook with and low in calories
  • Adds texture and fibre to your diet and draws flavours from other foods
  • Improves flavour profile by giving a more rounded or complete flavour sensation to your food
  • Use as a seasoning and salt replacement
  • Umami translated from Japanese means delicious or pleasant savoury taste. The 5th of the five basic tastes alongside sweet,sour,bitter and salty. Found in foods such as strong cheese, shellfish, tomatoes and soy .Seaweeds are high in umami.
  • 10 to 20 times the mineral content of other plants. No other group of plant contains more minerals and nutrients than seaweed. Seaweeds contain all 56 minerals and trace elements required for your body.
  • Detoxification boost helps skin cells rid themselves of toxins that prevent cells working as they should.
  • Weight control:
  1. Brown seaweeds contain Alginate that reduces fat digestion by the body
  2. Iodine in seaweeds helps maintain a healthy metabolism
  3. Seaweeds rehydrate the stomach making you feel full and less likely to snack

You can find out more and buy online on their website or find them and give them a follow on Facebook.

*All images copyright of Ebb Tides Seaweed

Loungers to open Puerto Lounge in Exeter

Loungers, the West Country based restaurant/café/bar group is opening a brand new site in Exeter on Wednesday 8th February 2017.   Puerto Lounge will open on Commercial Road creating 25 jobs for local people.

Desco Lounge
Desco Lounge, Solihull

Hector Main, operations manager, Loungers, said:  “We’re really excited about opening in Exeter and showing locals how to lounge in style.  We’re very family-friendly and well-practised at keeping the little ones happy.  The team at Puerto Lounge is also looking forward to becoming party of the community and will support local groups and initiatives wherever possible.”

A community notice board is available for those wanting to publicise events and a book swap area is kept well stocked.  The team will also be holding regular fundraising events as part of Loungers’ commitment to making a difference in the community.

Kini Lounge (5th September 2014)
Kino Lounge, Kettering

Puerto Lounge will cater for all tastes throughout the day.  Whether you’re looking for the best coffee in town, a business lunch with colleagues or a lazy all-day brunch, Puerto Lounge is the perfect place to relax and unwind.  The all-day menu features everything from their famous authentic tapas and Hero Burger to Tin Pan Louie’s beef chilli, packed flatbreads and the best mac and cheese you’ve ever tasted… or there’s the ever- changing specials board.  Little people are well catered for with their very own kids’ menu.

Puerto Lounge, 38 Commercial Road, Exeter, EX2 4AE

www.thelounges.co.uk

Venetian Restaurant, Polpo, is Coming to Exeter

POLPO, a bacaro from Russell Norman and Richard Beatty inspired by humble Venetian restaurants, serving simple food, made from scratch everyday alongside good young local wines is to open in Exeter in early February at Higher Market Guildhall

The  restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, signatures on the menu will include cicheti, such as Fried stuffed olives; Arancini; and Chopped chicken liver crostini (from £3).  There will also be Fritto misto; Pizzetta bianca; Spicy pork and fennel meatballs; .  Desserts will list Affogato al caffe; Gelato cone; Flourless chocolate and hazelnut cake; and Tiramisu pot (from £4).

POLPO takes inspiration from the rustic back-street wine bars of Venice and features an array of simple but delicious small plates from the region of Veneto. The interiors reflect the gloriously faded elegance of La Serenissima and the renowned charm of the humble bacaro.

Polpo – 18 Higher Market Guildhall, Queen Street, Exeter, EX4 3FB

Website: http://polpo.co.uk/

John Burton-Race is looking for Torquay’s new kitchen stars

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After last week’s announcement that two Michelin starred chef John Burton-Race is to join Richardson’s Grosvenor Hotel, it has been revealed that the hotel is looking for a handful of new chefs to add to the team for the restaurant re-launch.

John has said today, ‘I’m looking for the very best talent Devon has to offer. I want chefs who are talented, motivated and eager to learn.’ At present, Burton-Race is working behind the scenes, designing the kitchen and creating new menus for the venture, which has been scheduled to open February 14th 2017.

With key positions at all levels up for grabs, it is the perfect moment for ambitious chefs to make their move! Burton-Race, who trained in a number of London’s best restaurants, is now looking to pass on his skills and knowledge.

‘I want to work with real talent, people who love food, who have fresh ideas and innovative techniques,’ John has said. With applications already being received from across the Devon area, we are keen to see as much talent as possible.

Applications for all levels of skill from Head Chef, Sous Chef, Pastry Chef and Chef de Partie are still being encouraged, and interested applicants are invited to email gm.grosvenor@richardsonhotels.co.uk, with an up-to-date CV, a covering letter, and any images applicants may have which demonstrates their suitability for the role.

For more information about the hotel, visit their website: http://www.grosvenorhoteltorquay.co.uk/

More information from Eating Exeter to follow in the coming weeks!

 

 

Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Queen St – by Chris Gower

Burgers are highly subjective things to write about. I spend a lot of time talking about burgers as they are one of my favourite foodstuffs.  Some love them and talk about them with a passion, they would be happy if every single restaurant had an extensive burger menu and would most probably be equally happy if every restaurant was a burger restaurant too.  These types of people are called Burger-nerds (I’ve just made that up) and although I am objective about the role that different types of restaurant play in the dining scene of any town or city, I am fully supportive of burger restaurants – So long as there are not too many of them – and would consider myself a Burger-nerd.

Depending on who you talk to will give you a variety of opinions, but the general opinion is that there are too many burger restaurants in Exeter.  If you read my article in Exeter Living last year on this matter, I stated that I believe that anymore of this type of restaurant will saturate the dining scene in Exeter and I still hold to this.  Since I wrote the article we’ve not gained anymore, but we have gained a Five Guys as a replacement to Ruby Modern Diner that closed last year and moved operations down to Exmouth.  We now have an equal number of chain burger restaurants (Byron, Five Guys, GBK) to independent (Urban Burger, Hubbox, Zita’s) so it will be interseting to see what the landscape does in the coming years.

When GBK opened, we were invited to their launch night which I am using a few photos from in this article.  Everything was manicured nicely, the food was quick and everything was free.  The meal that we had was north of £50 for two of us, but it didn’t matter as it was the launch night.  We were impressed with the decor, in fact I fell in love with the pseudo-sixties modernist features and the speakeasy lighting.  It was mostly cosy and had perfect windows for people watching.

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When we visited this week, we had different things in mind.  Like most of the world, we’re January-Poor so can’t afford to splash out on a full meal and we really didn’t want to go home and cook.  So I downloaded the GBK App and up popped their latest offer, two burgers for £12! Upgrade the Resident Heroe burgers to £1.50 and off you go.

We arrived at GBK as ungalmorous as you could imagine.  Bags of shopping, slightly dishevelled and absolutlely starving.  We were greeted at the door by guy who looked casually managerial, he was dressed differently from the others and was really friendly throughout our visit as were all of the staff who served us.

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The menu is quite straight forward and follows the general format of burger restaurants. Choose your burger, choose your side separately and choose your drink.  Tori went for THE STACK (£10.95) which featured Grilled chorizo, Red Leicester cheese, house onion ring, smoked chilli mayo, rocket, pickled onions and house relish with a side of small skinny fries. I went for THE CAJUN BLUE (£9.15) which featured Cajun marinated chicken, blue cheese slaw, jalapenos, pineapple and sriracha mayo also with skinny fries.

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We both went for the refillable Fresh and Fizzy drink options which were essentially non-alcoholic cocktails for very little.  £2.45 got us an Elderflower and a Ginger & Lemongrass pint of fizz that was – get this – REFILLABLE!

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Some of my foodie friends had commented about the time that it took to get their food on their visits to GBK.  The delivery of our food was swift, there wasn’t much waiting for our drinks either but we did go before the peak evening rush, so bear in mind that this restaurant can get busy at times.

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I was happy with my burger generally, although the chicken was a little overcooked.  The taste was something else, and the pineapple sitting happily in the middle of the whole burger added a different perspective to each mouthful.  Tori felt although the burger was nice, it hadn’t matched up to the one she had during our previous visit.  We asked for medium-rare but it was more well-done.  Our skinny fries were super skinny, but also very tasty and well seasoned.

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For the price you pay GBK isn’t mind-blowing. It is acceptable, it is very nice, it is most pleasing and I am sure I will go there again.  The interior is lovely, the staff are friendly but it is expensive (but not as expensive as other places).  But let us compare it to Byron Burgers… it is cheaper and the burgers are on a different planet to the quality of Bryon and the prices are much better.  As chain burgers restaurants go, it is pretty much the best;  they’ve been doing it since 2001 and it has some mileage in their experience.  They have a successful format which is oft replicated and burgers that are firm classics in the eyes of their many followers across the UK.

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Rockfish Exmouth: the opening night – by Lauren Heath

Featured photo courtesy of Rockfish

It could be argued that Exmouth is going through a mini-renaissance with eating places. Over the last couple of years,  great local names like Las Saveurs and The Chronicle have been joined by Oddfellows Exmouth, Ruby Kitchen and now Rockfish Exmouth, which opened on the seafront just before Christmas.

What used to be an aptly named restaurant (The Waterfront) is now owned by Rockfish. Rockfish is small group of restaurants owned by Mitch Tonks and Matt Prowse, with their first having opened in 2010 in Dartmouth, they now have one in Plymouth, Brixham and Torquay. Their vision is to have restaurants right by the sea, and cook excellent fish simply.

Almost all the fish on the menus are from local boats who land fish daily, except for the cod and haddock which is from Norway. This is due to the British being the largest consumers of these fish, and the healthiest stocks are in their seas, and are MSC certified.
So when we received our invite to a VIP opening night dinner, we were very excited.

So on the coastal wall, far right of the town, near the dock area where you catch the boat out to another great fish restaurant (although only seasonally) is this beautiful smurf blue building.

On entry, the restaurant was nicely light and airy; white wood panelled walls, benches and even the ceiling along with baby blue chairs and bench cushions. Seaside charm without the ‘in your face’ factor. A few quotes scribed here and there on the walls and plenty of pictures, wine bottles and cookbooks lining other shelving areas to enhance the white space and make it feel cosy and warm rather than cold and empty. The tables are adorned with paper placemats educating you about the type of fish in the sea.

To the rear of the property is what you could call a conservatory. Having been to this venue pre-Rockfish, I know that on a clear or sunny day, the view is spectacular and you feel as if you are sitting on the edge of the sea, which of course you are. It’s a great spot for the annual speed boat race if anything. I noticed blankets for keeping warm when needed but the roaring fire that was present in the room was certainly doing a great job.

We mingled, as you do, with some local folk we have met before and some new ones. We then had the pleasure of being seated with Catherine Courtenay and Andy Cooper of Devon Life as well as Kate Haskell of ITV fame. We all had a fair few food miles between us and were looking forward to what was to come.

A special shorter menu was on offer to us this evening, and my eyes immediately noticed the calamari – squid, lightly coated in flour, fried crisp and served with a Singapore style chilli sauce. Another fish jumping out at me from the mains was the monkfish, grilled over charcoal and served with garlic butter.

This a very meaty fish that can be tough or stringy to eat if done wrong – a bit like the squid actually, but done right, it is beautiful. It is also a good fish for strong flavours too, such as wrapping in Parma ham or using with a curry sauce.

The squid was perfect, soft to eat, crispy coating with raw chilli and spring onion spread around, to add that much needed crunch and intense flavour, with the sauce adding sweetness should you need it.

The monkfish was a handsome beast; a huge piece served simply, covered in very garlicky garlic butter – yes chef – if it says garlic I want garlic and this didn’t disappoint. The flesh was creamy and meaty and soft, it was delicious. I saw Chris’ tartare sauce and requested a pot for adorning my chips, and I am glad I did. I was lighter than shop-bought sauces, and tangy and delicious.

Pudding was a delight too…nothing gastronomic, but I opted for the sundae with caramel sauce, chocolate brownie cake pieces and topped with popcorn. I think the clever use of ‘Mr Whippy’ ice cream is why I was so happy eating this pudding, it was a ‘childhood-memory-inducing’ dessert – I was just so happy eating it – isn’t that a good way to finish a meal?

I really do look forward to returning here en famille – we are all fish lovers and having looked at the full menu there are some great dishes on there. Coupled with an easy-going environment and the possibility of sitting seaside with the fishies – this venue has the potential for both families and couples or groups to have a great time eating out, day or night.

Below are a couple of photos courtesy of Rockfish:

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