Little Castle St, Exeter EX4 3PX – 01392 437470 – www.hitwexeter.co.uk/
I am in my mid-thirties, despite the beard and the wrinkles which make me look well in to my forties (I’ve stopped playing Guess My Age as it is just depressing) I am thirty-five. I am old enough to remember Boxes & Boogies Nightclub, The Hothouse, The Thirsty Camel, The Turk’s Head, Mambo… the list goes on.
The Hole In The Wall (THITW) is one of the names that I remember from my youth. Unlike all of those that I mentioned, this pub is still going strong and is diversifying in the ever changable and turbulent economic environment that we live in.
A couple of years ago THITW suffered a devastating fire that caused extensive damage to the interior. The owners rebuilt and refurbished, and now the interior feels fresh and lighter than it ever did before. The pool tables are still there, and punters still come here to drink before heading over to Timepiece or downstairs to the not-so-private Private Cocktail lounge on the ground floor.
In the memories of many Exonians THITW is still a drinking pub, a place to get blotted rather than to grab some food. But this is going to change after the recent appointment of Ben Corcutt to Head Chef. Ben has worked for years with Adam Little (Exeter Golf & Country Club) and has now ventured out on his own with a fantastic menu that is going to make THITW a strong contender on the dining scene here in Exeter.
Ben invited us over to play some pool and sample some of the delights of his new offering, a menu inspired by slow-cooking and smokehouses.
The drink offerings are largely the big names. Estrella, Carlsberg etc.I don’t think the demographic who come here are not overly interested in the Craft’s? although there is a bit more variety through the bottled options, THITW caters for sports fans with matches being shown during tournaments. But don’t let the fact this pub shows sports put you off.
During our visit the rugby was playing and it was fascinating to see the men, the ball, the running and the throwing and the large periods of inactivity and walking around that happens whilst they decide who had the ball last and where they should throw it from. That’s how it works? Right?… Football is much easier to follow, and there is much more melodrama too
The menu is split in to sections – Lighter Bites, Something Larger, Burgers and of course Pizzas! I went for the Beef Brisket French Dip (£12) and Tori went for The Hole In The Wall Burger (£10). Both come with a generous portion of skin-on chips.
The first thing that struck us was the generous portion size, the burger was big and thick with lashings of topping.
The cheese dribbled nicely out of the sides and the bacon was crispy bacon with fresh greens encapsulated in a fresh bun. The whole combination had a fantastic taste, the meat was well seasoned and juicy.
With both of our meals there were beautifully cooked chips with no skimping on the amounts.
The Beef Brisket French Dip came with a lovely large pot of gravy for dipping. The beef was beautifully tender and well seasoned, combined with the cheese and the freshly baked sub; dipping bread and beef in to gravy has always been a naughty thing I would do after a roast dinner, mopping up the gravy with a bit of left over meat in a sandwich.
The strong taste of the gravy worked wonders with the beautifully tender beef as it soaked in to the fresh bread.
Now here was an entire meal based on that delightful combination. And with some lush chips to boot and a pint of Estrella. Bliss.
We finished off our meal with a game of pool. I haven’t played pool in, literally, years and for my first game which I ACTUALLY WON was brilliant. Then the second game, well, it took us 20 minutes to pot the balls and I expect we did that in the wrong order. It took me back to my days as a student, strangely I played pool much better if I was drunk.
The Hole In The Wall has changed dramatically from my days of youth. It has an air of sophistication to its look, the interior is light and refreshed and the menu is something to behold. On food alone I would recommend this place to anyone, on booze then maybe to a certain type of person who didn’t mind the lack of funny craft ales that many pubs seem to have these days. But this is made up for by the cocktail lounge on the ground floor that we got a sneak peek at before we left (available for private hire and parties by the way…).
Ben’s new menu is a fantastic example of how slow-cooked SHOULD be done. The fad of slow-cooked meats is frequently replicated but rarely given justice, so to find a place that is doing it properly in Exeter makes me very happy.