http://www.citygatehotel.com/ – Iron Bridge, Lower North Street Exeter, EX4 3RB
The last time The City Gate hotel had much of a refurbishment was back in 2003, a rebirth from the days when it was The Crown & Sceptre hotel. It sits in a commanding position over the Longbrook Valley roughly where the old North Gate had been situated before being removed in the early 1800s.
For me it was always the choice place for staff drinks, lunches and long afternoons in the beer garden, or watching people from the sofas in the conservatory. And now, thirteen years later, it has had another revamp by Young’s and it is looking fabulous.
We were invited along to see what has changed and meet their new Head Chef. They were eager to show off the new surroundings, and we were eager to see what to see what has changed.
Gone is the well-trod carpet and the dark wooden bar area; there is now a light laminate flooring with modern light furniture. Gone (sniff) is the sofas from the conservatory, now replaced with more tables and seats for dining.
The downstairs area is now a swanky craft beer and cocktail bar that is bookable for meetings and parties, the back room that was a bookable meeting room is another dining area with more tables etc.
The beer garden, one of the best in the city in my humble opinion, is all about Al Fresco dining, with more seating for eating, sofas for kicking back and relaxing whilst you order a burger from the swanky burger bar that is now making use of dead space.
The rooms are redecorated; gone are the days of being a fuddy little hotel that provided a place to sleep, it is now fully embracing the ’boutique hotel’ moniker. The gentrification of The City Gate has gone down well with the regulars, we are assured, but will it strike a chord with the rest of Exeter?
The ethos of The City Gate has changed too. Gone is the standard pub food, in its place is a seasonal-local ethos being driven by their new head chef Jason Mead who had previously been at The Conservatory, just over the road.
His fine dining background has armed him well and with this experience, Jason is determined to introduce Exonians to this new and improved menu.
Our feedback evening was a chance for The City Gate to show off and make contact with foodies and bloggers who would spread the word. In my mind, this was also a chance for me to see properly what has improved and to confirm my suspicions that they had gotten rid of the sofas from the conservatory.
The menu for tonight was a taster of the spectrum of dishes that The City Gate are introducing. Below is the menu with annotations – the mind of a food blogger is a scribbley messy thing sometimes!
For our starters we had the choice of a Devon crab cake with homemade tartare sauce and pickled cucumber tarts, or Crispy duck, spinach & watercress, pomegranate, hazelnuts with an aged sherry glaze.
Naturally we went for the duck (a Gressingham duck) which Jason gets from a local source – which was beautifully moist and tender.
Next up with had Lamb Rump, again it was locally sourced and was beautifully cooked. With a rump like this, it has to be tender and medium rare to pull it off and Jason did this expertly.
Then the final lovely thing (which my camera refused to capture properly) was a Soft poached rhubarb and lemon curd Eton mess which was, as the rest of the meal was, absolutely delicious.
In lieu of a photo of my dessert this is Lauren’s. A gorgeous Dark chocolate delice with a salted caramel sauce and honeycomb. I felt a pang of dessert envy when I saw this come out.
The food was a great improvement – it is refreshing to experience the passion of a chef who has been given the reigns to create a remarkable casual dining experience. And I severely hope that readers come and support Jason and his fantastic menus.
Young’s Brewery are firm believers of autonomy as each pub is very different, and that individuality is emphasised in the way the pubs are run. Diners can experience different menus presented in different ways, as chains go they are not bad at all.
But now the great journey starts for this pub, convincing visitors and locals alike that The City Gate Hotel has turned over a new leaf. I think they have and I would urge you to come down and give it a try.
Try the lamb.