If you’ve been travelling past Sandy Park, or the M5 junction 30, you might have noticed a tall modern looking building has sprung up in recent years. This new hotel is The Courtyard and is part of the Merriott family; and right at the top is The View restaurant and bar. Open 6pm – 10pm daily, seven days a week, could this be a new Exeter hotspot? I think so.
The View is just that, a literal 360 panoramic view across the countryside of East Devon and villages in the immediate vicinity including Clyst St Mary, Clyst St George and Topsham are all in clear view from the tables. If you’re a fan of sunsets, then a drink in the bar along with a glorious Devon sunset has to be on the bucket list of any local foodie.
With a spectacular rooftop view, you would wonder if the food was second place, but if you did you would be sorely mistaken. Head Chef Richard Hunt, formerly of the Wentworth Club in Surrey and The Grand Hotel in Torquay, is locally born and with his knowledge and passion of the incredible local produce and producers within Devon, he wanted to create a menu that reflected and celebrated this.
Using a heap of local producers, the menu achieves a celebration of all things local with clarity, using a 12 mile rule (where possible), having this level of autonomy within a hotel restaurant managed by a large company or as part of a chain is a rarity.
From the moment you step into reception and ask seemingly obvious questions about the car park, like I did, there comes across a genuine desire to want to help. During no part of the evening did we feel we were a burden, or that we couldn’t ask for something.
Our visit was on a balmy summer evening not too long ago now. I have been sitting on this review for a little time now, but I’ve been excitedly telling anyone who will listen about our meal there. It was an affirmation, for me, that Exeter is quickly becoming a real hub for those who are passionate about food and drink.
Led to our table, we were introduced to the lovely people who we would be seeing much of over the course of the evening. Attentive and friendly, our waiter this evening was the delightful Millie who made us feel super comfortable and very much at home. After my initial outburst of ‘Holy moly look at the view!’ I just couldn’t stop looking out of the window. It was hypnotic, rolling hills in the distance, the almost inaudible hum of the motorway outside, it was a genuine delight to be given a window seat.
Millie introduced us to Will, one of the bar staff who came over and spoke to us about their cocktail range. Using many locally sourced spirits and garnishes, his passion and knowledge came over through our conversation. After we had given him our likes and dislikes, he said he would surprise us. And that he did. I found myself sipping a delightful and well made Mai-Tai within no time at all.
Our menu tonight looked like this:
Starter: Devon Beef Fillet Carpaccio
Main: The Devon Burger
Dessert: Artisan Ice Cream and sorbets
Starter: Devon Scallops
Main: 10oz Rump Steak
Dessert: Creme Brûlée
The carpaccio was soft and savoury, with a full-flavoured palette that rose to the occasion with the capers and the Dijon working really well with the smoky yolk of the St Ewe free range egg which was placed at the very centre of the dish. Tori is a big scallop fan, and the silky smooth texture of the scallops with the flavoursome garnishes made for happy noises from the other side of the table.
For me I had already decided what my main course was going to be the morning before, when I was stalking previous diners who had tagged The View in their Instagram posts. There were many photos of this terrific looking burger, beaming a meaty smile with thick prime Devon beef and a bacon slice. It’d be rude not to.
The burger was juicy and tenderly cooked with a generous heap of triple cooked, crisp-to-the-crunch chunky chips and the obligatory yet tasty side salad. Tori dived into the 10oz Rump steak which had a good taste to it, cooked well and was also accompanied by some ridiculously nice chunky chips.
Normally at this point of the meal, even review meals where we don’t pay as such, I pat my stomach and make satisfied noises about how I can’t eat a dessert as I’m too full. But our staff tonight were not having any of it, and they twisted my arm (metaphorically, and very gently) so I caved in and had ice cream. Creamy and satin smooth, I was treated to some scoops of the glorious Granny Gothards whilst Tori got her tappy-tap-tap on with a Creme Brûlée.
As an afterward treat we were given a sneak peek of two new cocktails which are available to diners. One was the creation of Max, and the other was Will’s creation. It was going to be a head-to-head race to the finish to see which one we liked more. The South West Cuban and the Old Bailey, a head to head battle of taste and flavour.
Unfortunately for Max, Will’s creation The Old Bailey won through.
A visit to The View – a restaurant with a lofty views across the countryside and standards nearly as high as it’s dining area – is an absolute must. We could have spent an age, sitting and taking in the view or watching the sun set from the bar, slipping behind the familiar dark silhouette of Haldon Hill, erupting the sky into pinks and purples. It’s on the ever expanding ‘must-do’ list, and I certainly recommend you to add it to yours. As well as a meal that gives a lot of thought to local provenance.