The City Gate Hotel, Iron Bridge, Exeter

Nestled on the historic city wall, The City Gate Hotel sits on the junction of North Street and The Iron Bridge which crosses the valley below it.  Owned by Young’s pubs (who also own another Exeter favourite, The Double Locks) their new menu that came out recently is flavoursome and local-centric. If you have never been before, now is a perfect time to try it out.

Head Chef Al Morgan has created a menu reflecting the seasonality and freshness that sits on our doorstep in this beautiful part of the world, and coupled with an attention to detail, going beyond presentation and the seasonality, it champions flavours that work together and inclusivity, with something for all tastes and diets.

Through it’s history The City Gate has had a few refurbishments, but the last one which General Manager Andy Phillips reminded me of, when we chatted before our visit, really set it apart. For as long as I could remember it was hotel that had a pub, but these days its a boutique hotel with a restaurant but still retaining that pub-like personality and atmosphere.

The interior is fascinating, with their glass covered conservatory brimming with natural light, to the cosy corners, warmed by a log fire further strengthening that local-pub feeling.

One element that sets The City Gate apart from other places in Exeter is their beer garden, with a large permanent tent area that makes use of what previously was dead space, years ago, is now a welcoming outdoor seating area with large tables complimenting the rest of the outside. Many parts of The City Gate are bookable for parties or events.

We were invited along to sample the menu and enjoy an evening as guests of Youngs pubs. When we visited, we were met by Dan the assistant manager who looked after us and took us through the menu – he and his team made us feel immensely welcome, answering our questions and making the whole night a really memorable one.

The pub works closely with local brewers who supply a really good selection of ales, including Young’s own classic varieties. There is a thorough and extensive collection of wines, as well as classic cocktails. A litmus test for a good cocktail is how good their Pornstar Martini is, and fear not, it was a near perfect production.

Our menu tonight looked like this:

Crab Salad – White crab, brown crab creme fraiche, watercress, picked fennel, cucumber, chilli and radish £9
Fowey Mussels with wild garlic white wine and cream £8
Whole Camembert with garlic & rosemary, olives, pickled vegetables, crusty bread £23

City Gate beef burger, beer onions, cheese, iceberg, pickle, ketchup, mayo, fries £16
Cider battered haddock, triple cooked chips, tartare sauce, crushed peas, charred lemon £16.50
Pork Fillet wrapped in streaky bacon. Young’s wholegrain mustard cream, mashed potato, broad beans, and garden peas £15.50

White chocolate mousse, raspberry coulis, raspberry powder £6
Frozen caramel parfait, hazelnut praline £5.50

Bodega Norton Porteño Malbec £6.75
Hanlons Citra IPA

With a good balance of land, air and sea, the menu has plenty of choice, whilst not being vast and overbearing. I went on Dan’s recommendation and went for the Fowey Mussels to start with. Not normally a shellfish guy, but I like to push the boat out (pun intended) and try new things. I am glad I did, the broth was full of umami and the subtle garlicky notes that wild garlic delivers and this complemented the meaty mussels perfectly.

My table mates shared a gorgeous baked camembert sharer which came with camembert, pickled vegetables, crusty bread and olives. Even though it is designed for two to share, I would most probably come in and just devour one myself with no guilt at all, but for now I am glad to say I do have some self control. My other table mate indulged in a fresh and light crab salad that well balanced and nicely presented, he is a fan of crab and enjoyed it immensely with nice things said about the freshness of the crab meat and salad.

I go through food phases and right now I am in the middle of a ‘Fish & Chips’ phase – that means it is nearly guaranteed that if I go out to eat, I will undoubtedly have fish and chips. Cooking and battering fish is a skill and it’s easy to mess it up and thankfully The City Gate nailed it. The cider creates a light wafty batter that evenly coats and brings a crispness that you can’t get quite the same with with beer batter (in my opinion) and this went to prove it. Coupled with the crispy triple-cooked chunky chips, this was a substantial portion which should impress the die-hard fish and chip fans of this world.

Two of my table mates went for The City Gate burger. It was juicy and loaded to the brim; served with fries. Both of them said how sumptuous the burger was with crispy freshly cooked fries, this was accompanied by a heap of satisfied noises from across the table. The pork fillet was also a hit, a tender fillet sitting happily on top of a bed of mashed potato was another well portioned plate, using ingredients from local suppliers this ensures that the meat they use keeps its flavour and quality.

Pudding is always a big debate. Should you carry on? What if you’re already full? To pud or not to pud.

With a dessert menu that includes boozy puds and ports as well, it was going to be hard to choose. However I couldn’t look beyond the White Chocolate Mousse; it was a smooth, sweet and almost buttery. Only one table mate joined me in this pudding adventure with a frozen parfait which really hit the spot. Nothing out of a packet and plonked on a plate, all made fresh and exceptional value when compared to many other places.

Final thoughts: The City Gate Hotel is not just a boutique hotel with a restaurant. It boasts an expansive beer garden, one of the largest in central Exeter, featuring a courtyard adjacent to the city wall. It also offers other bookable areas such as the Cellar bar or the outdoor tent. Additionally, the hotel is welcoming to both dogs and kids, maintaining a distinctive pub feel.

The hotel hosts regular quiz nights, events, and other activities, making it an integral part of the city’s cultural landscape. If you haven’t visited The City Gate yet, it’s a must-visit for foodies that has stood the test of time for generations.

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2023 © Disclosure – all images, unless otherwise stated are copyright of Dining Devon. This meal was paid for by the venue and is considered gifted. For some of our visits we are #invited or products are #gifted, and are noted as such. This means we have been given something complimentary in exchange for our views in the hope of us sharing on our socials and the blog. This does not affect our opinions which are not seen or pre-approved by venues
before we publish or share our experiences.


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