Burger Heaven at Meat59 – by Lauren Heath

“Another burger restaurant?? We already have plenty in the city” was the main reaction I noticed on social media when Meat59’s opening was announced.  I too, thought very similar, even wondering why they chose Magdalen Road as their home.

Those who know Meat59 by their reputation at their Torquay branch rejoiced, a foodie contact of mine who had been a few times gave rave reviews… so I thought, maybe they’re different. Owned by Jenna and her brother-in-law Vince, she looks after front of house and he is the master of the kitchen. The interior is all done by themselves and family members, which gives it a nice feeling of individuality, and the name comes from the door number of the Torquay site.

Their ethos on the website states: ‘We source as much local produce as possible from within the Devon and surrounding areas. We hand mix our meat, hand press our patties, breadcrumb our chicken, pull our pork and make our veggie patties from scratch, all this along with craft beer, local ciders and music to boot.’

We were kindly invited to try it out for ourselves in August whilst we were on our summer holiday break. We ventured out to this potentially burgerlicious venue on a Friday, early evening as a family of 3, with rumbling tummies post swimming session. From the road, it’s deceptively tiny – what looked like one table and a bar , in fact leads up to a mezzanine level then through to another room at the rear which has the light and space of a small conservatory/Sun room.  Each area having a slightly different feel, our table in the rear room was floored with dark wood, cheered up by plants and plenty of natural light.

The menu is just the right size; enough range to choose from but not so much that it inevitably makes the kitchen cheat by using frozen food. This is a fresh menu.

No messing about with starters – chicken wings it is! Feeling dubious about what might arrive, as even chicken wings can be done badly – we were delighted to tuck in to tender, soft meat falling off the bone covered in the tastiest spicy, slightly bbq, sauce. Even hubby who isn’t a fan of chicken on the bone was gnawing like a caveman.

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For mains I chose the Truffle Shuffle burger – a 6oz hamburger patty served with wild mushrooms, wilted spinach, caramelised red onion and truffle mayo. Hubby chose the Raging Bull –  6oz hamburger patty, roasted jalapeño cream cheese, extra hot Mexican style chilli cheddar (made in Somerset), piquant peppers, fresh jalapeños, rocket and chipotle mayo – which he doubled up on and our son had the cheeseburger from the kids menu.

Juicy, meaty, slightly pink (as they should be due to the excellent quality mince meat) burgers in delicious buns, slathered in toppings. The burgers don’t come with chips, which might annoy some but the burgers are rather filling on their own actually.  A couple of very interesting and tasty sounding vegetarian burgers are also available.

We did opt for a bowl each of dirty and filthy fries though…and boy were they naughty! Definitely sizeable to share or even have as a meal on their own; fantastic crunchy yet fluffy skin on chips slathered in, well… filthy, dirty, hangover-curing noise-inducing toppings! Fantastic meaty chilli con carne topped with sexy melted cheese and fresh jalapeno slices or soft and sultry tender pulled pork in a delightful bbq sauce also bedded with plenty of melted cheese. No morsel was left unturned, crispy cheese picked off the tin bowl edges just about leaving the bowl’s coating unharmed.

After all this we somehow managed to share a pud of unctuous double chocolate brownie. Delightful crunchy outer, gooey middle, two tone chocolate that somehow was not sickly but a perfect slightly sweet ending.

A really great meal out which genuinely got double thumbs up from all three of us; easy going dining with excellent down to earth food. I recommend you head to Meat59, and find your burger heaven. I give them meat100!

Meat59, 29 Magdalen Road, Exeter, EX2 4TA

            Website            Facebook               Instagram

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Exmouth’s Brand-New Food Festival Launches This Weekend

Foodies rejoice; there’s a brand-new food festival coming to Exmouth on Saturday 16 September from 10am until 11.00pm. With live music from Barefoot Bandit, street food stalls and an evening mussel banquet, it’s shaping up to be a delicious day out.

An array of artisanal producers from across the region will be coming to the stunning Manor Gardens in the heart of Exmouth for the event. Together, they will showcase a range of mouth-watering products from traditional cheeses, meats, preserves and ales to modern twists on gins, charcuterie, ice-cream, coffee and much more.

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There will be a licensed bar from Powderkeg Brewery, food-themed interactive workshops and activities including a Beat the Heat chilli eating competition. A family day out wouldn’t be complete without a bouncy castle and face painter for the kids.

The festival will also include The Great Mussel Hustle – a sit down mussel banquet at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £15, which will include a glass of wine.

The vibrant event is a collaboration between owner of award-winning local café Bumble and Bee, Debra Quine and Pop-up Events.

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Debra says, ‘We’re so excited to host Exmouth’s Food Festival here in the beautiful setting of Manor Gardens. Enjoying live music while feasting with family and friends is a winning formula – I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday!’

Local food heroes include Exmouth’s own brewery Crossed Anchors, Pebblebed, Quicks Gin distilled in Exmouth, Little Pod, Exmouth Mussels, Fish on the Quay, Eat the Smoke, Devon Chilli Farm and Ottervale Chutneys.

Entry fee is £1, which will be donated to Hospicecare. Tickets will be available on the gate at Manor Gardens, near Exmouth sea front.

To book a place at The Great Mussel Hustle, please call Bumble and Bee on 07791229741. For more information about the day and to keep up with the latest news, visit Exmouth Food Festival event on Facebook.

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Seafood Delights at Salcombe Harbour Hotel – by Lauren Heath

Salcombe – a glorious South Devon waterside town, full of ambitious and successful businesses from Salcombe Gin and Salcombe Dairy to Favis of Salcombe and Jack Wills – it has become a name synonymous with quality.

On this basis, it’s no wonder the Harbour Hotels Group snapped up this top of the estuary, hillside-set property. The Salcombe Harbour Hotel, a 50 bedroom building, was extended with a spa and the Jetty Restaurant back in 2013, maximising the available space, glorious estuary views and thus increasing the overall offering to clientele visiting from near and afar.

We were delighted to have been invited to try the Jetty Restaurant; headed up by Chef Alex Aitken and Head Chef Jay Gulliford, the website informs us they are proud to be ‘Serving local and seasonal dishes, with fish landed daily and a local larder of delicious seasonal produce on its doorstep, The Jetty offers an exceptional Salcombe dining experience. Our Chefs combines expert knowledge with a passion for local ingredients, to create outstanding seasonal food.’

After making a day of it, venturing down the South Hams on a mini food tour and enjoying late-afternoon wave jumping at North Sands, we were ready for dinner!

We were a little early so took advantage of the al-fresco seating and ordered some drinks whilst we perused the extensive menu. We did have to wait a little while to have our drinks order taken, but thankfully the view kept us occupied.

There are a few sections seating, some on the balcony directly in front of the restaurant and then some top sections, with even more of a view and glass balustrades high enough to not block said view, but instead reduce any breezes or chills.

Once we settled into the restaurant, we took stock of the light and smart yet warm, casual feeling to the bar and restaurant area, with estuary views out to the front – a large flowing space with earthy seaside tones, plump seating and clean, crisp whitewash ceilings to give an even more spacious feel.

The venue is a mix of high rollers, families and couples all with their own style – smart, casual or even beach ready, which gives this a nice feel of comfortable elegance.

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Whilst we viewed the extensive menu and specials, we opted for the ‘While You Choose’ pre-starters of Deep Fried Tempura Oysters served with fine diced shallot & vinegar, Cockle Popcorn served with sweet chilli sauce and Seafood Jetty Bites. We were very pleasantly suprised at the beautiful presentation and taste of everything. Light batter, fresh zingy dips, and the whitebait was clearly breadcrumbed in house – a great start (p.s. if you’re a bit unsure of oysters, I highly recommend having them battered, it’s my new favourite thing!)

Starter options included a varied selection of vegetarian, meat and fish – we opted for Scallops, Apple and Bacon as well as Crispy Salt and Pepper Squid. The scallops were as I would expect, but that’s the beauty of a classic combination like this – smokey bacon, sweet juicy scallops with a bit of added sweetness and crunch offered by its foodie bedfellows. The salt and pepper squid was completely different from what we imagined arriving, but not negatively so; squid cooked just right on a bed of salad leaves, pea shoots and peppers for a bit of crunch with a lovely complimenting dressing bringing it all together.

Choosing from mains would have been incredibly hard, save for the fact I told myself if there was lobster thermidor on the specials, that it would be the one – and it was! An all time luxurious favourite (and rare treat) of mine, it did not dissapoint.

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Hubby ordered Jetty on a Plate – South coast fish and shellfish with fennel, tomato, herbs & beurre blanc; a delicious array of fish and shellfish, with spring greens and a light butter sauce – he doesn’t believe in messing about with fish too much and this was very much to his taste.

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Other main courses include Duck and Squid, Ruby Red Beef, Monkfish and so on…all sounding tantalisingly individual making it hard for the diner to choose but all certainly a bit different from other restaurant fair. (making this ‘what do I choose’ scenario not a bad middle class problem quite frankly) – so choose wisely or maybe sneakily convince your dining partner to have something you also like the look of and steal from their plate, or share amicably – best of both worlds!

Desserts of  Dark Chocolate Fondant with Salcombe Dairy salted caramel ice cream and Crunchy Peanut Butter Parfait with roasted nut crumb, rich Belgium chocolate were our final victims for the evening. Good puddings, although I found the parfait plate a little too much of the same texture, still tasty nonetheless, and the fondant was possibly 60 seconds past perfection – but technically, this is a hard one to hit on the nose.

Overall, the food was delicious, well presented and of good portions sizes, but sadly the service was a little hit and miss in our section. I noticed nearby servers giving a wonderful personal approach to their tables and feel that this is what the venue is striving for overall and perhaps we were just a tad unlucky that evening. For the price point and venue though, I would expect this to be a slicker affair, and perhaps they could tighten this up a little.  We enjoyed a very relaxed evening, nonetheless, before sailing away into the night (not on a boat sadly, just driving home).

Co-editor Chris recently visited for Afternoon Tea, which can be found here if you’d like to see what else is on offer.

Salcombe Harbour Hotel, Cliff Road, Salcombe, South Devon, TQ8 8JH;

01548 844 444 salcombe@harbourhotels.co.uk

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Countdown to Powderham Food Festival 2017: foodie fun for all the family

With just two months to go until Powderham Food Festival returns for a sixth celebration of local food and drink (Saturday 7th to Sunday 8th October), festival organisers Bob Small and Fiona Gofton are hoping 2017 will be the biggest, best and quite possibly the healthiest food festival they have ever hosted.

Set amid the spectacular grounds of Powderham Castle, home to Lord and Lady Devon, Powderham Food Festival is a magnet for foodies of all ages. So, with nature’s autumnal larder full to brimming with delicious fruits and vegetables, what better time to shine a light on fresh, wholesome and delicious food that the whole family can get excited about.

Charles Courtenay, 19th Earl of Devon (1)
Charles Courtenay, 19th Earl of Devon

Bob Small says, “Powderham has always prided itself on being a family-friendly food festival, but this year we wanted to give everybody food for thought on what they feed their loved ones. It is for this reason that we have teamed up with Sugar Smart to help inform and inspire families on how to cook more with fresh ingredients, less with sugar-filled processed foods and to find simple ways to lower their sugar intake.”

Fiona Gofton says “We all live busy lives, and I know I sometimes struggle to get inspiration for meals to feed my family that are quick, healthy and appeal to everybody’s tastes. Our new family food marquee will focus on wholesome home cooking, offering loads of useful information from Sugar Smart and associated organisations on how families can make small changes to their diet and lifestyle that will have a long-lasting effect on their health and wellbeing.”

Rachel Pinnock, a food anthropology PhD student who works part time at Exeter Cookery School and part time as a Sugar Smart ambassador, will be on hand to show children and their parents how the humble veg can be transformed into a delicious and nutritious family meal. Meanwhile, Judi Spiers will be joining the team from Home Farm Café – a Dartmoor-based farm café with 85% of its menu featuring local, seasonal produce – with demonstrations from Stella West-Harling and Nick Smith on how to create exciting and delicious dinners for week-night meal times.

Fun Kitchen will also be supporting Sugar Smart’s campaign at this year’s Powderham Food Festival, as it returns once more with its popular, messy and educational hands-on cookery classes for children. Fun Kitchen founder and Jamie Oliver Food Revolution Ambassador, Joe Mann, is a firm believer in making cooking fun and accessible for children, and has been instrumental in teaching about food beyond the classroom as a partner of the Growing Devon Schools Partnership.

For a wondrous line-up of the region’s culinary talents, head to the Exeter Cookery School stage. Jim and Lucy Fisher, the dynamic husband and wife team who opened Exeter Cookery School in the summer of 2016, will play host to a dazzling array of cookery demonstrations for the third consecutive year. Working with the region’s very fine seasonal larder, chefs confirmed so far this year are Richard Hunt (TV chef, consultant chef & founder of Devon Scone Company), Richard Valder (head chef and co-owner of @Angela’s Restaurant), Paul Greenhead (chef and co-owner of Café Catalan), Rachel Pinnock (Exeter Cookery School) and Nila Ross-Patel (Exeter Cookery School tutor), with more chefs yet to be revealed.

Stella West-Harling (Home Farm Cafe), Judi Spiers and Lucy Fisher (Exeter Cookery School) (8)
Stella West-Harling (Home Farm Cafe), Judi Spiers & Lucy Fisher (Exeter Cookery School)

Completing the cookery demonstration areas, the ever-popular Theatre of Fire and Smoke will also be back at Powderham Food Festival to delight its loyal following. Barbecue and food smoking aficionados Simon Dyer, Marcus Bawdon and John Gower from Quiet Waters Farm, will be cooking up a storm. Meanwhile, the Clifton Chilli Club will be hosting their usual increasingly fiery chillies on members of the public in the Great Devon Chilli Challenge – for the bravest of souls (or should we say stomachs).

And if that was not all, there will be over 100 local food and drinks producers and craft stalls to explore and give you plenty to keep your tummies happy. The festival will be a fantastic family and foodie day out for all to enjoy – so make sure you put the date in your diary for the must-visit Autumn Food Festival at Powderham Castle!

Tickets for Powderham Food Festival are available to purchase online via www.powderhamfoodfestival.com with a saving of 25% for advanced purchase tickets!

 

Family Fun at the River Cottage Summer Festival

FAMILY FUN AT THE RIVER COTTAGE SUMMER FESTIVAL

Under 16s go free when accompanied by an adult

Fun galore awaits children and adults alike as the River Cottage Summer Festival draws near. Taking place across the August bank holiday weekend (26th – 27th August) the Festival offers visitors a packed schedule of family friendly activities and foodie delights. The whole family can enjoy top music acts and great children’s entertainment, all in a beautiful East Devon setting.  Children under 16 go free when accompanied by an adult making the Summer Festival a fantastic, affordable day out for the whole family and a perfect way to celebrate the end of the summer season.

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Visitors can enjoy a wide range of activities and entertainment, from watching performances by Swamp Circus and Rainbow Gecko Giant Bubbles, to getting hands on with Play Art Junk Modelling or taking a foraging tour with John Wright. Littles ones can enjoy baby massages, kids yoga, the hands-on mud kitchen, sandpit, felting and flower workshops and the Marine Monster making. Other workshops include pottery, jewellery making and clay modelling. Nature lovers can immerse themselves in the wonders of the stunning countryside with guided geology walks with local butterfly experts as well as star gazing after sunset.

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Take part in one of the masterclasses to find out how to make your own sushi or cook over a wood fire. The little ones can get stuck into pizza making or creating their own ice cream sundae masterpiece with prices starting from just £20.

When thoughts turn to food, visitors can enjoy a veritable feast of tasty homemade dishes on offer throughout the weekend with delectable street food from local artisan producers. Treat yourself to a Farmhouse Feast and immerse yourself in the River Cottage atmosphere. The two-course sit down meal is served in the iconic Farmhouse for just £20 and offers a mouthwatering menu designed using fresh, seasonal and local produce from the farm, garden and local suppliers. There will also be a selection of bars located across the Festival serving a variety of sumptuous drinks from Chase Vodka cocktails and English sparkling wine from neighboring Castlewood Vineyard to locally sourced beers, ciders, wines and seasonal cocktails.

A team of chefs and experts will be on hand to share their culinary tips throughout the two-day weekend on the Garden Stage hosted by Steven Lamb. On the Saturday, visitors can enjoy a mix of chefs, speakers and activists including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, forager John Wright, Bake-Off star Chetna Makan and herbalist Katie from Pukka Teas. On the Sunday, award-winning blogger Ed Smith will take to the stage alongside Satish Kumar, Michelin-starred Adam Byatt and Hugh.

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Festival goers can enjoy music throughout the weekend with a variety of brilliant musicians on the line-up. There is live music from midday until 10pm on both days, with entertainment for the whole family. On the Saturday, Sound of the Sirens will headline alongside The Jack Daniels Band, Them Voices Poor, Sadie Horler, Hungry Bentley, Nicky Swann and DJ Diggz. On the Sunday, visitors can enjoy music from The Travelling Band, Mr Tea and the Minions, Melissa Bel, Mark McCabe, Tori Reed and the Troubadours and DJ Diggz.

For more information and to book tickets, visit the website: www.rivercottage.net/festival/2017. River Cottage is running a free park and ride service to and from the Festival or add to the experience with VIP parking onsite available for just £5 per car.

KuPP Scandi Picnic in the Park by Lauren Heath

Gosh, hasn’t Summer well and truly shown herself this past week? Some days it has been too hot really, but alas we shouldn’t moan, there are so many great spots to find shade in our beautiful city whilst enjoying the sunshine. So you’re sitting alfresco, and you’re thinking ‘a deliciously fresh and exciting picnic would be great right about now’ – well guess what? KuPP Exeter have the answer!

I was very pleased to have received an offer from KuPP to experience their latest offering of a Scandi Picnic; “a feast of cold cuts and light salads, including Norwegian salmon gravadlax and house smoked mackerel with lashings of Scandi potato and summer heritage tomato salad as well as roast beetroot and smoked red onions. Meaty offerings come in the form of homemade chorizo sausage roll, smoked pork meatballs, Sussex smoked ham and potted rabbit with nutmeg butter. A Scandi picnic wouldn’t be complete without a generous helping of Västerbotten (strong Swedish cheddar) and a section of breads, spreads and pickles.”

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There is a vegetarian picnic too as well as vegan and gluten free options on request.

So I quickly gathered two fabulous lady friends, arranged a date – which happened to be the first day of #NationalPicnicWeek – placed my order 24hrs in advance and we swiftly found ourselves collecting our fabric tote bag of goodies and settling under a tree in Northernhay Gardens.

At £30 for 2 people, I initially worried this seemed pricey and also worried there wouldn’t be enough for the three of us so ordered two extra open sandwiches at a further £6.50 for both –Smoked Streaky Danish Bacon & Crushed Avocado Roasted baby plum tomatoes & dressed pea shoots and Smoked Chilli Torn Roast Chicken Roasted red peppers & little gem.

I was wrong on both counts – it was a bounty of food and even without the sandwiches there was plenty for the three of us – with some left over for me to take back to my desk. I am already a big fan of Kupp – their food is fresh, vibrant, filling and well priced in the restaurant, so to have all the delights from their smorgasbords packed up nicely for a picnic was a delight.

Everything was so tasty – the potted rabbit was moist, flavoursome and plentiful; the smoked pork meatballs are so good in their tangy gravy; the chorizo sausage roll is a triumph of crispy light pastry and delicious meat filling; and don’t get me started on the smoked red onions (I want to know how they do it!!). The breads bring even more texture and crunch to the offering and boy is that Västerbotten cheese tangy.

I could go on, but I won’t. Great for lazy days or even in your work lunch break; forget spending a fortune on the drier supermarket offering, this really is the bees knees of picnic and is very generous in size. All supplied with cutlery, plates and napkins – just bring along your picnic blanket and some great people to share it with – and if the weather is, well, under the weather, there are plenty of covered spots around the city where you can sit and have a nibble Scandi style. Cheers or Skål!

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For further info on their picnics, click here.

To read about our thoughts on their bottomless brunch click here.

KuPP – Unit 12 Queen Street Dining, Guildhall Shopping Centre, Exeter EX4 3HP

T: 01392 531 777  | Website: www.kupp.co

Facebook: KuPPExeter | Twitter: KuPP_Exeter | Instagram: kupp_Exeter

Recipe: Hanlons Port Stout Chocolate Cake

Our second recipe from Hanlons Brewery, using their Port Stout.

Hanlons Port Stout Chocolate Cake Recipe

Cake

250 ml Hanlons Port Stout

250 g Unsalted Butter

80 g Cocoa Powder – Green & Blacks is best

400 g Caster Sugar – Golden best for flavour

2 large eggs

1 tsp Vanilla Extract – not Essence!

140 ml buttermilk – use the rest to make scones or tenderise chicken pieces

275 g Plain Flour

2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

½ tsp Baking Powder

Icing

50 g Unsalted Butter

250 g Icing Sugar, sifted

125 g Philadelphia Cream Cheese – Full fat

Preheat oven to 160 C Gas Mark 3.

Grease with butter and dust with flour a 9 inch / 23 cm spring-form cake tin and cut a circle to line the bottom with baking parchment.

Melt together the stout and the butter in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the cocoa powder and sugar, stirring well until dissolved. In a jug, mix together the eggs, vanilla and buttermilk. Mix thoroughly with the above mixture.

Sift together the remaining dry ingredients and add to the mixture. Mix thoroughly so that everything is well amalgamated. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for about 50 minutes or until the cake starts to pull from the sides of the tin and a skewer emerges with just a little stickiness from the centre of the cake. Set aside to cool and remove from the tin to your serving plate.

To make the icing, mix together the butter, sugar and cream cheese until light and smooth. Top the cake with the icing and enjoy!

If you want to find out more about their beers, events or foodie pop ups visit www.hanlonsbrewery.com/

hanlons Cake

Salcombe Crab Festival – by Lauren Heath

What a food filled weekend! On Sunday 30th April, I attended the Salcombe Crab Festival; I was not going to let our British weather make us crabby by stopping our bank holiday weekend fun, so my family and I donned the raincoats and wellies and off we drove.

Salcombe is approx. 1 hour south of Exeter, on a steady drive and boy you do know when are you nearby; the sea down below just peeking through the trees, and the lushest bright green roadsides guiding you down to the bay.

Crab Fest 2017 Logo.cdr

Salcombe Crabfest is a smaller annual festival, organised by volunteers from the Rotary Club of Salcombe and sponsored by Favis of Salcombe and Coast and Country Cottages. It has music, food stalls and food related events spread throughout the town which creates a lovely festival vibe.

This year the event was being opened by Matt Tebbutt, well known for presenting Channel 4’s Food Unwrapped as well as Saturday Kitchen and a being a regular contributor for Waitrose Kitchen magazine.  He would then also be cooking up a storm (although nature had already given us one) with local food hero and seafood ambassador Mitch Tonks, the co-founder of the Rockfish restaurants and takeaways as well as The Seahorse Restaurant in Dartmouth.

The cookery demo was great, very free flowing with both of them having a good time and answering any random questions thrown at them. Mitch cooked Singapore spicy crab as well as deep fried soft shell crab rolls which made their way around the lucky few in the audience and Matt cooked crab ravioli using spring roll papers – a trick I am going to try at home! The ravioli was absolutely delicious, served in a crab broth – I was near enough to the front to be fast enough with a nearby spoon!

There was an hourly tour at Salcombe Gin Distilling Co and this was an eye opener; we got a shortened version of their new Gin School offering, so learnt a bit about how they make the gin, chose some ingredients and got to taste the final product. Do look them up for a gift for yourself or a loved one (they are award winning already too – see recent press release here) you get to create your very own flavour of gin and not only take a full bottle home, but also enjoy your drinks in their lovely bar afterwards.

We saw JB Preserves, Bell and Loxton Oils, Favis of Salcombe, Salcombe Brew Coffee, South Devon Chilli Farm, amongst others. My son loves crab so enjoyed a fresh pot full and he even tried an oyster!

Live music filled the air wherever we were, the local shops were buzzing and who can resist a view like this round every corner?

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For a free event, it’s a great day out – perhaps plan a night or two away for next year and wander around the festival enjoying the many food and drink delights on offer without having to drive home.

Look out for next years date and get it in the diary!

 

Win a Family Pass to the River Cottage Spring Food Fair!

Taking place over May Bank Holiday, River Cottage Spring Food Fair is the perfect way to celebrate this season’s foodie delights and activities, surrounded by the gorgeous East Devon countryside. Promised to be packed full of fun for all the family to enjoy, enter our competition and you could win a family pass for Monday 29th May 2017.

 

We’ve rounded up our top 10 things to do at the Spring Food Fair….

  1. Enjoy a cookery masterclass – Get cooking with our adult and child masterclasses and learn the secret behind cookies and doughnuts & pasta and focaccia. If parents want to try their hand at something different then there are a range of other masterclasses to enjoy from Wild Cocktails with John Wright to Outdoor Cookery with Gill Meller
  2. Pottery Workshops – Learn how to make a seedling pot which will be yours to take away at the end of the session
  3. Falconry displays – Marvel at these beautiful birds as they fly around and catch their prey
  4. Food, food and more food! Feast on delicious fare from our local producers, pop up food stalls, try some delicious River Cottage wood fired pizza or dine in our farmhouse pop-up restaurant!
  5. Bee Area – Visit the East Devon Beekeepers and learn all about bees, you will also be able to make and take away your very own candle and take part in a fun bee-related quiz.
  6. Lucet Braiding/Felting workshops – Learn how to make textile jewellery e.g. friendship bracelet using the Lucet & 100% wool fibres or textile waste or you could learn the basic principles of needle-felting to create a delightful bumble bee brooch
  7. Enjoy spectacular large bubble displays/ get face painted
  8. Forest school – Learn how to build a shelter, whittle pegs and light a fire
  9. Animal area – Wonder around the farm and meet the River Cottage animals and other friends. Pigs, sheep, cows, chickens, alpacas, miniature ponies will all be around for you to see.
  10. Natural woodcraft workshops – Use natural resources to make you very own bug box or a beautiful wooden flower

…and if that’s not enough to tempt you, visit the website (www.rivercottage.net) to find out more or buy yourself some tickets.

To be in with the chance of winning a family pass to the Spring Food Fair on Monday 29th May, where you can enjoy all of our favourite spring delights and much more, simply enter the competition below.

Terms & Conditions

  • In order to enter please just retweet the pinned post on Twitter or like, share and comment on the pinned post on Facebook.
  • Closing date Midnight 30.04.2017
  • Prize includes two adult tickets and two child tickets to the River Cottage Spring Food Fair on Monday 29th May 2017
  • Transport is not included
  • Open to residents of the UK aged over 18
  • Prize is non-transferable or amendable
  • No cash alternative
  • Additional costs incurred are payable by the winner

 

*Featured header image courtesy of Nick Hook Photography

Get Spun with Easter Sugar Fun – Exeter Cookery School Recipe

Jim Fisher, head chef tutor and co-owner of Exeter Cookery School, shares his fail-safe method for creating show-stopping desserts adorned with spun sugar cages, baskets and springs – or for Easter, why not make an edible nest for mini chocolate eggs!

Spun Sugar Cages, Baskets and Springs

This is something I love teaching on our cooking courses: spinning sweet gossamer threads over the back of a ladle or around a sharpening steel to create a beautiful caramel cage or spring – pure magic!

A word of warning before we get on to the good stuff: caramel gets hot. We’re talking upwards of 185°C here, and, if it gets on your skin it’ll burn deep! So, make sure you have cold running water on standby because, if you do get any caramel on you, you’ll need to have ready access to it (thrust the wound under lots of really cold running water for at least five minutes).

Unusual Ingredients

Making caramel is easy, but, as in all things, you’ll need to prepare by gathering together the equipment mentioned below. Also, try and acquire some Glucose Syrup (sometimes called Liquid Glucose); this sticky clear syrup – obtainable at the chemist and most supermarkets – is actually a form of starch and is really useful for keeping your sugar syrup from re-crystallising.

Storing Caramel Shapes

Caramel doesn’t store well – it’s hygroscopic, meaning it will attract moisture from the air and quickly turn sticky – but it will keep for a few hours under Clingfilm. If you want to keep your work of art for any longer, pop a couple of silica gel sachets (or a small pot of baked and dried salt) in with them and seal tightly.

Makes at least 12 cages or 20 springs

spun sugar

Equipment

  • Heavy-gauge stainless steel (i.e. colourless) medium saucepan
  • Heat-proof pastry brush
  • Sugar thermometer (not essential if you use white sugar and a stainless steel pan as you can judge the temperature by the colour)
  • Bowl of cold water (for cooling base of pan)
  • Several metal dessert spoons (preferably stainless steel)
  • Several sheets of silicon paper or mat
  • Heat-proof pan stand
  • Metal ladle
  • Large round-section sharpening ‘steel’ or similar size metal tubing

Ingredients

100ml cold water 500g caster sugar 1 tbsp glucose syrup

Method

Put all the ingredients into the saucepan and place over a low flame until the sugar has completely dissolved. Don’t stir or shake the pan during this stage as you’ll get sugar crystals forming around the edge of the solution. If this does happen, brush down the sides with a pastry brush dipped in cold water.

Once everything has completely liquefied, crank the heat up to maximum and boil vigorously until the syrup reaches 185°C on a sugar thermometer or turns a deep golden colour.

Briefly, but gently, plunge the base of the saucepan into a bowl of cold water, stirring with a metal dessert spoon, in order to prevent the caramel from over-cooking.

Place the pan on a heat-proof pan stand and begin making your shapes:

Cages and baskets

Very lightly lubricate the convex side of the ladle with a faint smear of neutral cooking oil such as groundnut or sunflower.

Hold the ladle at arm’s length with the bowl uppermost and upside-down.

Take a spoonful of caramel and tip it until the excess runs back into the pan. As soon as you have a steady stream running off the tip, flick the thread of caramel in different directions over the back of the ladle in a lattice pattern.

Waft the ladle in the air until cool enough to handle, then cup the lattice in the palm of your hand and gently twist it away. Et voila!

sugar cage

Springs

Wait until the caramel is cooler and much thicker than before.

Get a nice thin strand going off the end of your spoon, then, keeping the steel pointing upwards at a constant 45° angle, wind the caramel onto it in a spring shape, but doing most of the work with your spoon hand.

Again, allow the caramel to cool sufficiently, then gently but firmly grasp the spring in the palm of your hand and slide it off the steel.

Practice makes perfect

Both these techniques take time to master, so definitely do not attempt to make them for the very first time the day of your dinner party!

However, once you get the hang of it, you’ll have access to a very impressive arsenal of dinner-party dessert garnishes.

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About Exeter Cookery School

Exeter Cookery Courses for Easter

Polish up your cookery skills over the Easter holidays with Exeter Cookery School’s relaxed half- and one-day cookery courses taking place during the Easter holidays. Head chef and co-owner, Jim Fisher, offers a wealth of top cheffy tips and tricks to make your food look and taste better and ensure consistent results time and time again. He’ll also teach you some simple cook-ahead techniques to take the hassle out of entertaining at home.

All courses are held at a stylishly converted 1830s warehouse on Exeter’s buzzing quayside. It is also a stone’s throw from the Haven Banks Outdoor Activity Centre, so if you have children attending an outdoor activity there over the holidays, why not tie it in with some ‘you time’.

9th April    9.30 – 12pm

Half Day Ice Cream making Workshop

Get your taste buds going with this lip-smackingly good ice cream making workshop. Learn how to make delicious ice cream from scratch with Jim’s simple and quick method and explore a host of flavour sensations – anyone for basil ice cream? Suitable for every level of ability.

9th April    2pm – 4.30pm

Half Day Spun Sugar Workshop

Discover the fine art of spinning wonderful shapes on a half day spun sugar workshop. You will leave knowing how to create baskets, twirls, swirls, baskets and much more. Perfect for transforming desserts into show stoppers in no time.

Wednesday 12th    9.30am – 4.30pm

One Day Butchery & Meat Cookery Course

This is a comprehensive hands-on butchery and meat cookery course, which will take you through the process of jointing a chicken, preparing and roasting a rack of lamb. Finally, you will learn how to bone a rabbit and create a complex dish that includes the roasted rabbit loin, rabbit leg confit (fall-off-the-bone tender), a rack of tiny rabbit chops, the sautéed kidneys and a liver parfait.

Thursday 13th April    9.30am – 4.30pm

One Day Vegetarian / Vegetable Cookery Course

Vegetarian cooking can sometimes lack variety and even taste if not approached in the right way. However, on this one day vegetarian cookery course, vegetables become the star of the show. From a seasonal vegetable salad to filled ravioli or a risotto packed with flavour and the pick of the seasonal larder, your taste buds will be tantalised and you will leave with some sure-fire recipes for cooking for yourself and loved ones.

Friday 14th April    9.30am – 4.30pm

One Day Chocolate Cookery

Well, quite frankly, need we say any more? You’ll get a whole day of cooking, and yes eating, chocolate! You’ll discover all about melting and tempering chocolate. And if you can resist a little bit of temptagionu might even come away with a special treat for a loved one for Easter.

Saturday 15th April    9.30am – 4.30pm

One day French Bistro Mains Cookery

Relatively simple to prepare and cook, French Bistro main courses make a great choice for a British dinner party. You’ll learn how to cook some delicious dishes, including classics such as Jim’s flavour-packed French onion soup, Confit d’Canard (duck leg preserved in its own fat), Gigot d’Agneau (leg of lamb) and the hugely popular, Steak Frites.

Or, if you’d rather wait until the children have gone back to school, then why not have a look at Exeter Cookery School’s full calendar of events to see what takes your fancy.

Visit www.exetercookeryschool.co.uk or contact 07415783759 for more information.

 

The Swan at Bampton – by Lauren Heath

You know those days, between the seasons, where there’s just enough warmth yet still a chill in the air? There’s the lure of a country walk to inhale fresh air and appreciate nature as she removes her winter layer or gets ready to batten down the hatches.

That feeling seems to envoke the need to find a resting place so as to reward yourself for said walk, or cosy up to comfort yourself if the rain fell. A perfect place to fulfil any such  need or even just as an excuse to get out of the house if the walk had not been possible at all, is The Swan at Bampton.

Situated just outside Tiverton, The Swan at Bampton is owned and run by Paul and Donna for what is now their 10th anniversary year, it has been rewarded with many accolades including Top 50 Gastro Pubs and 2 AA Rosettes. The website informs you that ‘The Swan, being the oldest pub in Bampton, was originally lodgings to accommodate the masons and other craftsmen who were hired to enlarge the church in 1450. St Michaels church can be seen from the terrace just behind the pub.’

It still holds a sense of history with its beams and stoney walls, but has had a beautifully tasteful and modern refurbishment, whilst still keeping warmth and charm.

Having engaged with Paul on social media for some time due to my drooling over his food images, I finally found the perfect excuse to visit – Mothers Day. I didn’t want anything fancy, just a blimmin’ good roast and with his ethos of local meat, and comforting yet modern food, I had no doubt it would be good.

After enjoying a stroll in the sunshine along the Tiverton Canal, we arrived at 4:30 so as to enjoy Linner or Lupper (somehow not the same ring to it as brunch…I’ll fetch my coat!) We settled down at a table near the bar. There was evidence it had been very busy but nonetheless we were welcomed with smiles and served with ease, even Paul gets involved in ensuring his customers are happy (both Paul and Donna cook as well).  With no official children’s menu, the younger ones are encouraged to choose from the mains and they are happy to serve a smaller portion ensuring the children eat just as well as their parents and none of this chicken nugget malarkey. (Don’t get me wrong, they have their place..but when you eat out, eat fresh).

So both my hubby and I settled quickly on roast beef and my son wanted the roast pork. There were plenty of main menu items nearly seducing us but I hadn’t had a pub roast in forever, and for once this ensured I didn’t dawdle over my choice.

The pub has its bar placed well in the middle of the ground floor with around 10 tables to the front left and right, fireplaces on either side for those colder days, and a small more cosy dining area set back upstairs with 4 or 5 tables.

Locals surrounded the bar area enjoying a catch up, with roast potatoes on deck for a thirst inducing snack. The bar includes the usual suspects with regards to drinks along with some great local beers and ales. We enjoyed a lager called Curious Brew, brewed using the champange method, it was refreshing and slightly fizzy, a clean and refreshing partner for the impending meat feast.

What arrived was fantastic; beautiful meat, on a bed of crispy roast potatoes, yorkshire pudding and a sticky and sweet oven roasted red onion. My son’s child portion arrived looking very similar and he was delighted to see a bit of fat (how he stays skinny, I’ll never know!). What followed was even more pleasing; not just a bountiful offering of vegetables but a jug of meaty gravy and a jug of cheese sauce!  It was all just gorgeous, and these jugs were an extra I wouldn’t expect to receive but it just shows how Paul and The Swan know what their customers want. The veg consisted of leeks, heritage carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and a wonderful pot of sweet potato mash. All this for £11.95, this was a roast with the most and for a greedy gravy guzzler like me, it was nice not to have to ask for more!

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My son completely cleared his plate which was a sure sign of enjoyment as he has a tendency to get distracted, it goes cold and he leaves some aside…but no dithering here. At £6.50 for a child portion, it includes a bowl of ice cream to satisfy the mini-me’s sweet tooth requirements. He gave it a big thumbs up and 100 out of 100!

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For us bigger kids, the normally savoury husband found one of his favourite puds was on the menu, and went for it – treacle tart with vanilla ice cream. I struggled to choose from the great options but the mini egg ice cream that accompanied the chocolate brownie somehow swung it for me…boy it was good. Gooey, cakey, crispy, warm, chocolatey,  bitter chocolate balanced with sweet with honeycomb bits for extra texture….delicious indeed. Hubby was super happy and impressed with his choice – a crisp pastry bottom, with a gooey layer then tasty treacle top, best he has had in a long time.

Well it was time to go, and be drawn out into the evening with the church bells a ringing amid the clear skies.

Want great pub food, that surpasses your expectations but doesn’t break the bank, best flap your wings and swan over to Bampton. If you’re too full to leave, there are some tastefully appointed rooms above to sleep it off.

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The Swan, Station Road, Bampton, Devon EX16 9NG. Telephone: 01398 332248.

Email: info@theswan.co

Web: www.theswan.co

Instagram: theswanbampton

Twitter: @theswanbampton

Facebook: @theswanbampton

*I’d like to add that there is good access and enough room for those with accessibility needs as well as parents with pushchairs.

Tuesday to Saturday
Midday – 2.00 pm
6.00 pm – 9.30 pm

Sunday
Midday – 2.30 pm
6.30 pm – 8.45 pm

Monday – 5.00 pm – 11.00 pm
Tuesday to Thursday
Open all day until 11.00 pm

Friday & Saturday
Midday – Midnight
Sunday – Midday – 10.30 pm

 

 

 

 

Dinner and Overnight Stay with John Burton-Race at The Grosvenor, Torquay – by Lauren Heath

Being ex-hospitality, I find it interesting to watch certain reality series like Four in a Bed and Kitchen Nightmares – having been there, done that, you wander how on earth people can get it so wrong. Another entertaining fly-on-the-wall show was The Hotel on Channel 4. The Hotel itself was The Grosvenor in Torquay, which was owned and run by Mark Jenkins – a haphazard yet entertaining guy who, bless him, always tried his very best. But with little money in the pot and micro managing everyone around him including some larger than life characters, this big hotel with even bigger potential just seemed to fall at every hurdle. We had even passed this hotel on a day out, and in sheer nosiness, popped in for a quick browse mid-fame.

Fast forward a couple of years and my, how things have changed. The hotel has since been purchased by the Richardson Hotel Group, a privately owned business with Keith Richardson still very much at the forefront. Along with The Grosvenor, they own 6 seafront hotels in Devon and Cornwall including The Grand in Torquay, and then The Fowey, The Falmouth and The Metropole Hotels in Cornwall.

Since purchasing the hotel, it was recently closed for a short period of time to push its refurbishment plans through as well as completely renovating the kitchen for it’s new michelin starred captain at the helm: John Burton-Race.

Some of you may or may not know who John is but one thing that precedes him is his feisty reputation. Saying that, JBR, who has had recipe books published, cookery tv shows and his own restaurants under his belt has been living a much calmer Devon life for quite a few years and it seems fitting that he is the one bringing order to this once chaotic establishment.

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John Burton-Race – image provided by PR company

Interestingly nearly 9 years to the day, I met John Burton-Race whilst being a guest on set of Market Kitchen in London, where John cooked brown shrimp for us, so I was intrigued by the news of his appointment.

So with this combination of life stories and events, I was delighted to have been invited for an overnight stay to test out the accommodation and food offering in this fairly local seaside town.

The front of the hotel has been treated to a good facelift to freshen things up as has the interior. We were checked in promptly and advised on the location of our room so off we toddled, wheelie bag in hand ready for a proper nosey.

Our room was enormous! Large bed, very high ceilings, tall windows to match. There was plenty of storage for those longer stays, and a nice pair of chairs with coffee table for relaxing. There was even a fridge which was great for a few treats we had brought with, and it wasn’t a noisy ‘buzz all night’ type of fridge. We had seen this room before on the telly, and it was tired and a bit wasted – but now it was fresh and clean. It was not what I would call luxurious – but it didn’t need to be, this is not a boutique hotel – it is comfortable and gives value for money, and they understand the price point of the guests they are likely to welcome here and have not over egged it.

We enjoyed the pool and jacuzzi facilities; a slightly roman-inspired area with its curves and decor. There is also a sauna to use if you wish to sweat anything off. After our relaxation, we then returned to the room to refresh ourselves for dinner.

Prior to dinner, we were sat in the lounge area to peruse the menus – the a la carte menu with individually priced items and the 6 course tasting menu priced at a very affordable £50 per head. If you have booked Dinner, B and B it includes the a la carte and if you really fancy the tasting menu you can pay a small fee to ‘upgrade’. We ordered our drinks with hubby being well advised on a good gin to go for, to fulfill his current drinking fad.

The restaurant tables were well spread out, private enough for your own conversation yet filled enough that there was a lovely buzz in the room from other tables. The lighting was right, the service smooth and effortless and it was non-intrusive. James the maitre’d, really had it; that irish charm goes a long way but he exuded genuine customer care and the right amount of humour. I had my ear out listening to him with other diners and he could certainly read his customer which is a much needed talent amonst a good front of house position.

Dinner really was sublime. I have mentioned before how chef hubby, Steve, is hard to please or impress but he had a wonderful evening, as did I.

It all started with an amouse bouche of seafood raviolo, with crispy fish skin and an asian salad. For starters Steve chose the Salad of Beef Rib served with truffled potato, watercress, hazelnuts, and sour dough crouton. I had my eye on the lobster ravioli in lobster bisque as seen on Twitter and thankfully it was still on the menu. Both starters were just beautiful, each element singing through and packed with flavour. My ravioli was bursting with a hunk of tender and meaty, sweet lobster.

For mains Steve flew for the Roast Devon Quail, herb purée, beetroot, quail jus, and tarragon gnocchi and I leapt at Roast Chump of Lamb, jerusalem artichoke, purple sprouting broccoli & tapenade jus. All the meat was cooked to perfection – juicy, tasty and well taken care of. Steve loved his gnocchi and I must say the Jerusalem artichoke puree was an eye opener for me and a flavour triumph – earthy yet sweet.

For dessert I couldn’t decide (what’s new) but was recommended one and thought why not, sounds interesting. It was Sweetcorn Custard, toffee popcorn, quince sauce, and popcorn ice-cream. It was a set custard, not sweet or savoury – somewhere in between but the accompaniments added the dimension and enhancement.  Being me, I could have done with something sweeter but it was tasty and something I’ve never seen before.

Steve opted for a selection of the cheeses which included Ossau-Iraty, Glastonbury Cheddar, Raclette, Sharpham’s Elmhirst, Crottin de Chevre Melusine, Morbier, Langres, Fourme d’Ambert. He was very impressed that these were stored in the dining room at room temperature, cut to order and was a very satisfied customer once he’d munched his way through.

Pleasantly full we headed back to our room for a good sleep. The bed was very comfortable and the room a good temperature.

Morning came and we ventured for breakfast in the same dining room, only with her morning wear on, with lots of homemade pastries, local yoghurts and such items on the central table with a breakfast menu to choose from as you would expect.

Breakfast was good; the only thing that really let it down was the coffee – or lack there of. It was filter coffee in the coffee plunger but it was either weak coffee granules or whoever is making it doesn’t know how it tastes as a finished product and therefore isn’t spooning enough in – it wasn’t good. I suggest they invest in a filter coffee machine or coffee shop type instrument – perhaps this is on the shopping list, as I really can’t start the day without a good cup of java.

We were sat on the higher glass extension end of the restaurant and so had a view out on to the garden and it was light and bright. I ordered the eggs benedict and Steve ordered the smoked haddock. Both very tasty but the haddock could have been a bit more generous in size or at least with a muffin for sustenance. We saw other diners enjoying the Full English and it looked to be of great quality and a good portion. Overall we were satisfied and the service was very good.

So with full bellies for the second time in just under 12 hours, it was time to venture back out to the real world. The hotel’s refurbishment is stylish and comfortable with many more things to come in the entertainment spaces. There is also an outdoor pool with plenty of potential for the summer months if the weather is kind to Torquay and it’s visitors. The hotel is perfect for families and couples alike, and I think the upcoming refurbishment will include family friendly dining to accompany the Michelin star level offering.

For a stay in Torquay, The Grosvenor is like a caterpillar, finally becoming the butterfly it so deserves to be; perfectly formed for its purpose. As for the restaurant and dining experience, well you need to try it for yourself; a warm glow at the belly of the beast, albeit a much calmer beast, with outstanding dishes showcasing the best the South West has to offer.

To add a bit of adventure to your lunch or dinner outing and allow you to enjoy a tipple from the vast choices on offer, why not catch the train down from Exeter? The hotel is only a 5 minute walk from the train station, and would really add to the whole experience. If you can’t manage a stay, once contently filled with your delicious dinner, perhaps a nap on the train home will have to do.

With John having experienced French living back in the day, I hope the English Riviera will now satisfy, where he can add his je nais se quoi to Torquay and The Grosvenor for the foreseeable future.

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The Grosvenor Hotel, Belgrave Road, Torquay, TQ2 5HG

Website: www.grosvenorhoteltorquay.co.uk

Twitter: @GrosvenorTQ

 

 

Rockfish Lodges Plans for Sixth Site in Exeter

Rockfish, the South West seafood restaurant group founded by restaurateurs Mitch Tonks and Mat Prowse, has lodged plans to open its sixth site, in Exeter.

The company has applied to the city council to build the venue at Exeter Quay’s Piazza Terracina, creating 40 jobs. The application is for a single-storey pavilion restaurant with a floor space of 500 square metres. If plans are approved it is hoped that the restaurant could be open early in 2018. Rockfish has been steadily growing since its first site in Dartmouth in 2010 and has become famous for sustainable seafood which is sourced locally and served on the day of landing.

The restaurant, which will also have a bar, will specialise in fried & chargrilled seafood in an environment and style that will appeal to all; Mitch and Mat with a 9 children between them want families to always feel welcome.

4MitchTonks161206Matt Austin

Founder Mitch Tonks said “Exeter is a really vibrant town and the unofficial capital of the South West, the dining out scene is great. I love nights out there and the site on the quay suits us perfectly as it is overlooking the water. Exeter is still only a short drive from Brixham so we can stick to our golden rule of serving local fish on the day it was landed and at its best. I can’t wait to get open and I’m already thinking of a few special additions at the restaurant, watch this space!”

Dinner at newly refurbished Circa 1924 – by Lauren Heath

Circa 1924 is already one of my favourites out of all the chains and independents. I have enjoyed their Express Lunch a few times (see my review here), taking friends with to show my ‘secret’ off. But this place should be far from a secret – it deserves to be found and filled with both diners and drinkers.

On this occasion I was invited for dinner; the interior has recently had a slight refurb to make the downstairs more diner focussed by removing the bar area, with upstairs fulfilling that part of the business with live music sessions every Friday. The upstairs is beautiful, with apex beamed ceilings, it’s cool yet cosy and a great place for a date or group gathering.

On a chilly Saturday night, we ventured out on the bus with our 6 year old son, so that we could enjoy a drink or two.

I always struggle to choose what to eat here; I would eat it all – it all sounds so delicious and there is a nice selection of meat, fish and vegetarian options. Of course, as important as the food is the drinks offering, which is extensive too – wines, soft drinks, craft beers and cocktails.I had no hesitation in choosing my favourite Espresso Martini and Steve made a special request for a Margherita.

So on to the food!

Whilst deciding, and due to having an ever -hungry child, we had some bread to start. It was lovely selection with some high quality butter and ewas consumed with gusto.

For starters I opted for Cured Loin Of Local Venison with Västerbotten cheese, wild mushrooms & lingonberry coulis whilst Steve chose the Crispy Softshell Crab with spring onion, house sweet chilli & wasabi. As ever, I had trouble choosing between the venison and the bisque so ‘blow it’, we order the Brixham Crab Bisque with butter poached king prawns & homemade bread as well to share.

The venison was soft and tasty, with a tang from the cheese and sweetness from the coulis. The softshell crab was beautifully crisp, texturally soft inside and sweet – really yummy. The bisque had a good amount of depth to it with two very plump and sweet prawns. A delightful start to our meal.

For mains I went for the Rump Of Local Lamb with roasted garlic purée,buckwheat pancakes & sour cream and Steve had his name on the Local Fillet Of Beef served with potato muffin, tenderstem broccoli & red wine jus. Our son enjoyed the starter softshell crab along with a side of skin on fries which he rated highly!

Both meats were cooked perfectly, were soft and full of flavour with no chewy bits in sight. Muffins and pancakes were light and all the elements worked well together. We were also enticed by the option of adding surf to our turf and enjoyed two fried oysters, which were absolutely delightful – something I have always wanted to try.

Last but certainly not least, it was dessert time! I opted for the Dark Chocolate Truffle Torte, vanilla-coffee mascarpone, honeycomb & blackberry coulis whilst savoury Steve was delighted by the chance to have Selection of Three Cheeses which came with a fantastic variety of crackers and crisp bread. My pud was rich dark chocolate, lots of crunchy textures, blobs of creamy loveliness and coulis for a bit of sharpness – and it was a work of art.

I may sound like a stuck record, but I do love the food here. It’s tasty, flavoursome, interesting, local, an independent and beautfully presented. The feel is casual and comfortable yet attentive. It’s ideal for groups or even a special evening.

My only small suggestion would be that, with the mains, perhaps a bit more starch is included as I was dining with a hungry man – yes you can order some extra sides but I guess at this price point you may not want to spend more on sides. The plus side to the food here is that is just so fresh, light and pleasing so you can manage 3 courses and you don’t go away feeling awfully stuffed.

Having written this after visiting a more premium restaurant further afield, at a similar price point, the quality of the food and cooking was very close and I do hope Circa 1924 achieves some recognition in future. But more important than any awards is that the locals (and visitors) support the restaurant and vote with their feet…and eat! Until next time Circa; this restaurant is firmly on my recommendation shortlist!

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Circa 1924, 6 Northernhay Place, Exeter, EX4 3QJ.
Ph: 01392 438545
Web: www.circa1924.co.uk/
@Circa1924
info@circa1924.co.uk

Online reservations: http://www.circa1924.co.uk/#!make-a-reservation/cg3s

Private Dining at The Pig at Combe – by Lauren Heath

The Pig at Combe is far from the dusty, muddy, snorty (but intelligent) animal it is named after, it does however embody the essence of countryside. As you drive towards it from the a30 and through the villages, you see this warm glow illuminating in the distance, calling you into its warm belly.

I have heard many many things about the Pig at Combe- all positive; and having seen plenty of lovely pictures, have wandered what it would be like to dine there. Editor Chris visited late last year and thoroughly enjoyed himself with their 25 mile ethos, you can read his write up here.

On this occasion I was invited to enjoy their private dining option along with some other press. I was really looking forward to it and had not just my foodie/social hat on but also my corporate hat – as in my day job as a PA, it is good to have places to book for meetings or events as well as to add to my pool of knowledge to recommend to others.

To start the evening, I was led underground to the cellar. I was immediately taken aback by the cosy yet elegant atmosphere; white brick walls, stone flooring, wood, and loads of candles creating a sense of warmth. We enjoyed bubbly and canapés whilst chatting with other guests. Canapés included mushroom samosas, scotch eggs, pork crackling, lamb koftas, and fried kale with prawn salt. Everything was just delicious – little taste sensations.

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We were then led up to the Georgian Kitchen; a hunting lodge type kitchen (could almost be in a National Trust house) with large aga/wood burning stove across the back wall and a scullery off the back left. A grand wooden table surround by 12 chairs awaited us, with more ambient lighting and candles. A few stags heads adorned the walls along with a dresser of country house crockery – nothing forced or kitch, just everything naturally belonging.

Rather than having a menu of individual dishes to choose from, the ethos is about sharing –  an option I loved. I struggle to choose from a menu when I could quite frankly eat it all – so to have a bit of everything is right up my piggin’ street!

Don’t for one minute think this is buffet style…it is banquet dinner style.  Wooden boards arrived adorned with starters of smoked organic salmon, cured meats, toast topped with mussels, crab and exmoor caviar as well as garden leek and blue cheese tarts.

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For mains we enjoyed a whole cod with foraged sea veg, roasted and slow braised Dartmoor lamb and hay smoked BBQ Pipers Farm chicken – all meaty, succulent and cooked to perfection. Big knives landed into them, ready for serving the troops. On the side, our mighty feast was compimented by creamy layered potato, roast celeriac and lemon thyme, glasshouse leaves, foraged herbs and garden greens.

The pudding offering sent us all into ‘kids in a sweet shop’ mode. The most comforting and delicious rice pudding I’ve ever had, clear and wobbly gin and tonic jelly with tongue tingling lemon sorbet, a smooth ice cream parfait, sticky toffee pudding, apple and blackberry crumble and a trifle that would put your grandmother’s to shame.

 

For coffee we wandered across the path to the Folly. This was a lovely outhouse restaurant, candlelit once more, giant wicker woven lampshades hanging down, it had an African/ethnic feel for me. Coffee and ‘piggy fours’ were served whilst we admired the pizza oven and outside seating, complimented by firepits. This space is open, serving more casual food and dining and can be hired for private parties. Ceiling height sash windows can be opened to let the outside in if the weather permits.

We had enjoyed the evening thoroughly and all the spaces we had been in worked well for their purpose. The Pig at Combe really is a flexible venue, and I can assure you they will be able to cater for your private dining or casual party needs.

It was hunting lodge elegance..big food, beautifully cooked, subtle service. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed such casual, comfortable yet sophisticated dining, with professional and effortless hosting. I look forward to returning, and sending everyone I know!

Check your diary and find an excuse now – you’d be a silly little piggy not to; pigs are one of my favourite animals and this beauty is no different. A great venue for family dining, a couples treat, corporate entertaining or getting down to serious business – you still gotta eat, a deal can’t be done on an empty stomach right?! As a restaurant with rooms you could of course stay over and be happy as a pig in…well, bed.

Time for this little piggy to go wee wee wee all the way home.

Find them on wheels: The Pig at Combe, Gittisham, Honiton, Devon, EX14 3AD

Find them online:Facebook, Twitter or on their website

*Dinner in the Georgian Kitchen can be for up to 14 people,

priced at £32 each for a 3 course family-style sharing menu.*

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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

On The Waterfront, Exeter Quay – by Lauren Heath

On The Waterfront, 4-9 The Quay, Exeter, Devon, EX2 4AP – 01392 210590

http://www.waterfrontexeter.co.uk

@OTWexeter

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A long term favourite of mine has to be On The Waterfront; a restaurant based in the old ship buildings down on the Quay, it is well known for its ‘dustbin lid’ pizzas as well as a great drinking venue for the summer with punters spilling out on the riverside cobbles.

Long boatrooms with sloped ceilings, small and large tables able to cater for all party types, for young and old alike.

Large 16″ pizzas served in a wicker pizza tray – many try, some succeed and others fail. If you don’t succeed, you get to take it home and have round 2 the next day – so you don’t lose really.

I’ve been here as a couple, a family get together, group of friends and a large work outing with my most recent visit being a group family dinner for my Dad’s birthday. It was the perfect venue; a menu of fish, burgers and pizzas I knew it would satisfy the easy going one, the fussy one, the seafood lover (not least my 6 year old!) and the very hungry one in my family.

Due to the lighting my photos probably don’t do it justice,  all I can say is that everyone was satisfied and it is excellent value and never disappoints.

Dustbin lid pizza’s can be enjoyed as a ‘half and half’ enabling you to indulge in two of their exciting toppings and they certainly don’t scrimp!

Among the items that were devoured were half and half Fiesta Mexicana and No Meat Aloud, a half and half Fully Loaded and Fiesta Mexican, the Fiery Inferno, a half and half Tikka Chicken special and Fully Loaded as well as two bowls of Fruits de Mer which were served with chunky ciabatta fingers – great for soaking up the sauce.

Puddings included Elderflower Pannacotta with Peppered Strawberries, Salted Caramel Chocolate Brownie and Chocolate filled Spanish Churros Fritters with Baileys Cream.

You hungry yet? You won’t be when you leave! Grab some family or friends and get down there pronto…you may need a walk around the canal to burn it off.

Sunday Lunch at Hotel du Vin, Exeter – by Lauren Heath

Hotel Du Vin, Magdalen Street , Exeter, EX2 4HY – 01392 790120 – www.hotelduvin.com

Back in September, as a late birthday surprise, I was treated to Sunday lunch at Hotel Du Vin, Exeter. Previously called The Magdalen Chapter, the building that was originally an Eye Infirmary was taken over by the luxury chain earlier this year.

Along with rooms, a spa, walled garden and guest areas, it also has a bistro which welcomes both residents and non-residents. Having seen a post on Twitter politely boasting a table full of seafood and following further menu investigation, I was pleased that my retweet and subtle suggestion to my husband worked wonders.

Due to limited parking, we parked in the very nearby in Magdalen Street Car Park and walked over. On entering the hotel and meandering to the rear of the property, I was pleasantly surprised at how large and light the Bistro was, overlooking the private and well kept garden, containing a few al-fresco tables.

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Having seen the menu and the price, at a not-so-eye-watering price of £22.95 per person for 4 courses, I was slightly dubious at what would really be on offer. To my delight, there was the ‘French Market Table’ area covered in seafood, pates, a leg of ham, continental meats, potted shrimp, breads, olives et al.

As we were seated and served drinks by our friendly waiter, we were told there was no hurry. No hurry to eat, no hurry to order the soup or our mains, just enjoy your Sunday – this felt nice. The real hurry was the urge felt by my food mad son, and his desperation to get to the buffet offering and help himself. There is a childrens menu consisting of 3 courses for £10 which had some good items on, but actually I would have been happy to pay the child money and just let him eat once course – as much buffet as he could muster.

So after eating our soup, helping ourselves (quite a few times) to the market table, eating our main of beautifully tender Pipers Farm roast beef with homemade yorkshire puddings and oodles of gravy (a request fulfilled without any disapproval – I do love gravy!), we somehow found room for pudding…

I enjoyed a sweet and sticky apple tartin whilst the boys devoured the ice cream. The ice cream alone is worth a mention; all homemade on the premises, it consisted of the creamiest vanilla, chocolatiest and not too sweet chocolate, and the best pistachio ice cream we have ever tasted – fantastic ‘eye-scream’, we nearly fought over it!

Overall, a lovely setting, tasty and plentiful food and choice, good service and incredible value. It would be a great place to not hurry – either as a couple or with a group of friends catching up over a long lunch. You could, quite frankly, eat til your eyes pop…matron!

 

Vagabonds Milkshake Bar, Crediton – by Lauren Heath

Vagabonds Milkshake Bar, 109 High Street, Crediton, EX17 3LF

http://www.facebook.com/VagabondsMilkshakeBar

http://www.twitter.co.uk/milkshakelady89

http://www.instagram.com/nicolethemilkshakelady

15 minutes west of Exeter, in the town of Crediton, is Nicole the Milkshake Lady – a super friendly and cool young woman who’s passion shines across the milkshake bar. Previously working in other milkshake establishments, she realised her passion and opened her own bright pink shop on Crediton High Street 4 years ago.

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She named it Vagabonds in honour of her childhood favourite cool cafe; a word that normally means no fixed abode, Nicole’s interpretation is more a rebelious and free one, using the word to mean she doesn’t have to stick to one thing and she can delight her customers with whatever her creative taste buds come up with. She also takes her sweet treats away from the shop to cater at weddings and parties.

After overcoming the pinkness and entering through the door, you are greeted by…well, a milkshake bar. What surrounds it is every chocolate wrapper known to man and, to the left, is the extensive menu.

There is a sofa for resting on and staring at the menu if you are unable to make a decision, or if on consumption brain freeze hits and you are comatosed by it all.

Nicole is very passionate about everything sweet, ice cream and milkshake related so is only too pleased to help you choose or realise your dream milkshake medley. With Autumn firmly settling in, she has updated the menu to include hot chocolate shakes too. Other options include smoothies, healthy shakes, yoggies (frozen yoghurt drinks) as well as vegan shakes (soya milk, soya ice cream and dairy free jugs – ooh err) so those with dairy allergies or dietary preferences can enjoy something too!

With my hubby being a chilli head, he was her first chilli chocolate milkshake – by my suggestion, it was teamed with another one of his favourite things – a daim bar. A toffee triumph with a warmth at the back of your throat, he approved of this milkshake debut. Our son is a mint freak, amongst other things, and so he had a mint milkshake mixed with oreos. This gave a lovely biscuity crunch to the drink and was not sickly at all.

I love peanut butter and so opted for Nicole’s suggestion of Reeses peanut butter cups mixed with rocky road, with swirls of chocolate sauce and some whipped cream on top for good measure. Totally tasty, not sickly, very well balanced – it was delicious.

There is an ice cream counter if you feel like keeping it simple or a frozen yoghurt machine. This clever little machine also does some ice cream flavours, including cappuccino with chocolate chips which I tried and the quality was fab and of course delicious. Nicole and her ice cream machine can be hired for weddings and other events if you are after something a little different for the main event or even for the evening do.

With well over 1,000 followers on both her Facebook page and Instagram, and 5 star comments to match, this has established Vagabonds as a firm favourite for locals as well as holidaying regulars who visit en route to their yearly Devon or Cornwall break and is a treat for children and adults alike. So if you feel like a treat, head to Crediton High Street, and find a milkshake that suits your personality or mood. Can’t decide? Ask Nicole for a suggestion, she’ll conjure somethingup for you like the cool Mrs Willy Wonka that she is.

ee-recommends

Base and Barley’s New Burger Menu – by Lauren Heath

I was recently invited to a bloggers evening at Base and Barley following the release of their new burger menu. I have seen all manner of burger puns being shared over Twitter recently: “Does my bun look big in this?” and “lets ketchup over dinner then burger off for a dance at the meatball”…let’s move on before this get’s too cheesy!

Having visited previously when they first opened and tried their pizza offering, I can understand why they may want to expand the menu slightly to appeal even more to their target audience. There are already plenty of burger options in the city, but none of them offer pizza too, so I guess this would happily satisfy a family or group of mixed tastes.

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On arrival we were offered a variety of beers, prosecco and cocktails to try. Whilst I am already a fan of prosecco (no convincing needed there!) Steve tried some of the beers; their selection has expanded which now includes one of their own local brews on tap. As well as beers on tap, they have bottled beers from the UK and beyond. Steve tried Curious Brew which is a premium lager, re-fermented with Champagne yeast which definitely had that light flavour and fizz at the end of each mouthful. He also loved the Einstock Icelandic White Ale which features the complex flavours of the classic witbier, including orange peel and coriander – all brewed with pure Icelandic water.

The cocktails served included my favourite Espresso Martini, and one I haven’t tried before called a Pornstar Martini – a passionfruit based martini served with a shot of prosecco on the side! The cocktail is very sweet so the shot is there to cleanse the palate as you go, it looked very pretty.

The burgers then followed; we were served a selection of everything, served exactly as it would be for the diner, with a mixture of normal and sweet potato fries on the side. First of all, and everyone agreed with a variety of sounds as we politely nibbled fries before delving into the burgers, the sweet potato fries were excellent! They were thicker than you would normally find and were not oily or limp as I have experienced before – they were delicious! Another obvious agreement was how nice the brioche buns were, very light and fluffy.

The homemade burgers include fresh (purple) house slaw and skin on fries and we tried the Vegetarian burger (£9.95), Chicken burger (£10.95) and the Fully Loaded burger (£10.95). This seems a fair price considering other local venues charge similar but with fries costing extra.

The Vegetarian consists of a chickpea, sweetcorn, coriander and paprika patty served with batavia lettuce, red onion, tomato and smoked garlic chutney and mayonnaise in a brioche bun.  It was very tasty and a soft texture. It was quite squishy (for want of a better word) but this was clearly homemade.

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The Fully loaded consisted of homemade beef pattie blended with sweet roquito peppers (slightly hot) served with crispy bacon, emmental cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomato, red onion and house sauce in a brioche bun. It was a very tasty, juicy burger with a good texture and the meat is purchased from a local butcher. I also really enjoyed the house sauce which you could clearly taste.

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The Chicken burger was a piri piri chicken breast, tomato, red onion, batavia lettuce and cooling mint and cucumber yoghurt in a brioche bun. Another delicious option, with a meaty chicken breast and well topped.

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Base and Barley’s surroundings are relaxing with light wooded booths in the restaurant area decorated with fairy lights, and a bar area of high stools and tall tables. They welcome all guests, especially families, and kids eat for £1!

All in all, we were pleased to ‘meat’ the new additions to Base and Barley’s menu and suggest you give them a try. If you feel like reading some ‘cheesy’ burger puns, find the action on Twitter by searching for #burgerpun. Now ‘burger’ off to Base and Barley and you’ll be sure of love at first bite!