Paschoe House by Lauren Heath

There’s a new kid in town, well west of the city, and it’s called Paschoe House.

Having been a family home for the Amadors since 2000, daughter Tabitha decided the buildings future was as a hotel and wedding venue and, along with her father, has worked very hard for around 5 years to get it to where it is today with a bigger push over the last year. We recently shared their news of the appointment of Alex Gibbs as their head chef.

I visited in September to try their foodie offering on behalf of Crumbs Magazine (write up due out early October), for whom I am a guest writer.  The hotel had only been open a couple of weeks so I was open minded as to how the evening would go and what level of finish and service there would be. It was also my birthday so I felt very lucky with the timing!

With autumn fully on its way, the sun had already set by the time we arrived for our dinner but the warm glow exuding from the building gave me a good feeling inside of what was to come.

The open entrance hall with soft pink tones and beautiful grey geometric tiled floor caught my eye instantly along with the obvious connection to this Grade II  listed buildings heritage as well as the current outdoor pursuits on offer, thanks to the taxidermy animal heads dotted about.

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The ostrich on the wall in the gorgeous duck egg blue lounge bar is something to behold – ostriches are a firm memory of my South African childhood (my brother even raced on one once as a child) – and I was both taken a back and fascinated by this specimen coming out of the wall.  I guess it’s a bit like art – there to create conversation and a different interpretation for everyone.  In the end I grew quite used to him whilst we enjoyed our drinks and delightful trio of pre-dinner canapes in this comfortable and suave space, his black and white plumage proudly showing off.

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This may not be to everyone’s taste but I can assure you the dining room is animal free. The dining room itself is of a much more masculine stature; rich dark turquoise wallpaper with silver geometric design that bounces the light gently, matching suede chairs, original fireplace, understated chandeliers and crisp white linens bringing it together.

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Connected to the lounge bar was a sitting area with original fireplace, walls adorned in butterfly wallpaper with a fabulous purple settees. Certainly a room that would cheer you up on even the greyest damp winter day whilst cosying up to the fire with a good book and a drink. Saying that, with the outdoor activities on offer here, you could don your mac and head out instead and embrace it – it is amongst 25 acres of land after all, on the edge of the Two Moors Way footpath.

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A broad staircase crowned with antler chandelier leads you to 9 beautiful bedrooms, all with a different personality; it’s all about style and comfort for the staying guests but they are also geared up for weddings, boasting a lovely conservatory room for such event and plenty of lawns and acreage for exploration and photo opportunities. The venue is open to non-residents too of course, for lunch, dinner or even afternoon tea as a reward, for a special occasion, general good behaviour or to relax after a long walk.

Anywho – let’s get on to the good stuff – the food!

Evening menu choices include a three course a la carte menu for £50 with six choices for each course, or you could opt for the no holds barred six course taster menu for £65 where you can technically have twice the food (2 x 3 = 6 see what I’m saying?), maths aside, you don’t have to miss out and you can have a bit of everything.

We dived into starters of salmon mi-cuit with beetroot, horseradish, lemon and mustard  and Devon scallops with pea, bacon, black pudding and shallot; both fishy friends were cooked perfectly, surrounded by flavours that respected yet enhanced every mouthful, and I declare that I have found the best black pudding I’ve tried so far, thanks to local supplier Pipers Farm.

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Spiced Creedy Carver duck breast with heritage carrot, confit leg and duck sauce as well as lightly salted hake, clam, broad bean, sweet pea and beurre blanc were next in line. A plump duck breast and a crunchy bon bon were happily living side by side – until I devoured them with gusto. The hake was a delicate yet meaty dish that was respected by not being over complicated and was cooked beautifully.

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Pudding was described in four words – milk chocolate, banana and hazelnut; I was intrigued! A generous pudding of unctuous milk chocolate cream, with added textures of a mille feuille type pastry layers and sticky bananas – it was sooo good.

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I was then delighted by a little birthday treat of petit fours and birthday wishes – the macarons were delicately crispy , flavoursome and as light as air!

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I had a quick chat with Alex, who was happy to have some of his previous brigade with him, front and back of house, and it showed – service was excellent, relaxed yet professional and they really were a knowledgeable and smooth team for such a new opening. In this demanding industry, experience and good leadership really does show.

Sadly we couldn’t stay that evening, but it’s on my list for a child free night! Being only 20 minutes west of Exeter, you can find this new country house hotel retreat waiting to embrace you – and I urge you to let it.

Paschoe House, Bow, Crediton, EX17 6JT

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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

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The Seven Stars at Kennford by Chris Gower

It is strange how life completely overruns everything sometimes!  After a promotion at work, I hadn’t realised how much brain space it would take up, so apologies to our regular readers for a lack of activity on the blog in recent weeks.  But to break the silence, here is my write-up of the stonking meal we had at the Seven Stars in Kennford a few weeks ago after being invited down by Mike Welsh.

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It was an amazing meal and I say it from the bottom of my heart that this was one of those meals that twanged a string somewhere at the part of my existence that is purely fuelled by food.

I love pubs.  All pubs. Big ones, small ones, posh ones and scruffy ones.  The role of the pub within a small community is amplified by support for its existence by the locals. They are the ones that make or break a pub’s existence, and when you get a really good pub helmed by a team with passion and skill, you get a pub like the Seven Stars in Kennford.

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Before the motorway came through, this pub sat on one of the principal routes heading to Torquay and beyond.  The tiny village of Kennford rests in the shadow of Haldon Hill; just up the road is the excellent Bickham Farm which is the home of Rod & Ben’s and the lovely Bickham Barn where all sorts of amazing Pop-up events take place.  But that is another story!

I will admit now, I drove to Kenton.

After my brain failed spectacularly at this working out the difference between the two villages, I cracked out the Sat Nav and in a matter of minutes we were pulling up outside The Seven Stars; an unassuming looking pub with on-street parking and smack bang in the middle of this cosy little village that many motorists pass worrying about getting enough speed to make it up Haldon Hill.

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A beautiful mishmash of furniture, a fire stocked to the guns with wood ready for burning as the colder months set in, a wooden floor and an elaborate collection of stuff to admire presented themselves as we walked in.

There were no silent stares, just a welcoming feeling.  And pints of local ale including the eponymous yet much loved Dartmoor Brewery’s, Jail Ale.  I return to our seat with pints in hand, and a small part of me was metaphorically snuggling up in a duvet – this place has a good energy.

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The menu is straight forward and well thought out.  There is the main menu and a Sunday variation (under Food and Takeaway Pizzas) which takes into account that on Sundays, punters want Roasted Meats.  But not all want a roast, so there are a few other options as well which is refreshing, given the insistence that some pubs have that on Sunday the ONLY thing you can have is roast.  The Sunday option and the main options are both reasonably priced and competitive compared to other pubs locally that offer food.

For our starter I went for the one thing that had the word ‘spiced’ in the title Spiced Pulled Pork Fritters, Maple Dressing and Crackling £6.50 and Tori opted for Garlic Mushrooms on Toast with Dressed Leaves £6.00

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My starter as utterly gorgeous.  A perfect fritter surrounding a moist collection of pulled pork topped with a home made pork scratching.  After the meal, Mike explained how the scratching is made, and once you realise how much work it takes, this dainty addition to the meal takes on a whole new context!

The Maple Dressing is the perfect dipping sauce for both elements of the starter.  Its sweetness with the complex smokiness of the pork harmonised together perfectly. Can you tell I liked it?

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Tori’s morsels of mushroomy goodness went down very well on her side of the table. The toast and the garlic mushrooms contrasted well together with the Forest Funghi wild mushrooms to create a really tasty starter.

Our mains were an agonising choice as it sounded all so appealing.  I went for Chicken, Forest Fungi Mushrooms & Devon Blue Cheese; Seasonal Vegetables, Garlic & Thyme Potatoes (£13.50) and Tori eventually went for her favourite 8oz Rump Steak, Tomato, Mushrooms, Onion Rings, Hand Cut Chips & Salad* £16.75  with added Peppercorn sauce.

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Perfectly cooked veg, a good helping of gravy and a lovely moist chicken breast really topped this dish off for me.  After the large and delightful starter, this was a nicely portioned light chicken dish that played to the strengths of the Forest Funghi mushrooms and the seasoned vegetables.  Add the gravy too which turned it into a lovely combination.

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This was a really delightful steak and from Tori’s side of the table there was much comments about how well cooked it was and the great taste of the meat.  The perfectly cooked steak had an amazing taste which was tender and lovely.

Both of us were full and incredibly satisfied so we only shared a dessert.  I let Tori choose it and inevitably it was going to be the choice that mostly consisted of chocolate.

Chocolate Brownie & Pistachio Ice Cream (£6.00) was inevitable. It was going to happen, and I was really glad it did happen!

Where possible ingredients are bought locally with fewer miles on the clock, this is reflected in the taste and quality of the ingredients.

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The brownie was spectacular with home-made pistachio ice cream, this was a simple yet divine dessert.  We battled the last piece of brownie around the plate like ice hockey players seconds before the final buzzer of the game.  I was gracious in defeat but I let her have the last piece… honestly?

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Behind the unassuming exterior of this village pub lives a vision and skill that is almost deceptive.  Although Mike isn’t always in the pub – in fact he is the main cog in a very successful catering business which himself and his wife Leanne take great pride in providing fine food to weddings and other big events like Chagstock for instance – the food is representative of the eye for detail and flavour that was representative of our meal at the Seven Stars.

I thoroughly recommend coming out to The Seven Stars and giving it a spin.  It was homely and welcoming, and it has no pretenses above a great village pub serving exquisite food.

They even have a pool table.  I’m not actually that bad at pool, so I thought…

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Byron Burgers, Princesshay by Chris Gower

26 Bedford St, Princesshay, Exeter EX1 1GJ – T:@byronhamburgers 01392 433340

We visited Byron Burgers a couple of years ago when it first opened in Princesshay.  It was quite delightful; the burgers were meaty and the beer was crafty & beery.

Byron Burgers is a name that many burger fans will recognise instantly as being a name synonymous with gourmet burgers and that subtle Americana.

It was started in 2007 by Tom Bing and has grown exponentially ever since.  In 2007, Princesshay itself was built too… fancy that!

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It was an enjoyable evening but we hadn’t been back since.  We were recently invited to give Bryon Burgers another go as part of the Princesshay’s Summer Eats promotion which is worth checking out.

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One of the things that I admire about Byron Burgers particularly is the interior.  Big windows give diners a vista across a busy precinct, perfect for people watching and ensuring lots of natural light in to the restaurant.

The first thing I did when we sat down at our window seat was to order a Brooklyn Beer. With the subtle Americana theme, comes the urge to fully embrace the USA-ness of Byron. I’d had this hankering for some sort of American lagery beer thing, so this was a perfect choice.

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Tori went for a Coke (we’ll let her off as she wasn’t feeling up to scratch that evening).  A quick perusal of the menu shows an attractive offering for burger lovers.

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We both went for The Cheese which is Byron’s ‘better-than-standard’ cheesy offering.

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Byron Cheese, shredded iceberg, pickles, onion, American Mustard and Byron sauce combined with sides of Bacon and Cheese Fries and Sweet Potato Fries were a perfect set of foods.

We really enjoyed the meal and would recommend The Cheese as a burger worth going for with its Bryon Cheese and in-house sauce making up a big part of the flavour.

Byron Burgers is still a firm favourite of Exeter’s diners, and despite the competition from other burger chains is still as popular as ever.  For a subtle dose of Americana and a chance to win a prize by spotting all of the cows in the restaurant, pop down next time you have that burger urge!

This meal was paid for by Byron Burgers. The opinions expressed here are independent of influence from the restaurant.

High Tea at Salcombe Harbour Hotel by Chris Gower

Cliff Rd, Salcombe TQ8 8JH Tel: 0844 858 9187 – T: @SalcombeHHotel ‏ 

http://www.salcombe-harbour-hotel.co.uk/

South Devon gets left off the radar quite a bit on Eating Exeter.  We’ve done reviews in all parts of Devon but nothing towards Plymouth or the South, so I was over the moon when we were invited to touch down the historic port town of Salcombe for a spot of Afternoon Tea at the prestigious Salcombe Harbour Hotel.

We compiled a quick video of our afternoon including a walk around Salcombe afterwards.  Camera was jiggling around so apologies for the wobbles.

The first thing that hits you about Salcombe is that there are, in fact, two Salcombes in Devon.  One of them lies just outside Sidmouth and the other one – the one which is much better known – is Salcombe in South Devon.

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There are two things about both Salcombes, is that most of the infrastructure relies on lanes and hedgerows.  To navigate the lanes and roads of this end of Devon requires a good dose of ‘single lane driving knowledge’ which I have perfected over the years living in this funny and beautiful county.  Parking in Salcombe is tricky, in fact the Harbour Hotel has its very own park and ride service.

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But this is to be expected at the peak of summer at the busiest times in one of the UKs most desirable places.  Our fuddy little Skoda wasn’t the naffest car in the car park though, although it was definitely second.

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Nestled snugly on the Kingsbridge Estuary, or as some refer to it as the Salcombe Estuary, the inhabitants have historically lived off smuggling and fishery.  There are a number of historic wrecks that lie just beyond the estuary including one of three known UK bronze age wrecks. Although I am certain smuggling doesn’t continue, fishery and tourism is now the mainstay of this little town.  One of the bigger attractions is the Salcombe Harbour Hotel.

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Owned by Harbour Hotels, they have other hotels in attractive Harbour locations across the UK.  The Salcombe Harbour Hotel is a four silver star rated hotel and spa, and food is served at The Jetty restaurant and bar which has fantastic views over the estuary.

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We had been invited along to sample their Jetty Afternoon Tea, a light tea with the classic sandwiches and cake options.  A little bit of each.

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There are grander and more expensive options available for Afternoon Tea with champagne or sparkling wine, but you are going to be hard pressed to find a nicer location to have an afternoon tea in Devon.

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Parking was, despite my initial worries, a total breeze.  There was space in the car park and even if there had not been, the park and ride service would have catered for us. Once parked up the front desk look after your keys and you’re taken through to the Jetty Restaurant, a large open plan restaurant with big windows overlooking the beautiful Kingsbridge estuary.

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The hotel provides its guests and visitors with sumptuous fine dining as well, in fact Co-Editor Lauren visited not too long ago, look out for her review!  But for us today, we were going to do Afternoon Tea!

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The tea arrives on a platter, a three tiered tray of treats towering over the table.  Starting at the bottom with a small selection of sandwiches, moving up to a Devon Cream Tea and then finishing with a selection of small fancies at the top.

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We were particular fans of the home-made scones that Tori had likened to her own ones she bakes at home.  They were warm and fresh, with lashings of cream and jam to spread.

It all went too quickly, so we decided to go for a walk around Salcombe.  The day was bright and the tourists had gone home to leave a few stragglers enjoying a quiet Sunday evening rambling among the narrow streets and alleys.

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We ended the day in the pub. The Ferry Inn to be precise, having a swift half before heading back to the hotel to pick up our car.

Everything about the Salcombe Harbour Hotel is about making life easier.  From the car turntable outside the hotel entrance to the little touches.  The service was, throughout our visit, completely dedicated to making us feel welcome and the Afternoon Tea was delicious.  A perfect escape from the city!

This meal was paid for by Salcombe Harbour Hotel. The opinions expressed here are independent of influence from the restaurant.

Giraffe World Kitchen, Princesshay by Chris Gower

Tel: 01392 494 222  Princesshay, Exeter, EX1 1GE @giraffetweet

Princesshay Shopping Centre is the gleaming modern jewel in the centre of Exeter’s shopping experience.  With restaurants and fine High Street names, it replaced the tattered pre-war complex that some of us Exonians still remember with a bizarre nostalgic fondness.

When the modern Princesshay opened, with it also opened Giraffe with its slightly westernised versions of world specialities, it was the start of the arrival of the big chain restaurants in Exeter.

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I have a few good memories of Giraffe when it first opened, and I even wrote a review quite a few years ago for my old blog Veget8.  Naturally since then it has moved on and changed, and it was great to be invited along to have a look at what has changed since it first opened back in 2007.

Since my first visit all those years ago, it has rebranded itself as Giraffe World Kitchen which has helped solidify itself as a place to go to get a wide range or world cuisine offerings, all of them excellent value.

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Not much has changed as far as the building itself.  Three of the four walls are fronted with glass giving an excellent vista of passing shoppers and part of the ancient city wall. There is al fresco dining available, perfect for whiling away a summer evening.

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As chain restaurants go this is certainly one of my favorites in Exeter.  It is casual dining at its most casual, with a fantastic menu that covers all continents it is also excellent value given many main meals are under £10.

We kicked proceedings off with bottle of Rosé wine and an Espresso Martini £6.95 (Absolut Vanilla vodka, Kahlua liqueur and a fresh espresso shot over ice) which was a perfect start to our enjoyable meal.

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For starters Tori went for Steamed Duck Gua Bao Buns £6.95 (soft steamed buns filled with crispy shredded duck, cucumber, peanuts, spring onion and rich hoisin sauce) and I predictably went for Nachos £7.95 (black bean chilli, Monterey Jack, guacamole, sour cream, jalapenos and chipotle).

The Steamed Duck Gua Bao Buns were a definite hit with the other side of the table. We had first been properly introduced with Bao Buns at the Absurd Bird blogger night a couple of years ago, and this was another chance to try this oriental culinary staple.  I was very happy with my large mountain of Nachos, well seasoned and cooked well.

For our mains we were both in need of Bowl For Soul food!  Tori went for the Katsu Chicken £11.95 (breaded chicken and noodles in a mild peanut & coconut sauce, with bok choy, tenderstem broccoli and wok-fried vegetables) and I couldn’t help myself but went for the Thai Duck Stir Fry £10.95  (shredded duck and noodles with chilli jam, bok choy, crispy onions and wok-fried vegetables in teriyaki sauce).

The menu is incredibly diverse. It truly represents a classic dish from each continent of the world – they are also going to lengths to cater for those of us with dietary requirements too.

The food was well cooked and tasty – the menu itself is fantastic value for money, and even though the cost is on the lower end of the spectrum, it didn’t effect the quality or portions.

We went for desserts too, a lovely finish to a satisfying experience.

Tori went for a Whoopie Cookie £4.95 (speculoos biscuit ice cream sandwiched between chocolate cookies. With chocolate sauce, caramel popcorn and pretzels) and I plumped for the  Salted Caramel Sundae £5.95 (salted caramel ice cream layered with caramel popcorn and pretzel pieces).

So they ran out of pretzels, but instead we got double popcorn on our dessert.

Paul and Tom were amazing in their service, so helpful and friendly throughout the whole evening.  The evening service seemed quiet and surprisingly so for one of Exeter’s better chain restaurants which is a telling tale of restaurants throughout the city, whether a big High Street name or a unique independent.

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Giraffe World Kitchen is a good casual dining restaurant which presents excellent value for money, their menu is well thought out and not overly pricey.  Perfect for lunch, coffee or a nice evening meal.

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This meal was paid for by Giraffe World Kitchens but the opinions expressed here are independent of influence from the restaurant.

Dr Ink’s Curiousities launches their second journal: launch night by Chris Gower

43 The Quay, Exeter EX2 4AE – doctorinks.com/ –
T:ink_patrick  F:doctorinkscuriosities/ I: doctorinkscuriosities/

Since its opening last year Dr Ink’s Curiosities has raised the bar (get it…?) for cocktails in Exeter with their inventive takes on classic Victorian cocktails, spun through the eyes of Dr Ink himself and his classic cocktail based adventures.

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The menu, ‘ahem’ journal, is presented in a beautiful hard back book, embossed gold lettering on the front gives the menu a steampunk-esque feel to it.  The stories within are pieces of fiction written by the team and Dr Ink regulars too.

It was great to meet Paddy and Tom who are passionate about their award winning cocktail bar and we were able to sample some of the elaborate and theatrical creations that are now available to patrons.

We sampled a few cocktails throughout the launch evening, but there were a couple really stood out!

The Ceylon Julep was a lovely experience.  It had a strong savoury element to it, including a carrot and coriander syrup, topped off with curry leaves.  Weird? No it works so well together, it felt like an alcoholic carrot shake but with an elegance put in its place with the gin and bitters.  All presented in a beautiful copper goblet.

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I was also taken with one of the cocktails Lauren had – the impressively presented Iolanthes Latern which uses Apricot Infused Hayman’s Old Tom, Amontillado Sherry, Creame D’Apricot and Peach bitters all presented in a vast and wonderful hanging lantern.  A tart, strong cocktail that has a grand taste and an even grander presentation!

Pictured here is the Baobab Daisy and the Tales of Space and Thyme.

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The Baobab Daisy made from Pineapple Rum, Bitters and Lime Sherbert to mention a few of the ingredients had a wonderful tropical flavour with bitter notes. It felt like a concoction one might have in a hot country next to a nice beach, meeting an African Queen and securing a trade deal.  The only thing that was lacking was a bug-eyed Monkey!

I think the overall favourite for all of us was The Tales of Space and Thyme.  This was a delicate cocktail.  The rim of the glass was lined with salt and thyme which created an amazing flavour upon drinking.  Made with Tanquery and Pamplemousse Rose to name a few of the ingredients, it had strong overtones of grapefruit and with the bitterness of the gin, the whole thing created a lasting complex tone on the tongue.  The little UFO on top was a fantastic finish!

I finished the night with the Aardvark.  Unfortunately my photographic skills had declined somewhat and my phone is rubbish (wish I’d brought along the big camera!) so it is not a great representation.  But the stunning photography in the journal really do the cocktails justice!

Inspired from a recipe in The American Bartender by W.H. Laid (1866) this fantastic little drink contains Flor De Cana (South American rum), Seedlip (gin), Kafir lime and lemongrass syrup and edible ants to name a few of its components.

This Dr Ink’s story is one of my favourites.  Finding himself persued by a lion, he manages to escape by sacrificing his horse. He takes refuge in a termite mound and makes friends with an Anteater; he finds a bunch of gemstones that the anteater has dug up and is rescued by his companions.  Of course the actual story is much better, but it makes you realise the amount of time and hard work that goes in to creating the Dr Ink’s experience.

The team are constantly experimenting and researching new drinks and this second journal is a testament to the passion and unerring devotion that these guys have to cocktails.

Dr Ink Map

The Flat, 142 Fore St – Vegetarian/Vegan Pizzeria by Chris Gower

https://www.theflatexeter.co.uk/ –  I: @TheFlatExeter F: TheFlatExeter

Edit: Previous version of this review stated that gluten-free and vegan mozzarella was default, in fact these are options.

Last year Exeter lost two great pizza restaurants.  The Base & Barley became The Book Cover and Pizza Stein turned into Bierkeller, leaving diners in Exeter without a central place to grab hand-made thrown pizza.  Yes, there are plenty of little Italian places that do good pizza but nothing in the city centre.

Enter ‘The Flat’, a vegetarian/vegan pizzeria set-up and run independently located in the heart of Exeter’s quirky and wonderful West Quarter on Fore Street.

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I had heard rumours about the launch of this restaurant for a few months from multiple sources, so to finally see it in full and set up ready for business was very exciting.

I never normally visit restaurants within days of the opening, it isn’t fair to review a restaurant when things are being tweaked and they are bedding in, but we were anticipating great things so we couldn’t wait.

So Tori and myself headed down with our good friend Lewis, owner of Exeter’s premier comic book shop to give Exeter’s newest restaurant a test-run.

Great things happen when pizza is met with passion, and here is a restaurant that produces some delicious pizza.  There is a strong desire to accommodate those with particular dietary requirements and they offer gluten free bases and optional vegan mozzarella which I might add, is home made!  The interior of the restaurant is simple and unassuming with exposed utilities following the trend for modernist, exposed ducts and dark woods.

We hit the evening off with Beavertown Session Neck Oil IPA which was reasonably priced given the way drink prices are going at the moment for £3.75.  Then a Garlic Focaccia (£3.50) for starters, which wasn’t technically focaccia but we ignored this fact, as it was moreso Garlic Flatbread which is just as nice!

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There was three of us so this was a perfect for nibbles size but for those with a bigger appetite, this would feed one person comfortably.

The selection of pizzas is concise but includes a well thought-out range of different tastes. All the bases are gluten free, and everything is hand-made and hand stretched.

Tori went for the Garlicky (£9.50 10 inch), I went for the Smoked (£10.50 10 inch) and Lewis went for the Olive Tree (£9.00 10 inch).

The pace of the restaurant tonight was distinctively European.  It had a relaxed atmosphere which was only enhanced by a large gathering of Italians on the next table – I could close my eyes and be somewhere in Florence or Rome.  It also makes you realise what a fantastically diverse city we live in.

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The Smoked was a lovely hand-made pizza, full of flavour and covered in delicious Smoked Halloumi.  Tori’s Garlicky was covered in veg and looked colourful, Lewis’ Olive Tree was well topped and tasted very nice, we were told.

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We finished off procedings with a long espresso and some people watching from the big windows that look out over Fore Street.

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One of the things that Fore Street lacks is a good evening destination.  The Flat joins The Jasmine Thai restaurant a little further up, a few kebab shops and Angela’s at the bottom. There have been drives to market the West Quarter and get shoppers down from the High Street beyond South Street.

This will always be a challenge, but I like to think that the more restaurants that open at this end of Exeter will add that little bit more to the Many Reasons To Visit Fore Street.

I am stoked that this is a Pizzeria in the centre of Exeter and I am chuffed that this is a vegetarian/vegan establishment that is joining other similiar places in Exeter like Herbies, The Plant Cafe and Rabbit up near Sidwell Street.

To add to it the pizza is nice, it is cheap (Beer and Pizza potentially for under £15) and their ethos is in line with my own.

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Michael Caines’ MBE luxury dream finally takes flight with estuary estate at Lympstone Manor – by Lauren Heath

Down at the bottom of the garden, amongst the birds and the bees, is a hub of activity, and no it’s not the Poddington Peas…

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…It’s Devon’s very own 2 Michelin starred chef Michael Caines MBE. The Exeter-based chef, who left Gidleigh Park at the beginning of 2016 after 18 years, sowed the seeds of his vision a few years ago during his notice period, as he sunk his heart, soul and many great British pounds into what once was Courtlands House. This elegant Grade II listed Georgian mansion, that was a wedding and event venue, was in need of much love and life injecting into it to bring a slightly ugly duckling to its full potential as a graceful swan…and my oh my, he has done it.

I was thrilled to be invited along as part of a bijou group for a local press lunch and tour on what became a splendidly sunny Tuesday. After parking in the car park, with no building in sight, I meandered awkwardly in my heels along a wood chip path.  From the moment you emerge from the forest path, which is peppered with stone art work for your enjoyment and seasonal bluebells, the positioning of Lympstone Manor really comes into it’s own – the view that opens up to the right is SPECTACULAR.

As you enter into the spacious foyer the furniture, décor, details and warmth hit you from every corner; it took me a moment to soak it all up and I’m sure reception will get used to guests entering and not even realising they are straight ahead of them as the arriving guest breathes everything in.

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With sitting areas to the left and right, and a bar area right back leading onto the beautiful verandah with such detailed archways that run the length of the main building. Sit here with a coffee or a glass of something and just soak that view up.

If it’s a bit chilly and you can’t face the outdoors, the comfy and well filled lounge areas will keep you warm. I found it to be really well decorated, nothing was cold, bare or chintzy, just filled with warmth, comfort and exuding elegance and individual quirky seating in places.

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The theme and colour palette of the bedrooms is in keeping the blue calm of the Exe estuary along with rooms named after local birdlife and hand painted by local artist Rachael Toll.

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Prices start at approx. £230 per night, 5 of the 21 bedrooms having views to the rear of the property, but fear not as the interiors will make you enjoy your indoor surroundings. Plump cushions, fluffy carpets underfoot, accents of gold, complimentary Williams Chase laden gin trays, Nespresso coffee machines. L’Occitane toiletries (and the all essential GHD’s for the ladies) await you. Rooms also contain local Devon made beds from Enchanted House Beds and plush duvets from Devon Duvets.

The majority of the rooms have garden or estuary views; ranging in size, one suite even has double gold roll top baths whilst other suites boast glass fronted balconies, outdoor patios areas with fire pits, outdoor soak tubs and even private garden entrance.

For locals who don’t need an overnight expedition in the cosiness and exclusiveness of Lympstone Manor’s rooms, then the dining is where it’s at, with menus to tempt your budget when you are looking for something special.  Three dining rooms – Berry Head, Powderham and Mamhead, all with their own personalities and possibilities, adorned with Kurt Jackson artwork, are perfect for couples dining, groups celebrating or business deals over dinner. There’s even a wine room that will be available for wine tasting too, what’s not to like?

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And now to the food – as Michael quotes, “after love, there is only cuisine”…

We were very lucky to be treated to canapes on the veranda before indulging in 5 courses with matching wines.

Canapés of tuna tartare, a carrot creation and breaded quails egg with the essential runny yolk.

Beautifully made selection of breads to start before diving into the first course of Pipers Farm Chicken Terrine with truffle, hazelnuts and green bean salad.

Stephanie of Exploring Exeter was impressed with the vegetarian second course of Goat Cheese Mousse with jasmin raisins, apple and candied walnuts whilst I was delighted with Warm Salad of Cornish Lobster with mango and cardamom vinaigrette and curried mayonnaise.

Third course included Fillet of Darts Farm Beef, braised cheek, horseradish and shallot confit, celeriac, mushroom puree and red wine sauce whilst the vegetarian option was a Slow Cooked Duck Egg surrounded by peas, jersey royals, asparagus and black truffle.

Pre-dessert was a beautiful Apple Mousse, with green apple sorbet and vanilla foam followed by the main dessert of Poached Rhubarb with Hibiscus, lemon sponge, lemon curd and rhubarb sorbet.

All of the courses were beautiful in texture and flavour and all tasted absolutely divine. I was even allowed into Michael’s domain to see him plate up the desserts and, having worked in kitchens myself, I was impressed by the space with plenty of room for a growing brigade.

So if you are done salivating or I’ve got your tummy rumbling….shall I remind you of the view?

I must admit I was a little sad to leave, although I did so with a smile on my face.

After lounging around like lady (or man) of the manor, perhaps you’ll find the energy to explore part of the 28 acres, soon to be vineyard (with this spot being in the top 5% of suitability due to ideal conditions), or even escape on one of the Pashley bicycles available – with private access to the public cycle trail you could dip your toes in the estuary that makes this view and venue mouth-wateringly priceless. Unique, sumptuous, delectable – and it’s right here on our doorstep.

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Lympstone Manor

Courtlands Lane, Exmouth, EX8 3NZ

Telephone 01395 202040 or email welcome@lympstonemanor.co.uk

Find out more on their Website, Facebook or Twitter

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

 

 

 

 

Lloyd’s Kitchen: ensuring excellence through a feedback evening

For any restaurant or café, quality of output is incredibly important.  British diners are a very picky lot, and because we’re not very good at complaining restaurants don’t often get to read about a bad burger or an over-cooked steak until they see it on TripAdvisor.

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One of Exeter’s best loved restaurants is Lloyd’s Kitchen in Catherine Street, in the dominating shadow of the House of Fraser building.  We were invited along to one of their feedback evenings which are held before a new menu is rolled out.  At this point, the new menu isn’t completely public and it gives those attending a sneak preview to what the new menu might look like; it gives the chefs a chance to refine, tweak and adjust.

As Lauren and myself were both invited along to this event, we’ll both give our two cents about what we had and the evening itself.

Chris:

Lloyd’s Kitchen is another indie restaurant that has gone from strength to strength on the back of a firm reputation for quality and attention to detail.  There is a strong local ethos with ingredients and an eye for detail with each dish that has seen them excel despite fierce competition from local chain restaurants; despite the devastating fire that ripped the beating heart out of our beloved city taking place just a matter of metres away from their door, they are one of the top names on our dining scene.

This feedback evening was a chance for us to gather together with Lloyd and his family and a few other foodies/bloggers and sample the epic delights of their new menu.

I had opted for a ‘no preference’ option which meant I was going to be treated to some unknown dishes.  The element of surprise was enticing.

Unfortunately the evening seemed to start earlier than planned so I missed the starter.

I was lucky to be sampling the

Chargrilled Lamb Rump – Lamb Kofta, Pomegranate & Mint Cous Cous, Red Pepper Jam, Confit Tomato & Shallot Sauce.

and

White Chocolate & Blueberry Cheesecake

The lamb was beautifully cooked.  I will start off by saying that I am not the biggest fan of lamb at the best of times, but I am always impressed at how succulent and tender it can be if it is cooked and treated properly.

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The balance of flavours worked together wonderfully. It felt like a Moroccan inspired dish with a flavour palette that was homely and sensible, the sweetness of the pomegranet and the sharpness of the Red Pepper Jam worked well with the Kofta and the lamb itself.

Then we had the cheesecake.   The cheesecake. Oh my!!

British restaurants are terrible at desserts in my opinion.  Often relying too heavily on pre-packaged stuff out of a freezer, or dressing up ice-cream beyond what it really is. But Lloyd’s Kitchen and their White Chocolate and Blueberry Cheesecake is one thing that would change my mind if every restaurant did something like this.

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Creamy, sour, sweet, colourful and delightful – I was blown away by this dish. My only criticism is that there wasn’t more of it.  I know that is a cliched thing to say but, damn it was good.

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Lauren:

Settling into Lloyd’s for this very organised set-up, I initially felt it a bit staged at first but the family were there as well and were incredibly welcoming. They insisted on wanting honest feedback in order to improve dishes and know what to choose for the upcoming menu change. Lloyd himself, still young in the eyes of restaurant ownership ensured he greeted all his guests and made us comfortable right from the off.

Even with only a dozen of us in the space on this evening, this lovely restaurant did not feel empty and exuded a cosy glow; the lighting and decor is stylish yet warm, hanging lights, white wall tiles for said light to bounce off and even a patio heater to enjoy the glass front area, that can be opened to enable an al fresco option in the summer and allow plenty of people watching!

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So down to business. I had already chosen my food choices earlier in the week to ensure that all the potential menu items were going to be tasted by the group.

Starter:

Tempura Monkfish Cheeks, Mango, Chilli & Avocado, Harissa Sauce – a meaty yet light starter in an even lighter crispy batter!

Main:

Confit Duck Leg & Rare Breast, Potato & Rosemary Rosti, Seasonal Greens, & Honey Grazed Baby Carrots – the meat just pulled away on this dish and as a rosti connoisseur at home I can’t put into words how good theirs was! Seasoned to perfection too.

Pudding:

Lemon Tart with Raspberry Sorbet – a good tart but I tell you that sorbet sang!

The food, overall, was delicious; well balanced in flavours and textures and equally well presented. It’s not flashy; it’s just stylish and comforting – exactly like the decor. My scoring and feedback will remain confidential of course but a few constructive comments were thrown in, otherwise the purpose of the event would not have been fulfilled. Plenty of good comments were given too – they are certainly doing something right as I only ever hear good things about Lloyds Kitchen.

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I found the idea totally refreshing and I look forward to seeing what is chosen for the upcoming menu and how our comments have affected the final product, enabling you – the paying customer – to enjoy your dinner and a positive experience whilst spending your hard earned cash on tasty food in one of Exeter’s great independents.

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

 

 

Dr Ink’s Curiosities, Quayside

38 Commercial Rd, Exeter EX2 4AE Commercial Rd, Exeter EX2 4AE

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We visited Dr Ink’s a few weeks ago after an event and although it was only a brief visit, I’ve been eager to write something about this lovely establishment for a while.

There are quite a few places in Exeter that do cocktails now.  They range from the pre-made stuff in cartons, to fine concoctions made by men with beards.  A good cocktail is easy to come by in Exeter these days but an exceptional one is even harder.

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I could name a number of places that are ‘must-go’ and you must go, because the cocktail landscape of Exeter is a varied and complex thing.  Nuances, differences, things done in a slightly different way in one bar and not in another, quirks.

But here is Doctor Ink’s Curiosities on the Quayside, tucked in behind the Customs House it makes little impression on the Quay from outside.  But step inside and you are presented with a classic styled cocktail bar with a wall of brightly lit spirits and lots of red velvet.

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This is the quirkiest of them all, this is just theatre.

Doctor Ink’s isn’t the cheapest place in town but you’re not coming here for special offers – There is a lot of pride taken in the stories behind each drink and the authenticity of the ingredients used.  The menu is presented in a hardback book  and there is, when they are quieter, a table service.

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Proudly independent, their cocktails each have a story.  They are created with an attention to detail which only goes to show the passion that their mixologists put in to every drink.

We loved it, so did Exepose – Read their review here. and so does Instagram too!

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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

The Hole In The Wall, Little Castle Street by Chris Gower

Little Castle St, Exeter EX4 3PX – 01392 437470 – www.hitwexeter.co.uk/

I am in my mid-thirties, despite the beard and the wrinkles which make me look well in to my forties (I’ve stopped playing Guess My Age as it is just depressing) I am thirty-five.  I am old enough to remember Boxes & Boogies Nightclub, The Hothouse, The Thirsty Camel, The Turk’s Head, Mambo… the list goes on.

The Hole In The Wall (THITW) is one of the names that I remember from my youth.  Unlike all of those that I mentioned, this pub is still going strong and is diversifying in the ever changable and turbulent economic environment that we live in.

A couple of years ago THITW suffered a devastating fire that caused extensive damage to the interior.  The owners rebuilt and refurbished, and now the interior feels fresh and lighter than it ever did before.  The pool tables are still there, and punters still come here to drink before heading over to Timepiece or downstairs to the not-so-private Private Cocktail lounge on the ground floor.

In the memories of many Exonians THITW is still a drinking pub, a place to get blotted rather than to grab some food.  But this is going to change after the recent appointment of Ben Corcutt to Head Chef.  Ben has worked for years with Adam Little (Exeter Golf & Country Club) and has now ventured out on his own with a fantastic menu that is going to make THITW a strong contender on the dining scene here in Exeter.

Ben invited us over to play some pool and sample some of the delights of his new offering, a menu inspired by slow-cooking and smokehouses.

The drink offerings are largely the big names.  Estrella, Carlsberg etc.I don’t think the demographic who come here are not overly interested in the Craft’s? although there is a bit more variety through the bottled options, THITW caters for sports fans with matches being shown during tournaments.  But don’t let the fact this pub shows sports put you off.

During our visit the rugby was playing and it was fascinating to see the men, the ball, the running and the throwing and the large periods of inactivity and walking around that happens whilst they decide who had the ball last and where they should throw it from. That’s how it works? Right?… Football is much easier to follow, and there is much more melodrama too

The menu is split in to sections – Lighter Bites, Something Larger, Burgers and of course Pizzas! I went for the Beef Brisket French Dip (£12) and Tori went for The Hole In The Wall Burger (£10).  Both come with a generous portion of skin-on chips.

The first thing that struck us was the generous portion size, the burger was big and thick with lashings of topping.

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The cheese dribbled nicely out of the sides and the bacon was crispy bacon with fresh greens encapsulated in a fresh bun.  The whole combination had a fantastic taste, the meat was well seasoned and juicy.

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With both of our meals there were beautifully cooked chips with no skimping on the amounts.

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The Beef Brisket French Dip came with a lovely large pot of gravy for dipping.  The beef was beautifully tender and well seasoned, combined with the cheese and the freshly baked sub; dipping bread and beef in to gravy has always been a naughty thing I would do after a roast dinner, mopping up the gravy with a bit of left over meat in a sandwich.

The strong taste of the gravy worked wonders with the beautifully tender beef as it soaked in to the fresh bread.

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Now here was an entire meal based on that delightful combination.  And with some lush chips to boot and a pint of Estrella.  Bliss.

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We finished off our meal with a game of pool.  I haven’t played pool in, literally, years and for my first game which I ACTUALLY WON was brilliant.  Then the second game, well, it took us 20 minutes to pot the balls and I expect we did that in the wrong order.  It took me back to my days as a student, strangely I played pool much better if I was drunk.

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The Hole In The Wall has changed dramatically from my days of youth.  It has an air of sophistication to its look, the interior is light and refreshed and the menu is something to behold.  On food alone I would recommend this place to anyone, on booze then maybe to a certain type of person who didn’t mind the lack of funny craft ales that many pubs seem to have these days.  But this is made up for by the cocktail lounge on the ground floor that we got a sneak peek at before we left (available for private hire and parties by the way…).

Ben’s new menu is a fantastic example of how slow-cooked SHOULD be done.  The fad of slow-cooked meats is frequently replicated but rarely given justice, so to find a place that is doing it properly in Exeter makes me very happy.

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Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Queen St – by Chris Gower

Burgers are highly subjective things to write about. I spend a lot of time talking about burgers as they are one of my favourite foodstuffs.  Some love them and talk about them with a passion, they would be happy if every single restaurant had an extensive burger menu and would most probably be equally happy if every restaurant was a burger restaurant too.  These types of people are called Burger-nerds (I’ve just made that up) and although I am objective about the role that different types of restaurant play in the dining scene of any town or city, I am fully supportive of burger restaurants – So long as there are not too many of them – and would consider myself a Burger-nerd.

Depending on who you talk to will give you a variety of opinions, but the general opinion is that there are too many burger restaurants in Exeter.  If you read my article in Exeter Living last year on this matter, I stated that I believe that anymore of this type of restaurant will saturate the dining scene in Exeter and I still hold to this.  Since I wrote the article we’ve not gained anymore, but we have gained a Five Guys as a replacement to Ruby Modern Diner that closed last year and moved operations down to Exmouth.  We now have an equal number of chain burger restaurants (Byron, Five Guys, GBK) to independent (Urban Burger, Hubbox, Zita’s) so it will be interseting to see what the landscape does in the coming years.

When GBK opened, we were invited to their launch night which I am using a few photos from in this article.  Everything was manicured nicely, the food was quick and everything was free.  The meal that we had was north of £50 for two of us, but it didn’t matter as it was the launch night.  We were impressed with the decor, in fact I fell in love with the pseudo-sixties modernist features and the speakeasy lighting.  It was mostly cosy and had perfect windows for people watching.

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When we visited this week, we had different things in mind.  Like most of the world, we’re January-Poor so can’t afford to splash out on a full meal and we really didn’t want to go home and cook.  So I downloaded the GBK App and up popped their latest offer, two burgers for £12! Upgrade the Resident Heroe burgers to £1.50 and off you go.

We arrived at GBK as ungalmorous as you could imagine.  Bags of shopping, slightly dishevelled and absolutlely starving.  We were greeted at the door by guy who looked casually managerial, he was dressed differently from the others and was really friendly throughout our visit as were all of the staff who served us.

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The menu is quite straight forward and follows the general format of burger restaurants. Choose your burger, choose your side separately and choose your drink.  Tori went for THE STACK (£10.95) which featured Grilled chorizo, Red Leicester cheese, house onion ring, smoked chilli mayo, rocket, pickled onions and house relish with a side of small skinny fries. I went for THE CAJUN BLUE (£9.15) which featured Cajun marinated chicken, blue cheese slaw, jalapenos, pineapple and sriracha mayo also with skinny fries.

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We both went for the refillable Fresh and Fizzy drink options which were essentially non-alcoholic cocktails for very little.  £2.45 got us an Elderflower and a Ginger & Lemongrass pint of fizz that was – get this – REFILLABLE!

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Some of my foodie friends had commented about the time that it took to get their food on their visits to GBK.  The delivery of our food was swift, there wasn’t much waiting for our drinks either but we did go before the peak evening rush, so bear in mind that this restaurant can get busy at times.

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I was happy with my burger generally, although the chicken was a little overcooked.  The taste was something else, and the pineapple sitting happily in the middle of the whole burger added a different perspective to each mouthful.  Tori felt although the burger was nice, it hadn’t matched up to the one she had during our previous visit.  We asked for medium-rare but it was more well-done.  Our skinny fries were super skinny, but also very tasty and well seasoned.

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For the price you pay GBK isn’t mind-blowing. It is acceptable, it is very nice, it is most pleasing and I am sure I will go there again.  The interior is lovely, the staff are friendly but it is expensive (but not as expensive as other places).  But let us compare it to Byron Burgers… it is cheaper and the burgers are on a different planet to the quality of Bryon and the prices are much better.  As chain burgers restaurants go, it is pretty much the best;  they’ve been doing it since 2001 and it has some mileage in their experience.  They have a successful format which is oft replicated and burgers that are firm classics in the eyes of their many followers across the UK.

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Tasting Chocolate: Bloggers tasting session at Chococo in Exeter – by Chris Gower

We were fortunate enough to be invited to a tasting evening at Chococo’s lovely shop in Gandy St before Christmas.  It was a rare opportunity to experience chocolate under the expert guidance of Chococo co-founder and Chocolatier Claire Burnet who imparted her vast weath of knowledge and passion, taking us lucky bloggers on a whistle-stop tour of the chocolate landscape.

At the beginning of the evening, I started as a complete chocolate dunce. This is a position that I feel most UK consumers are in, it is one of our favourite food stuffs but we don’t really know the ins-and-outs of how it is the way it is, and where things come from etc. How many Joe Bloggs might know what makes American Chocolate different from European Chocolate? How many might know the different sorts of beans? and what variety of beans goes in to different sorts of chocolate?


I do hope Chococo start doing this sort of evening for the general public, it was a rare opportunity to talk to someone who has passion and enthusiasm for their art.

If you’re in to chocolate, visit their café and browse the wonderful selection of products in their shop.

The Coach House by Michael Caines at Kentisbury Grange – by Lauren Heath

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The Coach House by Michael Caines, Kentisbury Grange, Kentisbury EX31 4NL   –  01271 882295

@KGCoachHouse  –  http://www.kentisburygrange.com/michael-caines-restaurant-north-devon/

Eating Exeter may be our name, and we certainly love to discover local eateries, producers and events. However, our adventures extend much further into the county we live in; we’re very lucky that within around an hours drive of Exeter, many Devon delights await. This is certainly the case with The Coach House.

The Coach House by Michael Caines is situated in the grounds of Kentisbury Grange Hotel in North Devon, on the edge of Exmoor. Open to residents and non-residents, they serve lunch, dinner (with a choice of taster or a la carte) and afternoon tea. It has recently been awarded two AA rosettes as well as Gold award for Restaurant/Bistro of the Year by South West Tourism Awards – quite an accolade considering the talent in the region. The menus consist of local, seasonal produce cooked sympathetically by staff Michael Caines MBE himself has chosen as well as him overseeing operations there to ensure quality and consistency akin to his established reputation.

When we were invited to come and try their culinary delights, Steve and I immediately sorted childcare so we could go out and enjoy each others company in what we hoped would be a gastronomic lunch. We also love a little ‘road trip’ and knowing North Devon’s lovely coastline, packed some good walking boots for post lunch adventures.

The journey to Kentisbury was lovely, motorway to start but then an easy main route past Tiverton through some beautiful scenery on a lovely crisp Sunday morning. The restaurant is situated in a beautiful 17th Century former coaching house, it is slightly tucked away off a good A road, and up a short driveway, making it feel slightly secret but not too far off the beaten track.

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On arrival we were warmly greeted and offered a drink in the bar area pre lunch. We were well and truly ready for lunch so opted to be shown straight to our table – a lovely curved booth by the window with us sitting facing inwards to the restaurant so I could people watch along with having a view towards the kitchen.

Hearing and reading about the food offering here, I thought we were in for a very upmarket restaurant setting – but actually it wasn’t like that at all, which was perfect for us as we enjoy somewhere we can relax and feel easy. Rich velvet and comfortable chairs, warm lighting along with natural light, a walnut and marble bar, dark wood flooring and touches of modern with the glass lined banister. It was comfortably sumptuous – it gave me a good feeling for what was to come.

We were pleased to see a good selection of wines and beers; ranging from a champagne with MC’s name on it and yet a local stout that we hadn’t heard of before. Having ordered our drinks, we salivated over the lunch menu – I could have ordered it all. Some gorgeous warm fresh homemade breads and salty butter were served while we were deciding. I finally settled on Mushroom Raviolo and Steve chose the Smoked Salmon Mousse.

My raviolo was a perfect size, beautifully made and cooked stuffed to the brim with wild mushrooms and spinach. The white wine foam actually tasted as such and provided a delicate coating for the moist pasta, allowing the other flavours to shine through. A scattering of nasturtium leaves added an even fresher and earthier dimension; I loved it. Steve’s smoked salmon cigar was well filled with creamy mousse with was beautifully well balanced with light, acidic, and stronger accompaniments of cucumber, wasabi yoghurt and honey and soy vinaigrette. A great start.

For mains I chose the Confit Duck Leg,whilst Steve opted for the Pan Fried Sea Bream.

The duck was incredibly succulent, meaty and with a crispy skin. What wasn’t on the menu but I was delighted to see was the duck bon bon – delicately soft yet fully flavoured  meat with a crispy outer, my favourite type of food item. The sauce was rich and bold with a hint of orange to lift it and the softer texture of the chicory complimented it well. Steve’s fish was possibly the best fish he has had in a long time; the skin was still on the fish and was so crispy,  yet the fish perfectly cooked. The light vanilla, sweet parsnip, meaty chicken sauce and touches of pickled ginger supported the fish perfectly.

Now for puds. Being a bit of a lemon curd fan I chose the Lemon Curd and Steve who is less of a pudding person and more a cheese man, opted for the Milk Chocolate Mousse.

The lemon curd was firm but not overly so and well flavoured with zingy lemon. The pistachio cake was as it should be and the cassis sorbet certainly packed a blackcurrant punch. I found it a bit disjointed as a pudding if I’m honest, but enjoyed the items individually. Steve’s was a chocolate triumph; a light crumbly biscuit base, silky smooth milk chocolate topped with crunchy hazelnut and pistachio crumb along with a light caramel ice cream – I was totally jealous and managed to thieve a tiny morsel.

Service was attentive yet not over bearing, the staff seemed confident and relaxed and Steve was even impressed by the ‘crumbing down’ that he witnessed having not seen that for quite along time (something even he learned in catering college).

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Ending our lunch with a cup of coffee (which can also be enjoyed on the loft lounge sofas), and with the buzz of some other tables around us including a well sized birthday group consisting of very young to very old, I feel The Coach House is a great venue for any occasion and certainly for a weekend lunch. It’s quite frankly a steal at £19.95 for 2 courses or £24.95 for 3. Add this to the easy yet scenic journey to get here and the fact we stopped off for a lunch burning stroll in nearby Lynmouth afterwards, it all equals a perfect Sunday out.

For a more special occasion, perhaps book for their 6 course tasting menu and team this with a night in the hotel for a truly relaxing weekend away. I would certainly recommend you try it for yourself.

Harry’s Restaurant, Longbrook St – by Chris Gower

86 Longbrook Street, Exeter, EX4 6AP – Book a table here

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Since I’ve been writing this blog one restaurant has been steady and consistent in quality. That restaurant is Harry’s. If you want to read about our other visits, head here and here. My last review was The Oddfellows which is just up the road; on the theme of fantastic independent restaurants, here is another one of my much-loved haunts.

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Harry’s is an institution in Exeter that goes beyond being just a ‘restaurant’.  Established in 1993, there are classic favourite items on the menu that would cause uproar if you took them off (Nachos, The Harry’s Heart-attack etc.) but there are always new dishes being added depending on season and availability of ingredients.  Using local suppliers where possible, the kitchen is a hive of activity and is manned  by Owner-Chef Sam Pounds and her dedicated team.

86 Longbrook Street was purpose built for a successful businessman named Harry Hems, who ran a church fitting business from the premises.  Hems had made a name for himself with his carvings and ornamentation which had gained international reputation for its quality.  The workshop was built in the 1880s and designed by R Medley Fulford.

It remained a workshop until 1938 when his son Wilfred and business partner retired.  It subsequently became a leather workshop, wine-sellers and later Harry’s Restaurant in 1993.  For a full history head to Exeter Memories.

We were invited over to have a look at some new items that have appeared on their menu and give some feed-back.  The lovely Amy (we are both big fans of Amy) was running things at the front of house, and as ever the service was friendly, attentive and knowledgeable about their food.

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Among some of the favourites that I’ve seen before are some new dishes which we were eager to try.  We went for two starters, two mains and one pudding accompanied with a glass of wine.

For starters Tori went for Seasonal Soup Of The Day (£5.00), served with croutons and garnished with colourful edible flowers.  The soup today was Cauliflower which is, in my experience, a comforting dish that sits well on a cold evening.  It was creamy and seasoned well, the consistency was perfect not being too thick but not too watery either.

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My starter was Popcorn Shrimp (£6.00) served with garlic mayo.  Battering anything is an art form and there are so many places we’ve been to that have ruined a perfectly good piece of fish by messing up the batter.  But Harry’s expertly battered shrimp, served with a lovely garlic mayo was a pleasure to eat; crisp and light batter around large juicy shrimp was the perfect entry to our meal.

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When we eat out I tend to head more towards fish options as we don’t really cook it at home.  Tonight I chose a Shoreline from Lyme Bay Winery, Axe Valley, Devon. “Uber-dry & refreshing local wine. Complex notes of rose petal, lemon, nettle and grapefruit. Fab with all things fishy”

I went for the Seared Tuna Steak (£15) served with chimichurri, roast cherry tomatoes, avocado, and rocket. A plump slab of tuna cooked brilliantly and contrasting nicely with the savoury palette of the chimichurri.  I was particularly taken with the Rocket which mixed with the lemon juices and the olive oil to create a delicious side.  The avacado/tuna steak combo isn’t something I have tried before and it worked so well together!

Tori went for the special of the day that could very well appear on the Harry’s Christmas menu.  Pork Belly with Mash in Apple Jus which created many nice noises from her side of the table.  Pork Belly is, in her experience, very hard to get right and Harrys really got it right. The smoothness of the mash and the apple jus made it for Tori, and we both thought this would be a delightful addition to the menu if they bring it out for Christmas.

For me the dessert was an easy choice.  For Tori it was a harder decision as she was quite full by this point so she decided to duck out of dessert after all.  But I was still game for something sweet.

Harry’s is the home of the ‘Harry’s Heart Attack (£10)‘, a legendary dessert with the tagline ‘Two will struggle, one will fail’.  On a previous visit to Harry’s earlier in the year we tried it out and yes…we had two between us and it was a struggle!  But there were allsorts of things, so many different sweets, brownie, ice cream, whipped cream, it was epic!

But on this occasion I was more than happy to have the Peanut Butter & Oreo Cheesecake (£6) with peanut brittle and chocolate ice cream.

The best way to eat this is to dip the cheesecake in the Peanut Brittle and then scoop a bit of ice cream with it. This method is called the ‘Dip and Scoop’, and it was this method that made me fall in love with this gorgeous dessert.

Harry’s Restaurant has soul. It is family run, completely independent and the staff here are, it seems, like a family in themselves.  They are always attentive and on the occasions that I’ve eaten here before, the welcome has always been incredibly warm.

I would happily rate this restaurant as one of my top-spots for a meal out!

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The Oddfellows, 60 New North Road by Chris Gower

60 New North Road, Exeter – www.theoddfellowsbar.co.uk

Exeter facebook.com/oddfellowsbar
Exmouth @oddfellowsexmfacebook.com/oddfellowsexmouth

Just off the bustle of the High Street, under the shadow of John Lewis lies a small pub that has made a big impression on Exeter’s dining scene in recent years.  Nestled between houses and office blocks; it backs on to the historic wall of red sandstone that surrounds Exeter Castle in one of the older parts of Exeter.

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You might remember we visited The Oddfellows a couple of years ago to taste the wonder of their burger nights, and we loved it.  The burgers are still to this day some of the nicest that we’ve tasted from a none-burger restaurant.

Exeter has become a foodie hub in recent years and with the Queen St Dining quarter steadily opening their numerous restaurants – both large and small scale chain operations – gastro-pubs/restaurants like The Oddfellows offer Exeter diners a locally-sourced independent option.

The Oddfellows has gone from strength to strength since Yvan & Faye Williams opened their doors ten years ago.  They have since opened a sister pub in Exmouth, bringing their locally-sourced British cuisine to the people of this local seaside town.

I was honoured to be invited to their ten year celebration a couple of weeks ago; it is so heartwarming to know that an independent restaurant like The Oddfellows is going strong.

We were invited along to see what they did best, to enjoy the comfort of this lovely pub-restaurant and to raise a glass to ten more fabulous years.

The menu here is seasonal, it changes regularly using the best local suppliers in their well engineered menus.

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When it comes to food, we’re definitely two course people; but the lovely looking dessert menu meant we had to go for all three.  So we shared a starter and dessert!

Tori wanted to experience a cocktail which The Oddfellow’s mixologist produced expertly.  The Speakeasy is The Oddfellow’s very own cocktail bar and is located upstairs above the main bar area.

With its vintage surroundings, it makes you feel you are propping up the bar in a genuine depression-era saloon!  Cocktails are definitely one of The Oddfellows specialties.  I grabbed a Rhubarb Collins from The Oddfellows mobile Cocktail Bar at the Beer & Bacon Festival back in September – it was refreshing and delightful. I digress, but here are some photos from that event.

Our starter tonight was going to be a Pork, Apple, Pistachio Terrine with Apricot Jam, Spiced Pork Quavers and toasted Brioche (£5.75).  An enticing combination which worked together beautifully.  I washed the whole thing down with a pint of Theakston’s Barista Stout.

The chunky terrine was lovely, with the smokiness of the brioche and the fresh butter, it was the perfect aperitif to our main courses.

For our mains we chose two wonderful dishes: For Tori – Westcountry steak: 8oz Rump with caramelised shallots, roasted on-vine tomatoes, beef dripping triple coked chips, smoked bacon and thyme butter.(£16)

Tori commented on how nicely the steak was cooked, and with the triple cooked chips done in beef dripping being some of the best chips eaten on that side of the table, the smoky bacon and rosemary butter on top added flavour – the generous amount of vine tomatoes was a generous and tasty addition.

And for me – Chicken breast stuffed with a black pudding mousse, chorizo croquettes, roasted cauliflower and puree, crispy chicken skin and chicken sauce (£14).

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I’m definitely converted to Black Pudding mousse; it was served inside the chicken which was cooked perfectly and served with a delightful gravy.  The chorizo croquettes were mind-blowing, losing the journalistic sensibility  I have to say anything more intelligent, I seriously considered putting some in my pocket to smuggle home.

We finished our meal off with a Chocolate and Orange delice with coffee mousse, brandy snap biscuit (£5.50)

The chocolate had this saltiness which really worked, wonderfully sweet yet salty with the bitterness of the coffee mousse.  An amazing end to a lovely meal.

I really enjoy good food and when you get a restaurant doing things like The Oddfellows, it makes you realise how good food should be done.  I will happily sing the praises of this restaurant with its ethos and the enthusiasm that both owners share for good food and supporting everything local.

The food was lovely, the service with faultless and I will definitely be returning for more.

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