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.

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Chiquito Restaurant, Marsh Barton Road

Last year I got very excited that Exeter was to receive two new restaurants on Alphington Road.  The long derelict site that had once been MST (the tractor dealers) had been home to advertising hoardings and some sort of car washing operation in recent years. It wasn’t a great advertisement for Exeter.  The bulldozers moved in a couple of years ago and in less than six months, up popped two chain restaurants.  I am sure they just added water…

Chiquito and Franky & Benny’s overlooks a non-descript junction somewhere on Alphington Road, opposite a retail complex, next door to a Vauxhall dealership.  This piece of prime location has had four (maybe five) properties squeezed on to a small piece of land with a rather small car park between them.  There are no trees, there is little else but the bright neon glow of their signs beaming out across the night sky.

We were eating with some good friends of ours, one of them had been before.  The scene was set, the table booked, it was going to be a great evening.  And it was, just a shame about the portions and the price.

The outside of the restaurant is a beige box-like affair. But step inside and it becomes very different.  Dark browns, reds, a cocktail bar with illuminated yellow glass, an open kitchen and booths. Although there is a proliferation of booths, there is a very open plan feel to the restaurant which made the inside feel bigger than it was.  If Mexican telly produced their own version of Doctor Who, I am sure their Tardis would look very similar to this restaurant.

I’ve found on previous visits to these sorts of restaurants that the service, although polite and friendly, can be pretty pushy at getting a decision out of you.  We sat down, we talked for 40 odd seconds and the service came back to ask if we had decided what we wanted to drink. Of course we hadn’t but she said she’d come back.  This continued twice more, we suggested that she give us more than one drinks menu which might speed up the process.

The cocktails had good reports from the ladies, I went for a Brahma and my other companion was on the Magner’s Cider.  Prices were at the steeper end of the chain-drink-markup scale.

The menu is presented as a small book, and its pretty good.  There is a considered balance between the ‘traditional’ Mexican and the more generic types of food that Brits love like Burgers and stuff involving chicken in various forms.

The prices throughout the menu were on the upper-end of what I would be happy paying at a chain.  But then who knows how much the land rent is, given the position and potential for massive footfall in a spot like this.

The menu included curiosities such as ‘Street Food’ and they even had a Burger called the Hero Burger that I nearly went for.  But I settled on a BBQ Texan Chicken Melt (Grilled marinated chicken breast with chorizo & sweetcorn, covered with melted cheese. Served with skin-on-fries, corn on the cob, onion rings, homemade slaw and BBQ sauce) for £14.95 and Tori had a go at the Street Food, Three for £12.95 offer.

It was a Friday night, so the restaurant was busy.  There was a children’s party next door to us (they were all very well behaved so this wasn’t even an issue) and lots of families.  This sort of restaurant has a varied clientele; couples and family groups were all enjoying the experience and given the speed that the food came out, it didn’t feel like we had really been waiting that long.

The food arrived and my heart sank a little.  I had 27 skin-on fries, and what seemed to be a square of chicken which was about the size of two Findus Crispy Pancakes put together on the long-edge side.  And yes, before you ask, Crispy Pancakes can be used as a legitimate unit of measurement for measuring area on a plate.
Tori’s Street Food came out, three tiny bowls with a small portion of food on each.  These were less than two Crispy Pancakes each, and given the concept of Street Food I have been introduced to by the likes of Eat The Smoke, La Catina etc. that make Chiquito portions look a bit stingy to say the least.

But the taste was good.  It was a well cooked bit of chicken that was moist, it was seasoned really nicely and the accompaniments worked together.  The onion rings were perfect cylinders, and what there was of the coleslaw was really well made.  From around the table, the Street Food tasted good, everything was cooked well and there was nothing that we wouldn’t have had again.

The dessert menu was a big temptation after the portion sizes of the mains (psychological trick methinks?) So Tori and I shared a ‘Mexican Mess’ (Churros, chocolate brownie, chocolate sauce, strawberry pieces, raspberry ripple ice cream and strawberry yoghurt topped with cream, served in our cinnamon tortilla basket) £5.95 mostly because of the brownie element of it.

It came out and the fig-leaf had clearly failed on this one.  If you don’t quite get it, look closely and tell me what you see?  It provided much amusement to our dirty minds.

The dessert surpassed my expectation in terms of size, but then we discovered the brownie element was quite literally a spoonful (as shown), which I believe in Crispy Pancake measurement is about 0.25 Crispy Pancakes.  There was one Churro, that being the phallic thing sticking out of it, and it was 80% aerosol cream.

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I can’t say that our time at Chiquito was terrible because it wasn’t.  The company was fantastic, the service was functional and quick.  There was a wait for desserts but the service came and told us exactly why there was a wait, the atmosphere was vibrant and busy, it was a nice place and if you’re not fussed about money then I would recommend it.

But if you are like me and getting value for money is at the heart of your ethos when eating out, then this isn’t the place for you.  If you’re on a tight budget, then this isn’t the place for you.  If you’re hungry and need a large portion to fill you up, then depending on what you have (I haven’t had the whole menu so it might be that I was just unlucky), then I wouldn’t recommend it.

But if you really really want good Mexican, catch Gus at Taco Macho in Fore St.when he’s open and get cheap wholesome Mexican food made by a real Mexican.

Harry’s Restaurant, Exeter

86 Longbrook St, Exeter EX4 6AP  Tel: 01392 202234  Twitter:@HarrysExeter

EE RecommendsIts not often that I get to review a restaurant that has such a legacy.  Whilst at work on the day of the review a couple of conversations I had with colleagues went along the lines of

“What are you doing tonight?”
“Going to Harry’s for something to eat…”
“Oh I love Harry’s, its really nice, you’ll like it”

The number of times I’ve had this sort of conversation is uncountable, pretty much because I don’t count the number of times I’ve talked about a restaurant as I am not that particular about reoccurring topics of conversation.  But also because I have never once heard a bad thing about this place.  They have a new summer menu which we were invited along to have a look at, and experience the legend that is Harry’s Restaurant.


Harry’s Restaurant has been in the same family for the last 21 years, it is in my mind, one of the longest serving independent family-run restaurants in Exeter, I might be wrong (correct me in the comments) and has been housed in the iconic red brick building which is number 86 Longbrook Street for that time.  Having been many things in its past, its history is a blog post in itself, but here is a digested version.

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 the nineties.  For a full history head to Exeter Memories.

A few peeps who read this blog will remember Harry’s Grill & Bar behind Boots.  Not long ago Harry’s moved out (it has now been turned in to Circa 1924) and brought the grill menu down the road to 86 Longbrook Street.  Some of the grill items that were served are now available on the menu at Harry’s.

As the restaurant isn’t a purpose-built establishment, the layout is quite interesting.  There are two sides to the restaurant floor, with the kitchen open to diners with only partition separating the action of the kitchen from the seating area. The door at the back leads to the toilets and the back room which the restaurant hires out to parties and larger gatherings, the walls adorned with collages of photos which make up the background of the menu.

Stepping through the door, we were greeted by Amy who looked after us with a smile and a lovely demeanour throughout the whole meal.  We were lucky enough to have a window seat which gave us lots of light as we chomped away.  The atmosphere was friendly and busy, it wasn’t overly loud but for a Wednesday evening it was still very bustling, it felt comfortably busy.

The new summer menu is an eclectic array of Modern British, Grill and Mexican items, all of which sound quite epic.  There are a few items that are considered classics which are still there, and the one that considered almost legendary is the Harry’s Heartattack (chocolate brownies, marshmallows, chocolate and vanilla ice cream and peanut M&M’s, chocolate flake, whipped cream and hot chocolate fudge sauce).  There are some new items as well (Beef Bon Bons for instance).

We kicked off our meal with a Grapefruit Fizz (light and very nice) for Tori and a bottle of Harry’s Cider (£4.00) for myself.  Nope, not produced by Harry’s Restaurant but actually by a farmer from Somerset.  Currently Harry’s Restaurant is the only Exeter restaurant that is serving this lovely stuff.

It was Nachos for starters (refried beans, cheese, jalapeños, salsa & sour cream £5.50) and liking the sound of a new addition to the menu Tori went for Beef Bon Bons (balls of pulled beef, crispy coated and served with a horseradish sauce – £5.00).  For someone who forgot that they don’t like horseradish, she did very well.  The nachos were a good size, it was a basic starter but it makes me laugh how terribly some restaurants do Nachos, in my experience a good Nachos is often indicative of a good restaurant.  And these were great…

The main courses were a lot harder to choose.  There were quite a few amazing sounding items on the menu, which is lethal for someone as indecisive as me.  Should there be a smaller menu? The balance between new dishes and classic Harry’s dishes has to be kept, and if you are a restaurant that has definitive favourites, what would be the point getting rid of them just for the sake of change? Despite the fact I have moaned about places with larger menus, this isn’t the largest menu I’ve had to read through, and although there is a lot of choice, it is not unwieldy. The menu is constructed to cater for a wide range of tastes, and it does this adequately.

Rather predictably I ended up having a burger, The Mothership sounded good (bacon, cheese, onion, tomato & dill pickle – £12) and Tori went for the Pulled Pork Burrito (sour cream, Mexican green rice, cheese, shredded lettuce, guacamole, salsa – £10).  I had considered the Hangar Steak but felt my taste buds needed a grilled burgery thing but next time I go? It will have its moment.

The burger was fully loaded. The fries were fresh and the coleslaw was slaw-ey. I am not sure that is a word, but if it trends enough I am sure ‘slawey’ might get in to the OED.

As with previous burgers that come in the ‘fully loaded’ category, there is a certain amount of debate about how to actually fit in my mouth.  I opted for the ‘take it apart’ method, which allowed me to see inside.  Large tomato, lots of good ingredients stacked carefully.  It was a good burger, and I felt it was good value considering the the fries came with it.

Tori’s burrito was packed full of filling, the sour cream, salsa and guacamole laid on the top was colourful in presentation.  There was a lot of it, and as she takes ages to eat anything this was a good indicator that this portion was a generous one when considering portions from similar chain counterparts.

No matter what anyone says, there is ALWAYS space for dessert.  The Harry’s Heartattack wasn’t going to be on our list today, as we were both quite full.  But the great thing about Harry’s is that there are some really divine sounding desserts on the menu.  Tori kicked off the final chapter of her meal off with a Hot Chocolate Fudge Brownie (vanilla ice cream, hot chocolate fudge sauce – £5.00) and for me it was the Affogato (vanilla ice cream, shot of Kahlua, single espresso £6.50)


After working out that I had to tip the Kahlua and the Espresso over the ice-cream, then promptly spilling half of the Espresso over the table, I managed to get it in my mouth without drawing too much attention.  It was a lovely combination and a perfect end to a really good meal.  Tori made satisfied noises from the other side of the table too, the Hot Chocolate Fudge Brownie a success with her, it literally melted.

Harry’s Restaurant is a legend in its own right.  A family owned, independent restaurant which adds itself to the exclusive list of really good places to eat that I will return to in the near future.  Exeter is blessed with some awesome independents, but they need our support especially with the growing competition from the chain restaurants of this world.  In the spirit of independent reporting, my closing thoughts are this.  When you have such a great restaurant, using scratch-made, local produce on your doorstep, why would you want to go to Jamie’s Italian?

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Las Iguanas, Queen St. Exeter

EE RecommendsLas Iguanas has been open just over a year now since it took over its prime spot on Queen St. after Pitcher & Piano abandoned it.  After extensive works, which included stripping back the years of ‘super quick renovations’ to reveal the original flooring, the restaurant opened to a fanfare of Mexican goodness.  Initially the first few months were a little shaky, and Trip Advisor was unforgiving…but time has passed and now a year on, the greased and smooth running that we saw on our visit makes me feel that this isn’t an issue anymore.
Eating Exeter was lucky enough to be invited down to sample their new Winter Menu.  We popped in on Tuesday night to catch the Happy Hour cocktails, and after that? Thankfully I didn’t drink that much…and I have notes.

It is a large menu, (not the lunch menu) given it takes dishes from Mexico and Brazil.  We needed a good 10 minutes to actually go through and really take in what we could have.  Being a Latin Restaurant we had the choice of going for Tapas should we wish and they do a rather nice deal, 3 dishes for £14.40 or 5 for £24.00, which equates to just over £4 per serving.  I can’t comment whether this is good value as I didn’t have it, but compared to other places in Exeter this is a good price for small plates of Latin food.

The thing that stood out for me was the happy hour.  The Cocktails sounded fun and there was a lot of choice again. During happy hour, two of the same cocktails or coolers for £6.80 (£3.40 per cocktail?).  The prospect of a cheeky post-work cocktail was sold and you could now very well find me in there most nights sipping on such classics as a CUBAN CHERRY (Havana Club 3 year old rum, cherry brandy, maraschino liqueur, lime, almond syrup, a little sugar & a cocktail cherry) or a BLOODY CARIOCA (Bloody Mary, re-invented, the spicy classic with a Brazilian twist, made with their own Magnifica cachaca & passion fruit).  Yes these guys have their own plantation where they make their very own Cachaca (if you’re not sure what it is look here).
In the end, and on the advice of my resident cocktail expert we had a CANA ROYALE (Las Iguanas Magnifica cachaça, raspberry liqueur & Bottlegreen elderflower, topped with Cava) which definitely had a good kick to it.

After a long examination of the menu, which wasn’t helped by the fact the cocktail went straight to my head, we finally made up our minds.  The tapas wasn’t really doing much for me and I was in the mood for chicken so inevitably it was going to be the CHURRASCO FIASCO which is skewered chicken “Marinated & flame-grilled, with honey peri-peri sauce, salad & cassava fries.”  At this point I wasn’t really sure what a cassava was so I was expecting a big bowl of fries and being the first time I had actually had cassava I wasn’t sure what to expect.  My resident cocktail expert Tori had CHIMICHANGA which was a “Crisp tortilla parcel, delivered with home-made tomato salsa, guacamole, soured cream, spring onion & garlic, rice & refried beans” stuffed with “Mexican smoked chipotle chicken, onion & cheese”.

We didn’t have to wait long, but the short wait was when I could really take in what was happening around me.  For a Tuesday night it was busy, after chatting to Tim the manager after the meal it seems that this follows the trend at the moment.  To get a table end of the week at Las Iguanas you need to book, it is popular and for somewhere less than a year old, this showed that something was right.  Yes… It is a chain, a corporate brand, but speaking to a couple of what I have come to call ‘Iguanas-heads’ it seems that each restaurant is quite different.  It seems that Las Iguanas is definitely doing something right at this restaurant, and with the Dining Quarter opening over the road next year, the impression I got was that they weren’t worried.  And after all, how many other chains do what Las Iguanas do?

The food came pretty quickly, the visual presentation was good and the portion size seemed average (nothing spilling off the plate), I felt it was just enough.  My chicken was perfectly cooked, it didn’t go dry throughout the whole meal and the salad was the dressed well.  Having thought I was going to receive a bowl of fries, the Cassava fries were a suprise (it even rhymes).  Three large fries but cooked in a way that left the inside soft and fluffy whilst retaining a crispy coating that worked really well.  For an added bonus some of the dressing from the salad made its way in to the bottom of the fries which then soaked up some of the dressing.  I’m not sure if this was intentional but for me it was a really good combination and worked together.  The Chimachanga was well received from the other side of the table, the black refried beans were well balanced with the chicken inside the package.  As is always the case Tori’s looked nicer than mine.

Given we didn’t have starters we decided to hit the pudding and coffees that Las Iguanas offer.  The pudding section of the menu was quite well sized but then in these times of belt-tightening and diets there are few places that have large pudding menus.  Also kudos to Las Iguanas for calling it ‘Pudding’.  It is one of my favourite words.

I went for the Creamy Caramel Cake (with Tres Leches. Layers of soaked sponge & caramelised cream, drizzled with dulce de leche. Topped with more caramelised cream & blueberries) which was the least latin sounding thing available, but then it had the word caramel in it which is normally a sure fire guarantee that I’ll choose it.
This was an amazing tasting flourish to the end of our meal.  It made up for the fact that the coffees that came out were lukewarm, the chocolate-fest Aztec Chocolate Fudge Cake that was being devoured with many approving noises on the other side of the table and tasted as nice as mine.  It was a shame that there was nothing overly Latin American sounding in the pudding menu, but by the time I finished my Creamy Caramel Cake I really didn’t care.

Two meals, a cocktail, two coffees and two desserts came to just under £50 which is reasonable for a meal out in Exeter. They’re not trying to be a discount Mexican as they care about the ingredients and the experience of the diner and I wouldn’t walk in and expect anything else.  The fact that they seem to have a bit of a cult following must mean they’re doing something right, and if the rest of the food on the menu was as well cooked as my chicken then you would be crazy not to give it a go.  The drinks were lovely, and our waiter’s accent was nearly as delicious as the food (Fernando, I nearly got you to read me the entire menu!) and thats coming from a married man…

Las Iguanas
79-81 Queen St, Exeter, Devon EX4 3RP
01392 210753
http://www.iguanas.co.uk/book-now/exeter

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