Gosh, hasn’t Summer well and truly shown herself this past week? Some days it has been too hot really, but alas we shouldn’t moan, there are so many great spots to find shade in our beautiful city whilst enjoying the sunshine. So you’re sitting alfresco, and you’re thinking ‘a deliciously fresh and exciting picnic would be great right about now’ – well guess what? KuPP Exeter have the answer!
I was very pleased to have received an offer from KuPP to experience their latest offering of a Scandi Picnic; “a feast of cold cuts and light salads, including Norwegian salmon gravadlax and house smoked mackerel with lashings of Scandi potato and summer heritage tomato salad as well as roast beetroot and smoked red onions. Meaty offerings come in the form of homemade chorizo sausage roll, smoked pork meatballs, Sussex smoked ham and potted rabbit with nutmeg butter. A Scandi picnic wouldn’t be complete without a generous helping of Västerbotten (strong Swedish cheddar) and a section of breads, spreads and pickles.”
There is a vegetarian picnic too as well as vegan and gluten free options on request.
So I quickly gathered two fabulous lady friends, arranged a date – which happened to be the first day of #NationalPicnicWeek – placed my order 24hrs in advance and we swiftly found ourselves collecting our fabric tote bag of goodies and settling under a tree in Northernhay Gardens.
At £30 for 2 people, I initially worried this seemed pricey and also worried there wouldn’t be enough for the three of us so ordered two extra open sandwiches at a further £6.50 for both –Smoked Streaky Danish Bacon & Crushed Avocado Roasted baby plum tomatoes & dressed pea shoots and Smoked Chilli Torn Roast Chicken Roasted red peppers & little gem.
I was wrong on both counts – it was a bounty of food and even without the sandwiches there was plenty for the three of us – with some left over for me to take back to my desk. I am already a big fan of Kupp – their food is fresh, vibrant, filling and well priced in the restaurant, so to have all the delights from their smorgasbords packed up nicely for a picnic was a delight.
Everything was so tasty – the potted rabbit was moist, flavoursome and plentiful; the smoked pork meatballs are so good in their tangy gravy; the chorizo sausage roll is a triumph of crispy light pastry and delicious meat filling; and don’t get me started on the smoked red onions (I want to know how they do it!!). The breads bring even more texture and crunch to the offering and boy is that Västerbotten cheese tangy.
I could go on, but I won’t. Great for lazy days or even in your work lunch break; forget spending a fortune on the drier supermarket offering, this really is the bees knees of picnic and is very generous in size. All supplied with cutlery, plates and napkins – just bring along your picnic blanket and some great people to share it with – and if the weather is, well, under the weather, there are plenty of covered spots around the city where you can sit and have a nibble Scandi style. Cheers or Skål!
With spring upon us and summer following shortly behind, we’ll be (predictably) heading for the hills to soak up the sun on heaths, parks, lidos and just about anywhere else we can find to enjoy a spot of sunbathing, drinking and picnicking.
Following last year’s success, KuPP, the Scandi-inspired all day casual dining restaurant, bar and café, is re-launching their grab & go picnic bags, overflowing with Scandinavian treats. Forget the hassle of shopping, making and packing your own picnic! Simply call KuPP to order, pick up your stylish picnic tote bag and head to your favourite outdoor retreat to eat and relax.
With KuPP providing the perfect picnic, the only thing you need to worry about is finding the perfect picnic spot. Grab a picnic and enjoy it on the Exeter Cathedral Green (just a hop, skip and a jump away from KuPP) or along the historic Exeter Quay. With a host of parks, greens and of course beaches nearby, you don’t need to leave Exeter to share a picnic in the sun.
KuPP offers two equally delicious picnic options both perfect for two people to share and available in a tote bag with plates and cutlery, making for a fuss-free yet delicious al fresco dining experience.
KuPP Picnic Bag – £30
A feast of cold cuts and light salads, including Norwegian salmon gravadlax and house smoked mackerel with lashings of Scandi potato and summer heritage tomato salad as well as roast beetroot and smoked red onions. Meaty offerings come in the form of homemade chorizo sausage roll, smoked pork meatballs, Sussex smoked ham and potted rabbit with nutmeg butter. A Scandi picnic wouldn’t be complete without a generous helping of Västerbotten (strong Swedish cheddar) and a section of breads, spreads and pickles.
KuPP Veggie Picnic Bag – £27.95
A colourful festival of seasonal salads and veggie dishes offer an exciting range of colours and textures including trendy smashed avocado and dukkah, spicy broad bean salad topped with a soft boiled egg and; a salad of quinoa, roasted peppers and spicy goats curd. Other veggie delights include roast butternut, Danish blue, smoked red onion and kale salad as well as summer heritage tomato and Scandi potato salad. Let’s not forget the Västerbotten, breads, spreads and pickled vegetables.
Have two become three? If you’re heading hill (or canal) side with a third wheel or more, you can add to your spread from £3.50 by choosing from an array of irresistible Smørrebrød (Scandi open sandwiches), including smoked roast ribeye; soft boiled egg and heirloom tomato; smoked ham and Västerbotten, smoked streaky Danish bacon and avocado; smoked chilli torn roast chicken and; house smoked mackerel, pickled beets and cucumber.
Looking to end your picnic on a sweet note? Choose from a variety of Fika (a Scandi word to describe the act of having coffee and a little something to nibble) including croissants, pastries, muffins or big ol’ slices of cake – the honey and walnut is a must!
Keep cool in the heat of the day by adding a fresh juice or smoothie to your picnic. If you fancy celebrating (or just want a cheeky tipple) you can opt for bubbles, wine or beer. A KuPP Picnic wouldn’t be a KuPP Picnic if there wasn’t also the option to add a little something from their selection of signature coffees, organic teas or award winning hot chocolates.
KuPP – Unit 12 Queen Street Dining, Guildhall Shopping Centre, Exeter EX4 3HP
The last time The City Gate hotel had much of a refurbishment was back in 2003, a rebirth from the days when it was The Crown & Sceptre hotel. It sits in a commanding position over the Longbrook Valley roughly where the old North Gate had been situated before being removed in the early 1800s.
For me it was always the choice place for staff drinks, lunches and long afternoons in the beer garden, or watching people from the sofas in the conservatory. And now, thirteen years later, it has had another revamp by Young’s and it is looking fabulous.
We were invited along to see what has changed and meet their new Head Chef. They were eager to show off the new surroundings, and we were eager to see what to see what has changed.
Gone is the well-trod carpet and the dark wooden bar area; there is now a light laminate flooring with modern light furniture. Gone (sniff) is the sofas from the conservatory, now replaced with more tables and seats for dining.
The downstairs area is now a swanky craft beer and cocktail bar that is bookable for meetings and parties, the back room that was a bookable meeting room is another dining area with more tables etc.
The beer garden, one of the best in the city in my humble opinion, is all about Al Fresco dining, with more seating for eating, sofas for kicking back and relaxing whilst you order a burger from the swanky burger bar that is now making use of dead space.
The rooms are redecorated; gone are the days of being a fuddy little hotel that provided a place to sleep, it is now fully embracing the ’boutique hotel’ moniker. The gentrification of The City Gate has gone down well with the regulars, we are assured, but will it strike a chord with the rest of Exeter?
The ethos of The City Gate has changed too. Gone is the standard pub food, in its place is a seasonal-local ethos being driven by their new head chef Jason Mead who had previously been at The Conservatory, just over the road.
His fine dining background has armed him well and with this experience, Jason is determined to introduce Exonians to this new and improved menu.
Our feedback evening was a chance for The City Gate to show off and make contact with foodies and bloggers who would spread the word. In my mind, this was also a chance for me to see properly what has improved and to confirm my suspicions that they had gotten rid of the sofas from the conservatory.
The menu for tonight was a taster of the spectrum of dishes that The City Gate are introducing. Below is the menu with annotations – the mind of a food blogger is a scribbley messy thing sometimes!
For our starters we had the choice of a Devon crab cake with homemade tartare sauce and pickled cucumber tarts, or Crispy duck, spinach & watercress, pomegranate, hazelnuts with an aged sherry glaze.
Naturally we went for the duck (a Gressingham duck) which Jason gets from a local source – which was beautifully moist and tender.
Next up with had Lamb Rump, again it was locally sourced and was beautifully cooked. With a rump like this, it has to be tender and medium rare to pull it off and Jason did this expertly.
Then the final lovely thing (which my camera refused to capture properly) was a Soft poached rhubarb and lemon curd Eton mess which was, as the rest of the meal was, absolutely delicious.
In lieu of a photo of my dessert this is Lauren’s. A gorgeous Dark chocolate delice with a salted caramel sauce and honeycomb. I felt a pang of dessert envy when I saw this come out.
The food was a great improvement – it is refreshing to experience the passion of a chef who has been given the reigns to create a remarkable casual dining experience. And I severely hope that readers come and support Jason and his fantastic menus.
Young’s Brewery are firm believers of autonomy as each pub is very different, and that individuality is emphasised in the way the pubs are run. Diners can experience different menus presented in different ways, as chains go they are not bad at all.
But now the great journey starts for this pub, convincing visitors and locals alike that The City Gate Hotel has turned over a new leaf. I think they have and I would urge you to come down and give it a try.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Tempura Monkfish Cheeks, Mango, Chilli & Avocado, Harissa Sauce – a meaty yet light starter in an even lighter crispy batter!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Grosvenor Hotel, Belgrave Road, Torquay, TQ2 5HG
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!
After last week’s announcement that two Michelin starred chef John Burton-Race is to join Richardson’s Grosvenor Hotel, it has been revealed that the hotel is looking for a handful of new chefs to add to the team for the restaurant re-launch.
John has said today, ‘I’m looking for the very best talent Devon has to offer. I want chefs who are talented, motivated and eager to learn.’ At present, Burton-Race is working behind the scenes, designing the kitchen and creating new menus for the venture, which has been scheduled to open February 14th 2017.
With key positions at all levels up for grabs, it is the perfect moment for ambitious chefs to make their move! Burton-Race, who trained in a number of London’s best restaurants, is now looking to pass on his skills and knowledge.
‘I want to work with real talent, people who love food, who have fresh ideas and innovative techniques,’ John has said. With applications already being received from across the Devon area, we are keen to see as much talent as possible.
Applications for all levels of skill from Head Chef, Sous Chef, Pastry Chef and Chef de Partie are still being encouraged, and interested applicants are invited to email firstname.lastname@example.org, with an up-to-date CV, a covering letter, and any images applicants may have which demonstrates their suitability for the role.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Open Tuesday to Saturday 12pm – 2:30pm and 6pm – late. (Food serve 12 -2 and 6 – 9:30pm). Express lunch 2 courses for £10.95
Circa 1924 is 1 years old – Happy Birthday! A great achievement for a bar and restaurant run by two young friends Rob and James. It is city centre but slightly back from the high street which affords it a great location but with a slight air of secrecy and exclusivity to it and on a quiet street. I have enjoyed post-dinner cocktails before and Chris (head honcho here at EE) tried their pop-up lunches (Circa 1924 presents Skandel@Circa1924 ) earlier this year with much delight.
So when Rob invited us to try their current express lunch offering, I jumped at the chance to experience their food for myself. Working in Exeter city centre, the choices are quite endless, if not, a little overwhelming. Express lunch appeals to me as, like anyone with a 45 minute lunch, it’s nice to know you can eat restaurant food without worrying constantly about the time and actually enjoy the experience.
The concept of the express lunch is simple, honest, tasty and local food served in good time. The menu changes every few days or even daily depending on what their local suppliers have available, dictated slightly by seasonality too. The menu is handwritten, it is that freshly put together and can change at the swipe of their pen. I started off by choosing a drink that was under the cocktail section, but clearly non alcoholic – so I assumed it would be something a bit different, and I was right. Temperance Cloudy Lemonade (£5), which would not be my top choice, but I was intrigued by the flavours of lemon, vanilla sugar syrup, and dill. I was presented with a lovely large icy glass of cool, sweet and slightly sharp lemon heaven, a great drink do go with lunch.
Priced at £10.95 for two courses, this seems extremely reasonable and almost too good to be true. The small menu read well, with fish, vegetarian and meat options. I have said before, I am terrible at choosing. So even on a starter menu of 3 items, I couldn’t decide between two – so I was pleased to be allowed both, for research purposes of course!
I chose the Heritage Tomato and Mozzarella Salad and the Venison Carpaccio. Both were presented beautifully. The salad had very tasty tomato slices, a lovely and generous pesto drizzle, a light textured mozzarella and some really tasty crunchy bread for texture. With lemon balm micro herbs this just gave it another interesting angle – it was delightful. My second starter came with the same tasty bread, layered slices of venison, again generously drizzled with dijon mustard sauce and atop with cornichons (small pickled gherkins for those who don’t know). The meat was so incredibly soft, the dressing was slightly creamy, and the vinegar of the cornichons cut through perfectly – another wonderful little dish.
Now for my main of Fillet Mignon with Skin on Fries and Garlic Butter (£2 extra supplement). Now…I am not particularly keen on set price menus having an upgrade price for an item, but I have to say, even at £12.95 for one of the starters and then this main would be totally worthit. I imagined thin slivers of meat with maybe half a dozen stacked chips, but what I got was so much better. 3 beautiful well proportioned pieces of fillet, cooked to perfection; the meat was cooked medium and was so succulent and tender, accompanied by plenty of thick well seasoned skin on fries and with a blob of fabulously garlicky butter which just pulled it all together. I felt as if I was on the continent. I absolutely loved this dish, it was a triumph. I almost wanted to tell some customers that had just walked in that they must choose it. All served on a hot plate; a simple touch yet often overlooked in some establishments and I am not sure my photo does it justice.
I would say this was one of the nicest lunches I have had in a long time – just spot on, delicious and unfussy food that tasted so good and at a price that you can barely get a main dish for in Exeter. Even with me eating an extra item or two, I was in and out within 40 minutes. Of course, if you’re not in a hurry, then relax and stay awhile.
There are 3 tables in the bar area, another half dozen or so a bit further on in their ground floor area and then 3 tables out the front if you wish to dine al fresco. A great wine menu, an excellent beer, ale and stout menu and of course, their excellent cocktail list too. If you’re circumnavigating town for the best lunch your money can buy, whilst wanting to support an independent, head to Circa1924!
I was recently invited to a bloggers evening at Base and Barley following the release of their new burger menu. I have seen all manner of burger puns being shared over Twitter recently: “Does my bun look big in this?” and “lets ketchup over dinner then burger off for a dance at the meatball”…let’s move on before this get’s too cheesy!
Having visited previously when they first opened and tried their pizza offering, I can understand why they may want to expand the menu slightly to appeal even more to their target audience. There are already plenty of burger options in the city, but none of them offer pizza too, so I guess this would happily satisfy a family or group of mixed tastes.
On arrival we were offered a variety of beers, prosecco and cocktails to try. Whilst I am already a fan of prosecco (no convincing needed there!) Steve tried some of the beers; their selection has expanded which now includes one of their own local brews on tap. As well as beers on tap, they have bottled beers from the UK and beyond. Steve tried Curious Brew which is a premium lager, re-fermented with Champagne yeast which definitely had that light flavour and fizz at the end of each mouthful. He also loved the Einstock Icelandic White Ale which features the complex flavours of the classic witbier, including orange peel and coriander – all brewed with pure Icelandic water.
The cocktails served included my favourite Espresso Martini, and one I haven’t tried before called a Pornstar Martini – a passionfruit based martini served with a shot of prosecco on the side! The cocktail is very sweet so the shot is there to cleanse the palate as you go, it looked very pretty.
The burgers then followed; we were served a selection of everything, served exactly as it would be for the diner, with a mixture of normal and sweet potato fries on the side. First of all, and everyone agreed with a variety of sounds as we politely nibbled fries before delving into the burgers, the sweet potato fries were excellent! They were thicker than you would normally find and were not oily or limp as I have experienced before – they were delicious! Another obvious agreement was how nice the brioche buns were, very light and fluffy.
The homemade burgers include fresh (purple) house slaw and skin on fries and we tried the Vegetarian burger (£9.95), Chicken burger (£10.95) and the Fully Loaded burger (£10.95). This seems a fair price considering other local venues charge similar but with fries costing extra.
The Vegetarian consists of a chickpea, sweetcorn, coriander and paprika patty served with batavia lettuce, red onion, tomato and smoked garlic chutney and mayonnaise in a brioche bun. It was very tasty and a soft texture. It was quite squishy (for want of a better word) but this was clearly homemade.
The Fully loaded consisted of homemade beef pattie blended with sweet roquito peppers (slightly hot) served with crispy bacon, emmental cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomato, red onion and house sauce in a brioche bun. It was a very tasty, juicy burger with a good texture and the meat is purchased from a local butcher. I also really enjoyed the house sauce which you could clearly taste.
The Chicken burger was a piri piri chicken breast, tomato, red onion, batavia lettuce and cooling mint and cucumber yoghurt in a brioche bun. Another delicious option, with a meaty chicken breast and well topped.
Base and Barley’s surroundings are relaxing with light wooded booths in the restaurant area decorated with fairy lights, and a bar area of high stools and tall tables. They welcome all guests, especially families, and kids eat for £1!
All in all, we were pleased to ‘meat’ the new additions to Base and Barley’s menu and suggest you give them a try. If you feel like reading some ‘cheesy’ burger puns, find the action on Twitter by searching for #burgerpun. Now ‘burger’ off to Base and Barley and you’ll be sure of love at first bite!
Boston Tea Party – 84 Queen Street, Exeter, EX4 3RP, Tel: 01392 201181
Free wifi, open Mon – Sat 7am til 7pm and Sun 8am til 6pm.
Boston Tea Party have 18 cafes from as high as Birmingham all the way down to Barnstaple, with a 19th cafe about to open in Bristol (making the total 6 in and around the city!). I must admit, I haven’t been to a BTP in a few years, since the Salisbury branch we tried when it opened over 4 years ago when I lived there – we weren’t particularly blown away based on the existing offering in the city. I note on their website that 80% of their suppliers are based in the South West and that their eggs and meat are all free range – so this is a good start to reignite my interest.
BTP is based in another prominent building I pass most days, and my particular thoughts have been ‘oh it’s seems a bit small’. I can’t tell you how wrong I was – this is a true example of ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’!
The buildng was originally purpose built as a post office but was only used for this for around 7 years; Exeter’s Boston Tea Party has been in the building since 1998! The ground floor area has 2 small tables along with window seats where you can watch the world go by, along with a few tables out the front. It also houses the takeaway fridge with yummy sandwiches and cold drinks as well as the counter and main hub where it all happens.
This level is very deceiving as I was blown away by the contrast of upstairs which is bright and open, with high ceilings and plenty of tables and could be compared to the tardis – it is even painted blue. The calm colours and lighting work well with the natural light that pours in. There are plenty of adjoining tables as well as separate ones to cope with any size group of people. Some sofa seats line the left side, below a noticeboard encouraging local paraphernalia, leading to a book corner with another sofa.
The fact this is really an upstairs cafe does prove an access problem for those who can’t tackle stairs. Unless you have help I don’t think you could take a pram up but that is the nature of the building and possibly a problem that can’t be fixed even if they wanted to. Once you have found your table after venturing upstairs, you have to go back downstairs to order, remembering your table number – perhaps this is something that needs to be re-thought as, if you were on your own, this would pose the possibility of losing your table unless you left your belongings behind to claim it and similarly if you had a child with you it would be a big inconvenience.
So as I browsed the menu, I was pleased to have been invited into the old post office to see what BTP has done to put their ‘stamp’ on the coffee/tea/cafe market – the menu has been consistent over time but recently some toasted sandwiches and raw veg smoothie drinks have been added to expand their offering. An additional leaflet attached to the menu told me to ‘Cut the Crappe’…the cheeky yet clever title referred to some new drinks using avocado instead of frappe powder (a mix of unnatural ingredients, high in sugar used to give the smooth texture used by most competitors in their frappes). It is full of vitamins and potassium and they use maple syrup for sweetness. I instantly decided on the mocha crappe and it was delicious. Not full of ice which tends to dilute it; it was fluffy, creamy and even malty- that could be the coffee flavour. I would definitly have it again.
For research purposes I also tried ‘The Red One’ from the new raw veg smoothies – a drink containing beetroot, carrot, apple, cucumber, orange juice, ginger, mint and parsley (£3.35). A large vibrant maroon filled jar arrived equipped with straw – this is definitely not my sort of drink normally but I must say that all the flavours blended well together and with each sip you could still identify the different elements but without anything being overpowering. There were lots of bits in it, so either more blitzing needed or a bigger straw in order to avoid blockages! There is the option of ‘The Green One’ – I’ll let you find out what that is yourself…
I must say there was plenty to tempt me on their large menu, which consisted of breakfast, brunch, lighter options, mains, toasted sandwiches and salads. All items are served all day so you are not tied to turn up at a certain time to get your favourite. I was very impressed by the tea options (if that’s what you’re into) – I dont think I have ever seen such choice. I counted 25 vegetarian options and 4 vegan items, clearly marked and there is almond and soya milk available for hot drinks too. There is also gluten free bread, which is made especially for them in Bristol. This isn’t something I have to worry about but it’s great that it is obvious and those who are concerned don’t need to feel they have to ask as it’s clear to see. Normally a large menu spells frozen items, and not fresh but I can see that a lot of the ingredients are used in different combinations in various meals across the menu – this instills confidence in a clever use of stock/ingredients and minimising waste – it allows them to offer more when in fact they use less and therefore can use fresh.
The brunch options that stood out for me included Chorizo Hash (£7.75), my favourite Eggs Benedict (£6.75) and then the Sourdough Eggy Bread, Smoked Bacon and Avocado (£7.50). I chose the latter as it sounded very different and right up my street. Delicious oven roasted vine tomatoes sat atop a generous fan of avocado, kept company by lovely smokey bacon all sitting on top of some lovely soft eggy bread. The assumption that you would use the tobasco they provide as part of the meal is a good one, as a few drops here and there really livens this up – I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I also chose the Chipotle Chicken and Parmesan Toasted Sandwich and went with the half option (£3.50) – it was a good lunch portion and with very nice quality bread. The salad had a vibrant zingy dressing, the sandwich contained tasty chiquito peppers and good chunks of chicken. The parmesan was subtle and the chipotle was just enough in the background to lift it in flavour with a hint of heat but nothing too spicy.
The room was fairly well filled with around 50 – 60 people, and I noted one or two people querying the delivery of their lunch – I too waited maybe 20 mins for my food. What I will say is, that although they call themselves a cafe, this is not another coffee chain with just sandwiches in the fridge and you get served your toasted takeway swiftly – it is in fact a cafe-come-restaurant. So appreciate that you are getting a good meal, well cooked and this takes time as it is not fast food. I really enjoyed my visit to this tardis and I will absolutely return to investigate the rest of the brunch menu…whether or not that is actually at brunch time, lunch time or early dinner is up for discussion – but no pressure, they serve it all, all day.
I don’t get out much. For someone that writes a food blog, you’d think that I spend my days frequenting fine restaurants and hob-nobbing with the fooderati of Devon, but unfortunately I pay my bills, not via writing, but through a standard job that pays wages. It has nothing to do with food and given I dwell under the umbrella of education means that days off where I can go and have a breakfast or a lunch is a complete treat. With a couple of days off for half term, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to sample the newest breakfast offering in Exeter from one of cities most established restaurants.
The menu is a classic affair produced using the same excellent ethos that makes this restaurant one of my favourites. Fancy something small? Bacon Roll. Fancy something light? Avacodo Smash. Fancy something epic to keep you going for the rest of the day? The Works (£9.50). And being the greedy sod that I am, it was an inevitable choice.
Meat is sourced from Heal Farm at South Molton. The sausage was a wondrous cylinder of meat that kept its shape, it really stood out for me as a highlight; along with the thick cut bacon too. The beans are neatly kept in a ramekin, not spoiling the rest of the food which baked beans have a tendency of doing. I like baked beans, but often the tomato sauce spills everywhere and overpowers anything that it comes in to contact with. Baked beans need control and discipline, and Harry’s have control of their baked beans.
There is flexibility. If you don’t like something you can order it without, swap it and exchange it. And you get a choice about how you have your eggs too. Tori doesn’t like Black Pudding, I’m always game for something different so she was able to hold back the Black Pudding and have her eggs flipped. The eggs came exactly how we asked for them, everything was cooked wonderfully. Faultless.
The fact that Harry’s Restaurant has started doing breakfasts doesn’t take away from the core of the business, that being producing amazing food to a carefully composed menu. They are unpretentious, friendly, flexible and I will definitely be back soon to have more.
When it opened two years ago, The Cosy Club really changed the playing field for chain restaurants in Exeter. It was a new, quirky and it did some amazing cocktails. You can read the original review here, its a little old so it is in need of an update.
Entering through what had been the chapel entrance of the old hospital, you are presented with one of more unique bar designs in Exeter. Lofty ceilings with walls adorned with large pictures, the bar area is filled with natural light during the day and fends off any feeling of claustrophobia during the busiest evenings.
Through to the dining area, the clusters of lampshades and the reclaimed lights from the hangar that housed Concorde, cast a yellowy glow across the tables. Two painting that stuck in my mind was the full length portrait of Lenin and another called Lenin’s Plans for Electrification by L. Shmatko, which dominate the walls they sit on. There is also a bookable room called The Snug which I wasn’t able to visit, but I will save this for another day. The interior is a fantastic cavalcade of stuff, it is interesting without being cluttered. Varied, yet sticking to distinct style and variety.
Fun fact – The bits of furniture that are emblazoned on the front of the cocktail bar were original pieces of furniture from the original hospital, of which The Cosy Club occupies of the ground floor of one wing.
When we visited last year, the food was safe yet imaginative – classic British cuisine with a bit of a spin, some friendly service and the sort of thing you expect from what I class ‘mid-casual dining’. You won’t get chucked out for wearing trainers, but the prices and standard/quality of food surpass your average ‘pay-at-the-bar’ kind of establishment.
I didn’t give it a rating at the time as I was part of a large party and this isn’t really fair given the fact that I tend to rate places on there being two people. But had I rated it, it would have been a solid 4/5 and under out new rating system I would recommend this restaurant as a place for a meal out in Exeter. They coped with our large party really well last time.
I like the atmosphere and everyone is friendly, the staff are always eager to please and the food has always been very good. Last week, we were invited over to have a look at their new summer menu.
We were served by Dan, who had this amazing Death Head Moth tatoo on his arm. He was friendly and attentive, he chatted to us about the food and the interior decor (which has to be one of the best interiors for a restaurant in Exeter!), everyone made us feel quite at home throughout our visit. We latched on to the English Garden cocktails that had been recommended to us by multiple friends and relatives, and I could genuinely see why!
Given we had already had a lot of food over the course of the day, we were not massively hungry, so we shared a starter. We kicked off with Asparagus wrapped in Serrano Ham with a poached egg (£6.50) a beautifully cooked bed of asparagus with a strong ham and egg combination was lovely. This is a new addition to their menu, so I was keen to try this given I love ham & egg as a combination.
In comms before out visit with Ed, one of the managers at The Cosy Club, he recommended the Seared Yellowfin Tuna Steak (£14.95). I’m always up for taking recommendations, so I was quite determined to go for this. Tori went for the Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Triple Fried Chips.
The Tuna was very nice, seared and bedded on a bed of aloo gobi, onion bhaji and mint & cucumber raita on top. It was seared well (its easy to overdo a seared fish steak) and the aloo gobi had a good spice to the flavour which went really well with the tuna. It wasn’t spicy, but had a gentle heat which was complimented by the raita.
Tori’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken (£9.95) was a damn good dish, the triple fried fries were of an epic size but the coating of the chicken was very spicy.
OK OK, this is a Deep South traditional fried chicken recipe and scooting around the internet, if you want to make it yourself then it does have cayenne and paprika in varying quantities.
I fed this back to the manager (lovely lady called Sarah) that this wasn’t evident from the menu. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as we are both spice lovers, but had we been averse to spicy food, it would have been an issue (the title Buttermilk Fried Chicken led us to believe it wasn’t going to be spicy, although it was served chipotle sauce which could denote that it might be hot one…??)
Regardless I would have this dish the next time we go, as despite the heat, was a really well fried piece of chicken, and for a tenner it was excellent value. It was moist and had a good flavour to it, which suprised me as so often chicken is normally dry when eating out – Too many bad experiences at Wetherspoons methinks…
The desserts looked appealing enough to ignore the fact we were already full. Out came a Salted Caramel Cheesecake (£5.50) with sweet and salty popcorn and for Tori a Sorbet made up of orange, mango and blackcurrant (£3.95). The cheesecake was more creamy and mousse-like, this was nice a light and it didn’t feel like I was stuffing myself silly. Tori’s sorbet was fruity and refreshing. It was a perfect end to a really enjoyable meal.
The Cosy Club has cemented itself in the dining scene in Exeter. It has a vegan and gluten free menu as well, and commendation to those behind the menus as this is such a rarity.
I would recommend The Cosy Club as a place to eat in Exeter. Its a great place for romantic meals, family celebrations, cocktails and definitely somewhere a bit special.