Ex Royal Clarence chef heads up restaurant at new luxury Devon hotel

BRAND new Devon luxury hotel and events venue Paschoe House has appointed Alex Gibbs as Executive Head Chef.

The stunning 10-bedroom manor house on the edge of Crediton throws open its doors to the public for the first time in its 800 year history this month.

And Tabitha Amador-Christie, Owner of Paschoe House, believes her new chef will play a vital role in the hotel’s success.

Alex Gibbs and Tabitha Amador Christie. Picture credit Neil Gratton Photography
Alex Gibbs & Tabitha Amador-Christie; Image Copyright of Neil Gratton Photography

She says: ‘Alex has an excellent reputation. I am excited about his creativity in the kitchen and can’t wait to see what delights he and his team produce from our brand new kitchen at Paschoe House.

’Alex previously held the position of Executive Head Chef at The Royal Clarence in Exeter. He sadly lost his job when the world famous hotel and restaurant burned down in October 2016.

‘All the staff from The Royal Clarence, many of whom had worked together for years and years, became unemployed overnight. It was soul-destroying, not to mention incredibly sad, to watch the venue that we’d loved, burn to the ground,’ says Alex.

But every cloud has a silver lining, and it was a supplier whom Alex had known for a number of years, who suggested that he contact the owners of Paschoe House, a brand new restaurant, hotel and events venue near Crediton who were looking to serve beautifully cooked, locally sourced food from their country house base.

He adds: ‘As soon as I heard about Paschoe House, I realised that this was exactly where I wanted to be. I fired off my CV and met the owner that same week. We open shortly, and I’m currently busy setting up the kitchen and creating our menu.’

So, what is it about Paschoe House that makes it such an appealing prospect for a chef such as Alex?

Alex Gibbs at Paschoe House. Picture credit Neil Gratton Photography
Image Copyright of Neil Gratton Photography

‘At the moment we’re busy planting up our kitchen garden, so it’s wonderful to be part of something from the very beginning. I have the opportunity to create the sort of menu that will make the food at Paschoe House stand out from its competitors, and that is very exciting indeed.’

Tabitha adds: ‘As soon as I heard from Alex, I knew that I’d be a fool not to appoint him as our new head chef. The food at The Royal Clarence had such an excellent reputation, so I knew that we’d be in safe hands.’

For more information about Paschoe House visit the website at www.paschoehouse.co.uk

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La Petite Bouchee – by Lauren Heath

*Header image courtesy of Nick Hook Photography

Bonjour mes amis, bienvenue a La Petite Bouchee! Hello my friends and welcome to La Petite Bouchee! La Petite Bouchee you say, what does that mean? Well translation equals The Small Bite but small bites we did not have. In fact this hearty English venture with a full on French twist fed us good and proper.

What once started out in London as this 4 seater bijou mobile dining room in a beautiful Citroen HY van with maximum tantalising turquoise, parked up in various public areas has now moved to the village of Witheridge, Devon and found a beautiful old butchery building for its owners to live in. So now, not only do you get to enjoy a boutique banquet in the van, they can host 20 more diners inside their pop up restaurant too.

Said owners are Anita-Clare and Caroline; Anita-Clare enjoyed childhood adventures in France and this is where her passion lies.

A lucky bunch of us food bloggers/influencers/very hungry people got to escape to the old butchery one very drizzly Friday evening and see what was on offer.

A charming trail of twinkling lights guided us to the door, and we were greeted by very welcoming front of house team who made us feel right at home, whilst Anita was hard a work behind the scenes.

So on to the cuisine! We were going to be trying a mix of items on this occasion so we could get a good feel of their food offering.

We started of with moules gratinees, ham hock terrine with pickles, smoked goats cheese and tapenade tartine. The mussels were covered in sandy like breadcrumb topping and were delicious. The ham hock was well cooked, tender and full of fresh flavours thanks to the herbage.

For mains we were treated to Cote de boeuf, salade nicoise, vegetable cassoulet and confit duck leg with lentils. The beef was melt in the mouth and so tasty, and the duck and lentils were delicious with the creamy lentils working well with the gamey meat.

We also enjoyed amuse bouche of gazpacho provencal and roasted red pepper soup with fines herbes oil, dessert of tarte au framboise and creme fraiche served with apple and calvado sorbet and then followed by a delightful regional cheeseboard which included fromage fort – made by mixing different cubes of cheese with white wine, garlic and herbs. The tart was delicious with an incredibly fresh full on apple punch, and the fromage fort was a revelation of its own!

Thanks to the casual, personable and well humoured serving staff, you really are made to feel welcome. We had a chat with Anita after dinner, and she was incredibly passionate and charming with a great sense of humour and this definitely translates into her food.

We thoroughly enjoyed our evening, so for a different type of night out, do give them a try! If you are travelling far and want to make a night of it, they have already made friends with the local accommodation so they can recommend a boudoir for the night too.

Cheers to you Anita-Clare and Caroline! Wishing your pop-up and turquoise 4 wheels a jolly adventure here in Devon. Au Revoir et Bonne Chance!

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Open Fridays and Saturdays for bookings only; visit them on their Website, Facebook, or Email them hello@lapetiteboucheebrasserie.co.uk – they are already proving very popular!

La Petite Bouchee, Witheridge, EX16 8AE   –   Tel: 01884 860654  –   Mob: 07738 703450

 

 

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

Polpo Exeter opening event by Chris Gower

18 Higher Market Guildhall, Queen Street, Exeter – T: @polpo

I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Polpo now for, well… months.  We were sad to hear that Grillstock were going to abandon plans to visit Exeter but we knew that in its place would be something exciting.  There was the usual speculation from foodies and news outlets, but to hear that we were getting famed Venetian cuisine restaurant Polpo was a massive plus for foodies in Exeter.  Co-founded and steered by the charismatic writer and restaurateur Russell Norman, we grabbed 10 Questions with Russell soon after it was announced.

If you’ve never heard of Russell before then you might have seen him on telly as The Restaurant Man a few years ago.  If this is still not ringing any bells, take a look at this video.

The Founder. Russell Norman / Polpo restaurant from The Founder on Vimeo.

He is currently writing another book about Venice, having just returned from a 10 day stint.  Polpo even take their staff to Venice to experience the Venetian way of life so they can themselves share that passion with their customers.

Their latest restaurant is Exeter which is now open for business.  We were invited along to sample what makes Polpo special.

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Polpo is the the result of a long love affair that Russell has with Venice and its culture. He is an apostle for the Venetian way of eating and drinking, and a font of knowledge about the subject too.   Just chatting to him casually in the restaurant made us realise that he was passionate about Polpo, the brand, the ethos and its mission to keep things cheap and simple.

Russell was the first person we saw on the door.  I turned to Tori and said in not-so-hushed amazement, “That’s the founder, Russell Norman!” My powers of discretion are terrible.

Taken to our seats by a friendly waitress we were in one of the booth seats by the kitchen, a perfect place to see how the kitchen worked and watch service at work.

The interior of Polpo was as I thought it would be, a well thought out collection of reclaimed features including the floor that was salvaged from an old hospital from The North. Hidden for decades under a modern floor, this addition to the restaurant is one of particular pride, so whatever you do, don’t drop your food on it!   The tiles, fittings and decor gave a feeling of faded elegance, but in such a way that it was clean and well thought out.

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The menu is a simple, cheap and elegant.  There is the option to have a more substantial meal if you wish, or you can nibble on Cichetti, which is a little like Venetian tapas. Venetians often like to partake in a giro d’ombra which is essentially like a pub crawl with lots of little bits of food.

I was lucky enough to sit down with Russell for a mini-interview for the upcoming Eating Exeter podcast (launching soon!) he was absolultely brilliant to talk to, one of the things mentioned was the signature Fritto Misto and Red Chicory which I just had to go for. Both fabulous.

Lauren and Steve had Pizza with Cured Pork Shoulder & Pickled Pepper (jalapeño).  We were introduced to the concept of Braised Cod cheeks with lentils and the brave ones amongst us had Marinated Baby Octopuses… I didn’t because frankly, I am a wuss sometimes.

We were all treated to an Elderflower Martini which was more lime but had a back taste of elderflower which was punchy and refreshing.

There is a lot to say about Polpo.  Tonight was just a taster of what you can expect from this trendy Venetian restaurant.  We loved it.

Be one of the first to experience Lympstone Manor, Devon with 40% discount

Lympstone Manor, the most eagerly awaited hotel launch in 2017, is offering the limited opportunity to experience the hotel and restaurant at 40% off during its soft opening period from the 20th March to the 2nd April.

This soft opening will set the stage for Lympstone Manor’s grand opening, which follows on Monday 3rd April, and promises to be an outstanding showcase of the hotel.

Michael Caines MBE, Chef Patron and one of the UK’s most acclaimed chefs, has spent the past two years personally overseeing the complete transformation of the Georgian grade II listed mansion overlooking the Exe estuary into a luxury country house hotel and restaurant.

Dining at Lympstone Manor will be an exceptional experience in every sense. Michael will express his vision of modern British cuisine that is fresh, seasonal, original and exciting. Utilising the bounty of the Exe estuary, East Devon and the South West, his cuisine will be matched by wines selected from a world class cellar that contains over 600 bins.

Guests can choose from seven distinctive room categories including estuary suites, garden suites and standard guest rooms – all of which are designed in hues to mirror the surrounding estuary.

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The soft launch period will allow a limited number of guests to experience the hotel at 40% discount (room and food menus). This will enable those fortunate to get a booking (hotel as well as non-residential dining) to enjoy the Lympstone Manor experience, while allowing the team to train under the experienced senior management team.

To be one of the first to experience Lympstone Manor, call their reservations team on 01395 202040 or email reservations@lympstonemanor.co.uk.

*The Lympstone Manor soft launch offer*

Lympstone Manor are offering guests 40% off rooms as well as the food bill at lunch and dinner for residents and non-residents. Food offer is for the food bill only excluding drinks. Offer runs from 20 March – 2 April 2017 inclusive.

The First Bierkellar Exeter Party

The moment everyone in Exeter has been waiting for, the highly anticipated BierKeller is now open and the pre-launch party well and truly set the pace! The invite-only event saw hundreds of Exeter locals come together for an exclusive first look at Exeter’s first Bavarian bar.

The drinks were flowing and the resident Oompah band, the Bavarian Strollers helped to create a fun-filled atmosphere.

The band entertained the crowd, encouraging revellers to take their dancing up on to the thick wooden tables and dishing out free drinks to those willing to get involved! As well as traditional Bavarian music, the band played plenty of modern tunes with a little twist.

The BierKeller team were dressed for the occasion, clad in traditional Lederhosen but it wasn’t just them; a few enthusiastic party people donned the Apres ski wear and lederhosen in pursuit of the promised half priced steins.

BierKeller is all about having fun and if the pre-launch party is anything to go by, that’s exactly what it will be.

 

Ruby Kitchen at The Grapevine Brewhouse, Exmouth

For burger fans in Exeter, we lost one of the best Burger joints in Exeter as Ruby Modern Diner closed the doors on its Queen St restaurant. But the saving grace to the story was that it wasn’t the end, in fact it was just the beginning of a new chapter in the story of Ruby Burgers.

2 Victoria Rd, Exmouth EX8 1DL – @TheGrapevineExm @RUBYBURGERS

www.rubyburgers.com

www.thegrapevineexmouth.com

For burger fans in Exeter, we lost one of the best Burger joints in Exeter as Ruby Modern Diner closed the doors on its Queen St restaurant.  But the saving grace to the story was that it wasn’t the end, in fact it was just the beginning of a new chapter in the story of Ruby Burgers.

We were lucky enough to be invited over to visit The Grapevine Brewhouse in Exmouth to welcome in their new kitchen-in-residence.

Whilst in Queen Street they won Taste Of The West Gold for three years running along with a host of other awards.  So what made Dicky and Erin Harrison want to move operations to Exmouth?

Erin Harrison, co-owner – “The opportunity for a kitchen residence came up at the Grapevine and was too good to miss! Its a fantastic pub and Exmouth has a great vibe and plenty of independent restaurants and bars, we thought Ruby would be a great fit. Also we were unsure of the impact of the Guildhall and other new developments in the centre of Exeter and felt that Exmouth would be a better home for us.”

For Burgerlad (one of the UK’s foremost burger bloggers) Ruby Modern Diner had been recommended to him countless times on Twitter and when he visited them in Queen Street it lived up to his expectations.  Every time we visited we were always full and very happy with every visit.

The Grapevine Brewhouse is a fantastic independent establishment owned by Oliver and Demelza Bainbridge.  It is also home to Ollie’s brewing operations named Crossed Anchors, which brews its product on-site. The perfect combination – local beer and local burgers, and throw in some regular live music events along with a vast selection of guest ales and continental beers, and you have a winning combination.

Erin says “The pub hosts great bands every week and is really busy and buzzy and of course I have to say the BEER! Crossed Anchors is the on site brewery and they are creating some awesome craft beer and ales. Ollie also stocks a huge range of international beers – so there is something for everyone and of course their beer is the perfect match for our burgers”

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With the wood paneled walls, shelves adorned with decorative paraphernalia there is a cosiness to this pub that invites you in from the cold.  The warmth of lamps and the low lighting makes this an inviting sight on a cold winter night and on the food tables are the all too familiar mustard and ketchup. Just like it was in Exeter.

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Ruby have changed their menu to adapt to their new home.  All Burgers come with fries, home-made ‘slaw and a pickle.  Before these were items that you could add separately and the prices reflect this change, but the classic names are still on the menu.

The Bad Man, Piggy, Blue, Scorchio are all names I’ve missed! But here they are, as good as they were and back in my life.  Luckily for Ruby, the two Head Chefs who steered the boat in Exeter (excuse the pun) are still at the healm! Erin added “We’re lucky and proud to say our two head chefs from Exeter, Rob and Mark made the move with us and are really happy in their new home. they’ve worked really hard to bring Ruby to the Grapevine and we think our burgers are better than ever.”

Ruby are still using  local suppliers and their local ethos is still at the heart of what they do. Roger The Farmer from Copplestone provides their beef, Exploding Bakery in Exeter provides brownies, Darts Fresh provides veg, Hawkridge from Crediton still provides cheeses etc.

It is a testament to a restaurant when you get chatting to a regular who sing the praises of the pub and Ruby Burgers.  As I was taking photos I got in to a bit of banter with some gentlemen sat by the iconic Ruby Burgers hatch who praised the consistency and quality of the food.

Our burgers for tonight would be the Blue 7oz beef patty, chestnut mushrooms, caramelised onions and Devon Blue cheese (£12.50) and the Piggy 7oz beef patty, home smoked pulled pork, smoked Applewood cheddar, smoked streaky bacon, Ruby sauce (£13.50).

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My Blue Burger was a delight to eat.  Chestnut mushrooms and the tang of the blue cheese made the burger feel more steak-like; it contrasted well with the sweetness of the caramelised onions.  The fries were, naturally, fresh and hot and it was presented on that iconic Ruby logo paper.  The bun was intact throughout the meal and not a soggy bottom in sight.

Tori’s was Piggy was quite a burger to behold as it was packed generously with pulled pork and bacon – it was brimming!  So much that half way through taking photos, it lurched to the side and suffered from the burger-topple effect.

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But this was no barrier to the taste.  It was a charming and delightful burger with a sweet smokiness throughout.  The home smoked pulled pork was a winning combination with the tasteful Devon Ruby beef.

The beer at The Grapevine Brewhouse is extensive in choice.  One of the region’s best selections of international beers coupled with their own delectable in-house brewed beers and ales make it an absolute mecca for local beer lovers.  As we sipped our pint of C.S.H (stands for Cascading Smash Hopburst) which was a spritely hoppy blonde ale at 3.8%ABV, I imagined afternoons cycling down to Exmouth and having a few pints and a burger at The Grapevine before hopping back on a train feeling slightly merry and full.

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There is something quite epic about the combination of a beautifully crafted local beer and a burger made from ingredients from this wonderful county.  And although we’ve lost a fantastic Exeter name on our restaurant scene, we have given it to Exmouth and they love it.

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Ruby Burgers has been open since October and in that short space of time it feels like they’ve imprinted themselves in to the fabric of the town; the partnership between The Grapevine Brewhouse and Ruby Kitchen seems so natural.  Not just because beer and burgers go so well together, but because here are two businesses that are already doing great things

Kupp, Queen St. – The Bottomless Brunch by Chris Gower

Kupp has taken on the dubious mantle of being ‘one of my favourite places’ in the Queen St Dining quarter.  As a food blogger in Exeter I feel it is wrong to have favourites as one must be objective, but I am starting to realise that actually it is perfectly OK to have favourites.  I fell in love with KuPP after their launch evening, this is one of the more aesthetically pleasing restaurants currently in Exeter.  After being invited along to review their Bottomless Brunch offering, and after sampling this offering, I’m firmly in the fanclub!

KuPP is a fresh take on Scandi themed casual dining and with this interpretation comes a gorgeously designed restaurant and friendly staff.  The concept behind the restaurant is “to create a quality casual, all day, food & drink concept with a strong focus on speciality coffee that would be attractive in both the Scandinavian & UK markets” (http://www.kupp.co/about/).

The coffee is Bristol roasted by Extract and you can pop in and pick up a coffee to-go with one of their lovely pastries as a perfect accompaniment.  As prices go, it would be ‘mid-range’; it isn’t dirt cheap but  you get the entire KuPP experience including really friendly staff.

We’ve now visited a few times to have coffee and work.  The WiFi is reliable and the seats are comfy.  If you want to just visit for coffee or a more substantial meal then you are able to do whatever you wish. It is one of those rare places which transcends just being a restaurant, but can multi-task as a stylish cafe as well.

One of their current offerings is their Bottomless Brunch deals which is currently only offered in Exeter.  For £30pp you have 90 minutes to eat and drink as much as you like, as many Pilsners and boards as you can stomach!

So what makes up The Bottomless Brunch?  The Bords available cater for many tastes.

“The KuPP. Bord
Our Special house smoked pork meatballs, potted rabbit, chorizo sausage roll, Västerbotten cheese, KuPP potato salad, pickled vegetables, sourdough & Leksands Knacker crispbread.

The Veggie. Bord
Wild mushroom & tarragon tart, oven baked quinoa, kale & butternut bites, chilli lemon & goats curd dip, smashed avocado & Dukkah, soft boiled egg, Danish Blue, roast beetroot & smoked red onions, Västerbotten cheese, pickled vegetables, Leksands Knacker crispbread & toasted sourdough. 

The Smokin’ Roast. Bord
Smoked fore rib of beef, chive buttered smoked onion, honey smoked beetroot, roasted new potatoes & butternut squash, lingonberry jam & red wine gravy.

Drinks
Bottomless Czech Pilsner Krusovice or a choice of two of KuPP’s signature cocktails ‘Aquavit Bloody Mary’ or ‘Scandi Collins’.”

Lauren and myself tried The KuPP Bord and The Smokin’ Roast Bord, and  The Fiske Bord with a couple of pints of Czech Pilsner.

The Kupp Board

This was packed with lots of pickled veg, peashoots and breads including Potted Rabbit which was a strange yet delightful taste.  I really liked the Chorizo Sausage Roll and the meatballs were smokey & dense.  Each forkful gave a complex range of flavours loaded with fresh ingredients and lots of savoury items, it was nibble-heaven.

The Smoked Meat Board

This was like a small roast dinner on one board.  There were sweetly roasted butternut squash, honey roasted beetroot and the most tender smoked meat.  Everything had this wonderful smokiness infused through it, especially the roast new potatoes.  Although pouring the gravy was interesting (it did tend to dribble off the side) it was definitely an enjoyable combination of flavours.

Lauren’s thoughts and The Fiske Board

I asked EE Assitant Editor Lauren to write a few words about her thoughts on KuPP.

“I find KuPP is not crowded, is nice spacing. I was impressed with the service on the VIP night, and same again this time.

I think it’s a great deal if you are hungry and can drink. Possibly less so with a small appetite. So a lot for 2 courses essentially. But I thought it was all absolutely delicious.

The Fiske Board was fantastic. I thought you had to choose a board and you would keep eating that one so I was pleased to be able to have them all. And unlike a buffet, you get served and you don’t have to leave your guests.

It’s all served warm and fresh; this food offering is different to other places in Exeter!”

At £30pp but the value is really good.  We managed to pack in two and a half boards each (each board is £25 for two normally) and two pints of Czech Pilsner (per pint normally it is nearly £5).  After the meal it was clear that the food would have cost much more had we wanted the same items at any other time.

The offer runs from Midday to 5PM each Sunday and you have 90 minutes to cram as much as you can.  Perfect for those who have a big appetite.

John Burton-Race is looking for Torquay’s new kitchen stars

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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 gm.grosvenor@richardsonhotels.co.uk, with an up-to-date CV, a covering letter, and any images applicants may have which demonstrates their suitability for the role.

For more information about the hotel, visit their website: http://www.grosvenorhoteltorquay.co.uk/

More information from Eating Exeter to follow in the coming weeks!

 

 

Comptoir Libanais is now open at Queen St. Dining, the region’s most exciting new food destination

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Exeter diners can now experience a taste of Lebanese cuisine and enjoy an exciting 50% off food*, as the fifth restaurant at Queen St. Dining opens its doors.

Comptoir Libanais is the latest restaurant to open its doors to Exeter diners, serving fresh, tasty, colourful and affordable authentic Lebanese food. Open for breakfast through to after work drinks and cocktails, platters for meetings can be delivered to your office and the menu is also available to take away.

The restaurant sits underneath The Terrace restaurant, in the new glass landmark building, overlooking the main square in Guildhall Shopping & Dining.

Tony Kitous founded the Lebanese restaurant in 2008. His vision was to put the glamour into Middle Eastern cuisine and provide diners with the opportunity to experience real, wholesome and healthy Lebanese food in a souk-like setting.

To celebrate the new opening, Comptoir Libanais is offering Exeter diners 50% of all food during its first week of service*.

Tony Kitous, founder of Comptoir Libanais, said: “I’m really excited to be opening a new branch of Comptoir Libanais in Exeter’s Queen St. Dining. We just love to share our home-style Lebanese food and our generous culture with everyone in the city. Since launching the first Comptoir Libanais back in 2008 the response we had from our guests was amazing. They really love and enjoy our fresh, healthy and affordable food and I can’t wait to share our generous food with the Exeter community. I really look forward to welcome our guests in our new Exeter home and celebrate our first opening in the South West.”

Queen St. Dining will feature an eclectic mix of exciting brands, the majority of which are new to the South West. In addition to Comptoir Libanais, the line-up features: Absurd Bird, GBK, Turtle Bay, KuPP, The Stable and The Terrace.

The £12m dining destination will also introduce welcoming open air spaces designed especially for food events, markets and entertainment.

Andrew McNeilly, Manager of Guildhall Shopping & Dining, said: “It gives me great pleasure to announce that the third restaurant to open at Queen St. Dining is Comptoir Libanais. This newest edition will bring a whole new dining experience to the heart of the city. Exeter residents can experience the healthy and wholesome food of the Middle East without having to travel far.”

Andrew continues: “Following the opening of Turtle Bay in August and GBK, Absurd Bird and The Terrace this month, Queen St. Dining is already proving very popular, with restaurants experiencing bookings way in advance. With the remaining restaurants following in October, we anticipate a greater influx of people keen to experience the region’s most exciting dining destination.”

For more information on Queen St. Dining, visit www.queenst-exeter.com

*Terms and Conditions

  • The 50% offer is valid between 4pm – 11.30pm from 4th – 7th October 2016
  • Diners can receive 50% off all food only, excludes drinks
  • Offer only available on food when dining in the restaurant and excludes take away
  • Offer will be applied to the bill automatically, no voucher needed
  • Not to be used in conjunction with any other offer

 

Gourmet Burger Kitchen – Press Night

Last week (or was it the week before last?) we were invited along to the opening of Gourmet Burger Kitchen, the second restaurant to open as part of The Queen St Dining Quarter.  With a lump in my throat for the recent loss of Ruby Burgers (loss for us but definite WIN for Exmouth!) this new kid on the burger block has reputation and heritage in the world of burgers – having been the first proper restaurant to serve Gourmet Burgers in the UK back in 2001 – it is certainly one of the largest burger chains in the UK.

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My love of burgers stretches back many years. I started a blog about them, I tend to choose the burger option in restaurants that we review and I love cooking them (with varying degrees of success), so the prospect of a GBK opening is Exeter has been an exciting one for me.  Given the reputation and the amount of positive feedback that I’ve received about other GBKs, I don’t seem to be the only one who is looking forward to its arrival.  EDIT: It’s arrived! Opened 12th September!

After my recent reviews in esteemed establishments such as The Salutation Inn and The Pig Hotel, it was nice to get down and dirty with a burger.

The stylish interior has clearly been thought about, and with the vast window looking out on to Queen Street it is the perfect recipe for people watching!

The range of burgers is impressive with upwards of 24 different varieties.  The burger meat is grass fed Aberdeen Angus from Laverstoke, so not locally local like Zita’s or Urban Burger.

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Tori went for ‘The Stack’ (£10.95) – Grilled chorizo, Red Leicester cheese, house onion ring, smoked chilli mayo, rocket, pickled onions, house relish and I went for The Mighty (£12.45) – Two 6oz patties, mature Cheddar, crispy bacon, garlic mayo, relish, dill pickle.  We went for a side of Truffle Cheese Fries £3.95 – chunky skin-on fries with truffle cheese sauce and grana padano.

The burgers were lovely, well cooked and as tasty as I had been led to believe by all of the positive comments I’d heard about GBK before.  The fries were nice, the truffle sauce was a little odd at first but a definite improvement on the traditional cheesy chips.

With friendly staff and a sexy interior (never thought I would describe an interior as sexy!) I can see this restaurant being one we’ll be visiting again.  As an alternative to the misery of Byron Burgers, GBK is definitely the one to fill it. Although it won’t replace Ruby Burgers, it will fill a much needed burger shaped hole.

 

Turtle Bay, Exeter – by Lauren Heath

Guildhall, Queen Street, Exeter, EX4 3HP     Tel: 01392  690868

www.turtlebay.co.uk/locations/exeter

Turtle Bay is the first of the Queen Street Dining Quarter restaurants to open in Exeter’s highly anticipated new food destination; the Caribbean street food concept has been going since 2011 and has been the latest project for the man who co-founded Las Iguanas.

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Investigating what was on offer prior to opening, we noted the large menu consisted of starters including pulled pork salad, duck roll and garlic and herb flatbread to name but a few. Lunch ‘n lighter included salads and wraps with a variety of meat and fish fillings whilst dinner options are split into one-pots and jerk pit BBQ. There seemed to be 1 or 2 vegetarian options in each section, and if you are pescatarian, your choice does enlarge fourfold. A good selection of puddings and an even larger selection of cocktails await your arrival.

So after receiving our invite to come along and see what was on offer, we visited mid-week, mainly because they were already fully booked over the first few weekends.

On arrival, we were seated to the right of the doorway, in a ‘dog-leg’ section as it were. I was quite happy to be in the corner here so I could people watch towards the other way, but later on in the evening when I walked around to take some photos, I realised that actually we had missed out on being right in the thick of it in the main restaurant area. Nevermind – I must say throughout the whole evening, there was an excellent ‘marketplace’ buzz.

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We both ordered cocktails to start; Steve chose the Koko Colada whilst I went for my old favourite – the Espresso Martini (both £6.95 each). Mine was what you would expect in appearance, if a little too sweet though actually and not quite coffee enough for me. Perhaps I should leave this one to one of my other favourite local independents to rustle up for me in future. Steve’s drink was delicious however, an easy drinker – smooth, creamy and coconutty.

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The waitress was incredibly friendly, and also clearly knowledgeable, so well done to her and the assumed training she received.

For starters I chose Sweetcorn Fritters and Steve chose the Island bait (whitebait, both priced £5.10). Imagining flat pancake like fritters, I was pleasantly suprised to receive four big sweetcorn fritter balls; they had a lovely crunchy outer and a soft doughy middle, containing sweetcorn and cooked onions – the latter with enough bite to balance the textures. It had a lovely flavour with a bit of zing, although I indulged in mixing one if the spicy tables sauces with my mayo to create a spicy dip. The whitebait were a good size, a petite portion and fried perfectly with no oil left dripping in the bucket. Good start.

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Being chilli lovers, we were pleased to see the selection of spicy sauces at the table in order to up the anty on our food. We noted the cocktails were 2-4-1 before 7pm and after 10pm, and thought this was a good place for pre or post dinner drinks.

Now for main; Steve ordered the Fish Curry One Pot (£9.70) and I ordered the Red Snapper (£12.50), choosing the sweet potato mash as my accompaniment. We had seen some pots go out that looked like mussel pots so were suprised to see a glass pyrex dish arrive with the one pot in. Unfortunately the bowl was cold, so we had to send it back as the food was tepid. They did, however, make a new one fairly swiftly but my plate was cold too so this is clearly something  that needs looking at. Thankfully, the way my fish had been cooked, in a foil parcel, meant it was still hot.

The one pot was flavoursome with earthy and zingy flavours, that I haven’t tasted in other offerings around the city. Steve thought it was good, but not outstanding and it could have been a larger portion and spicier. My fish was nice, and the sauce was really flavoursome. Unfortunately the sweet potato and salad were a let down – the sweet potato was like babyfood and there wasn’t much of it, I wish had gone for a sturdier starch. The salad was just leaves with a dressing on and maybe one shaving of coconut, I think they could have done so much more with this on the side of a nice piece of fish.

As we looked up around us, the surroundings included tin roof walling, graffiti style art, mismatched old speakers, woven baskets, and industrial hanging lighting although they are too low, as staff kept having to duck which was a distraction – these are impractical and really should be pulled up a smidgen. It was quite dim, which hindered menu reading (& the quality of my photos), and perhaps this explains why they have the hanging lights so low, even the shorter staff would hit their head. The main area of the restaurant consisted of a circular bar, surrounded by a variety of table types, and with an open kitchen. Lots of string lights all over the place and plenty of colour – it is a vibrant design.

Thankfully, the puddings picked us up from imperfect mains; I ordered the rum and raisin bread pudding and Steve had the rum cake – both were delicious, moist and full of rum and even pleased my savoury loving husband (both £4.85).

Drinks wise, we ended the evening on a homemade ginger beer for Steve and a peanut butter and banana smoothie for me (both £3.60). The smoothie was very tasty and a good consistency and Steve loved the very gingery ginger beer and would buy it to take home if he could.

So our verdict on this eaterie was mixed really; a good start and finish, but a very average middle and fairly priced in places…I guess you’ll have to visit to find out for yourself. It is a very different beast, and if you’re going to be different you need to do it very well or not at all. We’ll see how they get on when the rest of the competition move in.

Firezza opens in Exeter The proper pizza revolution hits Exeter: Amazing pizza from £6

September 19, 2016: Firezza, the proper pizza company, will open in Exeter on Monday, September 19th with an opening party at the store on Wednesday, September 21st from 5-7.30pm. Come along for your free pizza and prosecco.

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Famous for crafting large 25cm hand-stretched pizzas “with passion”, Firezza only uses premium ingredients. Each pizza is handmade and fire-baked superfast in Neapolitan fire-breathing ovens by experienced pizzaiolos.

Although Firezza is high quality, it believes that proper pizza should be accessible with low and easy-to-understand prices. For instance, the price for a Margherita starts at just £5.95.

Amazing pizza at everyday prices is a big part of the “proper pizza revolution”, as is the fight-back against dodgy ingredients and marketing-driven features like greasy, stuffed crusts.

Instead, Firezza pizza is available at low prices, every day, all day. It’s that simple.

Customers also have the flexibility to add toppings to any pizza, or design a unique “Create Your Own” pizza, by selecting ingredients from Firezza’s considerable range.

With 17 locations across London in addition to Tunbridge Wells and Milton Keynes, Firezza’s brand of proper pizza has proved extremely popular with those who appreciate artisan food.

Firezza Exeter is open for deliveries and collections. Located on Sidwell Street and taking over the site from sister company Pizza Express, which is still available via Deliveroo. Firezza has already created 25 jobs, with more to come as the team grows.

Neil Lambert, joint managing director, Firezza, comments: “We’ve heard great things about Exeter from our sister company Pizza Express. Firezza offers the best of both worlds, amazing taste and low prices, and we’re sure the people of Exeter will understand exactly what we mean by ‘proper pizza’ when they try one of our handmade fire-baked creations.”

Edin Basic, founder, Firezza, comments: “Exeter is a beautiful city, full of history and culture. We’re excited about opening our first location in the South West and where better to introduce proper pizza than Devon’s proper capital. We look forward to being part of the Exeter’s growing foodie community.”

http://firezza.com/

The Pig at Combe, Honiton

East Devon is quickly becoming the place-to-be for foodies.  The Otter Valley itself hosts The Rusty Pig & Ottery St Mary with all its delicious offerings; Ottery Brewey, Otterton Mill and Otter Valley Ice Cream to mention just a few.

Earlier this year a hotel opened just outside Honiton that is set to firmly establish East Devon as a national foodie hotspot – along with MC’s Lympstone development taking shape at the other end, the whole region is blossoming with quality food-stops and destinations.

We were invited along to The Pig at Combe to experience for ourselves The Pig Hotel.  The hotel is located in the small village of Gittisham just outside of Honiton.

If you are coming from Exeter, be prepared to go in to Honiton itself and up through the Heathpark Business Estate and then follow the country lanes along to Gittisham.  The entrance with its large gold pig on the sign is the beginning of a long pleasant drive up to the hotel through verdant green fields.

The history of this house is extensive.  Listed in the Domesday Book, the village and the Combe Estate share connections that stretch back to time immemorial.  .

The village of Gittisham appears (as Gidesham) in the Domesday Book – a survey of England undertaken for William the Conqueror, and completed in 1086. Combe manor was recorded as belonging to the King’s half-brother, Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux. It passed through several families over the next 350 years, by which time a house – probably consisting of no more than one large room, a kitchen and a buttery, with two bedchambers above – had been built.

By 1424, the Beaumonts were living in the manor house of Combe. The family held it for almost 200 years. At one stage, during the reign of Henry VII, it passed to an illegitimate son, John Bodrugan. It was his son, Henry, who built the Combe House that we see today.

The property passed through two more families – the Putts, and the Markers – before being leased out and turned into one of England’s first country-house hotels in 1968.” – http://www.hotelsthatwerenot.com

But history aside, The Pig Hotel brand took over the lease in October 2015 (having previously been the Combe House Hotel) – by July 2016 it had been well and truly ‘piggified’ and open for business.  Within days it was fully booked.

The strength of The Pig brand has been something of a success story in the hotel world and during our visit, it was clear to see why.  The Pig founder Robin Hutson has really created something in touch with the zeitgeist

An informal yet quirky interior, married with friendly conversational service. From the minute we walked through the beautiful front door into the bar area, there was a member of staff ready to help.

At The Pig at Combe, there is no reception desk; guests walk straight in to a bar area, adorned with walnut wood paneling and comfy sofas, this is where you can wait for your table to become ready, enjoy a drink and warm yourself by the fire.

The Folly

The Pig Hotel has two restaurants, the Devon Restaurant and The Folly which you walk past on the way to the main house from the car park. Before piggification, this had been The Orangery but hadn’t served much function apart from being large and strangely placed.  It is semi-restored and sensitively decorated, bringing function and making use of valuable space.

The menu here is based around the large wood fired pizza oven.  Here pizzas and flatbreads are the order of the day; there are no reservations, just turn up and make yourself comfortable outside or inside.  We didn’t eat here, but came and had a nose around after our meal.

I had a conversation with one of the chefs (I didn’t catch his name), who gave me the low-down on what sorts of things they serve in The Folly and a bit more about The Pig’s ethos. Throughout our visit, the one thing that came across was the genuine warmth from each member of staff, who were all more than willing to chat.

After passing The Folly, guests are lead down a path to the front of the hotel and it is here that we can finally admire the view.

What a view!!, looking down from Gittisham Hill; had it not been such a hazy day we could have seen all the way to Dartmoor…

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The Devon Restaurant

It was our turn to walk through the front door to a small welcoming party.  We were handed our drinks menu, given a bowl of home-made lemon & seaweed popcorn and made to feel incredibly welcome.  We were going to experience the Devon Restaurant and it’s daily changing menu, sourced from their extensive Kitchen Gardens and select nearby producers.

My drink this lunchtime was going to be a bottle of Otter Bright in honour of the fact that we are in the Otter Valley and that Otter Brewery is a matter of minutes away from Combe, I felt the need to honour one of our local brewery success stories.  Tori went for the Sherry Puerto Fino which she sipped happily whilst I poked fun at her for being such an old lady in her spirit choices.

The bar area is one of the highlights of The Pig at Combe.  A long line of genuine classic first/second edition Penguin paperbacks line the mantlepiece above the fireplace, behind the bar sits glass shelves with vintage coloured cocktail glasses that gives this room a cosy unique atmosphere.

Whilst sat sipping our drinks, we were handed one of the main menus.  This is the 25 Mile Menu with nearly everything on the menu coming from either in the grounds, or from producers within a 25 mile radius.  There were some familiar names on the menu including Creedy Carver who produce some exquisitely tasting ducks and Piper’s Farm who we all know and love!  The menu changes each day depending on ingredients available.

Once our table was ready, we were led in to a large dining room, languishing in light from large windows and adorned with herbs and a spectacular collection of moths and butterfly display cases.

We had already ordered our food in the bar area, so all we had to do was sit down and take in our surroundings.

Strewn across the dining room, and in fact the whole hotel, pots of herbs and plants that went in to food and drinks served at the hotel; the window sills were forest-like with mint and rosemary, fragrant leaves adding to the interior design elements that would not be out of place in the pages of a style magazine.

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The menu includes a fantastic vegetarian selection, but also a section called Piggy Bits – aperitif style dishes created as a warm-up act before the headliner.

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I went for Ham Hock Eggs made with quail eggs from The Pig’s very own flock of quails, Tori and her secret love of pork scratchings made her go for Pork Crackling & Apple Sauce – both (£3.75).  Perfect aperitifs to the main show!

The Hock Eggs, small and perfectly formed with a seasoned ham encapsulated in breadcrumbs and garnished with herbs and a tangy drizzle.  Had we been given three large plates of Hock Eggs I would have been happy!  The crackling was served in long strips with apple sauce to dip, perfectly seasoned and crispy in the right places!

As we waited briefly for our courses to arrive we couldn’t help look around the room; a group of ladies lunching, couples on holiday, chatting away over glasses of wine enjoying the natural light coming through the large windows which had been covered up until the recent piggification.

For starters I went for the “A Pinch of Salt” Cured Meats (£8) and Tori decided on a Courgette and Walnut Soup (£6) from the ‘Literally Picked This Morning’ section of this already inspiring menu – which, as you might have guessed, was produced with courgettes from the kitchen garden.

The Cured Meats, served on a wooden platter with a home-made chutney was garnished in greens from the kitchen garden and green olives.  The whole dish was well thought-out and put together, the meats were not overly greasy as smoked meats can be and worked really well with the chutney.  Tori enjoyed her soup that came with freshly baked bread and a toasted nut garnish across the top.

For main course I went for the Creedy Carver Duck Breast served with Roasted Carrots, Chard & Rowan Berry Sauce (£19) with a Flower Pot of Triple Cooked Chips (£3.75) and Tori plumped for the Trimlett Fam Pork Collar (£16) with a side of Buttered New Potatoes (£3.75).

For me texture of meat is as important as taste.  A tasty steak is let down if I have to chew it 100 times before swallowing.  The duck breast was cooked to perfection, silky and soft as it bathed in a light gravy; it had a richness that balanced with the accompanying vegetables really well.  And yes. I had chips with it, but what chips.  Freshly cooked and clearly made out of potato, and not an indiscriminate mash, these were perfect chips.

Tori’s pork collar was tender and as expected, perfectly cooked with a sumptuous helping of buttered new potatoes, these went down very well from the other side of the table.

We finished off the meal outside with teas and coffee, kids played happily on the large lawn outside whilst couples relaxed in the wooden loungers overlooking the wonderful view.

After relaxing outside for a bit we decided to go for a wander around the house.  The piggification of Combe House has been sympathetic to many original features, and given it is a Grade 1 listed house there is only so much one can do.

The interiors promote cosiness and a place to come and enjoy should the weather change, or just somewhere to snuggle up on a cold night.

After bumping in to the wonderful Robin Rea (hi Robin!) Chef-Proprietor of The Rusty Pig in Ottery St Mary, we strolled up the hill behind the main hotel to explore the vast Kitchen Gardens that the kitchen use to supply their daily changing menu.

The Pig at Combe showcases some of the best we have to offer in Devon.  Set in beautiful surroundings amongst verdantly green fields on Gittisham Hill overlooking rolling hills off towards Exeter.  Using home grown ingredients; some of the best local producers within a small radius and presented in a modern relaxed atmosphere.

The menu changes daily depending on season and availability of ingredients, you’ll need more than one visit to properly take in this location and appreciate some of the fine foods that are being served within its walls.

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10 Questions for Chococo

Photos courtesy of Chococo

Exeter is fast becoming a foodie hub, attracting big named restaurants and retailers in to the city centre as well as homing some of the best independent restaurants in the region. A new addition to the family is Chococo who have made their home in Gandy St.  Being already a bit of a fan of Chococo after visiting their shop in Swanage, I was really happy to see them making their third home in our very own Diagon Alley.

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We’re working with Chococo by bringing a lucky winner the opportunity to win a chocolate fondue for two!  Head over to Twitter and Facebook, answer the question and share the competition to be in with a chance of being entered in to our grand prize draw.

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Win a chocolate fondue for two! Head to our Twitter and Facebook to take part.

Eating Exeter gave co-founder Claire ten questions about Chococo!

1. I love chocolate. I eat far too much of it, and am really happy to find Chococo opening in Exeter. What made Chococo choose Exeter for its next store?

We had been looking for our next location for a while (we already have two chocolate houses; our original one in Swanage and our second in Winchester), and Exeter was the obvious next destination as it is a fantastic, exciting city that is still relatively close to our chocolate HQ in Wareham in Dorset.

We are delighted to have opened on Gandy St, which is such an iconic street for independent businesses, and look forward to becoming part of both the Exeter and wider Devon foodie community.

We are already working with Crankhouse Coffee, roasted in Exeter, and Emma’s Bread, also based in the city, for the café element of our Chocolate House, and will hopefully work with more local suppliers as we create new Devon-inspired chocolates.

2. What makes your chocolate different from other chocolate makers?

My husband Andy & I set up Chococo in Dorset back in 2002 and we were amongst the first, if not the first UK chocolatier to make truly fresh chocolates. Nearly 14 years later, we still make all our chocolates fresh by hand using local ingredients wherever possible and no additives or preservatives, so the chocolates in our display cabinet have a two-week shelf life. That is very different to other chocolatiers.

Also, we only work with origin chocolate made from fine cocoa beans from such countries as Madagascar, Venezuela, The Dominican Republic, Colombia, Tanzania and Vietnam.
We are very passionate that our customers get to discover the taste of fine chocolate not of sugar, so only work with chocolate high in cocoa solids and therefore low in sugar (and definitely no palm oil).

For example, our house milk chocolate from Venezuela tastes much more “chocolatey” than many other milk chocolates as it contains a whopping 43% cocoa solids.
You can even enjoy a sugar-free chocolate experience with us if you buy our 100% cocoa solids bars or enjoy a hot chocolate made with 100% chocolate from Colombia!

3. I noticed that your chocolates have won more than just a few awards! Are there any awards that you’re particularly proud of?

We have won over 60 fine food awards now and we are very proud of all them but our recent 2016 Gold awards for our Gingerbread Caramel and Tawny Fig chocolates in both the Academy of Chocolate and the International Chocolate Awards were especially exciting. At both awards, our chocolates were judged alongside chocolates created by some of the most expert chocolatiers around the world.

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4. How important are local producers and suppliers in your coffee shops?

Hugely important! Working with local producers and suppliers is part of our DNA and something we have done since we established Chococo back in 2002. We have worked with many South West producers over the years to create our very unique flavoured chocolates and also with local suppliers in Dorset, Winchester & now Exeter for our chocolate houses including coffee, tea, milk, ice cream, bakery, fruit juices and more.

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We love working with local producers, as they are just as passionate about their cows, bees, vines, vodka stills and coffee beans as we are about fine chocolate.
We are also very proud to be members of both Dorset Food & Drink and Hampshire Fare food groups.

5. Tell me about your chocolate club?

We also offer a nationwide mail order service and a subscription chocolate club. We think it’s the freshest chocolate club in the UK as our members receive truly fresh handmade chocolates every 4 weeks over a 3, 6 or 12 month period of their choice. We offer a range of different box sizes too so our members can enjoy 9 or 16 chocolates every month, or go for our largest box of 25! As you can imagine, club subscriptions increase the most at Christmas as it makes a delicious gift for a chocolate lover and last year, we were thrilled that the Guardian recommended our club as one of the best subscription gifts to give!

As we are a small business, our club is run by Mel & Georgina at our Wareham HQ & between them, they write the monthly letters to all our members, include special offers like tasters of new flavours that we would like feedback on, ensure all the boxes are packed & despatched on time & also look after any special requests from our club members. It is a truly personal service!

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6. I hear that there is something in-store for students when they come in to Chococo?

Yes we offer 10% off for students if they show us their student card.

7. Where are your cocoa beans sourced, is there anything you’d like to tell us about the process?

As I mentioned earlier, we only work with fine origin chocolate from a number of different cocoa producing countries – some of which is produced in their country of origin. This is great news for the producing country as it means they are exporting a finished product with the value added in the country, rather than exporting dried cocoa beans, which are a commodity product. This business model has been coined “Raise Trade” and is arguably beyond fair trade.

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Earlier this year I visited one of the companies we work with, Chocolaterie Robert in Madagascar. It was fascinating to visit both their factory in the capital Antananarivo and the cocoa plantations in the Sambirano Valley.

If customers want to find out about the process of turning cocoa beans into chocolate, we have created a “story of chocolate from tree to Chococo” using photos I took in Madagascar which you can see upstairs in our Exeter Chocolate House. By the way, if you enjoy one of our 70% house hot chocolates, that is the chocolate you will taste!

8. Tell us a bit about your range of chocolate, do you have a best seller?

As well as our range of fresh chocolates (that are all sold loose so that you can choose which you would like in a box or a bag), we also make edible boxes made of chocolate (which make a fabulous present, eat the chocolates inside and then the box!), a range of studded chocolate slabs, bars, clusters, shapes (including chocolate fish & chips and dinosaurs, as we are based on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast), chocolate biscuit cakes, hot chocolate flakes, lollies and mini shapes for the young and young at heart.

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Within our range of fresh chocolates, our best sellers include Cornish smoked sea salt caramel, Passionfruit, Dorset Honey, Madagascan Vanilla and Dorset Black Cow Vodka – but it does vary by time of year.

9. You have stores in Winchester, Swanage and now Exeter. Is there a difference between each store?

Our Swanage Chocolate House is our original and is tiny by comparison to Winchester & Exeter. It has also evolved quite a bit since 2002 as we added on the chocolate café element several years after opening, so it has quite an unusual, quirky layout! Our Winchester and Exeter Chocolate Houses are more “organised” if that is the right word, but Exeter has the most space for enjoying your Chococo experience as we have an upstairs seating area as well. So you can visit us to discover not just our handmade chocolates, but also to enjoy our hot chocolates, coffee, cakes, milkshakes, sundaes and even chocolate fondues!

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10. What does the future hold for Chococo? Any more stores in the pipeline?

We always have lots of plans for the future, but for now, we are concentrating on ensuring that our Exeter customers are delighted with their Chococo experience.

www.chococo.co.uk

Exeter Cookery School Full Day Meat & Butchery Course with Pipers Farm – by Lauren Heath

Exeter Cookery School, 60a Haven Road, Quayside Exeter, Devon, EX2 8DP

More info can be found at: http://www.exetercookeryschool.co.uk/ or by following on @cookinexeter or http://www.facebook.com/ExeterCookerySchool

 

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Eating Exeter has been aware of Exeter Cookery School for around a year, and in fact you can read a 10 Q&A blog here to find out more about their founders, Jim and Lucy.

This pre-dates my involvement in EE, however I met Jim and Lucy around October time when they were doing a pop-up cookery course in Sapphire Spaces – I happen to pop in at the time to see what was going on. Since then I have stayed in contact and really championed their efforts to open a cookery school in Exeter. Since meeting them, their enthusiasm for what they do is quite clear; both can be found smiling almost constantly.

Pipers Farm, on the other hand, have been well established in Exeter for many years and I have been on their Beyond the Hedgerow Tour last year, which can be found here. Similarly, Peter Greig’s passion for his methods and animals can be read in his body language quite clearly.

So two passionate businesses joined forces for one of Exeter Cookery Schools first courses and I was so excited to have been invited along. I caught the park and ride bus into town as I normally would, and walked down to the Quay, being greeted by the sunshine reflecting off the water…what better way to start your day, it really is a lovely spot. There are car parks very nearby at approx £5 for the day. Of course, if you have your own boat, there seemed to be room to moor outside too!

So in a great mood I entered their renovated warehouse building; it was so light and airy with the sun shining through the patio doors, and the contrast of concrete, metal, bare brick walls and beautiful oak wood tops. I was greeted by filtered coffee in their lounge area, a table that set the tone for the day and of course their trademark smiles.

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I met our other classmates, and after a short H&S chat from Jim, we got started. Peter told us about his animals and farm and then talked through the meats he had brought with him. He then proceeded to carve the shanks off his lamb, so Jim could sear it and then get it into the oven on a low and slow heat for us to enjoy later on. He talked us through various parts of the lamb and what we could do with it. We chopped up some vegetables to go in the stock pot.

We were then talked through Peter’s beautiful chickens and how to tell if it is a good bird. We were shown how to cut off the head and feet for stock later, we removed the giblets and then Jim talked us all through how best to use the whole chicken – so we removed the breasts, thighs, legs ourselves and learnt how to best prepare them for cooking. We cooked the chicken breast with their beautiful skins on, for us to eat for lunch. I’m not going to lie…there was alot of butter involved but the result was absolutely delicious and, in fact, the butter used was for basting and what was left can be saved for later and refrigerated to be used again…so we weren’t really eating all that butter.

We sat for lunch around a lovely table, chatting over the mornings skills and enjoying our chicken lunch with a macerated strawberry and basil ice cream for pudding the Jim had already prepared for us.

The afternoon was then filled with learning the skills of butchering the remainder of the lamb carcass. We worked in teams, all having a go, and Peter was open to allowing us to butcher as much as possible of his precious meat educating us on the various cuts and what to do with them. Jim taught us how to french trim the lamb racks, which were then cooked and we gathered round his chef’s domain to enjoy the cooked chops.

The day ended with us able to take a tub of melt in the mouth lamb home for our supper – I was actually so full from lunch that I saved mine for the next day and enjoyed it with toad in the hole!

It was a very enjoyable day with very patient yet enthusiastic teachers, in a spacious and beautiful building. We had a variety of skills between us students, and everyone got stuck in and felt comfortable enough to ask questions. Price-wise they are inline with cookery schools in the next counties, but this one is right on our beautiful doorstep and excellent value for 7 hour course including lunch.

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They have plenty of courses running, from fish to sugar skills to puddings, running on different days and include full or half day courses too. Ideal for yourself, a gift for someone and even corporate events can be arranged – an excellent team building idea considering how well us strangers worked together. The students included people from Totnes, North Devon, Exeter and even Bristol. It’s great to know that their efforts are being heard far and wide.

The beautiful Gaggenau appliances and Bulthaup workspaces were installed by the local and talented Sapphire Spaces, and the fantastic logo’d knives we used are made by I.O.Shen, which can also be purchased from the school.

No matter what your skill level, there really is something for everyone and I hope my photos speak volumes for the fantastic Jim and Lucy and their Exeter Cookery School.

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Peter & Jim trying to take the legs off the chicken! Don’t try this at home (near a river!)

Further info on Pipers Farm can be found at: http://pipersfarm.com/ & can be followed on @pipersfarm or www.facebook.com/pipersfarm

 

 

 

Exeter Cookery School: The launch – by Chris Gower

https://www.exetercookeryschool.co.uk/

On Friday night I was chuffed to be invited along to the launch of Exeter Cookery School. A fantastic development on Exeter Quayside providing quality cookery education; from patisserie to meat, you can learn from some of the best culinary talents on the beautiful quayside at the heart of Exeter.

It was a year ago that we celebrated their initial launch at Sapphire Spaces.  Since that initial launch, Jim and Lucy have been busily spreading the word and networking their socks off to raise awareness and bring Exeter Cookery School in to the limelight.

We’ve really been rooting for Jim and Lucy from the start. Two lovely individuals who have worked tirelessly to spread the word in the year or so that the school has been readying. Slowly but surely it has come to fruition, and last night the great and the good of Exeter came to raise a glass and eat some canapes in their honour.

Then with some awesome people we headed over to Pizza Stein who were incredibly accommodating and let us have the last few dough balls left. Beautiful pizza, amazing company and funky tasting raspberry beer.

Thanks to Pizza Stein for being so accommodating and for the free bread and olives too!

The Rum and Crab Shack – by Lauren Heath

The Rum and Crab Shack, 15 Catherine Street, Exeter, EX1 1EU
http://rumandcrabshack.com/  @rum_shackexeter

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So the city’s newest addition is a welcome one I’d say. You can find many types of restaurants in Exeter – French, English, Italian, Spanish, Asian – mostly varieties of either meat or vegetarian, but very few restaurants specialise in seafood.  Enter The Rum and Crab shack! With ‘crab from here and rum from over there’, this St Ives born restaurant is the brain child of Chris McGuire and Neythan Hayes who have had their Cornwall shack established since 2012. Like any good idea, it was decided over a drink – rum, funnily enough! In the midst of the St Ives building work, and not quite being ready over the New Year, they instead opened a pop-up rum bar over the long weekend – and a ‘marriage’ was born.

Exeter’s The Rum and Crab Shack can be found at the rear of House of Fraser, by the Almshouse ruins, in place of The Milkmaid.

I was invited along in their first week to try out some dishes at lunch time. I will admit, I am picky with crab but the menu boasts prawn and lobster items so I was happy to oblige.  Of course, the test with anything you are a bit fussy about is to try it and if it is good they must be doing something right.

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The building is essentilly of two halves, almost identical in layout to their St Ives first-born, so Chris and Neythan knew it was the right building for them. It is naturally split into a restaurant area, with a few tables outside and then the bar area. The decor is industrial seaside. Not in your face or full of nautical stripes, boats and seagulls (we have enough of those blighters in the city thanks) but nice leather seated booths with dark wooden tables,  a mix of colourful metal and wooden chairs, heavy seafaring rope lighting, exposed brick walls and metal bar frontage. All that is missing is the sea view – but you can’t have it all!

I spoke with co-owner Chris, who is currently overseeing their 2nd baby here in Exeter. He was really passionate about their business and aims and, once settled, would be looking to source the seafood from Devon suppliers for the Exeter branch if possible.

The rums on offer have origins including Venezuela, Canary Islands, Mauritius, Cuba and Australia to name a few. One rum out of their huge selection is made by them – Dead Man’s Fingers; using an imported base rum, they distill it fairly quickly and store it for a few months before it is ready to serve and it boasts flavours of orange, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. They are already supplying Eden Project with their small batch house rum and St Austell are in the process of stocking it in some of their bars. The Dead Man’s Finger cocktail was recommended to me as a must-try so I ‘bit their fingers off’ and said let’s go for it!  I must admit, it was delicious and I would definitely have it again; it was smooth with all the flavours singing in harmony.

So…a menu full of seafood options put in front of an indecisive seafood lover who struggles to decide even at the sandwich counter (I can’t help it, I love ALL food)! In the end I opted for the Rum and Crab Soup – fresh crab and tomato bisque finished with their favourite rum (£4.95), the Popcorn Shrimp served with a Creole dipping sauce (£5.95) and then a Crab Taco served with a coriander salsa (£9.95).

The soup was smooth, a deep maroon colour and tasted sweet and rich, almost with a marzipan hue (odd as that sounds, it’s the only flavour I could think of that described what I was tasting; it was delicious!).  It was served with some lovely fresh bread and was a great size.

The prawns were clearly breadcrumbed in house in what looked like panko style breadcrumbs, scattered with herbs and deep fried. They were the plumpest prawns I have had in a while. I added a little tobasco to the dip to liven it up even more as I do love a bit of heat.

The crab taco was a great size serving. If, like me, you were struggling to decide what to have, you could certainly share this dish. The taco’s were sat on a clever taco rack, and on top of the lettuce base it was filled with beautifully sweet crab meat laced with coriander, topped with chilli’s, spring onion, cucumber, rasish and sweetcorn and some sort of dressing. It was very fresh, with plenty of crunch. I ate it as a whole, as well as forking some of the crab out to enjoy it on its own – it was so soft and sweet, as it should be and I felt the quantity of crab was certainly fair.

ee-recommendsA great first impression; I look forward to returning en famille for the rest of my seafood loving clan to put the menu to the test. Other options include soft shell crab burger, crab or lobster mac ‘n cheese, steamed mussels and jambalaya. For meat fans, there are Dead Man’s Finger coated ribs, spatchcock chicken and fillet steak. There are childrens options and some gluten free options too.

And if you are not a seafood fan then perhaps pop in for an evening drink from their wine, mocktail, cocktail or rum menu. Even with the great options already in the city, The Rum and Crab Shack has added another string to city’s bow – look at all those rums…taxi!

Cuba Cantina, Gandy Street -by Lauren Heath

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15 Gandy Street, Exeter, EX4 3LS. Tel: 01392 425200 

https://www.facebook.com/cubacantina/

Considering I work 3 doors down from this new foodie venture, I’m not quite sure why it’s taken me this long to eat in there.  I have had a few nosey’s, and walking past it every lunch time I’m pleased to say others have happily wandered in more easily. Perhaps it is because I lunch alone most days; it seems to be the sort of place for sharing with others.

Don’t necessarily be fooled if it looks too quiet or empty downstairs.  There are 3 great rooms upstairs for chilling in.

Pay day swung round and my fellow colleagues, with the same burning question (why haven’t we been?!) agreed we should spend our hard earned dough on some tortillas!

There’s no walk through of my meal experience needed here. In short, there is great music, smiling faces, a hot counter with fillings, a cold counter with toppings and a very cool (or rather hot) rotating tortilla/wrap spinning warmer contraption.

Food was made up in front of us within minutes, with a medium burrito stuffed with rice, pulled pork, spicy sauce, guacamole, sour cream etc and a can of coke coming in under £5. All very well wrapped to hold everything in…until you get to the end when all the juicy goodness is escaping and you try eat that last mouthful – a satisfying challenge!

One of my colleagues who had the chicken burrito, also chose the nachos as an extra to share, and they were well topped and delicious-and I’m an avid nacho maker at home. It’s not gastronomic, but it’s not meant to be.  It was flavoursome, filling and delicious. Isn’t that all we want?

My colleague hit it on the nose – it’s like a Cuban version of a Subway – fresh, fast food and affordable…but in very individual surroundings. I’ve noticed queries about whether the menu actually reflects Mexico as opposed to Cuba – having looked this up they are in fact very similar cuisines but Cuban uses more citrus flavours as opposed to the heat of Mexico.

They have deals on for a bucket of beer and plenty of other drinks on offer if that’s what you want with the gang and are open late into the evenings, great for a chill out evening with your friends.  So bring your dough, and get some tasty tortillas – to eat in or for on the go.