The Seven Stars at Kennford by Chris Gower

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


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

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


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

I will admit now, I drove to Kenton.

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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



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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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



Beer and Burger Bonanza at The Bridge Inn, Topsham – by Lauren Heath

The road between Clyst St George and Topsham holds many talented local businesses – Naturalmat, Sapphire Spaces, Amos Lighting and now even the operations for Good Game. Two more of these is the successful Darts Farm and the unique and historic The Bridge Inn pub.

On the back of some playground chat whilst dropping the kids off at school, the business minded ladies at both The Butchers at Darts and The Bridge Inn decided they should do a joint event, especially considering they are so close together. The Bridge Inn already holds ticket-only USA banjo infused music evenings and occasional evenings with Darts Farm providing the fish and chips for customers within their beautiful long brewhouse.

So on a lovely weekday summer’s eve in July, we ventured down to our favourite local pub for The Butchers at Darts Farm and The Bridge inn’s Burger and Beer evening.

It was a community feeling affair; it’s an incredible space filled with treasure, trinkets and furniture and all customers sitting together with friends as well as strangers (you know the saying – ‘arrive as strangers, leave as friends’), all chatting and wondering of the foodie delights ahead.

Caroline, the current owner, told us a bit about the history of this beautiful end of their pink pub. Their history page states:

It is thought there was a dwelling on this site as early as 1086, in the time of the Domesday Book. The stonemasons responsible for the construction of Exeter Cathedral may have lodged here.

The present building you see is substantially 16th Century, but the actual date of the different parts varies considerably. Unlike today, much building in the past was piecemeal, with new rooms added as necessary. Most of the fabric is local stone, but the old brewhouse at the rear is traditional Devon cob. This has the remains of the hop drying floor, and is adjacent to a large brewing chimney.

Great-grandfather was William John Gibbings from Clyst St. George. He moved into the Inn in 1897, and our family has been there ever since. The current licensee is Caroline Cheffers-Heard, his Great Grand-daughter. She is the fourth generation, her daughter Riannon will be the fifth, and Amelia, born in April 2008, will be the sixth generation.

Outside The Butchers at Darts were cooking up a storm on the Big Green Egg, with burgers galore; thankfully the weather was kind, gifting us a glorious Thursday evening.

Beers and burgers were paired up, with Caroline explaining each pairing as we went along and Alastair telling us about the meat and their flavours. We were served sizeable ‘mini’ burgers with generous servings of local ales:

  • Pork burger with Clyst St Mary’s very own Powderkeg Speakeasy
  • Duck burger with Jollyboat’s Thunder
  • Lamb burger with Branscombe Vale’s Summa That


The big finale was a steak burger with Exmoor’s Beast. This mouthful was served with delightfully fresh salads, and we ventured outside at this point to sit on a bench and enjoy the end of the evening al-fresco.


The burgers were absolutely delicious, juicy and flavoursome and of course the meat is all locally reared or sourced and expertly prepared by the Butchers at Darts.

The business is family run and based within Darts Farm; brothers Philip and Alastair are Master Butchers, which is not a common title and it means they can choose the right animal by feeling and handling it live on the farm – they even judge competitions. ‘Their knowledge and expertise of breeding, rearing, sourcing, maturing and butchering the best livestock enables us to provide you with the highest quality meat which you can trust.’ Becky, wife to Alastair, takes care of marketing side of the business and was delighted to be able to organise this event and there are plans for more so keep an eye out!

Here’s a peek inside the pub; there are two rooms indoors and both well behaved dogs and children are welcome, but noisy mobile phones are not. Don’t come here if you’re expecting lagers – this pub serves some wines and spirits but are very well known and loved for their fantastic local ales straight from the barrel with an ever changing beer menu being updated on their Facebook page each week. Food-wise they simply serve Chunk’s pasties or ploughmans with local cheese or meats.

If the weather is beautiful enough, you can be served out of the hatch (pictured top left) and sit on the benches enjoying the view!


So keep an eye out for more joint ventures with these two brilliant examples of what makes local businesses special. If you can’t wait for an event, pop to the pub for a pint and make sure you drop in at the butchers for your burgers to cook at home!

The City Gate Hotel: The first impressions of refurbishment  – Iron Bridge, Lower North Street Exeter, EX4 3RB

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.

Try the lamb.

The Swan at Bampton – by Lauren Heath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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



Instagram: theswanbampton

Twitter: @theswanbampton

Facebook: @theswanbampton

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

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

Midday – 2.30 pm
6.30 pm – 8.45 pm

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

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





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

Little Castle St, Exeter EX4 3PX – 01392 437470 –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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



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

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


10 Questions for The Poltimore Inn, North Molton

Situated on the edge of Exmoor, The Poltimore Inn has risen from the ashes after a year-long refurbishment.  This cracking independent pub is a definite desitination if you’re visiting Exmoor.

1. How would you describe The Poltimore Inn? What makes it special?

The Poltimore Inn is everything a good village pub should be, with a varied menu of delicious home-cooked food and a wide selection of local beers. It is located in a picturesque village on the edge of Exmoor. You can be sure of a warm welcome here. You can enjoy a bar meal or dine in the lovely spacious restaurant which overlooks a beautiful pub garden and the Exmoor hills beyond.

2. A smoker in your beer garden? What was the inspiration behind this?

Ah, the smoker. This was built by landlord Alan Boddington with help from a local engineer Jack Reed. It is a wonderful contraption, weighing around three quarters of a ton. It is a sort of cross between Stevenson’s Rocket and something from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Alan was keen to offer customers something different, and the smoker is used regularly to smoke our own meat and fish which is then served in the pub and restaurant.

Poltimore Inn Smoker6

3. It looks like a spectacular beast, is this a custom build?

Yes, a complete one off! Alan and Jack made it from all sort of bits and pieces, some of them from scrapyards. There’s even parts from a submarine compressed air system and a car axle from an Austin A2. It is quite an impressive machine, and a great talking point among the locals. What’s more, the smoker works really well, and there is loads of space to smoke a wide variety of food.

4. Your pub has been on quite a journey. What have been some of the challenges?

The pub was closed for a year before Alan took it on, in August 2013. He completely refurbished the building and added a large new restaurant, and created several guest rooms. It involved a lot of hard work, but Alan and his team have done a fabulous job. Alan is a great foodie, and wanted the pub to be known for its good food. He and his staff have worked tirelessly to build up the pub’s reputation for delicious home-cooked meals, and were rewarded in 2015 with a Gold Taste of the West Award in 2015.

5. Pubs are often the heart of the community, have you found that the pub is once again becoming the heart of the community?

This has been Alan’s mission – to put The Poltimore Inn at the heart of village life. The pub is situated in the centre of the village, by the main square, and is involved in all sorts of community events. For example the pub runs an annual competition, Boots in Bloom, to encourage local residents to plant flowers in boots. So in the summer time the whole village is full of flowers which is a lovely sight. There is a very active skittles team at the pub, and also magic evenings and regular folk and jazz evenings. The Poltimore also gets involved in a lot of charity fund raising events.

6. I love real ales, what sort of offerings have you got for the real ale drinkers?

A wide selection of great real ales from the South West, including Otter Ale, Exmoor Ale and St Austell Tribute.

7. What is your food philosophy at The Poltimore Inn?

We aim to offer our visitors the very best home-cooked food, which includes tasty traditional pub meals and some more adventurous dishes, and smoked foods, meat, fish and cheese. One of our specialities is the popular ‘Poltimore Inn Platters’ or PIPs, sumptuous selections of smoked fish, sausage, salami and vegetarian treats. Our menus change seasonally and there are daily specials, with vegetarian and gluten-free options. The pub uses locally sourced foods whenever possible.

8. I heard on the grapevine that you like to offer some international foods too?

We do enjoy providing something a little different for our guests. So we often have weekends with themed food from a particular country. For example this year we have had a Spanish tapas weekend, with some authentic dishes such as nachos con carnie, chorizo and tomato and potato bravas. Our highly experienced chef, Lynda Festa, was lucky enough to spend some time working alongside a well-known Spanish chef, Pedro Gomez, and she likes to recreate some of the meals she learnt from him. Another weekend this year, to coincide with American Independence Day in July, the pub hosted an American weekend. The menu included seafood chowder, buffalo chicken wings and sweetcorn fritters. Lynda and the catering team, Stephen Newall, Louise Wilson and Shelly Thorne, are always full of ideas for interesting and unusual recipes.

9. …and Gin tasting evenings?

Oh yes, we like our gin too, so we host gin tasting evenings which are always great fun. One of ourfavourite gins is locally produced on Exmoor, called Wicked Wolf.

10. Finally, what sort of attractions are nearby? Yo’re in such a lovely part of the world!

The Poltimore Inn is on the edge of Exmoor, which is wonderful for walking and riding. North Molton is an excellent spot to start your walk from, and then you can treat yourself to a meal at the pub when you return. We are only 45 minutes from some of the best surfing beaches in the South West, including Croyde, Saunton and Woolacombe. North Molton is a good stopping off point for ameal on your journey to the North Devon coast or further on to North Cornwall. North Molton is easily accessible, (less than 3 miles), from the A361 North Devon Link Road, the main road linking

North Devon with the M5 motorway Junction 27. There are signs to the pub from the Link Road. We look forward to welcoming you to The Poltimore Inn!

For more information contact The Poltimore Inn on 01598 740338 or visit or or Twitter @PoltimoreInn


The Samuel Jones, Quayside

Modern refurbished pub restaurant with amazing views across the Exe and good food…

The Samuel Jones, 37 Commercial Road, Exeter, EX2 4AE – 01392 345345

Ah, the Quay. Nothing better than finding a nice spot, dangling your legs over the side and letting the swans nibble your toes whilst you sip on a cool beer.  It is definitely one of the nicest spots in the city, especially on a hot summer afternoon.

One company that saw the potential in this spot was St Austell Brewery who opened The Samuel Jones a couple of years ago, a large craft ale smokehouse located in what was a bonded warehouse.  Some of you might remember when it was Boxes & Boogies, a long standing nightclub with sticky floors and dark walls; the transformation from this previous life to the hip, freshly clad restaurant is an aesthetic revelation for the quayside.

We were invited over to see the £1.5 million refurbishment, to taste some ale and have something to eat.  For me it solidified that St Austell Brewery had really managed to get it right in terms of location and design.

In March this year the pub won The Publican Morning Advertiser’s Award for best new pub, judges praising the 19th Century Aesthetics which had been tastefully preserved.

Using local produce their skilled team of chefs create some fine dishes that are inspired by smokehouse recipes.  The specials are even matched to beers and ales, of which the pub boasts that it has the largest selection in the region.

And who was Samuel Jones? Well you can read a brief history of the building and the man on their website.

The menu caters for wide tastes with its smokehouse inspired creations.  There are specials as well including the extensive range of ales and ciders which are available from the bar or via service.

We were lucky to be seated near a window, looking across the Quay. There are large windows looking at the Transport Shed and across the river itself. The views from the restaurant are some of the best in Exeter.  Perfect for people watching or just relaxing in the sunshine.   With their views over the Exe further upstream at The Mill On The Exe, St Austell Brewery have really got a monopoly on eating out in Exeter with a river view.

We arrived in the evening, starving and ready to tackle three courses.  Our server was Laura who was attentive and friendly throughout our meal.  She offered us some Ale tasters and naturally, well, it’d be rude not to try.

The Ale tasters came out on a small metal tray in shot glasses.  Three small samples to help you decide what to choose from the vast selection that they stock.


The green looking one at the back is Neck Oil, a fruity ale with an elderflowery nose.  It was light and refreshing, perfect summer sip which we both declared our favourite.  The yellowy one on the left of the image is Admiral ale. Nutty, hoppy and almost savory in many ways, I’ve had it before but it wasn’t my favourite.  Finally we had Tribute…which is Tribute and served everywhere.

Deciding not to go with any of these, as we’d already selected our drinks before this came out, and because when it comes to alcohol I am a massive light-weight, we did make a note to look out for Neck Oil as it is rare to find a light fruity ale with strong fruit overtones that doesn’t get overhopped.  I had a pint of Smash #4 and Tori settled for the wonderful Korev which we both know and love.

For starter Tori opted for the Deep Fried Pickled Gherkins, Onion & Carrot served with smoked cauliflower and almond purée with roasted garlic (£6.00) and I chose the 12 Hour Hickory Smoked tender Pork Shoulder served with pickled onions, gherkins and robata charred focaccia (£6.00).

The Deep Friend Pickled Gherkins were VERY pickled.  Well cooked and with a crispy batter; it was a strange yet pleasant combination but definitely for those who love their pickled veg as it was very strong.

My smoked pork shoulder melted and worked perfectly with the pickled vegetables and the green leaves tucked neatly under the focaccia.  I liked the use of pickled stuff, something that adds to the curated rusticism of the restaurant.

For mains I did my usual and went for the burger option. I went for the 6oz Chuck Beef Flamed Burger served in a charred pretzel roll with melted cheese, beefsteak tomato, skin-on fries and dressed rocket leaves (£10) and Tori headed in the direction of the 12 Hour Smoked Beef Brisket served in a charred pretzel roll with smoked tomato & pepper salsa and skin-on fries (£10).

A pretzel roll? Yes. A roll made of pretzel dough, again a creative take on the standard way of doing things.  It would have been nice to have had it charred, but this small detail did not get in the way of our enjoyment of this epic thing.

I was also really happy to see a restaurant serving Hog’s Bottom Delights sauces, the first that I’ve seen in the area.  These sauces and preserves are made by Hogs Bottom Delights based in Lifton in Devon, the company is run by a chap called Maurice who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Live Love Eat Awards 2015

Sam Jones (18 of 31)

I digress…

Tori’s Beef Brisket was something to behold; soft melty meat smoked delicately. Although I was happy with my burger, but I did suffer from ‘I want what you have’…

Normally I only to two courses, in fact it at the point we finished our meal we had a small debate about whether we could carry on.  But it had to be done!

We shared delightful choclaty dessert with fruit and chocolate and a wonderful cherry sauce. And chocolate.  A perfect finale to a very nice meal.

The Samuel Jones has a creative menu, using things I haven’t had seen before (pretzel rolls, deep fried gherkins etc.) and this innovation makes The SJ a restaurant that deserves the praise that it gets.  If you want a place to watch people, this is also a good location given its commanding views across the Quayside and as I mentioned, definitely ‘best views in Exeter’ when it comes to dining out with style thanks to large windows.

Sam Jones (23 of 31)

The Boat House, Dawlish Warren

The Boat House, Beach Way, Dawlish Warren, Devon EX7 0NF – 01626 888 899

ee-recommends_zpsgsj7cdqh.pngIn the world of eating out, dining out and finding somewhere to eat in Exeter, Dawlish Warren doesn’t really jump to the forefront of my mind.  The Mount Pleasant Inn which overlooks the Warren is quite nice, a pub/restaurant with nice views of the surrounding seafront and over to Exmouth.  But below, within this view you can see The Boat House, a large strangely shaped gastro-pub-child-entertainment-hub that sells value food to tourists and day-trippers alike.

If you are a longtime reader of Eating Exeter, you might remember Steve Price’s unfortunate tea-cake based disappointment  a few years ago.  But a recent opportunity to revisit The Boat House came up, so I thought we’d give it another go.

I am adding this pub to my newly created Child Friendly category which I’ve created as a result of the increasing amount of conversations I have with friends and foodies who need a place to go where kids are welcome, not just tolerated.

The Boat House sits in a purpose built building in a complex of attractions at the end of a footpath.  It is accessible both downstairs and upstairs levels can be accessed by wheelchair or those with buggies from two separate entrances, as a result it scores well on this aspect on my internal-mental scorecard.

The wall is covered in ephemera, bits, bobs, knick-knacks and much nautical stuff.  Lots of brass fittings, dark woods and a diorama at the top of a large space within the centre of the building.  I personally find this immensely off-putting; it reminds me of Uncle Moe’s Family Feedbag (for non-Simpsons fans this might be lost on you…)

The menu is standard pub stuff.  Burgers, hot dogs, pub classics.

It isn’t a foodie destination, this is what I call ‘functional food.  There is a range of draught lagers available including Hanlon’s Yellow Hammer and Exe Brewery Avocet Ale as well as the usual bottles behind the bar.  But I found the experience to be pleasant, no stress, just a nice meal with lovely views across Lyme Bay and Exmouth.

We both opted for the Brunch (£6.25) and a coke and a pot of tea.

We ordered our food at the food ordering point.  The service throughout our meal was swift and friendly.  Our companions went for the more substantial option, pictured here is one of the burgers for just over £8.00.  It went down very well!

Our friend’s little one found the range of play activities to be quite enthralling, and there was space for him to push around on his scooter outside after we had finished eating.  It was a bug with wheels which he had named ‘Bug-Bug’.  It is moments like this that I often wish to regress to a young enough age where small green toys with wheels became fascinating and fun again!

We finished off our meal with an Ice Cream from the stand outside which is connected to the kitchens of the restaurant indoors.

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Candy Floss anyone?

Dawlish Warren isn’t at the at the top of many lists.  But for kids it is excellent.  The food at The Boat House was pleasant enough, the activities that are available in season for big kids and little kids is enough to keep you entertained and make that £3.20 parking fee worth it.  Or £4.00 if you’re in the long-stay car park.

Alternatively cycle down the wonderful new cycle way that stretches from Exeter to Dawlish or catch the train.  Or park the car at Dawlish and take in the scenic seafront Walk to Dawlish Warren along the sea front? The options are plentiful.

The Pinhoe Hoard, Pinhoe Rd.

2 Bakers Way, Exeter EX4 8GA – 01392 690655 – – Twitter

EE RecommendsSitting opposite the Pinhoe branch of Aldi, and next door the Sainsbury’s supermarket, The Pinhoe Hoard is Exeter’s newest
mega-gastro-chain pub that is catering to the widest spectrum of punters with its large dining area, kids play facilities ample car parking and convenient placement.

You don’t have to travel narrow lanes, to reach this pub as it is all handily plonked on the side of one of the main arterial routes in to Exeter.  According to their website, just a short drive to Dartmoor too; I would challenge their definition of short given that it is nearly half an hour away.

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The Pinhoe Hoard was named after, the ‘Pinhoe Hoard’ which was a small collection of bronze age axes or palstaves discovered by metal detectorists on the present site of the pub.

They serve what I call functional food.  There are many things that it is not, but it fills a hole and definitely has its place in the diverse array of places to eat out in Exeter.

My recent experiences of Marston Inns has been getting steadily better recently.  My low-point was The Waterloo Cross in Uffculme with our disastrous wedding anniversary meal a few years ago.  Then The Red Deer in Crediton; apathetic at first but each time we’ve been its been getting better, and finally culminating in a generally pleasant experience at The Pinhoe Hoard after a mad day out.  Despite the mixed bag of reviews on Tripadvisor, there is a trend towards the Excellent’s and Very Good’s but not without the Terrible reviews which is filled with the usual whining and moaning that seems to grace every restaurant’s page.

Given it was a busy Friday night, we had to wait a few minutes for our table.  So we sat at the bar area and waited for our buzzing/vibrating/beeping thing to go off in around 10 minutes.  It did in about 8 minutes, to indicate that our table was ready.  The gentleman on the podium/till/touchscreen-of-power was friendly and took us to our readied table.  We already had our drinks that we had been able to add to our tab easily with the buzzing/vibrating/beeping thing.  I went for a European pilsner which was pleasant enough.

The Pinhoe Hoard is a Rotisserie Pub.  This means it has a Rotisserie and a slightly different menu from other Marston’s.  For a full ‘spotters guide’ of Marston Inn pubs head to their website.

It was quite a large menu (PDF), there was a lot of text and with these sorts of  gastropubs it takes a while to fully  browse everything.  To give the serving staff their credit we weren’t hurried in to a decision; we often end up playing Menu Battles with over eager staff but either we were feeling particularly decisive or we were given enough time to fully take in the vast amount of options, there was little pressure to ORDER FOOD NOW.

I went for a Buttermilk Chicken Burger served with fries and coleslaw for £10.95.  Tori went for 10oz Gammon with Skin-On Fries and Peas.

One of my biggest bug-bears with Marston Inns is their apathy when it comes with coleslaw.  Compared to the lovely large portions that you can enjoy at other restaurants, the coleslaw comes in a teeny pot which is just enough to feed a voracious shrew, not an overweight 34 year old with an appetite.  However ‘Coleslaw Apathy’ is something endemic to large chain gastropubs, Wetherspoon’s being the worst offender.

This is my only negative, the chips and the burger were well cooked and was definitely a burger I would have again.  Tori’s Gammon was evenly cooked and tasted nice.  Though the portions were a little on the small side, I would come again and maybe have one of their speciality Rotisserie meals which seem to have a larger portion size.

For functional chain-gastro-pub food this was a pleasant experience and I would recommend this place for what it is.  The modern interior is inoffensive; the staff were imeppcably friendly and swift throughout our visit; the toilets were clean; the table was level; the cutlery was clean; the price for the whole meal was reasonable despite it being a very busy evening there was no sense of panic.

I’ll see you again pub…

Comedy at The Oddfellows, Exmouth

If you fancy a laugh, and some great Eat The Smoke BBQ Street Food, then head down to The Oddfellows in Exmouth tomorrow night, where Yvan has organised a Comedy Night!

Tickets are £5 per person, doors open at 7:00pm and the night kicks off at 8:30pm.  Available will be, not only the great food & drink that The Oddfellow’s serve, but also Eat The Smoke BBQ pit street food, 1 ltr Kilner Cocktail jars but selected bottled beers and ales and wine will be available at great prices.

This is the full line up confirmed for Sunday 7th Feb!

Compere – Aideen McQueen
Opening Act – Johnny Kats
Middle Acts – Aaron Levene & Matt Hobs
Closing Act – Simon King

“Eat the Smoke” Pitt BBQ street food – £6
Kilner Cocktail – 1 litre liner jars of cocktails £12
Selected bottle beers – £2.50
Wine – £10 a bottle
Ales – £3 pint

The Red Deer, Crediton – (2/5)

Can I start this review by saying that I don’t have a vendetta against Marstons Inns.  I didn’t go in to the pub preparing to pick at the service or criticise the meal and the fact that they own The Waterloo Cross (where we had a disastrous meal last year) does not sway me in one direction or another.

But I went in, willing to give a Marston Inn another go…

The outside of the building is clad in that doctor’s surgery chic, a bland and apathetic attempt to make it less of an eyesore than it could be. But there isn’t even a hint that its trying to really look anything but aesthetically acceptable.  Its not overtly offensive, in some lights it might actually be quite nice.

Despite the modern ‘housing estate’ feel of the outside of the pub, the inside is decorated with wood cladding. It’s tasteful, with a strong theme of deer and antlers throughout the pub.  Had the pub been included in A Game Of Thrones, it would be the pub that Stannis Baratheon would nip out to for a quick pint in between burning pagans and marching on Winterfell.  And if you hadn’t noticed that the name of the pub was The Red Deer, there is a massive deer on the wall as you enter the pub.

As we seated ourselves, almost instantaneously a sour
faced waiter came over to see if we wanted any drinks. I’m not a fan of being asked even before we have sat down, as I have no idea what they have and I generally want to look at the menu first so we asked the waiter to come back as we didn’t know what we wanted to drink, to which he turned on his heels and stomped off impatiently.

This is, I have to say, was the general theme of the service.

Like a troupe of bad actors, moving around a large stage they stomped around quickly, delivering the food, running off, taking an order, replaying the same automatic phrases to diners.  With little passion and no soul. It wasn’t that they were in panic mode, it just seemed so…flat.

The waiter returned, he took our drinks order, made no eye contact, came back with our drinks, took our food order with no eye contact and that was it.

No pleasanteries, no passion, just the feeling that the relentless march of people who wanted their BOGOF meals was wearing him down.  One positive I had picked up was that Brakespear Oxford Gold was on draught, which was my tipple of choice for the meal.

The Red Deer proudly states on the outside that all main courses are buy-one-get-one-free.  This includes everything that comes to you as a main course.  If you want to go and eat on your own, you’re stuffed, because the prices don’t match the portions and definitely don’t match the quality.

We went for a 10oz Gammon Steak and a Chilli Beef Burger both of which were passable.  In fact the chips were really nice, freshly cooked and really crisp.  But it stated that it came with coleslaw.  A small (I estimate it to be about 4cm in diameter) plastic ramiken of catering discount coleslaw, I would hazard to say that it was a ‘sneeze’ worth and a measly portion of chips, all topped off with the most apathetic, ‘gourmet burger’ that I have had the pleasure (because it tasted quite nice despite the crap presentation and accouterments) of eating.

I realised that actually, had we paid £4.99 for the burger meal, it would have been an alright meal.  A small portion of chips, a large but sparsely decorated burger and a sneeze of coleslaw would have been passable.  But had we paid £10.60 for this I wouldn’t be so forgiving.

I find this method of marketing deceitful, and if you are going to promote a BOGOF offer, then at least give the diner the meal that you would have paid for.  And the meal I received was not even worth £4.99.  So on this level, it is hideously overpriced for what you get.

Would I go back, I expect so. But not if I was hungry.  Am I being mean? Only as mean as the portions served.

The flatness of the service, the food, the children running around semi-clothed (yes I know this is a family pub…) the limited range of Ales available from such a large brewery pub and the deceptive offer make me wonder what we are really going to get from The Pinhoe Hoard (the new planned Mega-Pub on Pinhoe Road) I want The PH to be so much better than this, and I really hope it is.

Mexican Monday at JD Wetherspoons (1/5)

I like Wetherspoon Pubs generally.  They have an amazing range of real ales and often the place is clean and normally quite comfy.  Yes they might be a homogenized brand, but they do it well.

Unfortunately the food can be a little hit and miss.  Frequently I go and have the burger n beer offer which is normally a delightful alternative from McDeath but tonight I was feeling adventerous and as it was their Mexican Monday I felt a little deviation from the norm was needed.

Mexican isn’t a hard type of dish to serve up, its not hard to get it wrong either but it seems that this is just what Spoons managed to do.  Well with the Nachos (my able assistant’s Burrito didn’t look half bad…)

I present to you, a pile of Nachos with a spoonful of BBQ Pulled Pork, a spoonful of Guacamole and some tinned salsa.  Thanks Wetherspoons…

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Its not that I get some silent kick about critcising a chain, but I just had hopes and dreams.  Hopes of cheese that had been melted, hopes of lashings of salsa and guacamole.  Expectations that the whole thing wouldn’t be so, well, dry…

I managed to work out that only a third of the Nachos had melted cheese attached to it but most of it managed to have a horrid bitter tinned salsa sticking to the whole thing.

I’m sticking to the burgers in future…

The Nobody Inn, Doddiscombleigh, Exeter

In all honesty, I’m not usually one for pub grub. I’m not being snooty or fussy, I’ve just experienced my fair share of bland and boring pub meals, not to mention the microwaved plates of yellow they serve at Weatherspoons’.  However after years of snubbing pub food, a trip to The Nobody Inn in Doddiscombleigh last week opened my eyes to the world fantastic foodie pubs, which can actually be easily found if you wonder from the comforts of city life.

Nestled between the Haldon hills and Teign Valley, The Nobody Inn is located in a truly picturesque setting. Luckily we had picked a beautifully warm day to visit, so grabbed one of the large spacious tables in the beer garden, where we were able to bask in the sunshine. With the garden being located at the front of the pub, there are some gorgeous views to be enjoyed over the rolling hills, and although there’s a small country road that runs by, it’s a quiet and peaceful place to relax.

After securing our table, we walked into the pub to grab some menus and order a drink. Upon arrival we were greeted by the cheerful landlord who immediately treated us as if we were returning friends. The first thing that I noticed about this lovely old building was the impressive whisky collection behind the bar (if you’re a fan of the brown stuff you have to visit as they have over 240 varieties to try). Sadly I’m more of a rum kinda girl and upon asking the landlord for his best advice on weaker tipples; I opted to try a pear and peach cider, produced by local cider makers, Annings.

Sitting back down outside I tried the cider (served in a wine glass as “we’re ladies”, big thumbs up from me) as I browsed the foodie offerings. The lunch menu looked great, with lots of traditional but well thought out and intriguing dishes such as cumin and honey glazed ham with eggs, and steak ciabatta with caramelised onions and mushrooms, I had a hard time whittling the options down to one. After much deliberation I went for the smoky pork burger, topped with smoked apple wood cheese and bbq sauce, served in a toasted ciabatta (£10.95). The cider was delicious as well, not too sweet like many ciders can be, and not too fizzy either, it was as Goldie Locks would say, just right, with a good amount of peachiness!

After placing our orders at the bar, we enjoyed our drinks in the sunshine, and within 15 minutes the food was on the table. My lunch was certainly something to look at when it arrived, beautifully presented, the burger standing tall alongside a bucket spilling with petite French fries, I just knew this was going to taste as good as it looks. Tucking into the burger, I was in heaven. The pork patty was juicy and really flavoursome with hints of spice and sweetness, and was complimented so well by the smoky cheese and the tangy bbq sauce.

I’m going to put it out there; this was the best burger I’ve ever had.

It was huge as too, but tasted so good I had to eat every last bit, sweeping up the remnants of the chunky bbq sauce with the scraps of toasted ciabatta bun. The French fries (what I could eat of them) were really good too, perfectly seasoned with just a little wobble in their structure. This was the perfect plate of food.

The fantastic food, quirkily friendly service and attractive setting at The Nobody Inn has renewed my faith in good pub grub. Although it’s a 30 minute drive from Exeter, it is well worth the journey as the free-house stands head and shoulders above most of the cities pub-restaurants. I will definitely be returning and can’t wait until I get the chance to sample their exciting evening menu.


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The Nobody Inn Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Toby Carvery, Digby, Exeter – (2/5)

ROASTThe great British roast dinner, something that all residents of this peculiar little island hold close to their hearts, and even the picky eaters among us are catered to with the wide variety of elements which compile this classics dish. It became apparent that this strange connection that the British have to the good old roast intensifies at university, and the home cooked roast dinner is glorified beyond belief. Bearing in mind that I had just finished a long term of procrastination chat (with a surprising amount being dedicated to roast dinner dreaming) and not enjoying a Sunday lunch since Christmas, when a friend suggested we meet up at Toby Carvery for dinner I couldn’t say no.

Situated just off Middlemoor roundabout, parallel to the dual carriage way, you definitely wouldn’t be visiting Toby Carvery for the location or the views. The pub, come hotel has a large car park and out door seating, although scenes of the rush hour traffic don’t make for a peaceful ambiance. Arriving at around 7 o’clock on a Tuesday evening we were not expecting the restaurant to be busy, however we were greeted by a long queue once through the doors. I wouldn’t of minded waiting if there was a server there to advise on how long the wait was going to be but the whole service was very unorganised. After a 10 minutes of waiting with no contact from the staff we were seated in a very poky corner of the very crowded pub, by a grumpy looking waitress who I don’t think even grumbled a word to us.
Luckily a polite waitress was assigned to our table and took our drinks order quite swiftly before advising us that we could collect our carvery when it suited us.

Although we planned to wait for our cokes before getting our food, we spotted a lul in the queue and decided to go for it whilst it was quiet (this was a good idea as a couple minutes later we had atleast 10 people waiting behind us.) At the carvery we were greeted by another rude member of staff, the chef who ignored us waiting there for atleast 5 minutes whilst he played around with the food aimlessly, without even acknowledging us. Eventually when he decided to serve us I chose the turkey from the selection of meats ( which also included gammon, pork and beef.) The remainder of the meal was self service and I was pleasantly surprised by the wide range of fresh (looking) vegetables and accompanying sauces and gravy. What’s more we were provided with very large plates, meaning you didn’t have to pile up your food to enjoy everything you fancied.

Arriving back at out table we were glad we didn’t wait for our drinks as 10 minutes on they still had not arrived, so we tucked into our rather large plates of food. In all the roast dinner was nice, and I use this painfully bland adjective as a metaphor. The turkey was extremely dry and was quite hard to chew without swamping it with gravy, luckily the cranberry sauce was really good, so smothering a bit of this on the meat was a solution. The cauliflower cheese was also very disappointing, with not even a hint of cheesey-ness, the bland white slop on my plate tasted as if the cauliflower had simply been boiled in milk. However the roast potatoes were really crisp and tasty, and the gravy was rich and meaty, which really saved the meal.

You can’t argue with the excellent value of Toby Carvery with a huge roast dinner costing only £5.99, although expect the basics, there are no thrills or luxuries here. If you want a simple roast dinner with all the trimmings this is a good pit stop for a quick meal, however if you’ve been dreaming of your perfect roast for a few weeks, Toby’s will leave you feeling disappointed.

Read more from Kathryn at adayinmyshoeskathryn.blogspot.comand follow her on Twitter @kathrynlewis92

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The Malt House (Harvester), St Thomas, Exeter (3/5)

Exeter isn’t a large city, and eventually things get back to me about restaurants in Exeter that are either truly amazing places to eat or should be just avoided.  And one thing that comes back to me quite often is the varying experiences of friends of ours who have visited The Malt House. Take a trip to Trip Advisor and you see a worrying consensus.  Out of 404 restaurants in Exeter, The Malt House slinks in at 325.  The vast majority of the reviews are in the Poor and Terrible categories, a lot of diners complaining about service strangely enough with many enjoying the food but finding the execution somewhat unpalatable.

So in need of a quick fix after a Saturday of moving around boxes and rearranging furniture, we headed to The Malt House to see what would happen…

The Malt House sits on the St Thomas side of the river, just down from the Quay.  Originally built in 1791 and extended through the years, Brewers Fayre took it over in 1995 to turn it in to a Family Pub.  Its a family pub, it has plenty of accommodation for kiddlywinkles and in fact, if I ever end up with varying amounts of small children I wouldn’t hesitate to take them to The Malt House given the outdoor playground and the family orientation of the place.

The Malt House has its own car park which is free and within easy reach of the pub.  Upon entering the staff seemed to have an expression of sheer panic which is normally the first sign that they are very busy and not really coping.  The chap we spoke to said that he didn’t have any tables for two cleared (despite a few obvious empty tables?), so we could either do something something in the bar, or be in the bar area, but he would much rather have us in the restaurant area.  It was up to us.
As we stood in the middle of a blisteringly loud restaurant about to ask the waiter to repeat what he just said because we couldn’t hear him, a manager (must have been as he was wearing a buttoned shirt) spied a table that was ready.  So we sat down and ordered our drinks.

We waited for our drinks whilst looking through the menu (which isn’t that bad as menus go).  Lots of chicken stuff, half chickens, racks of ribs, gourmet burgers, hell they even do breakfasts when they manage to open on time (have a look at Trip Advisor).  There was a 15 to 20 minute wait on food, which wasn’t horrendous so not really wanting to go tramping down to McDonalds out of desparation we decided to wait it out.

One of the ‘perks’ of The Malt House is the refillable never ending free salad bar which is, oddly enough, refillable.  If you ignore the fact the salad has been sitting around, just waiting to be man handled by flies and fingers then this is great, especially if you’re very hungry and like me have an appetite like a walrus.  The range of condiments and bread rolls in addition to all the salad is a nice touch, but the inclusion of some tongs for the warm bread rolls would be nice.  Small things, you know.
You can also get a free refillable soft drink for £2.45, but at this point we were still missing our drinks.  So whilst watching the chap who was meant to be getting our drinks wipe some tables, we got ready to wait.

We were spotted by another server who came over and took our food order and tracked down our drinks.  Given we only wanted a quick bite to eat, we ordered from their ‘main meals from £4.99’ section which was pretty good.  It contained the classic sorts of meals including Fish & Chips which is what I went for.  Tori went for a Chargrilled Chicken Fahita Wrap with chips and we both had a bottomless Pepsis.  Whole thing came to £14.88 for both of us, which we thought was reasonable for what we got.

As we ate our salad bar salad,  we concluded that it had a strange taste to it which made us wonder what it had been washed in? Water would be a good guess? Possibly? The food appeared within 10 minutes and was surprisingly nice (given reviews and experience up to this point).

The fish tasted like a quality piece of cod, the batter was well cooked and it had a nice taste to it and the chips, what chips there were, were fresh and crunchy.  Tori had no complaints about her Wrap and by the end of the meal we were left pleasantly surprised by the food.

The Malt House has no qualms about being a family pub and we found that the low ceilings of the restaurant meant the sound resonated at just the right frequency that our ear drums were useless. By the end of the meal, we had come up with our own sign language which we intend to publicise and use as an alternative to BSL.  It featured such gestures as ‘those people have been waiting ages’ and ‘do you want more Pepsi?’, including my favourite ‘This place has free WiFi, I am so happy’.  OK, humorous exaggeration aside, it was noisy and the environment wasn’t overly relaxing but it was very busy.  However by the time we left, the majority of diners had left and we ended up leaving a quieter and much more pleasant atmosphere.

The food was good, the service was flaky at first but seemed to sort itself out after we got someone who stopped obsessing over tables.  Would we recommend it to others? Well, yes but with a health warning (noise and children) and don’t expect too much given the reviews.  Would I go again? Yes, so long as it wasn’t busy.  It is good value, and you can’t get past the excellent prices no matter how bad the Trip Advisor reviews are.


The Old Firehouse, 50 New North Road

Tucked away in the corner of the city centre, sandwiched between two looming grey office blocks, is The Old Firehouse, Exeter’s own little secret garden. Walking through the flowered arched entrance you could be stepping back in time into the bustling beer garden, if it wasn’t for the fairy lights dotted around the walls.

One of my favourite places to visit when back home in Exeter, I jumped at the chance to go for dinner with a couple of friends one summery evening. Taking a seat upstairs in the pub, come restaurant, we chose one of the long, vintage wooden tables, perfect for long nights of laughter with friends in one of the cities social hubs. The extensive menu includes alluring options for all (including extensive vegetarian and vegan options), I found it difficult to decide between the intriguing range of burgers (featuring wild boar, a variety of cheeses and an exciting looking list of sauces and relishes) and the diverse range of baked potato toppings (the mushroom and blue cheese was very tempting).

The popular venue attracts visitors of all ages with local ales and ciders, but proves particularly popular with students due to their drink deals and quiz evenings. We chose to share a pitcher of elderflower cider (£5 for 2 pints) which was delicious. Not too sweet like many fruit ciders generally are and carried a really pleasant hint of elderflower.

EE RecommendsI opted for the roasted butternut squash, topped with three bean chilli and goats cheese, accompanied by salad slaw (£5.80). Their menu is great as it has the perfect mix of treats and indulgences but also has lighter options to choose from. The service was quick (although it was a quiet Tuesday evening) and the food was extremely tasty. The squash was lovely and soft and the goats cheese complemented the rich chilli sauce. In all the meal was gorgeous, but it was just a little on the small side and I was left wanting more, if the salad slaw was a little larger it would have been perfect! The lasagne also looked delicious, smothered in cheese sauce, served with crusty bread, and received Laura’s seal of approval. What’s more Emily’s hearty burger caught my eye several times and was definitely worth the £7.50 price tag!

All in all I had another great experience at the Old Firehouse, lovely food with great service for an impressive price. I will definitely be visiting again, if not to try more of their tasty flavoured ciders but to try out their late night pizza baskets!

Read more from Kathryn at her blog 

The Half Moon, Clyst St Mary, Exeter

Sunday lunches are quite a British thing, correct me if I am wrong but I don’t know of another culture that will insist on having roast dinners even in the middle of Summer whilst its baking hot outside.  But like many things in the culinary universe, it is very very easy to (excuse the French) f**k up.

For a number of years the legendary Sunday lunch at The Half Moon in Clyst St Mary has been a source of curiosity as more than one person has recommended it to me.  So, given we were invited down for a recent birthday, how could I not give it the Eating Exeter treatment.

Before I go on, I have to say that I am completely biased when writing about The Half Moon simply because I was a resident of Clyst St Mary for about six years, and through the years, the village itself has changed in a lot of ways.  But one constant has been this funny little pub that has sat on the corner in the village for a very long time.

Clyst St Mary is a strange village that suffers from ‘Blink and You Miss It’ Syndrome.  The roundabout is the one feature of this village that most people are familiar with, its not a destination, just a small squirt on an ever encroaching urban landscape.  There is a medieval bridge that crosses the marsh next door which saw a large battle in The Prayer Book Rebellion, and a shop that sells things and and…the Village Hall.  There is also a church but this is conveniently situated a mile away on the other side of the Winslade Park estate.

So where does The Half Moon fit in to all of this? It was here that I tried to out-drink my father when I was newly and managed to fail.  It has been 14 years since I have had a pint of Addlingtons Cider and I won’t be in a rush. Sorry Addlingtons!  As you might imagine, he got in trouble when I returned home and returned the contents of my stomach in a glorious and embarrassing fashion.

It was in this pub I spent a couple of new years and it was in this pub that I gave away a winning meat raffle ticket, only to have found out it would have won a massive joint of pork. So unfortunately this review has turned in to more of a nostalgic ramble…oh well.
One of my best friends worked here for years, and after the demise of The Malster’s Pub which was situated further up the visit, The Half Moon became the only pub.  A sad and inevitable fact of life these days is that pubs are increasingly under threat, but given the popularity of this place and the popularity of the Sunday Lunches here, it would be surprising if The Half Moon faced such a threat.

There are two bars, a drinking bar and the restaurant side.  Both of them are not overly spacious, but I would be happy to say that although it is cosy, the surroundings are definitely not claustrophobic.  The menu at The Half Moon allow large and small portions which makes sense given how much food can end up being wasted by being overly generous with portions.  Specials on the wall, Sunday lunch menu on the table.   I went for the Topside Beef which was £8.95, and a bit cheaper for a smaller portion.  Accompanied by a pint of Hanlon’s Half Moon, which really just had to be done.

Trying to reserve a table for Sunday lunch at The Half Moon is something you really need to do in advance.  The pub was packed and it is easy to see why as I have to fully endorse this as one of the better pub roasts I have had in quite a while.  Crispy Roast potatoes, well cooked Beef (it was so thick I really could have done with a steak knife!) accompanied with home-made horseradish sauce.I have little else to say.  Brilliant roasts, very attentive service and real ales. Village pub atmosphere. What else could you ask for?

The ODDfellows, 60 New North Road

EE RecommendsIt seems like Burgers are becoming as much a part of the staple traditional British menu as Roast Dinners, Fish & Chips and Ham, Egg & Chips. Exeter has seen three new burger restaurants appear in the last two years, burgers are now a given part of menus in many pubs and restaurants and even the editor of this blog has managed to succumb to the glorious simplicity of this American invader.  When The ODDfellows started their @meateasyexeter nights back in June last year, I was intrigued to see what their interpretation of the gourmet burger was going to be like.

We were recently invited down to try some of their meaty delights, and given the recent news that Byron Burgers is about to arrive in Princesshay, I am pretty confident that The ODDfellows is going to give Byron Burgers a run for their money on what is becoming a battlefield of burgers.

Quite frequently on this blog I get a bit nostalgic for places that I used to haunt when I was but a whipper-snapper, and for a long time I always remembered this pub as The Thirsty Camel.  A quick look at Exeter Memories shows that this is one of Exeter’s well established pubs, and despite carrying such monikers like The Thirsty Camel, Molloys and The Gate it is now back to The ODDfellows.  These days, the spit and sawdust has long gone, and it is replaced with wallpaper that looks like books and a lovely airy conservatory which looks on to the historic walls of Exeter Castle.

When walking in to The ODDfellows, one of the first things you notice is the open-plan kitchen where you can watch your food being cooked for you in some, as their website puts it, ‘kitchen theatre’, with maybe less Shakespeare and more shaking and spearing, chopping, frying and grilling. The decor is peppered with some curious ornaments such as a collection of mounted butterflies, a poster of the human vascular system and some large mirrors which double up as their specials boards to name a few.

@meateasyexeter nights offer a menu tailored for the evening.  There are a lot interestingly named burgers for diners to choose from such as: The BC (Bun, 8 0z local beef pattie, pulled pork, BBQ sauce) ‘You’ve Pulled’ (Bun, 8 0z local beef pattie, pulled pork, BBQ sauce) and The Pineapple Express VI (Bun, 8 0z local beef pattie, pineapple ring, onion ring, cheese) to name but some.  All the burgers come with Whips which lie somewhere between a chip and a potato wedge, and a salad which I found by far the nicest accompanying salad that has come with anything I’ve ordered out for a long time.

The menu is explicit about its sources; proving to the diner that this REALLY is a meal that has come from local sources across Devon.  Beef comes from West Devon Meats from Okehampton, Pork comes from Hawkins of Tiverton, Fruit & Veg from Darts Farm, Coffee from DJ Miles of Minehead and Fudge Sauce from Roly’s Fudge in Queen St!  .

Knowing that having a starter would ruin the space needed for my burger, we dived straight in to the mains.  If not for the name itself I went for ‘Not Mushroom in ‘ere’ Burger which was a 8oz beef pattie, sausage, bacon, mushroom, Swiss cheese served with ‘slaw and Whips.  Tori went for the ‘You’ve Pulled’ burger which consisted of an 8oz local beef pattie, pulled pork, BBQ sauce, ‘slaw and Whips.

Whilst we waited I sipped a lovely pint of  Butcombe Brewery‘s award winning Haka bitter, which uses New Zealand hops and comes in at a nicely tame 4.5%.

We were looked after by Neil who offered nothing but a seemingly professional service throughout our visit.  Although he had lots of other customers, the service to our table was courteous and efficient.  And although he had only been at The ODDfellows a few months, he spoke with genuine enthusiasm and passion for the food he served.

The food was, as I imagined it would be, a really damn good burger.  The salad that came with my burger was fresh and tasted like I’d gone in to the field and picked it myself and the Whips had a really good taste to them which balanced the whole meal nicely.  The burger came in a Brioche bun, which was a curious combination with the savoury juices of the steak mince used in the patties, but it worked really well and gave a good balance to the flavours of the beef.  It is interesting to note that we were lucky enough that the chef had brioche buns in that night, as it seems there is a degree of flexibility in bun choice.  If you get a Brioche week, you’re in for a treat!  We both agreed that the taste of the meat was excellent, it was not greasy in the slightest and upon further dissection we found it was cooked perfectly.  A slight slight pinkness in the middle, in between medium rare and well done is my personal preference for a burger and it was spot on.

The temptation for desserts got me fully and a quick look at the selection of desserts on offer had me going for Ice Cream with Roly’s Fudge Sauce. Tori went for the Chocolate Brownie and Raspberry Stuff which was a lovely light brownie mixture which didn’t feel stodgy as some brownie desserts can do.

The ODDfellows is a unique establishment in Exeter, the layout with the kitchen theatre and the quirky touches make this a pub with quite a lot of appeal to those with a sense of humour and a sense of good taste.  The upstairs is The Speakeasy Cocktail lounge with its vintage styling and extensive cocktail menu and it is easily bookable for private parties and events. @meateasyexeter definitely stands, in my opinion, as a worthy burger destination in a city with so much choice for gourmet burgers.

The ODDfellows Exeter Gastro Pub, 60 New North Road, Exeter, Devon. EX4 4EP
Tel: 01392 20 90 50

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On The Waterfront: Christmas Menu

Its that time of year when, depending on where you work, the collective decision about where to host the Christmas meal falls on some unlucky sod.  Often the decision is one that you have to choose carefully, especially if there is much disagreement about where the best place to host.  Some want quality food, and others want a cheaper option which might skip the quality for quantity.

This year it was the turn of On The Waterfront, who got the royal Eating Exeter Christmas visit.  On The Waterfront is a gastro-pub on the historic Quayside which has a sister pub in the form of John Gandy’s in the city.  Unfortunately I couldn’t take any photos because it was too dark for my camera, mood lighting has a lot to answer for sometimes!  The Christmas menu can be found here on their website.  Two courses for £19.95 and three courses for £23.95, minus the deposit of £5.

On The Waterfront used to be renowned for their ‘Dustbin Lid pizzas back in the day.  The decor was varied, with lots of ‘old stuff’ dotted about the roof and on various shelves and cravices.  Dug in to the side of the cliff, the interior was a warehouse that served the wollen industry of Exeter when the Quayside was an active port.
Now, it serves the diners and drinkers of Exeter in serving a varied menu of home-made pizzas, gourmet burgers and the usual gastro pub offerings.  On The Waterfront of today is a modern, sleak affair with mood lighting and lots tables.  A few sofa’s here and there, a generally pleasant place to be when its not overly busy.

When we had been presented with the Christmas Menu, it was like most Christmas menu’s; peppered with seasonal vegetables and smaller compared to the larger main restaurant menu (as they generally are, obvious really).  I moaned about this to my colleague who was organising it as I don’t like roasts generally.  Given this, they allowed a small portion of our party to choose some items from the main menu. This was something I was quite glad about given the portion sizes that came out for my fellow diners.  Although tasty, the amount of food on the plate was somewhat underwhelming and the seasonal vegetables were somewhat skimped on with one bowl of sprouts for a party of 8.  Extra gravy? Didn’t appear to be any, just the splat that was added on the mains.

My ‘Mama Meata’ pizza was exceptionally tasty though.  Beautiful crisp base and a whole load of really nice meats in the topping left me with the distinct impression that I would definitely be coming back to On The Waterfront for the pizza.  But not for the Christmas Menu.  In Exeter, On The Waterfront remains the place to go if you want a very special pizza, but the two/three course modestly portioned Christmas Menu was surprising.  The service was flawless throughout our experience and the bar lady must be given credit for giving me a glass of water after she had shut the bar down.

So here is the argument.  Why should you start presenting diners with large amounts of food if your focus is on quality?.  The meat part of the Christmas Menu was tasty enough, did we really need more gravy?  There is always the need to cater for individual tastes, and some in our party were happy enough with just the gravy that they got.  Had we a similar meal in a ‘proper pub’, we might be presented with more in quantity but would it really have tasted as nice? Maybe not.

I am holding off giving On The Waterfront a rating on this experience because I knew had I been there to have a pizza, it would have been a great experience.  So next time I visit, I am having a MASSIVE pizza and lots of beer.

The Beer Engine, Newton St Cyres, Exeter (4/5)

I find the idea of sitting next to a pub, next to a railway line a really nice idea.  I like trains; being something of a closet train spotter myself. The first time I rolled in to The Beer Engine was about four years ago after doing a county-long pub crawl that started in Barnstaple and ended in Exeter as part of the Tarka Ale Trail.  If you picked up enough stamps from the pubs involved you could get a t-shirt, a  mug or even something else that showed how much of a real Ale fan you were by hitting each pub with decreasing levels of sanity and dignity.

The sad thing about my first ever visit to The Beer Engine was that I couldn’t remember much about it and I reckon I must have scared a few locals along the way.  So now seemed to be the perfect opportunity to make amends, and come to The Beer Engine and appreciate it for the strangely nice place that it is.

So, whats special about this pub?  Firstly, and most importantly for me, is the fact that it is a micro-brewery.  A rare find in the UK these days, a pub that serves its own Ale that is brewed in the same building.  They produce small batches at a time, and given the Ale is brewed on site, the prices are incredibly reasonable.  Rail Ale was £2.80 a pint, a lovely light hoppy pale ale which was unfortunately for me, very drinkable.
Secondly the food stands out as being some of the best this side of Exeter, the prices are not out of the realms of extortionate and the menu is varied and caters for many tastes.  Thirdly the service was second-to-none, the landlady (Jan I believe?) took our orders and made us feel welcome, it was a personable and warm reception and short of rolling out red carpet and having a small batch of fanfare trumpets, we were treated brilliantly.

So you most probably realize that I like this place? Did you guess? Strange that.

AA 2008 Good Food Guide says nice things about The Beer Engine:

“Striking whitewashed free house, once a railway hotel and these days acknowledged as one of Devon’s first micro-breweries. There’s daily fish deliveries from Brixham so expect sea bass, cod or haddock cooked in beer batter.”

In theory you could eat and enjoy a pint for just over a tenner, its not throat gaggingly expensive but you do pay for quality and although some dishes are given ample servings, the food would be best described as ‘taste over quantity’ especially if you’re used to the massive quantities of a Hungry Horse establishment such as the likes of The Bath House in Exmouth.

We had a starter in the form of Whole Baked Camembert with brioche, salad and chutney.  It was a perfect sharing size and it even came in the box too!  At £7.25 it was a good price for a starter for two people, although it’d have been nice to have more of the brioche (how about ordering an extra portion of bread for £1.20 with it?).  It was well balanced and had a very nice salad accompanying it.

I went for the Maple Glazed Louisiana Pork served with Bar-B-Que Sauce, Skinny Fries & Coleslaw for £11.95.  The pork was pulled and then compacted in to a sausage.  You are served slices of compacted pulled pork with a large helping of this gorgeous BBQ sauce to drizzle over everything.  I found that the best way to eat it was to cover the meat in the sauce and then mash the pork up so it mixed together.  I then discovered how much pork was really in these little slices, and the combination with the maple glaze was a sweet and savory meaty slap to the face, one of the nicest pork dishes I have had in a long time.
The skinny fries were crispy yet disappointingly, some of them were colder than they should have been (call me fussy!), but not worth complaining about given the taste was really top class.  The coleslaw was chunky and served in a sealed pot, this either preserved the flavour or possibly they created them in large batches before being served when they were needed perhaps?  It was a quirky touch if anything.   My other half had something from the specials board, a Pork and Suet pie in a red wine gravy.  It was reportedly very tasty, and the bits that I did taste of it confirmed this.

The reputation for good food is well deserved,  and the array of fish dishes available will make your day if you’re that way inclined.

The close proximity to Newton St Cyres station and the short distance away from the dark bustling streets of Exeter should not put you off taking a trip out to his awesome little pub.  Its not miles away, and is worth coming even for the Ale.  Don’t expect massive portions, but do expect a well put together cuisine which is worth sampling.

By telephone – 01392 851282, fax: 01392 851876

The Beer Engine, Newton St Cyres, Exeter, EX5 5AX