Byron Burgers, Princesshay by Chris Gower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Swan at Bampton – by Lauren Heath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Email: info@theswan.co

Web: www.theswan.co

Instagram: theswanbampton

Twitter: @theswanbampton

Facebook: @theswanbampton

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

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

Sunday
Midday – 2.30 pm
6.30 pm – 8.45 pm

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

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

 

 

 

 

Dinner at newly refurbished Circa 1924 – by Lauren Heath

Circa 1924 is already one of my favourites out of all the chains and independents. I have enjoyed their Express Lunch a few times (see my review here), taking friends with to show my ‘secret’ off. But this place should be far from a secret – it deserves to be found and filled with both diners and drinkers.

On this occasion I was invited for dinner; the interior has recently had a slight refurb to make the downstairs more diner focussed by removing the bar area, with upstairs fulfilling that part of the business with live music sessions every Friday. The upstairs is beautiful, with apex beamed ceilings, it’s cool yet cosy and a great place for a date or group gathering.

On a chilly Saturday night, we ventured out on the bus with our 6 year old son, so that we could enjoy a drink or two.

I always struggle to choose what to eat here; I would eat it all – it all sounds so delicious and there is a nice selection of meat, fish and vegetarian options. Of course, as important as the food is the drinks offering, which is extensive too – wines, soft drinks, craft beers and cocktails.I had no hesitation in choosing my favourite Espresso Martini and Steve made a special request for a Margherita.

So on to the food!

Whilst deciding, and due to having an ever -hungry child, we had some bread to start. It was lovely selection with some high quality butter and ewas consumed with gusto.

For starters I opted for Cured Loin Of Local Venison with Västerbotten cheese, wild mushrooms & lingonberry coulis whilst Steve chose the Crispy Softshell Crab with spring onion, house sweet chilli & wasabi. As ever, I had trouble choosing between the venison and the bisque so ‘blow it’, we order the Brixham Crab Bisque with butter poached king prawns & homemade bread as well to share.

The venison was soft and tasty, with a tang from the cheese and sweetness from the coulis. The softshell crab was beautifully crisp, texturally soft inside and sweet – really yummy. The bisque had a good amount of depth to it with two very plump and sweet prawns. A delightful start to our meal.

For mains I went for the Rump Of Local Lamb with roasted garlic purée,buckwheat pancakes & sour cream and Steve had his name on the Local Fillet Of Beef served with potato muffin, tenderstem broccoli & red wine jus. Our son enjoyed the starter softshell crab along with a side of skin on fries which he rated highly!

Both meats were cooked perfectly, were soft and full of flavour with no chewy bits in sight. Muffins and pancakes were light and all the elements worked well together. We were also enticed by the option of adding surf to our turf and enjoyed two fried oysters, which were absolutely delightful – something I have always wanted to try.

Last but certainly not least, it was dessert time! I opted for the Dark Chocolate Truffle Torte, vanilla-coffee mascarpone, honeycomb & blackberry coulis whilst savoury Steve was delighted by the chance to have Selection of Three Cheeses which came with a fantastic variety of crackers and crisp bread. My pud was rich dark chocolate, lots of crunchy textures, blobs of creamy loveliness and coulis for a bit of sharpness – and it was a work of art.

I may sound like a stuck record, but I do love the food here. It’s tasty, flavoursome, interesting, local, an independent and beautfully presented. The feel is casual and comfortable yet attentive. It’s ideal for groups or even a special evening.

My only small suggestion would be that, with the mains, perhaps a bit more starch is included as I was dining with a hungry man – yes you can order some extra sides but I guess at this price point you may not want to spend more on sides. The plus side to the food here is that is just so fresh, light and pleasing so you can manage 3 courses and you don’t go away feeling awfully stuffed.

Having written this after visiting a more premium restaurant further afield, at a similar price point, the quality of the food and cooking was very close and I do hope Circa 1924 achieves some recognition in future. But more important than any awards is that the locals (and visitors) support the restaurant and vote with their feet…and eat! Until next time Circa; this restaurant is firmly on my recommendation shortlist!

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Circa 1924, 6 Northernhay Place, Exeter, EX4 3QJ.
Ph: 01392 438545
Web: www.circa1924.co.uk/
@Circa1924
info@circa1924.co.uk

Online reservations: http://www.circa1924.co.uk/#!make-a-reservation/cg3s

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.

Heron Bedroom 3

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.

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.

Old Timer’s Wine Bar & Restaurant – by Chris Gower

Little Castle St, Exeter EX4 3PX – 01392 477704 – http://www.oldtimersexeter.co.uk/

Old Timer’s Wine Bar and Restaurant is one of Exeter’s hidden gems, of which we seem to have many!  An independent establishment that is owned by the same names that own The Timepiece Nightclub and Hole In The Wall, it has been one of the highlights on the dining scene in Exeter for many years.  This is one of the most anticipated reviews for me – given its great reputation with its Sunday roasts – this restaurant delivers excellent value with big portions.

Finding Old Timers is a little bit like trying to find a large restaurant-sized needle in a city-sized haystack if you don’t know Exeter well.  Set well away from the bustle and mania of the High Street, it sits on a wide alleyway that leads up to The Timepiece Nightclub.

On entering the interior feels a lot like a vintage emporium.  It is dark and dimly lit; I don’t know when it was last decorated but there is a timeless quality that has never left since the last time I was here about 10 years ago.  Is it how I remember? I think so…  For me the highlights included the model B52 bomber and the whiskey boxes adorning the wall.

There were five of us, we had booked in advance, but there was no need to really as there was only a light smattering of punters at various tables around the restaurant.  It was 5:30pm and we were definitely the calm before the storm.

Old Timer’s has got the right idea by providing a small yet well rounded menu, covering British classics along with Pizzas, Burgers.  There isn’t many bells & whistles,  but I was chuffed to see that most mains were around the £10 mark, with steaks being slightly more expensive as you’d expect.  The food isn’t sophisticated and the interior is quite rough around the edges, but when our meals appeared the generous portion sizes made us all do a double-take.

I went for the Cajun Chicken Burger; served with Onion Rings, Salad and Home-made Chips.  The chip portion was a little measly in proportion to the rest of the meal (but at the end of the meal I was glad that I hadn’t had MORE chips as with everything else it was a good size) but they were tasty and clearly made of actual potatoes.  The chicken was moist and well cooked with a tasty Cajun finish all encompassed in a soft fresh white bun.

To top this meal, they were selling pints of Exeter Brewery’s Avocet Ale for £3.00 a pint which was a perfect accompaniment for what was one satisfying meal!

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Harry’s Restaurant, Longbrook St – by Chris Gower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hanlon’s Brewery, Half Moon Village

Hanlons Brewery, Hill Farm, Half Moon Village, Devon EX5 5AE 

http://www.hanlonsbrewery.com/

Talk to any ale fan in the Exeter & Devon area and you won’t find many that would not class Yellow Hammer as one of their favourite ales.  For as long as I can remember this beautifully light and golden ale has been a staple in various pubs around Exeter.  It is produced by Hanlons Brewery who are based out at Half Moon Village in between Cowley and Newton St Cyres on the A377.  Sounds far away? It is less than two miles from the centre of Exeter, nestled in the rolling hills that surround the city.

Some long-term hardened ale fans might remember a few years ago, Hanlons used to be based out at Whimple.  After some financial difficulties the company went in to administration but partners Dan Taylor and Jim Bungard swooped to the rescue and bought the ale-ing (sorry) company, relocated it to a purpose built brewery building and the rest is history.  Dan and Jim’s families invested heavily in the business, as a result the company is has a distinctive family run feel to it.

Not too long ago, Hanlon’s opened their doors to the general public on a Friday night serving top quality food and of course their own beautiful ale from draught.  Living less than a mile away, I was ashamed to say that I hadn’t been to visit sooner but was over the Half-Moon (as they’re located in Half Moon Village?…I’ll get my coat) to be invited over to see what has made this hidden gem so successful.

The whole building is wood clad, a distinctive design hidden behind the hedgerow from the A377 which it sits close to.  A whole selection of buses pass here, and there is one every hour generally, and with ample parking it is easy for the designated driver to rock up and find somewhere to park.

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During the week their in-house bar hosts corporate and private events.  But on a Friday night, the menus come out, the reserved signs are placed on the table and diners come down to eat a menu incorporating Hanlons products created by Chef Tim Ware (Jack In The Green, Digger’s Rest).

The room itself is decorated with lots of Hanlons marketing and photographs including the most amazing illustrated diagram that adorns the wall which was created by a local illustrator.  The place mats on the tables replicate this artwork, and there are colouring crayons on each table for big and little kids to colour in (excuse the fuzzy photo!)

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As we arrived, we commenced proceedings with a half of Firefly Bitter; a member of the Hanlon family that I don’t often see in the pubs I visit.

The menu changes each week, follow Hanlon’s Facebook page to see what each week holds in store and keep up to date with brewery tours and other exciting events.

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We decided to share our starter.  A delicious baked Camembert served in fresh Yellow Hammer bread with a side of Stormstay Chutney (£9).  There is something so delectable about fresh bread and melted cheese, and this dish punched straight to the heart of what makes this comfort food a firm favourite in restaurants across the country.

Our main course was a choice, but I had to go for the Sticky Pork Tenderloin with Thai Slaw cooked in Yellow Hammer (£10) as well as Tori.  The fusion worked fantastically, the Yellow Hammer addition shows that this ale is very versatile, not just to drink but to cook with too.

This is fine dining quality for fantastic value but keeping it very much in tune with Hanlon’s tune.  Using ales and beers that Hanlons produces is a great showcase for the other ways that their products can be incorporated into cooking.

The meal was topped off with some locally produced dairy ice-cream, a very simple yet satisfying end to really good meal.

After the meal, we were lucky enough to be taken down to the brewery floor by Dan Taylor to have a brief tour of the facilities.  Yellow Hammer is a beautiful traditional ale that has a special place in the hearts of ale drinkers across the county and to finally visit its birthplace was a definite culinary highlight.

Hanlons has invested in new equipment to help improve consistency and make things more efficient, the shiny vats holding a vast amount of liquid that would eventually be served across pubs and supermarkets.

I love the ethos of this local company and I am a definite fan of their products.  I want to write what I thought of their food in terms that would make readers of this blog cringe or squirm uncomfortably whilst I use words like ‘lush’ and ‘om nom’. But as with any review, you need to try it for yourself.

Follow Hanlons on Twitter and Facebook

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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!

A buzzing event at ‘EATS! at Princesshay’ Launch Party

Recently I was lucky enough to be invited to join Princesshay at their launch of EATS! – an event showcasing the shopping centres restaurants in the run up to some August tasting events for the public.

To start with, we were taken through a secret doorway and rode the lift up to the rooftops of the shopping centre to see the city’s bees. A lovely and sunny rooftop terrace, with a variety of plants specifically chosen to ensure the plants flower throughout the year providing continuous pollination for the bees.

Jason Wallis, head beekeeper, showed us a calmer hive with the queen bee identified by a spot they have placed on her back.  He explained how a queen is born due to how the bees lay a hanging egg as opposed to a horizontal egg! He then showed us, from a safe distance, the main hives.

Harvest takes place mid August to first week September, any later and the honey would be bitter due to the flowers they would be pollinating at the time. Approximately 200 jars worth will be harvested and sold in Chandos deli early September – if you want some you’ll have to act fast! We were all given a little pot to take home (which I have since indulged in) and it is really delicious.

On returning to ground level, we were then treated to drinks from Giraffe and off we went to be seated in the square in front of Jamie’s Italian and Coal. The restaurants put on an array of delights, in turn, to showcase their menus. One of my favourites is Wagamama with their squid and also duck gyozas; I love squid and they do it very well.

They also provided us with some goody bags with a few bits and pieces in; the one that went down very well almost immediately were the funky sunglasses from Tiger…who says the fun has to stop when you grow up?!

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Thank you to Princesshay for an enjoyable time and don’t forget to EATS! your way around Princesshay this Summer.

For further info on EATS! and the events throughout August in Princesshay check out the post here

For further info on the bees project, visit our post here

I’ll leave you with a great collage from the talented Steve Haywood who was capturing the event and whose photos are in the above 2 posts as well:

Eats! Launch Party

Prezzo, High St.

A pseudo-Italian chain restaurant located at the heart of Exeter.  All a bit ‘meh’

202 High Street, Exeter, EX4 3EB – 01392 477739
This restaurant occupies one of the oldest sites in Exeter; there has been a building here since the 12th century. Some historians claim that there has been an inn here since around that time too.  There is comprehensive history of the building over on Demolition Exeter, which summarises it’s history rather well.

In 2005 it stopped being a pub and, unfortunately, turned into a bland pseudo-Italian chain restaurant that we know…and some love.  We had a voucher for Prezzo’s we had been given a while back, so we thought it about time to spend it.

The last time I was in this building was attending a school reunion soon after I had finished uni over ten years ago.  Gone are the carpets, no bar area, just the modern expanse of clean tiled floors, modernist furniture and large jars of pickled vegetables arranged in a ‘so-modern-yet-ironic’ fashion on the wall as you walk in.

A cheery Italian lady brought us to a nice table for two that we had booked, we sat down and read through the menu.  It was, as you might expect a generic ‘Italian’ menu similar to those you might get at Bella Italia or ASK.  Lots of items written in Italian, so to avoid embarrassment, one just has to point at it when ordering.

The prices were restaurant average. Lots of items were about £10 or just over, others were more.  It was a wide varying selection with lots of items you would expect to be there (pasta, pizzas etc.) and a burger option too.

And so we chose our food, we waited for a bit. Tori had finished deciding what she had wanted and we both put our menus down and waited.  Whether I am just spoilt at having been to so many awesome places with excellent service, but surely we should have had some sort of drinks order taken at the very least by this point? Ten minutes in and no-one seemed to be rushing to take our order.

In the end I had to try and get the attention of one of the servers, which seemed hard itself just to have our order taken.  I know it was a Saturday night, but the ratio of service to table was quite high, and there were quite a few empty tables.

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I went for the Il Carltoni (£12.19) a Pepperoni, seasoned chicken, pancetta, peppers, pomodoro sauce and their blend of cheese.  Tori went for the Roasted Pork Belly with green beans, mushrooms, broccoli and marsala wine sauce. Served with garlic and rosemary mashed potato (£14.19).  We ordered some soft drinks which were marked up to the hilt.

The winner of the evening was Tori’s Pork Belly (which I don’t have photos for!)  It was well cooked, very tender and there wasn’t too much of it.  There was very little fat, and she commented that it was definitely one of the best pieces of meat she’d had for a while.

My Il Carltoni was, overall, alright. But thin on the ground with the filling but with a soft well cooked dough.  The seasoned chicken tasted cheap and the pepperoni tasted pretty cheap too.

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The salad that came with it wasn’t fresh, it was browning at the edges slightly.  But it was still edible and quite nice with the dipping sauce drizzled (by drizzled I mean drenched) across it.  My memory of this dish was one I had last in ASK and there was a lot more inside.

We left quickly after we had finished our meal as we were heading off to the cinema. Before this we were badgered to have a dessert and then after we’d told our server that we had to leave promptly, yet he insisted with have coffee…*facepalm*

Some readers might have different experiences of this restaurant.  You might find that the restaurant experience is impeccable and the food was gorgeous.  But I didn’t, and I cannot find it in my heart to give it a recommended status on Eating Exeter.

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Chain restaurants have their place, and Exeter has quite a few of them.  Many diners like the consistency, some enjoy the experience that many chains offer and Exeter is definitely a city with many larger restaurant names like Jamie’s Italian, ASK and Prezzos.

But after pleasant ‘would-go-again’ experiences at the hands of Las Iguanas and Cafe Rouge, it puts the Prezzo in its place in terms of the service and quality of the food.  With high quality names moving in to Queen St. Dining just around the corner, they will need to up their game in the face of the tough competition if our experience was anything to go by.

First entries for Queen St ‘Find A Foodie’ Revealed

Overwhelming Response to Exeter’s Food Entrepreneur Search

Fledgling foodies in and around Exeter have risen to the ‘Find a Foodie’ challenge launched by Queen St to discover the ‘next big thing’ in food, taking the first step closer to being part of culinary revolution right in the heart of Exeter city centre.

The call for entries to discover an entrepreneur, an individual or a team with an enterprising idea, a signature dish or an innovative food product was launched in line with this year’s Exeter Food Festival at the end of April.

Bowled Over by Variety

The team behind Find a Foodie and the development of the £12m culinary hub at Queen St have been met by tidal wave of interest from those who feel they have the energy and drive to bring their foodie ideas to a wider audience at the much anticipated dining quarter.

Organisers have been truly bowled over by the variety of creative enterprises covering a whole range of flavours, tastes and techniques in the first tranche of Find a Foodie entries.

Some of the expressions of interests received so far include foodies specialising in Devon crab, vegan ice cream, sushi, southern Italian dishes, cupcakes and bakes, locally sourced fine dining, superfoods, hummus, macaroni cheese, stuffed rolls, Mexican dishes andlocally sourced burgers. Each entrant hoping they have what it takes to become the Queen St Foodie.

Eyes on the Prize

The entrants have all been inspired to enter by the ‘Find a Foodie’ impressive package of support, which includes:

– A purpose built kiosk to trade from free of charge in Queen St, for 3 months

– Branding advice and identity development from a leading premium brand agency

– Marketing/PR planning and support from the agencies launching Queen St

– A free advertising package to assist launch the venture

– Mentoring from a successful food entrepreneur

– Free legal, finance and business advice from Exeter based practices and high street bank

Got a Recipe for Success? Still Time to Enter

There is still time to enter Find a Foodie, you can register your interest at queenst-exeter.com up until the end of the day on Monday 11 July 2016.

Entrants will be shortlisted by an especially selected expert panel, made up of business and food industry judges. Those selected will be invited to showcase their menus and products and compete against other entrants during the summer at the Queen St. Street Food Markets, where the general public will get to vote for their favourites in a taste test round.

The winner will then receive the life changing opportunity to trade for 3 month’s free of charge, with expert advice and support from business mentors, marketing and branding, legal and finance and overall promotion of the Queen St dining quarter.

ICE CREAM

Queen St still want to hear from more people, between now and the 11 July 2016, who think they have or know someone that could become the ‘next big thing’ in food.

Entry is easy, just visit the website www.queenst-exeter.com and click on the ‘Find a Foodie’ tab for more information, the prize, terms and conditions and how to enter.

Fully open by the end of August, the Queen St line up is Absurd Bird, Comptoir Libanais, Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), Grillstock, KuPP, The Stable, The Terrace and Turtle Bay. The dining quarter also has wonderful and welcoming new open air spaces designed especially for food events, markets and entertainment.

Just some entrants so far include:

Big Bakes Bakery run by Charlie Deeley and Ryan Bolton from Torquay.
Make artisan cupcakes, cakes, biscuits and bakes.
Facebook: www.facebook.com/Bigbakesbakery
Twitter: @BigBakesBakery / Instagram: @bigbakesbakery

Richenza’s run by Sam Warren from Farringdon, near Exeter,
Signature dish is Devon crab salad with ginger, chilli and coriander, served with his own smoked mackerel on a bed of rocket and bruschetta, garnished with langoustine bisque dressing. All ingredients are locally sourced, including the wood for the charcoal.

Simushi Sushi run by Peter Simmons from Exeter
Makes Sushi which is sold from the trailer at local events and by home delivery. http://www.simushisushi.co.uk/

Mindyourfood run by Sophie Lloyd from Exeter
Mindyourfood aims to encourage awareness of mental health by providing a menu which is rich in brain foods.

Pickle Shack run by Jodie Sawatzki and Josh McDonald-Johnson near Woodbury Salterton near Exeter. Local produce, fine dining at pop-up restaurants including weddings and corporate events. www.pickleshack.co.uk
Twitter: @pickle_shack

Nice n Cheesy
run by Caroline Lee
Gourmet macaroni cheese dishes including signature dish, Greek pasticcio – a lightly spiced lamb mince with tomato sauce, layered with macaroni cheese.

Taco-Macho Food run by Gustavo Lara-Perez from Exeter
Mexican burritos with various fillings, including beef, chicken, pork and vegetarian varieties using local ingredients.

Follow Queen St Dining on Facebook and Twitter for more information about the competition.

 

Marco’s New York Italian – by Lauren Heath

Clyst Honiton, Exeter EX5 2LJ – @marcosexeter – 01392 348111 

ee-recommendsOn the east side of Exeter, off a lane at the back of the airport, lies a hotel in a convenient location for travellers. Beside said hotel is a restaurant which, in my opinion, is conveniently located for locals. With easy access by car off the M5, A30, surrounding villages that lie east of the city and with plenty of free parking is Marco’s New York Italian.

Having been open 3 years now, I was invited to give it a try so on Friday night Steve and I went to see what it was all about. We are well aware of the story of Marco Pierre White and, at the same time, are aware that a restaurant associated with a chef’s name can be a let down as they inevitably don’t cook there, with prices to imply that they do.

Having looked over the menu last year, I recall seeing items such as hot dogs  – and for some reason this made me think that, for a restaurant, perhaps the food was a bit too basic and not going to be good. Thankfully, the menu has since changed slightly, and we already had our eye on one or two items before our arrival.

On entry, it is designed so that you wait by a reception desk and, if you wish, start off your evening in the smart bar with its casual seating or stools.The bar area is very cool; dark wood, good lighting – matching the italian/american theme.

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Having been seated at our table, we browsed the wine menu which is well laid out first of all by colour, then by what food it would suit. For a change I chose the Pino Grigio Rose (£6.65 for 250ml) and Steve was intrigued by Passori Rosso which was under the subheading of spicy peppery red as well as having the MR (Marco Recommends) next to it and described as simply stunning (£9.25 for 250ml). My wine was delightfully light with a hint of rose and Steve was very impressed with his wine – sweet, rich, peppery; he agreed it was something different as the menu had described.

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We then set ourselves on the food menu; Steve had already decided on the Grilled Jumbo Shrimps (£9.75) served alone in all their glory, but brushed with rosemary, garlic butter and sea salt and a sprinkling of baby coriander leaves. Some may feel this was a bit ‘naked’ but he believes seafood should be served as simply as possible. He couldn’t locate any rosemary flavouring but his words were “they were cooked to perfection”. A huge and rare compliment indeed from a seafood lover with over two decades of culinary experience. Maybe one or two more on the plate would have been nice, but he was pleased to have had a light starter.

I, on the other hand, decided to be a little bit brave (polite word for greedy) and go for the Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Nachos (under the heading ‘For the Table’; £6.50). I was informed this could be a sharer but I went for it anyway as I love nachos. It was a really tasty dish, served with what tasted more like BBQ coated pork along with melted cheese (Monteray Jack possibly), homemade guacamole which was lovely and chunky, as well as a very nice sweet chilli sauce-come-salsa. I can see that it could be a sharer between 2 people for a light starter each or even between 3 for nibbles.

For mains I knew I wanted a pizza so opted for the Americano (£9.50) and asked if I could have mushrooms on it as well which was accepted without any issue. Steve chose the Great American Beef Burger with BBQ sauce, bacon, Monterey Jack cheese, served with seasoned fries (£11.50). The pizza was approximately 10 inches at a guess, and was right on the money. Stonebaked base, well cooked with crispy edges. The meat was not pepperoni, but like a milano salami which was very tasty with a good amount of tomato and cheese supporting it. It also came with its own pizza cutter which was very uself. Steve’s burger was juicy and a good thickness, served with partially skin on fries. He also enjoyed the cheese but post meal we realised that he didn’t recall any BBQ sauce; it was, however, served with its own individual sealed tomato ketchup pot.

Somehow we found room for pudding. Having a savoury tooth, Steve was very pleased to see a cheeseboard and ordered the Selection of Italian Cheeses (£7.50). When this arrived, it was very appealing visually. Served with high quality biscuits and with two ramekins of accompaniments, one of which was a beautiful honey. The cheeses were mozzarella (definitely not your average shop bought mozzarella), parmesan, goats cheese and gorgonzola. He enjoyed it immensely.

I went for the Classic Affogato; vanilla ice cream served with a shot of espresso and amaretti biscuits (£5.25). I am not totally sure how you are meant to eat this dessert but I love that you can eat and drink it. I have had this pudding before elsewhere, and normally the coffee is served in an espresso cup that when you try and pour it on the ice cream it goes everywhere, so I was delighted to see it in a mini gravy boat which was also rather cute! My only critique would be the presentation; it would have looked great served on a board or slate to bring it all together – but if that’s my only complaint then they have nothing to worry about. The vanilla ice cream was absolutely delicious – full on vanilla flavour and so creamy; the coffee was excellent and very strong.

In between courses we looked at our surroundings and mused; there is an open kitchen but it’s a tiny shame the seating near it has such high backs that you are unable to enjoy it in full view and the same goes for the bar area – hidden by high backs of the end booth area. On the plus side, I love the chequered floor and thankfully the seating and tablecloths are plain and simple so as not to clash. A nice mirror at the end gives further depth to an already large dining area capable of seating around 90 and I am aware they can cater for large parties which is useful to know. There is plenty of space between tables so your conversations at the table are your own, and we noted you could definitly fit prams or wheelchairs in without coming close to the next table which is a big plus as many chain restaurants really cram the tables in.

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Overall, it was a very enjoyable meal for a what we believe to be a good price (approx £50 for 2 people with 3 courses each excluding drinks). The food was uncomplicated and very tasty and the restaurant is smart but relaxed. I’m not sure how many locals or city dwellers go here for lunch or dinner, but it isn’t just for hotel guests or flight passengers. Yes, Marco’s face is on the walls here and there with his name above the door but if the name puts you off by giving visions of shouty chefs, expensive food or just another chain – I suggest you ignore the name (except for when you put it in your sat nav!) and I urge you to give it a try. Filling, tasty and good value for money. Yes Chef!

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A Business lunch at Bill’s, Exeter – by Lauren Heath

32-33 Gandy Street, Exeter, Devon EX4 3LS – 01392 259 227

Monday – Saturday 8am – 11pm
Sunday (and bank holidays) 9am – 10:30pm

In a city full of a variety of restaurants at all budgets, I was delighted when I was told I could choose where to go for a business lunch meeting – delighted and bewildered! I love ALL food – the choice was too large. I felt an opportunity here for a restaurant that has not been featured on the blog, and also somewhere I had been to before and enjoyed enough to return, also to ‘save face’ and be confident of guaranteed satisfaction for my meeting partner.

I settled on Bill’s in Gandy Street, which is also very conveniently located about 100 yards from my work and with a busy schedule, was not too far to go if I was running late – which I was. I had already booked online using their easy system to ensure a table, as I have seen the place bursting at the seams most days as I walk by during my lunch break.

On entry we were very warmly greeted and I mentioned the name of my booking; I had written some notes online about requesting a larger table for the 2 of us and in a quieter corner if possible. I’m not sure if this shows on their booking sheet as I had to repeat my request verbally to the hostess, but nonetheless it was granted with absolute ease and no feel of us being awkward. In order to accommodate this request they offered us a table upstairs; having only ever sat downstairs, I accepted gladly and we were seated by 2 large windows at a spacious table that was not too close to others. We had a great view of downstairs through the railings and a very light and airy feel to the whole room.

Bill’s serves breakfast as well as a good sized main menu across lunch and dinner. Over the last 3 years I have enjoyed their breakfast once and lunch twice – my most recent visit being at the beginning of the year. In addition to this they have a very well priced set menu from 12pm until 7pm, with 2 courses for £10.95 and 3 courses for £12.95.

Whilst perusing the menu, I knew from experience which drink I wanted right away and ordered the Elderflower Cordial (priced at £2.50) which can be served hot or cold – I opted for cold which has a selection of fresh fruits floating at the top. It is delicious and refreshing and just a bit more exciting if you are not able to choose a cocktail or similar. There are plenty of fruity non alcholic options if you’re that way inclined. There are plenty of wines, beers and everything else you’d expect of course.

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Whilst browsing the menus, our waiter asked if we wanted the windows opened, to which we replied yes as it was a lovely (and humid) day. He then apologised for the noise of the delivery truck just outside and assured us it would be moving on shortly – what a nice touch – being concerned for their customers enjoyment regarding something they have no control over, I was very impressed.

My business partner chose from the set menu; a starter of Potted Ham Hock and the main of Hot Smoked Salmon Salad (£10.95 total). I have recently been on a bit of a carb-free rule during the week but that went ‘out the window’ as the Rarebit Mac ‘n Cheese (£9.95) was standing out for me as a treat and it sounded different and so not to be left out I settled on a starter as well, choosing one of my favourite items – Crispy Calamari (£6.50).

The Potted Ham Hock came in a glass pot containing mustard mayo, radish and watercress with toasted campagne bread on the side. It was vibrant in colour and delicious so I was told, with enough bread to cater for the quantity of food. The Crispy Calamari was served with a tartare sauce and red pepper tapenade; both were delicious. The panko style breadcrumbs were light and crispy and the squid was cooked to perfection without being too oily.

They were spot on with their check back timings and I found that we were left long enough after we had finished eating before they took our plates away, and with a nice enough gap between courses. We didn’t feel rushed at all yet felt well attended to.

Mains arrived and we were both delighted visually. My business partner’s salad looked vibrant and well stocked with enough salmon versus salad and veg. I had a taste of it and the fish was beautifully smoked and the right ‘meaty’ texture. It contained baby potatoes, radish, long stem broccoli, green beans, lemon crème fraîche dressing, pickled red onions and bramley apple slices. The smokiness of the fish against the sweet onions, sharp apples and fresh lemon dressing was a real triumph and very well balanced in flavour.

My Mac ‘n Cheese wasn’t quite what I expected, but in a good way – I like to eat items that I can’t or don’t make at home and this was certainly a twist on the usual heavy yet comforting pasta dish. Small and very soft macaroni pasta served in a cheddar cheese sauce with mushrooms, leeks, peas, broad beans, topped with a mustard rarebit and garnished with baby kale. The sauce was thinner than I thought it would be but so full of flavour – I considered asking for bread to dunk and absorb some of it but decided against it in order to not over fill myself and actually by the end I had eaten everything including said sauce. It didn’t mention mint or similar but it certainly had something ‘fresh’ tasting in it  which really lifted it to be something else. A really unusual version, and the mustard rarebit top was really yummy and quite a treat, I’d highly recommend it!

You would have thought by now we would be stuffed and indeed my guest was, but  everything so far was so nice I felt I couldn’t leave without completing a hat-trick. Our very smiley waiter also helped convince me, although with fairly little effort to be fair. I adore pudding, it’s my weakness and I really couldn’t decide on what to have. I decided to test and trust him and asked for a recommendation. He very confidently said, that without a doubt, the Lemon Meringue Pie (£5.50) was the best – decision made.

This course was another surprise when an unassuming little glass turned up with the most gorgeous blow-torched meringue top and yellow layers. The waiter suggested, with great enthusiasm, to dig deep and get all the layers at once. I tried but there was lot to this well filled pud. This cheesecake in a glass was topped with Bill’s lemon curd, yogurt ice cream and poppy seed meringue – and was just spot on! The meringue was so creamy and fluffy but nice and firm, enveloping a ball of delicious yoghurt ice-cream. You then come across a creamy, zingy lemon curd followed by a layer of cheesecake and the expected biscuit base. The base was a little too crumbly or sandy if you will, but that only caused slight inconvenience as some of it fell off my spoon as I tried to eat it, although luckily back into the glass! The ice-cream worked really well as a cleanser against all the other sticky, gooey textures.

You may think I am being over enthusiastic – but what Bill’s manages to do is serve very tasty food, good portions, well priced, in a really comfortable and buzzing environment with efficient yet discreet service – money well spent I’d say. They really do offer something more than other chains offer, and it doesn’t have the feel of a chain, more so an independent.

EE RecommendsThey do, however, add a discretionary service charge (although this is clearly noted on the website and the receipt). This is not something I’m a fan of and I am unsure if the staff receive the full amount – I do hope so, as our waiter was very good and represented Bill’s well. Not forgetting to mention the kitchen staff who, if they hadn’t done their job properly, would’ve made our lunch a very different experience, good service or not.

I look forward to the next visit and sooner rather than later I hope!

exeter@bills-email.co.uk

https://bills-website.co.uk/restaurants/exeter/

The Pig & Pallet, Topsham Quay by Lauren Heath

7 Strand, Topsham, Exeter EX3 0JB   Tel: 07920 527691  Twitter: @pigandpallet

EE RecommendsEarlier this year, we found ourselves child-free (don’t worry we hadn’t lost him – it was the blessing of holiday club) and decided to treat ourselves to a bit of brunch. Although we have a fairly well behaved and seasoned foodie version of a 5 year old son, eating sans enfant just adds a bit more freedom to the event.

When in this situation, it can be almost possible to choose where to go in order to make this chance of relaxation worthwhile. We settled on The Pig and Pallet in Topsham; we have been aware of Good Game and their charcuterie for a couple of years now, seeing them at the various festivals we attended

in Devon as well as enjoying their Beer and Bacon Festival in Topsham last September. The guys are always very friendly and warm and evidently appreciative of their customers and more importantly – the taste and quality of their produce is fantastic.

It was a soggy morning, so we were delighted, on entry, to find ourselves almost in another world. It was a wooden shack, like something we had been to in St Petersburg, Florida – a place where the food does the talking. All they are missing is the view to the water. We settled down to a large table near the back; I like to be able to see everything and people watch.

On browsing the menu, we decided on the Full Devon Fry Up. It is one of the higher priced items on the menu but consisted of house sausage, dry cured bacon, 2 Devon free range eggs, BBQ beans (which contain meat), black pudding, sweet potato, fried potato tots and toast. There was a good selection of other meaty options but for the vegetarians among you it also includes a tasty sounding Herbivore bap (smoked halloumi, portobello mushroom, and tomato with cheese).

The Pig and Pallet has a real rustic charm to it; seats made out of recycled pallets, cushions made of coffee bean sacks and sailcloth from a neighbouring company, books on the shelves, lightshades made out of veg crates and glass jars –simple and non-fussy yet cool and calm. There were some smaller tables but plenty of large bench tables, perfect for group or family gatherings.

Our breakfast arrived in good time and looked well stacked. What I would say is a bigger plate would have been good, and this is not a negative, but the food had been layered and looked smaller than I anticipated but was actually hiding a lot of loveliness underneath! Perhaps that is part of the plan, the element of surprise.

The eggs were perfect with wonderful sunshine yellow yolks, very tasty petite sausages, some incredibly tasty bacon with even tastier and crispier pieces on top which just made you close your eyes and think of bacon heaven. The beans were an absolute triumph – a variety of beans coated in a southern type smokey BBQ sauce with even more meat in them in case you didn’t have enough on your plate and the sweet potato was a clever addition to this very savoury dish. Another delightful addition was the crispy potato tot.

All in all, we loved it! Knowing this produce hadn’t come far, and we were supporting a local company and enjoying something totally different just adds to the satisfaction and it was money well spent.

I have recently seen posters by P&P explaining their price structure to justify to some customers why they charge what they do. If you want real food, produced locally, with care and without preservative junk that you get elsewhere, this is the place for you. As their posters says, “why ask what’s in a £10 burger…you should be asking what is in a burger that costs 99p?”

They also sell some of their produce near the entrance if you wish to take something home with you.

Strangely, I also recommend using the facilities (translation: toilets) – I recall chuckling whilst in there, perhaps it was the sink made out of a metal bucket – I can’t quite recall. We shall definitely be back again…perhaps even let the boy in our on little secret.

Thanks to Guest Blogger Lauren Heath for this great post! Follow Lauren on LinkedIn and Twitter

Las Iguanas, Queen St. Exeter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

http://www.nobodyinn.co.uk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheNobodyInn

To read more from Kathryn, head over to http://adayinmyshoeskathryn.blogspot.co.uk/ and subscribe to her wonderful blog 🙂

 
The Nobody Inn Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The Magdalen Chapter, Magdalen Road

Being a student means that I don’t often have the chance to visit fine dining restaurants, not just due to the high prices but as the vast majority of my friends are also students, the opportunity doesn’t pass me by all too often. So when I was invited to lunch at The Magdalen Chapter, one of Exeter’s most exclusive restaurants, for an old work friends hen party, I couldn’t wait to sample the food.

The first things you notice upon arriving at the hotel is how unlike a hotel it actually is! Entering the former eye hospital you’re first greeted by some amazing contemporary art work, which spans the extent of the hotel. My favourite piece was a fantastic collage of a spoon made from beauty advertisements, which I was advised by one of the staff, depicted the way in which women were spoon fed societal values by the media. I thought this was great, supporting original artists and something a little different!

The hotel cradles a beautiful court yard, complemented by the glorious Devon sunshine, which is over looked by their stylish, glass panelled restaurant. As we were a large party we had a private room at the front of the building which was modern and spacious. The room held a wide wooden table which was a perfect fit for the 15 of us, meaning we could all interact and no one was left stranded at the end of a table.

We kicked off the festivities with drinks in the lounge bar. As the sun was shining I opted for the customary summer Pimms (£5). The tall drink was served with freshly sliced strawberries, cucumber and mint, which, I know this may sound silly, made the glass really refreshing and flavoursome, opposed to some bars which will chuck in fruit which you can tell has been sitting around for days. Most of my fellow diners chose exciting looking cocktails (£8) from the extensive menu which included an exotic range of fruity concoctions.

After a few moments exploring the grounds with drinks we were shown to our seats in our private room by our server for the day. The service was brilliant and was one of the elements of the day which really stood out for me. Our water glasses were repeatedly filled, nothing was too much to ask but also they weren’t too over bearing which I have found in the past in more expensive restaurants. We were left to enjoy ourselves with our own space, without feeling we were being watched over.

The lunch menu was concise but included a trail of appetising flavours. At first I was tempted by the monkfish stew but ended up going for the spinach and ricotta gnocchi served with roasted tomatoes and courgette, topped with Parmesan and pine nuts (£12). After ordering the plates arrived at our tables within 20 minutes. Whilst waiting I tried the bread on the table which was beautiful in itself as the crust was baked with herbs and sea salt.

EE RecommendsThe gnocchi dish was absolutely delicious. The spinach and ricotta gnocchi was slightly gooey from the cheese so had a pleasing texture and was complemented well by the crunch of the courgette and pine nuts. I was apprehensive that the gnocchi may of been a little dry as it wasn’t served with a sauce,  however the juice from the plump cherry tomatoes served that purpose well. My fellow guests meals all looked and sounded great as well. The flat iron steak served with chips and roast tomato was cooked to perfection, and the roast chicken topped with chickpeas and chard smelt delicious.

I honestly couldn’t fault The Magdalen Chapter for the food, service or even price. Although many of the meals were way beyond my normal price range (my gnocchi was modestly priced compared to other dishes) I believe the excellent quality of food and first class service make it worth while. I would highly recommend the restaurant for a special occasion and I will be pestering my boyfriend to take me for a nights stay in the gorgeous hotel until he breaks!

To read more from Kathryn, head over to http://adayinmyshoeskathryn.blogspot.co.uk/ and subscribe to her wonderful blog 🙂

http://www.themagdalenchapter.com/

Magdalen Street, Exeter, EX2 4HY

Telephone 01392 281000
Email: magdalen@chapterhotels.com

 

Magdalen Chapter Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Dining at Highbullen Hotel, Golf & Country Club: Part 2/2

I don’t envy Dean Griffin, who is Head Chef at The Highbullen Hotel, Golf & Country Club.  Providing a menu that will satisfy the most demanding of high-end diners in The Devon View Restaurant, then a cheaper yet quality ‘pub-based’ menu for The Cellar Bar that is designed to appeal to those who want to pay gastro-pub prices, then a breakfast menu and bespoke menus for those shooting parties who might want to eat game or golfers who want Fish & Chips (see previous post).  And even then the wedding parties and the mass provision of catering for 100 or so guests on top of keeping it all running like clockwork.

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Having previously been at The Barcelo Imperial Hotel in Torquay, Dean has brought 25 years of experience to Highbullen, and through his small team of dedicated chefs, they rise to the occasion.  Our meal at The Devon View Restaurant was smooth culinary bliss with seamless friendly service in this ‘smart-casual dining’ experience.  The Devon View Restaurant is not about formal dining, but they do ask in the hotel information that you wear smart casual attire.  So no muddy trainers here thank you.
I managed to miss the concept of ‘wear some nice trousers and look presentable’ and got a good telling off from my marital unit for packing what I believed were comfortable yet smart clothes but alas were actually thinning and creased, which left me feeling very much like the scruff-bag in the corner.  The era of packing my own suitcase will be a distant memory from now on.

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We got to sample the more traditional three course menu which is new for spring.  It twists the modernism that you would expect from a contemporary hotel with the traditional English style influenced by the setting of this amazing hotel; the balance between the experimental and safe was struck well with this expertly engineered menu that made me wish every eating place had such a well thought out selection.  This is accessible high dining.  Not in the socialist way, but in a way that says ‘come in we don’t bite!’

I kicked off my meal with the Goats Cheese Mouse served with an Apple and Vanilla puree and micro-coriander, Tori started her side with Cauliflower Soup with Cheddar Cheese croutons.  The Goat’s Cheese was mild and had an intriguing texture that worked well with the Apple and Vanilla purée.  The Cauliflower Soup had a classic taste to it that reminded me of Cauliflower Cheese, but stronger and with much more body on the palette.

The main was going to be a tough choice, torn between Oven Fried Breast of Corn Fed Chicken and the Pan Fried Cod Fillet; the Pan Friend Cod Fillet with Chorizo, Chick Pea and Lemon Cassoulet won me over as I was intrigued to see how the strong tastes of Chorizo was used with a delicate taste like Cod.  I was pleasantly surprised when I found that the Cassoulet was as delicately seasoned as the fish was and acted as a perfect accompaniment as only small flakes of Chorizo was used to punch through the tastes of the lemon.  Tori had as similar problem deciding what her main should be and ended up choosing Oven Baked Duck Breast.  The duck melted off the fork and from what I tasted, it was a quality piece of meat cooked expertly.

There are a few things that every foody should try at some point in their life and a good Creme Brulee is one of my ‘must try’ items.  Oddly I had looked at the Desserts first before even thinking about the rest of the meal. And I wasn’t disappointed; it shattered like glass and tasted like a textbook example of how it should be done.  Tori went for the Vanilla and Orange Parfait which consisted of an orange sorbet and a raspberry coulis and from the noises from the other side of the table, it sounded divine!

The meal was accompanied by a very nice bottle of Santa Helena 2013 Merlot from their Wine List which consisted of no less than 64 different wines.  It was balanced and well bodied and was a good all-rounder with the meal.

The service has to be noted as things happen here that make you realise that you are in a high calibre restaurant.  On the night, the service was near perfect, ensuring we had something in front of us when we were supposed to and when we were finished, it was gone.  At the end of the meal we were still drinking wine and we were allowed to sit and drink our wine first before having teas and coffees, at no point did we feel rushed.  Douglas Muir the Restaurant Manager went from table to table talking to the guests and making sure that everything was acceptable, and this I liked.  The high level of customer care and service at Highbullen is something that has to be experienced, and in my opinion it is something that they have managed to get spot-on.

Breakfast

Our stay included a breakfast as well.  Luckily for us, they serve breakfast until 10:30am as we are lazy and like lying in on Saturday mornings. Guests are given the choice between just a continental breakfast or a continental and cooked breakfast.  Fatso here restrained himself from having both, but could have quite easily gorged himself on Croissants before hitting the fried stuff.

The numerous times I have stayed in hotels across the UK with packages that include breakfast, you get used to a certain standard of cheap breakfast.  Sausages boiled in their own grease, soggy croissants and a general feeling that some hotels are just not trying with their breakfasts.  A sort of breakfast apathy which always surprises me given the breakfast is still part of the ‘experience’. Thankfully I can report that Highbullen takes their breakfasts quite seriously, using a high quality ingredients and cooked well.

Also bonus points to Highbullen for the size of their teapot.  There is always a distinct lack of tea with ‘included’ breakfasts.

As we left Highbullen we had a lovely conversation with Keira who was on reception.  And this embodied, for me, the entire experience just through this one conversation.  Highbullen has an understanding of their customers’ needs that makes this hotel stand out from other similar hotels.  You pay for a touch of luxury, a friendly face and staff who will go that extra mile for you.  You pay for an impressive range of activities and access to some of the most dramatic and spectacular scenery in the UK and what better place to do it from?

In my last post I mentioned the fact that Highbullen are widening their appeal, and they are have widened it a little further with a new package that has just been created.  The Garden Break includes the following:

Gardens Break in Devon

On our Gardens Break you can enjoy a short break at Highbullen Hotel coupled with visits to two of the best gardens in North Devon. This special break includes 2 nights’ accommodation in a standard room, a hearty Devon cooked breakfast each morning, dinner each night in The Devon View Restaurant, plus 2 tickets to both RHS Rosemoor and Castle Hill gardens, both within a short distance of Highbullen Hotel.

Low Season – £259

Mid-Season – £319

Gardens Breaks are subject to availability. Price is per 2 night package, based on 2 people sharing a double or twin standard room. Low Season is January, February, November and December; Mid-Season is March to June and September to October. Room upgrades are available.

Eating Exeter were guests of Highbullen Hotel. http://www.highbullen.co.uk/

Highbullen Hotel, Golf & Country Club
Chittlehamholt, Umberleigh, 
North Devon, EX37 9HD

Email: welcome@highbullen.co.uk 

T 01769 540561
F 01769 540492

International Tel: +44 1769 540561
International Fax: +44 1769 540492

 

 

 

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

– See more at: http://www.theoddfellowsbar.co.uk/

The Oddfellows and The Speakesy on Urbanspoon