KuPP Scandi Picnic in the Park by Lauren Heath

Gosh, hasn’t Summer well and truly shown herself this past week? Some days it has been too hot really, but alas we shouldn’t moan, there are so many great spots to find shade in our beautiful city whilst enjoying the sunshine. So you’re sitting alfresco, and you’re thinking ‘a deliciously fresh and exciting picnic would be great right about now’ – well guess what? KuPP Exeter have the answer!

I was very pleased to have received an offer from KuPP to experience their latest offering of a Scandi Picnic; “a feast of cold cuts and light salads, including Norwegian salmon gravadlax and house smoked mackerel with lashings of Scandi potato and summer heritage tomato salad as well as roast beetroot and smoked red onions. Meaty offerings come in the form of homemade chorizo sausage roll, smoked pork meatballs, Sussex smoked ham and potted rabbit with nutmeg butter. A Scandi picnic wouldn’t be complete without a generous helping of Västerbotten (strong Swedish cheddar) and a section of breads, spreads and pickles.”

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There is a vegetarian picnic too as well as vegan and gluten free options on request.

So I quickly gathered two fabulous lady friends, arranged a date – which happened to be the first day of #NationalPicnicWeek – placed my order 24hrs in advance and we swiftly found ourselves collecting our fabric tote bag of goodies and settling under a tree in Northernhay Gardens.

At £30 for 2 people, I initially worried this seemed pricey and also worried there wouldn’t be enough for the three of us so ordered two extra open sandwiches at a further £6.50 for both –Smoked Streaky Danish Bacon & Crushed Avocado Roasted baby plum tomatoes & dressed pea shoots and Smoked Chilli Torn Roast Chicken Roasted red peppers & little gem.

I was wrong on both counts – it was a bounty of food and even without the sandwiches there was plenty for the three of us – with some left over for me to take back to my desk. I am already a big fan of Kupp – their food is fresh, vibrant, filling and well priced in the restaurant, so to have all the delights from their smorgasbords packed up nicely for a picnic was a delight.

Everything was so tasty – the potted rabbit was moist, flavoursome and plentiful; the smoked pork meatballs are so good in their tangy gravy; the chorizo sausage roll is a triumph of crispy light pastry and delicious meat filling; and don’t get me started on the smoked red onions (I want to know how they do it!!). The breads bring even more texture and crunch to the offering and boy is that Västerbotten cheese tangy.

I could go on, but I won’t. Great for lazy days or even in your work lunch break; forget spending a fortune on the drier supermarket offering, this really is the bees knees of picnic and is very generous in size. All supplied with cutlery, plates and napkins – just bring along your picnic blanket and some great people to share it with – and if the weather is, well, under the weather, there are plenty of covered spots around the city where you can sit and have a nibble Scandi style. Cheers or Skål!

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For further info on their picnics, click here.

To read about our thoughts on their bottomless brunch click here.

KuPP – Unit 12 Queen Street Dining, Guildhall Shopping Centre, Exeter EX4 3HP

T: 01392 531 777  | Website: www.kupp.co

Facebook: KuPPExeter | Twitter: KuPP_Exeter | Instagram: kupp_Exeter

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Stylish Scandi Picnics with KuPP

With spring upon us and summer following shortly behind, we’ll be (predictably) heading for the hills to soak up the sun on heaths, parks, lidos and just about anywhere else we can find to enjoy a spot of sunbathing, drinking and picnicking.

Following last year’s success, KuPP, the Scandi-inspired all day casual dining restaurant, bar and café, is re-launching their grab & go picnic bags, overflowing with Scandinavian treats. Forget the hassle of shopping, making and packing your own picnic! Simply call KuPP to order, pick up your stylish picnic tote bag and head to your favourite outdoor retreat to eat and relax.

With KuPP providing the perfect picnic, the only thing you need to worry about is finding the perfect picnic spot. Grab a picnic and enjoy it on the Exeter Cathedral Green (just a hop, skip and a jump away from KuPP) or along the historic Exeter Quay. With a host of parks, greens and of course beaches nearby, you don’t need to leave Exeter to share a picnic in the sun.

KuPP offers two equally delicious picnic options both perfect for two people to share and available in a tote bag with plates and cutlery, making for a fuss-free yet delicious al fresco dining experience.

KuPP Picnic Bags - Copy

KuPP Picnic Bag – £30

A feast of cold cuts and light salads, including Norwegian salmon gravadlax and house smoked mackerel with lashings of Scandi potato and summer heritage tomato salad as well as roast beetroot and smoked red onions. Meaty offerings come in the form of homemade chorizo sausage roll, smoked pork meatballs, Sussex smoked ham and potted rabbit with nutmeg butter. A Scandi picnic wouldn’t be complete without a generous helping of Västerbotten (strong Swedish cheddar) and a section of breads, spreads and pickles.

KuPP Veggie Picnic Bag – £27.95

A colourful festival of seasonal salads and veggie dishes offer an exciting range of colours and textures including trendy smashed avocado and dukkah, spicy broad bean salad topped with a soft boiled egg and; a salad of quinoa, roasted peppers and spicy goats curd. Other veggie delights include roast butternut, Danish blue, smoked red onion and kale salad as well as summer heritage tomato and Scandi potato salad. Let’s not forget the Västerbotten, breads, spreads and pickled vegetables.

Have two become three? If you’re heading hill (or canal) side with a third wheel or more, you can add to your spread from £3.50 by choosing from an array of irresistible Smørrebrød (Scandi open sandwiches), including smoked roast ribeye; soft boiled egg and heirloom tomato; smoked ham and Västerbotten, smoked streaky Danish bacon and avocado; smoked chilli torn roast chicken and; house smoked mackerel, pickled beets and cucumber.

Looking to end your picnic on a sweet note? Choose from a variety of Fika (a Scandi word to describe the act of having coffee and a little something to nibble) including croissants, pastries, muffins or big ol’ slices of cake – the honey and walnut is a must!

Keep cool in the heat of the day by adding a fresh juice or smoothie to your picnic. If you fancy celebrating (or just want a cheeky tipple) you can opt for bubbles, wine or beer. A KuPP Picnic wouldn’t be a KuPP Picnic if there wasn’t also the option to add a little something from their selection of signature coffees, organic teas or award winning hot chocolates.

KuPP – Unit 12 Queen Street Dining, Guildhall Shopping Centre, Exeter EX4 3HP

T: 01392 531 777  | Website: www.kupp.co

Facebook: KuPPExeter | Twitter: KuPP_Exeter | Instagram: kupp_Exeter

The Small Print:

Picnics must be ordered and paid in full 24 hours before collection

Picnics can be ordered in-store, by calling 01392 531777 or by emailing exeter@kupp.co

Full picnic menu available in-store or to view at http://www.kupp.co

Picnics are available from June 2017

KuPP reserve the right to change the contents of the picnics throughout the summer season

Vegan and gluten free premium picnics available upon request

KuPP recommend that picnics are consumed within 90 minutes of collection

 

Boston Tea Party: Exeter’s very own Tardis – by Lauren Heath

Boston Tea Party – 84 Queen Street, Exeter, EX4 3RP, Tel: 01392 201181

Free wifi, open Mon – Sat 7am til 7pm and Sun 8am til 6pm.

Boston Tea Party have 18 cafes from as high as Birmingham all the way down to Barnstaple, with a 19th cafe about to open in Bristol (making the total 6 in and around the city!). I must admit, I haven’t been to a BTP in a few years, since the Salisbury branch we tried when it opened over 4 years ago when I lived there – we weren’t particularly blown away based on the existing offering in the city. I note on their website that 80% of their suppliers are based in the South West and that their eggs and meat are all free range – so this is a good start to reignite my interest.

BTP is based in another prominent building I pass most days, and my particular thoughts have been ‘oh it’s seems a bit small’. I can’t tell you how wrong I was – this is a true example of ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’!

The buildng was originally purpose built as a post office but was only used for this for around 7 years; Exeter’s Boston Tea Party has been in the building since 1998! The ground floor area has 2 small tables along with window seats where you can watch the world go by, along with a few tables out the front. It also houses the takeaway fridge with yummy sandwiches and cold drinks as well as the counter and main hub where it all happens.

This level is very deceiving as I was blown away by the contrast of upstairs which is bright and open, with high ceilings and plenty of tables and could be compared to the tardis – it is even painted blue. The calm colours and lighting work well with the natural light that pours in. There are plenty of adjoining tables as well as separate ones to cope with any size group of people. Some sofa seats line the left side, below a noticeboard encouraging local paraphernalia, leading to a book corner with another sofa.

The fact this is really an upstairs cafe does prove an access problem for those who can’t tackle stairs. Unless you have help I don’t think you could take a pram up but that is the nature of the building and possibly a problem that can’t be fixed even if they wanted to. Once you have found your table after venturing upstairs, you have to go back downstairs to order, remembering your table number – perhaps this is something that needs to be re-thought as, if you were on your own, this would pose the possibility of losing your table unless you left your belongings behind to claim it and similarly if you had a child with you it would be a big inconvenience.

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So as I browsed the menu, I was pleased to have been invited into the old post office to see what BTP has done to put their ‘stamp’ on the coffee/tea/cafe market – the menu has been consistent over time but recently some toasted sandwiches and raw veg smoothie drinks have been added to expand their offering. An additional leaflet attached to the menu told me to ‘Cut the Crappe’…the cheeky yet clever title referred to some new drinks using avocado instead of frappe powder (a mix of unnatural ingredients, high in sugar used to give the smooth texture used by most competitors in their frappes). It is full of vitamins and potassium and they use maple syrup for sweetness.  I instantly decided on the mocha crappe and it was delicious. Not full of ice which tends to dilute it; it was fluffy, creamy and even malty- that could be the coffee flavour.  I would definitly have it again.

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For research purposes I also tried ‘The Red One’ from the new raw veg smoothies – a drink containing beetroot, carrot, apple, cucumber, orange juice, ginger, mint and parsley (£3.35). A large vibrant maroon filled jar arrived equipped with straw – this is definitely not my sort of drink normally but I must say that all the flavours blended well together and with each sip you could still identify the different elements but without anything being overpowering. There were lots of bits in it, so either more blitzing needed or a bigger straw in order to avoid blockages! There is the option of ‘The Green One’ – I’ll let you find out what that is yourself…

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I must say there was plenty to tempt me on their large menu, which consisted of breakfast, brunch, lighter options, mains, toasted sandwiches and salads. All items are served all day so you are not tied to turn up at a certain time to get your favourite. I was very impressed by the tea options (if that’s what you’re into) – I dont think I have ever seen such choice. I counted 25 vegetarian options and 4 vegan items, clearly marked and there is almond and soya milk available for hot drinks too. There is also gluten free bread, which is made especially for them in Bristol. This isn’t something I have to worry about but it’s great that it is obvious and those who are concerned don’t need to feel they have to ask as it’s clear to see. Normally a large menu spells frozen items, and not fresh but I can see that a lot of the ingredients are used in different combinations in various meals across the menu – this instills confidence in a clever use of stock/ingredients and minimising waste – it allows them to offer more when in fact they use less and therefore can use fresh.

The brunch options that stood out for me included Chorizo Hash (£7.75), my favourite Eggs Benedict (£6.75) and then the Sourdough Eggy Bread, Smoked Bacon and Avocado (£7.50). I chose the latter as it sounded very different and right up my street. Delicious oven roasted vine tomatoes sat atop a generous fan of avocado, kept company by lovely smokey bacon all sitting on top of some lovely soft eggy bread. The assumption that you would use the tobasco they provide as part of the meal is a good one, as a few drops here and there really livens this up – I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I also chose the Chipotle Chicken and Parmesan Toasted Sandwich and went with the half option (£3.50) – it was a good lunch portion and with very nice quality bread. The salad had a vibrant zingy dressing, the sandwich contained tasty chiquito peppers and good chunks of chicken.  The parmesan was subtle and the chipotle was just enough in the background to lift it in flavour with a hint of heat but nothing too spicy.

The room was fairly well filled with around 50 – 60 people, and I noted one or two people querying the delivery of their lunch – I too waited maybe 20 mins for my food. What I will say is,  that although they call themselves a cafe, this is not another coffee chain with just sandwiches in the fridge and you get served your toasted takeway swiftly – it is in fact a cafe-come-restaurant. So appreciate that you are getting a good meal, well cooked and this takes time as it is not fast food. I really enjoyed my visit to this tardis and I will absolutely return to investigate the rest of the brunch menu…whether or not that is actually at brunch time, lunch time or early dinner is up for discussion – but no pressure, they serve it all, all day.

Until next time BTP…TTFN!

www.bostonteaparty.co.uk

 

Artigiano, High St. Exeter

248 High Street, Exeter, EX4 3PZ ¦ Follow on Twitter

On the other end of the scale, miles away from Cafe Central (see previous article) is another new opening in Exeter.  Artigiano is a direct import from London, and has brought a bit of coffee sophistication to the High St.  Right opposite Starbucks (haha).

Not that Exeter is devoid of amazing places to drink and appreciate fine coffee.  Devon Coffee, Boston Tea Party, Butternut Cafe, Darkhorse Espresso are a few places that spring to mind that take pride in serving good coffee.  So can Artigiano muscle in on Exeter’s already flourishing cafe scene?  I paid them a visit yesterday to see what all the fuss is about.

Lets talk coffee first.  And I was really happy to be introduced to one of the Barista’s who was more than happy to tell me anything I wanted to know.  The main things I learnt was that each day a lot of preparation goes in to getting the blends just right, fine tuning the grinders and getting the settings perfect before serving coffee.  The Barista’s have to know their stuff too and have a real passion and knowledge for coffee.  They proudly serve Origin coffee, as do Devon Coffee and the Phoenix Cafe/Bar, which is some of the nicest coffee I have tried.  In the grinder on Saturday was an F30 Winter Espresso which produced an almost perfect Americano.

EE RecommendsLets talk Heritage.  In a previous article on here, I mentioned that Artigiano already has two cafe’s in London.  Easy Living rated Artigiano one of the best places to get coffee in the capital, they have a cafe in New Oxford Street and St Paul’s and are rated to be one of the best places in London to get a coffee.  That is obviously not overlooking the umpteen-zillion other places that serve coffee in London, but we can now look forward to having one of London’t favourite coffee serving establishments in Exeter, and soon Taunton.

My visit was a brief one, a typical visit to a cafe tends to be brief for me, so I am not rating it as I didn’t eat and I’m not really interested in putting it in a box yet.  The service was very friendly, they gave me a loyalty card and asked me if I had been before.  They explained that the Baristas would bring over the coffee once it’d been made which was a nice touch as I didn’t have to stand around waiting (which I really don’t like).  The interior is modern, almost pulled out of some fashionable coffee table magazine with interesting light fittings, lots of wood and hints of vintage here and there.

Artigiano an interesting  and welcome addition to the portfolio of ‘where do you want to meet for coffee’ type of destinations. Given they open much later than other coffee places means they also serve alcohol too, which Craft Beers available as well as wine.  Pop in and say hello.

Hub-Box Exeter, Sidwell Street.

English: Exeter : Sidwell Street
English: Exeter : Sidwell Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Read Eating Exeter’s review
here.

EAT OUTSIDE THE BOX IN EXETER’S LATEST FOOD VENUE.  Photos to follow!

If you like your burgers, ribs and dogs to be mouth watering, creative, fresh and full of flavour, then Exeter’s newest pop-up food destination will be just or you.
Hub-Box has arrived in the city – a unique food venue – think specially created and fully customised shipping container housed in the heart of a transformed city centre building which it’s creators – talented chef Alex Towill and award-winning restaurateur Richard Boon – say, aims to mix great food and drink with urban styling.
The menu combines American classics – which Alex fell in love with whilst working and living in New York – with the very best ingredients that the South West has to offer.
The menu includes a range of home-made burgers, gourmet hot-dogs, pulled pork sandwiches and beef brisket – smoked for 12 hours in the Hub’s own in-house smoker – as well as the South-West inspired Mack-Daddy – a crispy Cornish mackerel fillet with beetroot jam and horseradish mayo served on a soft, hand crafted burger-roll.
There are also vegetarian options, a kids menu, a range of sides and a selection of craft beers in bottles and on draft along with the option to eat in or take-away.
Having already cut it’s culinary teeth – as well as winning rave reviews – in the heart of Truro City Centre, the new Hub-Box Exeter, on Sidwell Street opposite John Lewis, is looking to take the offer to a new level.
“We are delighted to be able to bring our renowned burgers, dogs & beers into the heart of Exeter in a unique venue. Whilst the menu that Alex has devised is US inspired, it’s created using only the very best food suppliers from across the South West and we can’t wait to see what Exeter thinks,” said Richard.
Hub-Box is open 7 days a week – 11.30am-9pm – Order line 01392 258737
For more information visit www.hubbox.co.uk

facebook/hubboxexeter or follow them on @HubBoxExeter

Darkhorse Espresso, 135 Magdalen Road, Exeter

This isn’t a rated review as I was passing this funky little cafe and thought I would pop in and say hi.

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Over the last ten years or so, St Leonards has become a desirable affluent part of Exeter that attracts money and prestige.  Where the borders of St Leonards end and the beginning of other bits of Exeter lie is a bit of a mystery to me.  It is the place of private schools, posh shops and Georgian terrace houses and green well-tended gardens.  Cars are bigger this end of town, shops are tidier and don’t have 99p in the title, Tim Martin Lord of Wetherspoons lives down this way.  Even the dog poo is rose scented.

It doesn’t get much of a look in on Eating Exeter, mostly because of the geographical alienation that exists in my life.  It is a well known fact that I live in a bubble and the border to that bubble is just beyond ASK on Cathedral Green.  So I was excited when I was able to escape albeit briefly.
And I was thrilled to be walking past this funky modern little cafe today on my way to the hospital.  Creatively called Darkhorse Espresso, a newly opened cafe next door to St Margaret’s School sites at the top-end of Magdalen Road.

Exeter is fast filling up with cafe’s, places that sell tea and coffee are not exactly a novelty in Exeter.  Which means that if you want to open a cafe and survive, you have to have something novel and engaging.  So what is Darkhorse’s speciality? What makes them different?

They are an independent cafe! They serve Ozone coffee, the interior has to be one of the nicest I have been in for a long time.  The owners, Sarah and Neil, were a delight to chat to.  Sarah has a background in graphic design (hence the lovely designed interior) and their enthusiasm for coffee came across through just our brief chat.  The use of black, red and white made me all happy and gooey inside given this is my favourite combination of colours for anything really.

EE Recommends

The Toronto and San Francisco coffee scenes are famed worldwide, and it is easy to see where their inspiration lies.  The unique metallic ceiling, imported from North America, is a unique design feature which is a rare sight on our shores or in our coffee shops.  I really hope they think about hosting music events here, or even poetry nights (hint hint…).  It has something very City Lights about the atmosphere, and I hope it will evolve into something special.

The coffee was, did I say?, lovely…

They do light cafe eats, gorgeous looking/sounding cakes, some to-die-for muffins that I was  able to sample (loved an unusual savory muffin with bacon in?) and the usual sorts of coffee styles, but always fresh Ozone coffee.  There is also a range of nice things to buy, such as posh tea and posh coffee.  I will be returning to sample their lemon drizzle cake as it sounds divine!

www.darkhorseespresso.co.uk

Darkhorse Espresso
135 Magdalen Road
Exeter

EX2 4TN

T. 07825 397663

info@darkhorseespresso.co.uk

Twitter: @darkhorse135

Ruby Modern Diner, 74 Queen St

EE RecommendsBack in January, I was invited to attend the press night of a new restaurant in Queen St.  It was called Ruby Modern Diner and I was very excited.  I went away from the night with a great sense of anticipation at what I reckoned was going to be a fantastic restaurant.  So I jumped at the invitation to come down and sample some of their meaty delights!

Ruby Modern Diner has a distinct thread of the classic ‘American Diner‘ sewn together with a modern ‘London inspired’ eating experience.  I added the London-inspired part, as the whole atmosphere makes you feel like a hip-young thing.  The interior and the whole atmosphere made me feel fashionable just sitting there, waiting for my food.  And that is quite an accomplishment as I have no fashion sense whatsoever.

This is my most anticipated review of the year, not just because I had said early on that I would give Ruby Burgers a few months to ‘bed-in’, as there is never much point giving an unbalanced review of a new restaurant as the chefs are still getting used to working together, service can be sketchy and I have always found the whole experience of dining in a freshly opened, just out of the box restaurant a little deflating at times.  I loved the concept of a modern diner, and after nibbling some ‘Proper Chips’ as samples at the press night, I knew that this was going to be a culinary adventure, so I really wanted to give Ruby Burgers a fighting chance to prove what they were made of.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARuby Burgers is an independent restaurant.  Let me say that a bit louder.  Ruby Modern Diner is an independent restaurant.  It is ran by Erin Allgrove and Richard Harrison, who trade under the name of Modern Diners Ltd.

The name Ruby comes from the type of beef that goes into making their burgers.  Ruby Beef herds from Copplestone Barton Farm (which is less than 15 miles away) are used to create their in-house patties.  Using Locally sourced produce drives the ethos of Ruby Modern Diner, and this is evident in the taste alone!  Click the link to get an idea at how local the suppliers are.

The prevalence of clone restaurants like Zizzi’s and ASK etc in Exeter only goes to make this establishment standout like a glorious burger shaped beacon.  So, I am sold on the concept and I am appreciating the way they use locally sourced ingredients.  But was it any good? Was it something that Eating Exeter would recommend? Our mission tonight was to decide whether this was a place that we wanted to recommend on the blog.

In Ruby, the floor space is divided into two parts.  Self Service covers food that you can order at the bar which then appears at the kitchen window, and you pop over and collect it.  The other area is a Waited area which has service, orders taken at the table and food brought over to you.  There is an upstairs which is reserved  for larger parties and is bookable.
Unlike my experience at a smaller cafe, just up the road, this was delineated clearly with big signs and a big menu on the wall for people who didn’t have a clue like me.

Which still didn’t stop me from sitting down at the wrong table at first.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe ended up in one of the ultra comfortable booths in the end, with a decanter of water presented to us and just enough time for us to make our minds up about drinks.  Soft Drinks and Alcoholic or Hard Drinks as they are listed, are average restaurant prices, but one thing for me that did stand out was a curiously named Root Beer drink which upon further interrogation, we found out had to be imported directly from Australia!  This was as authentic as Root Beer got, as one of the ingredients had been made illegal in the US and the EU, I imagine this is how it used to taste.

Tori had a Coca-Cola, both were £2.50 and both arrived quickly (no waiting around wondering if we had been forgotten which so often happens).

Whilst slurping on our drinks we considered the menu, and what a menu it is.  The prices are not excessive, and this is an important point to remember when you first eat here.  We’re not talking budget food, its no All Day 6 but is cheaper than ASK.  I don’t like burgers I hear you cry? They have other stuff too under ‘Other Mains’ which includes Pulled Pork In A Bun, Hot Salt Beef – The Reuben and the Superfood Salads.  All of them at reasonable prices which, given the nature of the ingredients, is pretty good.

If you are looking for a massive variety of burgers, then you might be disappointed.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe menu is not overbearing in choice (too much choice IS a bad thing), but balanced in variety.   There are seven types of burger, starting at £5.50 for the for Classic Burger and ending in The One which tops the scale at £10.00 but then, that is the most expensive item (excluding the ‘Sliders’ at £15) on the entire menu.  Sides are separate, and there is an optional 10% service charge which is added to the bill at the end.  Sides include Fries, Proper Chips and ‘Not Yo’ Mama’s Slaw’ (Coleslaw that is grated carrot and red cabbage in a punchy sauce).

So, ordering time.  I ordered The One Burger (£10, TWO hamburgers, double Hawkridge Mature Cheddar, double smoked streaky bacon, loads of RUBY sauce) with a side of Proper Chips and some ‘Slaw.  Tori went for the Piggy Burger (£9 6 oz hamburger topped with shredded smoky pulled pork, apple BBQ sauce) and Fries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have a bad habit of timing how long our food takes to get to the table from placing the order, this is something that I started doing after we went in to Sainsbury’s Cafe for a fry up and they forgot us.  It is always interesting though, because I worry a little bit if food doesn’t take a bit of time.  The food arrived promptly and was presented on white tin enamel plates, The One burger was the largest burger I had personally ever been presented with.

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Proper Chips come in a big tin enamel bowl, enough to feed at least two people who have just ran the entire length of the High St dressed in full combat gear, both pulling buses.  So of course, I felt I had to do just that!  The size of the meal so far, plus with a generous portion of ‘Not Ya Mama Slaw’ meant we had a proper feast on our hands.

The superior taste of Ruby beef is apparent in Ruby’s Burgers, with a richness which doesn’t really get any better.  The quote of the evening  was from Tori, and it was ‘this is the best burger I have ever had’.  In fact I could end the review there, but I have much more to say.  The burgers were cooked medium by standard but you can have them cooked your way should you request it.

My burger was so large, and it had so much Ruby Sauce, eating it the traditional way would have meant that I would lose all dignity very quickly in the messiest way possible.
Eventually I dissected it and ate it with manners and cutlery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADespite my best efforts, I was sadly defeated for the first time in a very long time. But it was so nice, so well cooked and put together, it was a worthy opponent.   Tori being the gannett she was finished it off for me despite wolfing down her Piggy burger (shown left).

There are things on the Ruby Burgers menu that I haven’t tried and really wanted to.  The ‘Five Dollar’ Shakes, The Hard Shakes (in particular The Peanut Butter Wolf), The Breakfast Menu, Pulled Pork In A Bun being a few that I salivated over whilst examining the menu.  But that just means that I will have to go back and try them.

I like to write positive things about places that I visit because the places I visit tend to deserve them.   But some places I visit, I really have to hunt for positive things to say and I have to, as a reviewer, be balanced with my criticism or feedback.  Ruby Modern Diner have not put a foot wrong, my only thing that I had to mention was that the ‘Slaw was quite mustardy and not to everyone’s taste, but hell, its not Your Mama’s ‘Slaw…hence the name.  I believe they deserve all the positive reviews they get.

For what you get, it is good value and it is genuinely good food.  Locally sourced, well cooked burgers that make a really great dining experience.  A glorious independent beacon in a city full of clone copies, this is a restaurant that is worth supporting and visiting if you can.

01392 436168 info@rubyburgers.com
74 Queen St, Exeter, EX4 3RX
www.rubyburgers.com

Ruby Modern Diner on Urbanspoon

Bike Shed Theatre & Bar, Fore Street

the-bike-shed-theatre
mercilessly stolen from Trip Advisor

Zion has over three years of experience as a writer and a journalist. Career highlights so far include interviewing Ethics Director at Lush Hilary Jones, contributing poetry to Musings to raise funds for Leche League, and working with co-founder of One Green Planet Nil Zacharias. Zion has also worked on the Eradicating Ecocide campaign. Follow Zion on TwitterLinkedIn, or email her at zio.lights@gmail.com

The Bike Shed Café is no ordinary café. This theatre-bar came into being only 3 years ago through the entrepreneurship of local – well, entrepreneurs – Fin Irwin and David Lockwood. The café opened last September and I have already frequented it over a dozen times. Let me tell you why.

The Bike Shed Café is based in the theatre bar and it’s decorated with all sorts of quirky art and writer-tributes courtesy of the Bike Shed team and local artists. Once you’ve found a cosy sofa or a 1940-style chair to ensconce yourself in, there is tea for only £1 a mug- possibly the cheapest in the city?- and enough board games to keep you there for a year at least. People come and go but there is always a hum about the place, possibly because of its underground location (perfect for a cold, drizzly winter’s day), or maybe because so many artists hang out here. Playwrights, actors, poets and writers seem to converge in this underground den and, like myself, emerge blinking into the daylight after acclimatising to the cosy, creative feel of the Bike Shed Café.

The food offered at the cafe is simple but nourishing, reasonably priced and offers vegan options, which of course pleases a decade-long vegan like myself. My toddling daughter particularly enjoyed the leek and potato soup with crusty rolls, and samples of several cups of non-caffeinated tea (peppermint: I live for you). There are also cakes and flapjacks if you have room for more, which I rarely do, so I can’t comment on those.. Yet.

But there’s more to this place than all of that. There’s something about the Bike Shed Café that you won’t find with many other cafes in Exeter or beyond – and I can say this honestly, speaking as someone who reviews cafes in her spare time. First, there’s the fact that this cafe doesn’t actually close, because in the evening it becomes a bar, opens the Box Office and greets theatre-goers, or on Friday and Saturday night welcomes music-lovers into its midst. This constant coming and going over the period of a day is what characterises the Bike Shed Café as a venue that has everything, and wants for nothing. I want to say that the only thing missing is a bike, but actually there is one mounted on the wall of the café. So I will end saying that here you will find a buzz like no other, a uniqueness rare in these parts, and a damn good vegan soup.

It gets 5 stars from me.

EE Recommends

The Bike Shed Theatre
162/3 Fore Street
Exeter
EX4 3AT

info at bikeshedtheatre.co.uk phone: (01392) 434169 @BikeShedTheatre

RAMM Cafe, Queen St

Exeter is an amazing city. Tea is also amazing. But there is something more amazing and that is finding something, expecting it to be great and then finding out it is and that you’re right.  And this is exactly how I have found the in-house cafe in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter.  Knowing it was ran by Otterton Mill was a guarantee that this wasn’t going to be a traumatic experience.

The RAMM has gone through a dramatic transformation recently which has taken it from being a pokey rural museum to the benchmark for some of the best museum experiences in the country.  It won the Art Fund ‘Museum of The Year 2012’ and a host of other accolades which has transformed the facilities and given the building a feeling of renewal and energy.  This is very true when the building is full of kids, doing half-term activities whilst being corralled and herded by weary looking parents with squadrons of pushchairs and grandparents in tow.


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My experience with in-store cafes and on-site cafes has been potted and mostly terrible.  They are functional facilities that are a convenience, they are there to provide you with a place to refresh your soul but often for a price, a hideously inflated price that warrants nothing positive to their existence.  Normally staffed by apathetic teens with less than a clue, they give you that feeling of sheer terror when you get to the till.
Take the catering facilities in theme parks, or the buffet cars on trains and you have the normal miserable experience that I have accepted is the inevitable consequence of wanting a cuppa or a sandwich through a long journey or through the traumatic experience of going to an ‘attraction’ or a park of some sort.

Last year I had a very pleasant experience of having a cuppa and soup-of-the-day at the The Portrait cafe at the National Portrait Gallery.  This was a stylish affair with a lovely reasonably priced menu, quick service and fresh take on the whole concept of attraction cafes.  I really hoped it’d be a similiar experience, I even hoped that my visit to the Cafe at the RAMM would be as good as Otterton Mill’s cafe at their main site in Otterton which is pure AWESOME.

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The cafe is itself, as cafe’s go, is quite simple.  There is no theme as such as the identity of the cafe is dictated by the building that it resides in, rather than relying on the interior to dictate the identity of the business itself.  The artwork on the wall is meaningful and colourful with one whole wall being taken up by something that in my mind represented an African sunset through Geordi La Forge’s visor.

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Interestingly the main seating area of the cafe is located where Gerald The Giraffe used to be located.  You could have called it the Giraffe House?  The lofty roof space is visually stunning but it lacked the cosyness that other surrounding cafes have.  Credit to them the heater was on full-blast, and it was pretty intense too so this didn’t matter too much!

The menu isn’t overly complex. It offers Panini’s and cake, tea and coffee and some other bits & pieces made in the artisan bakery back at Otterton Mill.  The food prices are a little more than just a cafe on a street corner, but they are justified given the heritage and the pedigree of food that they serve.  On my visit I wasn’t able to eat anything, but I was able to have a lovely cup of tea.  £1.60 for a tea is a good price, given Costa is pushing nearly £2.00 for something with little milk and more water than the floor of Britain’s Next Top Model.  The tea was lovely, and with a decent amount of milk, I have ear marked this as a definite lunch-time visit.

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This is a functional cafe, but it is somewhere that I would be happy to visit JUST for the fact its a cafe.  It has nice artwork on the wall, it is an attractive asset to an already amazing attraction in the centre of Exeter.  The score reflects the fact that the cafe is a shining example of what all in-house cafe’s should be like in attractions. Not overpriced, conscious of ingredients with willing and friendly service.

Ruby Burgers, Exeter – Press Night 25th January

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A couple of months ago, I received a bit of an unusual tweet.  It was from the owners of Ruby Burgers inviting me to a press night at their lovely looking establishment that has just opened their doors, on Queen St in Exeter.  It was nice that they were holding such a night in the first place (to be honest why would they not?) but to invite little old me too? Well that is just the height of niceness.  So Polly Addison and myself went along to see what all the fuss was about, and to take full advantage of their offerings and experience the natural charm of this landmark location.

Queen St. is becoming one of the hot areas for eating-out in Exeter with the likes of Devon Coffee and Urban Burgers recently opening along its half a kilometre of nice buildings and students.  And there are a lot of students.  Exeter College has two premises on Queen Street and the University is a mere hop, skip and a jump away.  This is a very busy street throughout the day, and is the perfect place for fast tasty food.

74 Queen St has for a number of years lay dormant after it was sold when its previous owners (Effings) pulled out of Exeter to focus on their other shop.  But stuff started happening, things started appearing inside the building and then slowly but surely Ruby Burgers have appeared from out of the ashes.  Ruby Burgers has a blog, http://www.secretgriddle.com showing the stages of progression.  It is a fascinating journey and reading it gives you a glimpse in to the ethos and vision of the restaurant and the company behind it.

Ruby Burgers was started by Erin Allgrove and Dicky Harrison, photographed here by the talented Mr Matt Austin.  How could you summarise the ethos and direction of Ruby in one sentence? Erin does it well by stating “The Modern Diner concept combines the heritage of the American diner with the best produce the region has to offer.”
 The word ‘Ruby’ comes from the type of beef that goes in to making the burgers.  Just to prove to the world that they source local ingredients you can see a list of their suppliers on their website.  A veritable portfolio of local goodness.  The meat comes from Mid-Devon (Copplestone Barton Farm to be precise) from a herd especially sired for Ruby Burgers.  And yes the coffee comes from Bristol but thats good enough for me.

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What does one do on a press night? Well we earnestly got our notepads out and started writing notes down, looking like we were studiously examining the walls and savouring the food.  For the first few minutes, I did this but then realised that we seemed to be the only ones actually doing anything vaguely ‘press like’.  So after a while I realised that my role on this journey was to be the one to hold the camera and take unflattering photos of Polly and myself.  After a couple of glasses of Prosecco the ability to write was lost and I settled in to tasting wine and enjoying the pleasure of nosing around and trying to guess who was famous and who wasn’t, Ben Bradshaw was there and a few other people of notable standing.

Interior

I like the concept.  The subtle Americana that sticks in the mind as you look at the photo wall and the large wooden benches.  The subtle quirkiness of some of the furnishings, the phrases in the menu (to ‘go dirty’ sticks in my mind).  The first thing that really strikes you when you walk in to the space is the interior design.  One thing I was really happy about was that they kept the mezzanine floor.  And here I introduce Polly:

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The wall beside the rustic, canteen-like wooden benches on the mezzanine floor of Ruby Burgers is covered in an array of photos depicting moments in a version of an American landscape, one in which ‘mac n cheese’, pancakes with syrup and of course, burgers of every variety, reign supreme. Neon road signs, a desolate crossroads, lurid red plastic booths all feature, perhaps as a reminder of the roots of what Ruby now calls the ‘Modern Diner’. 

However, on first impression, Ruby bears little resemblance to its apparent heritage -certainly it pays more homage to the ‘Modern’ than the ‘Diner’, stylistically at least.

With painted white clapboard, soft reds and brown leather, the interiors of Ruby owe more to Martha’s Vineyard than Route 66 but nevertheless retain a suitably ‘truck stop’ edge.
Fresh, bright and spacious, it has a relaxed elegance with industrial touches and fits effortlessly into the lofty Grade II listed building which houses it.

Menu

The menu is online here.  And boy is it a menu. I managed to taste a bite-size version of the pulled pork, a gorgeous succulent bit of meat in a soft bun.  It was a stunning sample of a this lip-slapping array of offerings that they have available.

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I like the fact that it is not JUST a restaurant but there are take-out options as well.  They do breakfast options with bagel’s (how Amercian!) and hot drinks to go.  Again I will let Polly take over here:

Kitsch, such an intrinsic quality in our minds when we think ‘diner’ is underplayed at Ruby. The booths and one neon sign above the bar add an easy, playful edge, but the addition of a menu item called ‘Not Ya Mama’s Slaw’ and the invitation to ‘Go Dirty’ with the addition of sliced processed cheese, feel a little incongruous in such determinedly tasteful surroundings. After all, when you can order a glass of Prosecco with your ‘Boom’ burger, you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. What you are in, is one of many current examples of ‘gourmet fast food’ establishments, bringing a little more refinement, but  no less flavour, to gut-buster style eating.   

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The prices are average for location and type of food served.  n the context of producing delicious food from local ingredients; you pay for what you get.

Starting at £5.50 you can get the classic burger which comes with a variety of dressings.  For the same price as the ‘Plain Jane’ burger in Urban Burger.  The prices then go steadily up to £10 for ‘The One’ burger which sounds immense.  Two hamburgers, Hawkridge Cheddar, bacon and Ruby’s own sauce.

I got to taste some ‘Proper Chips’ which cost £3.  Cooked in beef dripping these little calorific morsels were close to the nicest chips I had tasted in a very long time.  Sides and Chips start at £2.50 for fries and are nearly all £3.

Final Thoughts

As this article is just a preview, it is moreso a report on the evening rather than a recommendation or otherwise.  I never review a restaurant or eating place within the first three months of opening, its not fair.  So I am now counting down the days to go in and write a review.

My final thoughts is simply this.  I can’t wait to review this place properly.  I have anticipation of my first burger, and if it is anything like the pork that I tasted, its going to be epic.

For a better look at our photos, visit our Facebook page!

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Tesco Exe Vale In-store Cafe, Digby Retail Park

Eating Exeter isn’t just about fine dining and nice nosh, we go to places you might not necessarily think are worth writing about, and that includes in-store cafe restaurants.  I am personally fascinated at how different in-store cafe’s can alternate so wildly in the way they are managed and the varying degrees of success that you experience depending on where you go.  From the in-store cafe of John Lewis where a member of staff can be found organising the queue at busy times, to the unbridled chaos of Sainsbury’s in-store cafes where it is easy for your order to be forgotten (write-ups to follow).

I find the general experience of in-store cafe’s to be one that borders on the traumatic sometimes.  People don’t tend to travel distance just to go to the cafe, its not a destination moreso an ‘add-on’ to the shopping experience.  It is a convenience more than anything else, so the whole experience is often measured not on customer satisfaction but how many bums can fit on so many seats, with the feelings of the customer strangely lost in the midsts of screaming children and tepid tea.

So with my pre-loaded prejudices, we walked in to the cafe in Tesco Exe Vale with food on our mind.  It was Sunday, it wasn’t overly busy and I don’t like carvery.

Tesco outsources their cafes to Compass, an external company who come across as the ‘hidden McDonalds‘.  They are a huge company that look after all sorts of cafe services from Tesco’s to hospitals and staff canteens.  And unfortunately that is exactly what you get on first impressions.  The whole cafe seems to feel like a canteen, its functional, cold and bland in decor looking out over the tops of the shelves of the non-food section from a large mezzanine level.  This cafe is ‘proud to serve Costa’ coffee by the apparent logo’s spread over the walls; the evil of Costa and its brand of coroporate coffee crappiness knows no bounds.  There is NO NATURAL LIGHT, I mean what exactly does the outside look like?

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Hot cabinet, sad looking fish.

After half an hour in here I had forgotten that the outside world existed, I forgot my name and decided to that the fish was my friend.

So, down to business.

Hot food was laid out in a carvery style, the pre-cooked nature of the carvery is something to be expected but quite literally it seemed everything hot seems to be cooked and ready to be served.  This, in my opinion, is bad and what was worse was that this included the battered fish.  The only thing that I wanted however, was the fish, I wanted Fish n Chips served with Tartar sauce at £4.95.  My other half wanted Liver and Bacon for £4.
The gentleman behind the counter could not have been more friendly and ready to help, in fact the service throughout the whole experience could not have been faulted.  I decided to give the fish a go regardless of the fact it had been lying around for hours/day/months under a hot lamp.  With this there is an option of peas or beans, and to be honest the peas were snot coloured and looked dry, beans are always a good bet because beans are hard to get wrong.  Thankfully Compass didn’t get the beans too wrong but they were stodgy and overcooked.  The chips were actually better than those I had at Wetherspoons, crunchy and soft inside with a good colour.

The lady at the till was polite, slightly stressed but was able to banter and have a laugh.  We had a cup of tea, and a Lucozade which came to just shy of £12 for the whole thing.  As we already had the food, there was no wait, we just tucked in.

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If you have ever had the pleasure of living in a halls of residence that is catered, this wonderful thing pictured took me straight back.  Mass catering, no personal touch, soggy batter, stodgy beans and the taste that you would imagine.  But stop right there, The chips had a soft inside texture and a nice dry coating, and the fish was moist and taste which despite the miserable soggy batter, it was not a bad bit of fish.
The report from across the table was that the Liver and Bacon was acceptable but the accompanying mash was flavourful and delicious, better than Morrison’s cafe’s similar offering.

The whole experience was what I had expected.  Like sitting in a canteen, the glare of the flourescent lights made you realise that you might as well be eating your food in a warehouse filled with neurotic children and a herd of randy cattle.  Had the food and the staff been transported from the sea of uncomfortable chairs and badly coloured tables, it would have scored higher in my estimation but the surroundings really didn’t work for me.
To give credit to Costa coffee, despite their corporate ambition to take over the entire world’s caffeine supply, the coffee has got better since my first disastrous visit all those years ago, and the tea isn’t half bad.  Had Tesco’s cafe been serving their own coffee? Who knows what it would have been like.  Go for coffee, go for a slice of cake, spend your money but don’t go for lunch.

Devon Coffee, Queen Street

Nudged between Subway and Cafe Nero in the upper part of Queen Street is a new independent cafe called Devon Coffee, opened four months ago with little fanfare or announcement. My first suspicion that something had changed, was a new hand painted pavement sign advertising Bacon Sandwiches for £3. So was this just another coffee shop trying to muscle in with the big boys? What made them different in a city saturated with coffee shops and franchises?

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The caffeinated alchemy that goes on in this little cafe is tended and owned by the previous owners of Percolapps, the mobile coffee van business that used to appear in and
around Exeter. Although my conversation with the owner was brief, he said that he had wanted to open a cafe for a long time, given serving quality coffee in the outdoors was
quite difficult.

For me as a writer, first impressions are important and the very first thing that hit me was the aroma of coffee.

The second thing that hit me was the size as the cafe is tiny, I counted 11 places for bottoms including the two stools on the side wall. I was informed that in fact, quite soon they were to rearrange the seating and fit in 8 extra seats.

The third thing that hit me was the décor, an expanse of original wood paneling adorn the
walls, the deep browns and the natural grains of the wood made the place look like some
sort of coffee grotto, a secret coffee lair that you can only find if you’re not looking for it.

Although there was a bit of wait (the counter was a one-man-band), this allowed me some time to observe the friendly and personal nature of the service and admire the wood, all that wood that had been covered by the cladding, now exposed for customers to admire.

I also oggled the array of cakes in the window and peered at the menus; an effectively simple cafe menu presented on hand-written menu boards showing that this was a place that you could get Toasties, Teapig and Miles tea, baguettes and an array of coffee styles roasted by Origin Coffee from Cornwall, (at the moment) they are using a Brazilian brand of bean (which I believe was Fazenda Mariano, although I might be wrong) which was pumping out some delightful aromas when I visited.

The prices are reasonable given the emphasis on quality.  The milk the coffee is made with was from Ashclyst Dairy, less than 10 miles away and the whole thing was presented and poured beautifully.  The taste of the coffee was balanced, with a smooth yet bitter after-taste.  For me, this coffee was lovely and in my opinion the coffee was officially nailed.  Although a tad strong for a latte, I am a coffee wuss but then it is good to be able to actually taste coffee and bloody lovely coffee at that.

A Bacon and Brie toastieI went for the Brie and bacon Toastie + Large coffee for a £5 (£4.50 if you take it away).  I perched myself on the side bar and read an article stuck to the wall.

This little coffee shop had been included in the ’50 best coffee shops’ as decided by The Independent.  And given this privileged position, surely they should have been more expensive?  The Toastie was delightful, cooked perfectly with crisp bread and a generous filling of creamy Brie and lots of bacon.  I didn’t ask about the source of the ingredients as I was frankly enjoying the whole thing far too much.

The entry in The Independent is quite short, as they all are.

“A classic independent coffee shop in the centre of Exeter, says Max. “High quality coffee and bites delivered with warm and friendly service.”

And I couldn’t agree more.

As I left the cafe I was able to say to the owners how delicious my toastie was and I was given an impromptu business card and left the coffee shop with a bright satisfied feeling.  I had got perfect value with perfect coffee.

Opening hours: 8am – 6pm Monday to Saturday, Sunday 10am – 4pm

Contact: 07795105250

Website: www.devoncoffee.co.uk (events)

Twitter: @coffeedevon

More Photos.

IMG_0543 The best pavement sign ever

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