Foodies rejoice; there’s a brand-new food festival coming to Exmouth on Saturday 16 September from 10am until 11.00pm. With live music from Barefoot Bandit, street food stalls and an evening mussel banquet, it’s shaping up to be a delicious day out.
An array of artisanal producers from across the region will be coming to the stunning Manor Gardens in the heart of Exmouth for the event. Together, they will showcase a range of mouth-watering products from traditional cheeses, meats, preserves and ales to modern twists on gins, charcuterie, ice-cream, coffee and much more.
There will be a licensed bar from Powderkeg Brewery, food-themed interactive workshops and activities including a Beat the Heat chilli eating competition. A family day out wouldn’t be complete without a bouncy castle and face painter for the kids.
The festival will also include The Great Mussel Hustle – a sit down mussel banquet at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £15, which will include a glass of wine.
The vibrant event is a collaboration between owner of award-winning local café Bumble and Bee, Debra Quine and Pop-up Events.
Debra says, ‘We’re so excited to host Exmouth’s Food Festival here in the beautiful setting of Manor Gardens. Enjoying live music while feasting with family and friends is a winning formula – I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday!’
Local food heroes include Exmouth’s own brewery Crossed Anchors, Pebblebed, Quicks Gin distilled in Exmouth, Little Pod, Exmouth Mussels, Fish on the Quay, Eat the Smoke, Devon Chilli Farm and Ottervale Chutneys.
Entry fee is £1, which will be donated to Hospicecare. Tickets will be available on the gate at Manor Gardens, near Exmouth sea front.
To book a place at The Great Mussel Hustle, please call Bumble and Bee on 07791229741. For more information about the day and to keep up with the latest news, visit Exmouth Food Festival event on Facebook.
Salcombe – a glorious South Devon waterside town, full of ambitious and successful businesses from Salcombe Gin and Salcombe Dairy to Favis of Salcombe and Jack Wills – it has become a name synonymous with quality.
On this basis, it’s no wonder the Harbour Hotels Group snapped up this top of the estuary, hillside-set property. The Salcombe Harbour Hotel, a 50 bedroom building, was extended with a spa and the Jetty Restaurant back in 2013, maximising the available space, glorious estuary views and thus increasing the overall offering to clientele visiting from near and afar.
We were delighted to have been invited to try the Jetty Restaurant; headed up by Chef Alex Aitken and Head Chef Jay Gulliford, the website informs us they are proud to be ‘Serving local and seasonal dishes, with fish landed daily and a local larder of delicious seasonal produce on its doorstep, The Jetty offers an exceptional Salcombe dining experience. Our Chefs combines expert knowledge with a passion for local ingredients, to create outstanding seasonal food.’
After making a day of it, venturing down the South Hams on a mini food tour and enjoying late-afternoon wave jumping at North Sands, we were ready for dinner!
We were a little early so took advantage of the al-fresco seating and ordered some drinks whilst we perused the extensive menu. We did have to wait a little while to have our drinks order taken, but thankfully the view kept us occupied.
There are a few sections seating, some on the balcony directly in front of the restaurant and then some top sections, with even more of a view and glass balustrades high enough to not block said view, but instead reduce any breezes or chills.
Once we settled into the restaurant, we took stock of the light and smart yet warm, casual feeling to the bar and restaurant area, with estuary views out to the front – a large flowing space with earthy seaside tones, plump seating and clean, crisp whitewash ceilings to give an even more spacious feel.
The venue is a mix of high rollers, families and couples all with their own style – smart, casual or even beach ready, which gives this a nice feel of comfortable elegance.
Whilst we viewed the extensive menu and specials, we opted for the ‘While You Choose’ pre-starters of Deep Fried Tempura Oysters served with fine diced shallot & vinegar, Cockle Popcorn served with sweet chilli sauce and Seafood Jetty Bites. We were very pleasantly suprised at the beautiful presentation and taste of everything. Light batter, fresh zingy dips, and the whitebait was clearly breadcrumbed in house – a great start (p.s. if you’re a bit unsure of oysters, I highly recommend having them battered, it’s my new favourite thing!)
Starter options included a varied selection of vegetarian, meat and fish – we opted for Scallops, Apple and Bacon as well as Crispy Salt and Pepper Squid. The scallops were as I would expect, but that’s the beauty of a classic combination like this – smokey bacon, sweet juicy scallops with a bit of added sweetness and crunch offered by its foodie bedfellows. The salt and pepper squid was completely different from what we imagined arriving, but not negatively so; squid cooked just right on a bed of salad leaves, pea shoots and peppers for a bit of crunch with a lovely complimenting dressing bringing it all together.
Choosing from mains would have been incredibly hard, save for the fact I told myself if there was lobster thermidor on the specials, that it would be the one – and it was! An all time luxurious favourite (and rare treat) of mine, it did not dissapoint.
Hubby ordered Jetty on a Plate – South coast fish and shellfish with fennel, tomato, herbs & beurre blanc; a delicious array of fish and shellfish, with spring greens and a light butter sauce – he doesn’t believe in messing about with fish too much and this was very much to his taste.
Other main courses include Duck and Squid, Ruby Red Beef, Monkfish and so on…all sounding tantalisingly individual making it hard for the diner to choose but all certainly a bit different from other restaurant fair. (making this ‘what do I choose’ scenario not a bad middle class problem quite frankly) – so choose wisely or maybe sneakily convince your dining partner to have something you also like the look of and steal from their plate, or share amicably – best of both worlds!
Desserts of Dark Chocolate Fondant with Salcombe Dairy salted caramel ice cream and Crunchy Peanut Butter Parfait with roasted nut crumb, rich Belgium chocolate were our final victims for the evening. Good puddings, although I found the parfait plate a little too much of the same texture, still tasty nonetheless, and the fondant was possibly 60 seconds past perfection – but technically, this is a hard one to hit on the nose.
Overall, the food was delicious, well presented and of good portions sizes, but sadly the service was a little hit and miss in our section. I noticed nearby servers giving a wonderful personal approach to their tables and feel that this is what the venue is striving for overall and perhaps we were just a tad unlucky that evening. For the price point and venue though, I would expect this to be a slicker affair, and perhaps they could tighten this up a little. We enjoyed a very relaxed evening, nonetheless, before sailing away into the night (not on a boat sadly, just driving home).
Co-editor Chris recently visited for Afternoon Tea, which can be found here if you’d like to see what else is on offer.
Salcombe Harbour Hotel, Cliff Road, Salcombe, South Devon, TQ8 8JH;
In this warm weather, we find we’re still pretty hungry, working hard to stay cool! But the last thing you want is a hot and heavy dinner – thanks to Favis of Salcombe for sharing this lovely and easy crab burger recipe.
Favis of Salcombe have been fishing the waters off the South Devon coastline since 1972. Their hand-picked crab meat has won a series of awards and is delicious, fresh, easy to cook and good for you too!
BBQ Crab Burger with Pickled Cucumber & Lime Mayo
For the cucumber
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 small cucumber, cut into thin ribbons
For the burger
454g (1 tub) Favis white crabmeat
50g fresh white breadcrumbs
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 large egg
Plain flour, for dusting
4 ciabatta buns, toasted
Small handful rocket
For the mayo
4 tbsp mayonnaise
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
Juice of ½ lime
Pinch of salt
For the cucumber, pour the vinegar into a shallow dish. Add the sugar and stir together until the sugar dissolves. Add the cucumber and toss to coat. Leave to stand while you make the burgers.
For the burger, place the crabmeat, breadcrumbs, lemon zest and egg into the bowl of a food processor and pulse together until mixed. Season with crushed sea salt and ground black pepper
Divide the mixture into four and shape into burgers about 9cm in diameter. You can either do this by hand or press the mixture into a 9 cm round cutter or chefs ring to help shape. Place the burgers on a plate lined with greaseproof paper and chill in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Preheat the grill to high and cook the crab burgers for 4 minutes on each side. To barbecue, place each burger on a double thickness sheet of foil and cook for 8 minutes, turning half way through cooking.
For the mayo, mix the mayonnaise, lime zest, lime juice and salt together in a small bowl.
To serve, drain the cucumber in a sieve. Split the buns (toast or griddle them if preferred) and spread the top and bottom with the lime mayo. Put some rocket on the bottom then sit the crab burger on top. Top with the cucumber, then the bun lid.
For more information or ideas, visit Favis of Salcombe’s website
Gosh, hasn’t Summer well and truly shown herself this past week? Some days it has been too hot really, but alas we shouldn’t moan, there are so many great spots to find shade in our beautiful city whilst enjoying the sunshine. So you’re sitting alfresco, and you’re thinking ‘a deliciously fresh and exciting picnic would be great right about now’ – well guess what? KuPP Exeter have the answer!
I was very pleased to have received an offer from KuPP to experience their latest offering of a Scandi Picnic; “a feast of cold cuts and light salads, including Norwegian salmon gravadlax and house smoked mackerel with lashings of Scandi potato and summer heritage tomato salad as well as roast beetroot and smoked red onions. Meaty offerings come in the form of homemade chorizo sausage roll, smoked pork meatballs, Sussex smoked ham and potted rabbit with nutmeg butter. A Scandi picnic wouldn’t be complete without a generous helping of Västerbotten (strong Swedish cheddar) and a section of breads, spreads and pickles.”
There is a vegetarian picnic too as well as vegan and gluten free options on request.
So I quickly gathered two fabulous lady friends, arranged a date – which happened to be the first day of #NationalPicnicWeek – placed my order 24hrs in advance and we swiftly found ourselves collecting our fabric tote bag of goodies and settling under a tree in Northernhay Gardens.
At £30 for 2 people, I initially worried this seemed pricey and also worried there wouldn’t be enough for the three of us so ordered two extra open sandwiches at a further £6.50 for both –Smoked Streaky Danish Bacon & Crushed Avocado Roasted baby plum tomatoes & dressed pea shoots and Smoked Chilli Torn Roast Chicken Roasted red peppers & little gem.
I was wrong on both counts – it was a bounty of food and even without the sandwiches there was plenty for the three of us – with some left over for me to take back to my desk. I am already a big fan of Kupp – their food is fresh, vibrant, filling and well priced in the restaurant, so to have all the delights from their smorgasbords packed up nicely for a picnic was a delight.
Everything was so tasty – the potted rabbit was moist, flavoursome and plentiful; the smoked pork meatballs are so good in their tangy gravy; the chorizo sausage roll is a triumph of crispy light pastry and delicious meat filling; and don’t get me started on the smoked red onions (I want to know how they do it!!). The breads bring even more texture and crunch to the offering and boy is that Västerbotten cheese tangy.
I could go on, but I won’t. Great for lazy days or even in your work lunch break; forget spending a fortune on the drier supermarket offering, this really is the bees knees of picnic and is very generous in size. All supplied with cutlery, plates and napkins – just bring along your picnic blanket and some great people to share it with – and if the weather is, well, under the weather, there are plenty of covered spots around the city where you can sit and have a nibble Scandi style. Cheers or Skål!
With spring upon us and summer following shortly behind, we’ll be (predictably) heading for the hills to soak up the sun on heaths, parks, lidos and just about anywhere else we can find to enjoy a spot of sunbathing, drinking and picnicking.
Following last year’s success, KuPP, the Scandi-inspired all day casual dining restaurant, bar and café, is re-launching their grab & go picnic bags, overflowing with Scandinavian treats. Forget the hassle of shopping, making and packing your own picnic! Simply call KuPP to order, pick up your stylish picnic tote bag and head to your favourite outdoor retreat to eat and relax.
With KuPP providing the perfect picnic, the only thing you need to worry about is finding the perfect picnic spot. Grab a picnic and enjoy it on the Exeter Cathedral Green (just a hop, skip and a jump away from KuPP) or along the historic Exeter Quay. With a host of parks, greens and of course beaches nearby, you don’t need to leave Exeter to share a picnic in the sun.
KuPP offers two equally delicious picnic options both perfect for two people to share and available in a tote bag with plates and cutlery, making for a fuss-free yet delicious al fresco dining experience.
KuPP Picnic Bag – £30
A feast of cold cuts and light salads, including Norwegian salmon gravadlax and house smoked mackerel with lashings of Scandi potato and summer heritage tomato salad as well as roast beetroot and smoked red onions. Meaty offerings come in the form of homemade chorizo sausage roll, smoked pork meatballs, Sussex smoked ham and potted rabbit with nutmeg butter. A Scandi picnic wouldn’t be complete without a generous helping of Västerbotten (strong Swedish cheddar) and a section of breads, spreads and pickles.
KuPP Veggie Picnic Bag – £27.95
A colourful festival of seasonal salads and veggie dishes offer an exciting range of colours and textures including trendy smashed avocado and dukkah, spicy broad bean salad topped with a soft boiled egg and; a salad of quinoa, roasted peppers and spicy goats curd. Other veggie delights include roast butternut, Danish blue, smoked red onion and kale salad as well as summer heritage tomato and Scandi potato salad. Let’s not forget the Västerbotten, breads, spreads and pickled vegetables.
Have two become three? If you’re heading hill (or canal) side with a third wheel or more, you can add to your spread from £3.50 by choosing from an array of irresistible Smørrebrød (Scandi open sandwiches), including smoked roast ribeye; soft boiled egg and heirloom tomato; smoked ham and Västerbotten, smoked streaky Danish bacon and avocado; smoked chilli torn roast chicken and; house smoked mackerel, pickled beets and cucumber.
Looking to end your picnic on a sweet note? Choose from a variety of Fika (a Scandi word to describe the act of having coffee and a little something to nibble) including croissants, pastries, muffins or big ol’ slices of cake – the honey and walnut is a must!
Keep cool in the heat of the day by adding a fresh juice or smoothie to your picnic. If you fancy celebrating (or just want a cheeky tipple) you can opt for bubbles, wine or beer. A KuPP Picnic wouldn’t be a KuPP Picnic if there wasn’t also the option to add a little something from their selection of signature coffees, organic teas or award winning hot chocolates.
KuPP – Unit 12 Queen Street Dining, Guildhall Shopping Centre, Exeter EX4 3HP
What a food filled weekend! On Sunday 30th April, I attended the Salcombe Crab Festival; I was not going to let our British weather make us crabby by stopping our bank holiday weekend fun, so my family and I donned the raincoats and wellies and off we drove.
Salcombe is approx. 1 hour south of Exeter, on a steady drive and boy you do know when are you nearby; the sea down below just peeking through the trees, and the lushest bright green roadsides guiding you down to the bay.
Salcombe Crabfest is a smaller annual festival, organised by volunteers from the Rotary Club of Salcombe and sponsored by Favis of Salcombe and Coast and Country Cottages. It has music, food stalls and food related events spread throughout the town which creates a lovely festival vibe.
This year the event was being opened by Matt Tebbutt, well known for presenting Channel 4’s Food Unwrapped as well as Saturday Kitchen and a being a regular contributor for Waitrose Kitchen magazine. He would then also be cooking up a storm (although nature had already given us one) with local food hero and seafood ambassador Mitch Tonks, the co-founder of the Rockfish restaurants and takeaways as well as The Seahorse Restaurant in Dartmouth.
The cookery demo was great, very free flowing with both of them having a good time and answering any random questions thrown at them. Mitch cooked Singapore spicy crab as well as deep fried soft shell crab rolls which made their way around the lucky few in the audience and Matt cooked crab ravioli using spring roll papers – a trick I am going to try at home! The ravioli was absolutely delicious, served in a crab broth – I was near enough to the front to be fast enough with a nearby spoon!
There was an hourly tour at Salcombe Gin Distilling Co and this was an eye opener; we got a shortened version of their new Gin School offering, so learnt a bit about how they make the gin, chose some ingredients and got to taste the final product. Do look them up for a gift for yourself or a loved one (they are award winning already too – see recent press release here) you get to create your very own flavour of gin and not only take a full bottle home, but also enjoy your drinks in their lovely bar afterwards.
We saw JB Preserves, Bell and Loxton Oils, Favis of Salcombe, Salcombe Brew Coffee, South Devon Chilli Farm, amongst others. My son loves crab so enjoyed a fresh pot full and he even tried an oyster!
Live music filled the air wherever we were, the local shops were buzzing and who can resist a view like this round every corner?
For a free event, it’s a great day out – perhaps plan a night or two away for next year and wander around the festival enjoying the many food and drink delights on offer without having to drive home.
Look out for next years date and get it in the diary!
Baked Shellfish with Bucatini, Whole Roasted Garlic and Thyme
Serves 3 -4, you will need
8 large cloves of garlic, unpeeled
100ml olive oil
A splash of good white wine
A handful of mussels
6 raw shell-on prawns
A handful of clams
A handful of cooked bucatini pasta
A pinch of chilli flakes, or 2 very tiny hot red, dried chillies
250ml home-made tomato sauce or passata (use the rustic, chunky variety)
3-4 sprigs thyme
Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2. Put the cloves of garlic into a roasting tray with the olive oil and a pinch of salt, and roast in the preheated oven until softened, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Raise the oven temperature to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
Lay out a square of tinfoil, large enough to hold all the ingredients and to be folded and sealed tightly into a parcel. Cut a piece of baking parchment the same size as the foil and lay it on top so you have a double layer. Add a splash of wine to the garlic in the roasting tray and add the shellfish, pasta and chillies. Toss everything together, place in a heap on the baking parchment, pour over the passata or tomato sauce, and lay the thyme sprigs on top. Fold it up to make a tightly sealed parcel, place on a roasting tray and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
To serve, place the whole thing in the middle of the table, get your noses round the top of the parcel as you open it up, pull the sides of the foil apart, give it a mix around, put a few wedges of lemon ton top and get stuck in.
Being ex-hospitality, I find it interesting to watch certain reality series like Four in a Bed and Kitchen Nightmares – having been there, done that, you wander how on earth people can get it so wrong. Another entertaining fly-on-the-wall show was The Hotel on Channel 4. The Hotel itself was The Grosvenor in Torquay, which was owned and run by Mark Jenkins – a haphazard yet entertaining guy who, bless him, always tried his very best. But with little money in the pot and micro managing everyone around him including some larger than life characters, this big hotel with even bigger potential just seemed to fall at every hurdle. We had even passed this hotel on a day out, and in sheer nosiness, popped in for a quick browse mid-fame.
Fast forward a couple of years and my, how things have changed. The hotel has since been purchased by the Richardson Hotel Group, a privately owned business with Keith Richardson still very much at the forefront. Along with The Grosvenor, they own 6 seafront hotels in Devon and Cornwall including The Grand in Torquay, and then The Fowey, The Falmouth and The Metropole Hotels in Cornwall.
Since purchasing the hotel, it was recently closed for a short period of time to push its refurbishment plans through as well as completely renovating the kitchen for it’s new michelin starred captain at the helm: John Burton-Race.
Some of you may or may not know who John is but one thing that precedes him is his feisty reputation. Saying that, JBR, who has had recipe books published, cookery tv shows and his own restaurants under his belt has been living a much calmer Devon life for quite a few years and it seems fitting that he is the one bringing order to this once chaotic establishment.
Interestingly nearly 9 years to the day, I met John Burton-Race whilst being a guest on set of Market Kitchen in London, where John cooked brown shrimp for us, so I was intrigued by the news of his appointment.
So with this combination of life stories and events, I was delighted to have been invited for an overnight stay to test out the accommodation and food offering in this fairly local seaside town.
The front of the hotel has been treated to a good facelift to freshen things up as has the interior. We were checked in promptly and advised on the location of our room so off we toddled, wheelie bag in hand ready for a proper nosey.
Our room was enormous! Large bed, very high ceilings, tall windows to match. There was plenty of storage for those longer stays, and a nice pair of chairs with coffee table for relaxing. There was even a fridge which was great for a few treats we had brought with, and it wasn’t a noisy ‘buzz all night’ type of fridge. We had seen this room before on the telly, and it was tired and a bit wasted – but now it was fresh and clean. It was not what I would call luxurious – but it didn’t need to be, this is not a boutique hotel – it is comfortable and gives value for money, and they understand the price point of the guests they are likely to welcome here and have not over egged it.
We enjoyed the pool and jacuzzi facilities; a slightly roman-inspired area with its curves and decor. There is also a sauna to use if you wish to sweat anything off. After our relaxation, we then returned to the room to refresh ourselves for dinner.
Prior to dinner, we were sat in the lounge area to peruse the menus – the a la carte menu with individually priced items and the 6 course tasting menu priced at a very affordable £50 per head. If you have booked Dinner, B and B it includes the a la carte and if you really fancy the tasting menu you can pay a small fee to ‘upgrade’. We ordered our drinks with hubby being well advised on a good gin to go for, to fulfill his current drinking fad.
The restaurant tables were well spread out, private enough for your own conversation yet filled enough that there was a lovely buzz in the room from other tables. The lighting was right, the service smooth and effortless and it was non-intrusive. James the maitre’d, really had it; that irish charm goes a long way but he exuded genuine customer care and the right amount of humour. I had my ear out listening to him with other diners and he could certainly read his customer which is a much needed talent amonst a good front of house position.
Dinner really was sublime. I have mentioned before how chef hubby, Steve, is hard to please or impress but he had a wonderful evening, as did I.
It all started with an amouse bouche of seafood raviolo, with crispy fish skin and an asian salad. For starters Steve chose the Salad of Beef Rib served with truffled potato, watercress, hazelnuts, and sour dough crouton. I had my eye on the lobster ravioli in lobster bisque as seen on Twitter and thankfully it was still on the menu. Both starters were just beautiful, each element singing through and packed with flavour. My ravioli was bursting with a hunk of tender and meaty, sweet lobster.
For mains Steve flew for the Roast Devon Quail, herb purée, beetroot, quail jus, and tarragon gnocchi and I leapt at Roast Chump of Lamb, jerusalem artichoke, purple sprouting broccoli & tapenade jus. All the meat was cooked to perfection – juicy, tasty and well taken care of. Steve loved his gnocchi and I must say the Jerusalem artichoke puree was an eye opener for me and a flavour triumph – earthy yet sweet.
For dessert I couldn’t decide (what’s new) but was recommended one and thought why not, sounds interesting. It was Sweetcorn Custard, toffee popcorn, quince sauce, and popcorn ice-cream. It was a set custard, not sweet or savoury – somewhere in between but the accompaniments added the dimension and enhancement. Being me, I could have done with something sweeter but it was tasty and something I’ve never seen before.
Steve opted for a selection of the cheeses which included Ossau-Iraty, Glastonbury Cheddar, Raclette, Sharpham’s Elmhirst, Crottin de Chevre Melusine, Morbier, Langres, Fourme d’Ambert. He was very impressed that these were stored in the dining room at room temperature, cut to order and was a very satisfied customer once he’d munched his way through.
Pleasantly full we headed back to our room for a good sleep. The bed was very comfortable and the room a good temperature.
Morning came and we ventured for breakfast in the same dining room, only with her morning wear on, with lots of homemade pastries, local yoghurts and such items on the central table with a breakfast menu to choose from as you would expect.
Breakfast was good; the only thing that really let it down was the coffee – or lack there of. It was filter coffee in the coffee plunger but it was either weak coffee granules or whoever is making it doesn’t know how it tastes as a finished product and therefore isn’t spooning enough in – it wasn’t good. I suggest they invest in a filter coffee machine or coffee shop type instrument – perhaps this is on the shopping list, as I really can’t start the day without a good cup of java.
We were sat on the higher glass extension end of the restaurant and so had a view out on to the garden and it was light and bright. I ordered the eggs benedict and Steve ordered the smoked haddock. Both very tasty but the haddock could have been a bit more generous in size or at least with a muffin for sustenance. We saw other diners enjoying the Full English and it looked to be of great quality and a good portion. Overall we were satisfied and the service was very good.
So with full bellies for the second time in just under 12 hours, it was time to venture back out to the real world. The hotel’s refurbishment is stylish and comfortable with many more things to come in the entertainment spaces. There is also an outdoor pool with plenty of potential for the summer months if the weather is kind to Torquay and it’s visitors. The hotel is perfect for families and couples alike, and I think the upcoming refurbishment will include family friendly dining to accompany the Michelin star level offering.
For a stay in Torquay, The Grosvenor is like a caterpillar, finally becoming the butterfly it so deserves to be; perfectly formed for its purpose. As for the restaurant and dining experience, well you need to try it for yourself; a warm glow at the belly of the beast, albeit a much calmer beast, with outstanding dishes showcasing the best the South West has to offer.
To add a bit of adventure to your lunch or dinner outing and allow you to enjoy a tipple from the vast choices on offer, why not catch the train down from Exeter? The hotel is only a 5 minute walk from the train station, and would really add to the whole experience. If you can’t manage a stay, once contently filled with your delicious dinner, perhaps a nap on the train home will have to do.
With John having experienced French living back in the day, I hope the English Riviera will now satisfy, where he can add his je nais se quoi to Torquay and The Grosvenor for the foreseeable future.
The Grosvenor Hotel, Belgrave Road, Torquay, TQ2 5HG
Rockfish, the South West seafood restaurant group founded by restaurateurs Mitch Tonks and Mat Prowse, has lodged plans to open its sixth site, in Exeter.
The company has applied to the city council to build the venue at Exeter Quay’s Piazza Terracina, creating 40 jobs. The application is for a single-storey pavilion restaurant with a floor space of 500 square metres. If plans are approved it is hoped that the restaurant could be open early in 2018. Rockfish has been steadily growing since its first site in Dartmouth in 2010 and has become famous for sustainable seafood which is sourced locally and served on the day of landing.
The restaurant, which will also have a bar, will specialise in fried & chargrilled seafood in an environment and style that will appeal to all; Mitch and Mat with a 9 children between them want families to always feel welcome.
Founder Mitch Tonks said “Exeter is a really vibrant town and the unofficial capital of the South West, the dining out scene is great. I love nights out there and the site on the quay suits us perfectly as it is overlooking the water. Exeter is still only a short drive from Brixham so we can stick to our golden rule of serving local fish on the day it was landed and at its best. I can’t wait to get open and I’m already thinking of a few special additions at the restaurant, watch this space!”
Our second post in a series of recipes from Mitch Tonks.
A Whole Oven Poached Brill with Tomatoes, Thyme and Saffron
Serves 4 – you will need
1 brill weighing about 1.5 kg / 3lb
4 ripe tomatoes
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 small dried birds eye chilli – optional
Good pinch of saffron
A splash of Pernod or aniseed flavoured alcohol – optional – but if you are worried about the flavour of aniseed, don’t. It doesn’t take over the dish but really adds a wonderful depth.
A glass of dry white wine
A small handful of finely chopped parsley
Pre heat the oven to 200c.
In a roasting dish large enough to take the fish and a pint or so of liquid add a few tablespoons of olive oil and gently fry the shallot and the garlic until softened. Squeeze in the tomatoes, add the thyme, saffron and crumble in the chilli. Mix all those flavours together well, then add a splash of Pernod and allow to boil until the all the liquid has evaporated.
Then add the wine and boil for a further minute, then lay the fish into the pan and a cupful of water. Sprinkle in some sea salt and place in the oven for about 30 minutes. Check regularly to ensure there is still enough liquid in the pan and baste the top of the fish which will be starting to roast, if you think you need more liquid add a little water.
Remove from the oven, sprinkle in the parsley and taste the juice. You should be able to taste everything separately within the sauce but all at once. I find that proper seasoning helps to bring these flavours out. I think this dish is fine to serve from the pan in which it was cooked.
To remove the flesh from the fish just take a spoon and cut the soft fish from the head to the tail down the middle, you can then with 2 spoons lift the fish off in chunks when all the fish from the top is gone simply lift out the backbone and you’ll be left with the boneless underside of the fish.
If you are a shellfish lover you could add a few mussels, or clams or cockles during cooking. A good accompaniment with this would be some aioli, some good bread and some spinach.
As well as dining out and attending events to see what local restaurants, suppliers and businesses have to offer, we do cook at home. Some nights are simpler affairs, with repetitive or traditional favourites like anyone enoys. Occasionally, some inspiration is needed!
With spring showing it’s face (sort’ve) and the fact we are surrounded by beautiful coastlines, we thought something a bit lighter and fishy would give enough inspiration yet still a bit of comfort in the seasonal transition. So we asked Mitch Tonks for a couple of recipes and here is the first of 3 which will be live on a Wednesday for you to enjoy and perhaps plan a suprise meal for yourself or a loved one, or even take the pressure off entertaining some weekend guests. Enjoy – LH
Mussels with Chilli, Wine and Bay
A huge favourite at The Seahorse and Rockfish. I’m not a fan of cream in mussels just their own juices and a splash of wine is good for me. Try mussels from a few different places you will be amazed at how different they can taste and eat depending on the environment from which they are harvested. I prefer those grown at sea with small shells and big silky meats.
Serves 2 to start; you will need –
Allow 350gm per person, ensure they are washed and beards pulled off
2 bay leaves
2 small dried birdseye chillis
1 shallot very finely chopped
Good knob of butter
Handful finely chopped parsley
Splash of wine
Clove garlic finely chopped
Tablespoon of Olive oil
Melt the butter and olive oil in a pan and add the shallots and garlic to soften. Add the parsley and bay and crumble in the chilli.
Add the mussels and toss in a pan to coat the shells well. Add the wine, cover and allow the mussels to steam open, discard any that don’t. Pour into a bowl and serve with crusty, grilled or fried bread.
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!
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.
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.
Lympstone Manor are offering guests 40% off rooms as well as the food bill at lunch and dinner for residents and non-residents. Food offer is for the food bill only excluding drinks. Offer runs from 20 March – 2 April 2017 inclusive.
The Pig at Combe is far from the dusty, muddy, snorty (but intelligent) animal it is named after, it does however embody the essence of countryside. As you drive towards it from the a30 and through the villages, you see this warm glow illuminating in the distance, calling you into its warm belly.
I have heard many many things about the Pig at Combe- all positive; and having seen plenty of lovely pictures, have wandered what it would be like to dine there. Editor Chris visited late last year and thoroughly enjoyed himself with their 25 mile ethos, you can read his write up here.
On this occasion I was invited to enjoy their private dining option along with some other press. I was really looking forward to it and had not just my foodie/social hat on but also my corporate hat – as in my day job as a PA, it is good to have places to book for meetings or events as well as to add to my pool of knowledge to recommend to others.
To start the evening, I was led underground to the cellar. I was immediately taken aback by the cosy yet elegant atmosphere; white brick walls, stone flooring, wood, and loads of candles creating a sense of warmth. We enjoyed bubbly and canapés whilst chatting with other guests. Canapés included mushroom samosas, scotch eggs, pork crackling, lamb koftas, and fried kale with prawn salt. Everything was just delicious – little taste sensations.
We were then led up to the Georgian Kitchen; a hunting lodge type kitchen (could almost be in a National Trust house) with large aga/wood burning stove across the back wall and a scullery off the back left. A grand wooden table surround by 12 chairs awaited us, with more ambient lighting and candles. A few stags heads adorned the walls along with a dresser of country house crockery – nothing forced or kitch, just everything naturally belonging.
Rather than having a menu of individual dishes to choose from, the ethos is about sharing – an option I loved. I struggle to choose from a menu when I could quite frankly eat it all – so to have a bit of everything is right up my piggin’ street!
Don’t for one minute think this is buffet style…it is banquet dinner style. Wooden boards arrived adorned with starters of smoked organic salmon, cured meats, toast topped with mussels, crab and exmoor caviar as well as garden leek and blue cheese tarts.
For mains we enjoyed a whole cod with foraged sea veg, roasted and slow braised Dartmoor lamb and hay smoked BBQ Pipers Farm chicken – all meaty, succulent and cooked to perfection. Big knives landed into them, ready for serving the troops. On the side, our mighty feast was compimented by creamy layered potato, roast celeriac and lemon thyme, glasshouse leaves, foraged herbs and garden greens.
The pudding offering sent us all into ‘kids in a sweet shop’ mode. The most comforting and delicious rice pudding I’ve ever had, clear and wobbly gin and tonic jelly with tongue tingling lemon sorbet, a smooth ice cream parfait, sticky toffee pudding, apple and blackberry crumble and a trifle that would put your grandmother’s to shame.
For coffee we wandered across the path to the Folly. This was a lovely outhouse restaurant, candlelit once more, giant wicker woven lampshades hanging down, it had an African/ethnic feel for me. Coffee and ‘piggy fours’ were served whilst we admired the pizza oven and outside seating, complimented by firepits. This space is open, serving more casual food and dining and can be hired for private parties. Ceiling height sash windows can be opened to let the outside in if the weather permits.
We had enjoyed the evening thoroughly and all the spaces we had been in worked well for their purpose. The Pig at Combe really is a flexible venue, and I can assure you they will be able to cater for your private dining or casual party needs.
It was hunting lodge elegance..big food, beautifully cooked, subtle service. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed such casual, comfortable yet sophisticated dining, with professional and effortless hosting. I look forward to returning, and sending everyone I know!
Check your diary and find an excuse now – you’d be a silly little piggy not to; pigs are one of my favourite animals and this beauty is no different. A great venue for family dining, a couples treat, corporate entertaining or getting down to serious business – you still gotta eat, a deal can’t be done on an empty stomach right?! As a restaurant with rooms you could of course stay over and be happy as a pig in…well, bed.
Time for this little piggy to go wee wee wee all the way home.
Find them on wheels: The Pig at Combe, Gittisham, Honiton, Devon, EX14 3AD
Every year Mitch Tonks and Mat Prowse, who run the award-winning Seahorse in Dartmouth, invite a few great friends in the restaurant world to cook and host the restaurant with them. This year’s stella line up kicks off with Richard Turner from Hawksmoor followed by Spanish Legend Jose Pizarro, Angela Hartnett & Neil Borthwick, seafood superstar Nathan Outlaw and legendary Tuscan butcher Dario Cecchini. Dates for further great names including Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver, Mark Hix, Nieves Barragan-Mohaco & TV presenter Matt Tebbut will be announced shortly.
Events this year will start in the newly opened Joe’s Bar at the Seahorse before a fantastic night of food, wine and great spirit. Sommelier Tim McLaughlin-Green will run the room on these evenings matching special wines to every menu. The full line up will be added to our website and bookings can be made direct with the restaurant as they are released.
Mitch Said “The Seahorse has a wonderful spirit and we love having our friends join us and bring their own special magic to the restaurant. I’m convinced they leave a little of their magic behind which is one of the reasons the room is so special to us and to many of our guests. We all do these events for the enjoyment of it, every one of them is like a dinner party with everyone just chatting away and enjoying great food, wine and great company, what could be better!”
In addition to these events the Seahorse head chef, Jake Bridgwood, has opened the doors on the last Sunday of each month for lunch with a menu specially created for each one. Aperitivos will be served at 1230 in Joe’s bar followed by lunch at 1 – wonderful family occasions and guests are invited to bring their own wines to enjoy with just £10 corkage.
Manna from Devon Cooking School is delighted to announce the dates for the 2017 Guest Chef Classes: a series of celebrity chefs and foodie experts will be running classes at the school from March until September.
These guest days only pop up once a month and usually book up pretty quickly, a true reflection on the talent and reputation of each chef. This year’s Guest Chef classes are being hosted by Peter Greig of Pipers Farm, Mitch Tonks of Rockfish and The Seahorse, Romy Gill MBE from Romy’s Kitchen and food writer Charlotte Pike with another two hosts in the pipeline.
David, co-owner of Manna from Devon comments on the Guest Chef programme: “Holly and I are really excited to confirm we’ve got some of our best foodie friends joining us in 2017- we hope you can join us too! It’s important for us to involve other chefs and experts here at Manna from Devon, as we’re all about the community aspect of cooking; connecting lots of people through food and drawing on the array of amazing chefs and talent in the area.”
Peter masterminds Pipers Farm in Cullompton and he and his team produce the most amazing meats, raising their animals from birth and selling them through their own butchery and online shop. Peter will be bringing one of his lamb carcasses to butcher on Saturday 11th Marchand will be cooking up some of his fabulous meats in the wood fired ovens as well as discussing the Pipers Farm way of farming and how important it is to him; a true expert in his field.
Mitch Tonks is an old friend of David and Holly’s. His knowledge and passion for fish and the fishing industry is inspiring and his fish dishes are truly delicious. As well as his chain of Rockfish restaurants in South Devon he runs The Seahorse restaurant in Dartmouth so Manna from Devon are delighted to have him hosting what will be a fabulously convivial day of some outstanding fish and seafood recipes on Friday 7th April.
Romy Gill MBE will be hosting her class on Sunday 7th May and will be cooking some of her amazing Indian food from her restaurant, Romy’s Kitchen – traditional flavours with a light and contemporary twist. David and Holly have been friends with Romy for a long time and love hearing her tell our guests stories of growing up in India and her determination to open her restaurant in Thornbury, just outside of Bristol. If you like Indian cooking, this is a day not to be missed.
Food writer Charlotte Pike will be joining David and Holly at the school on Sunday 4th June – passionate about smoking food, she will be creating some amazing dishes, passing on lots of tips and discussing how the enthusiasm for this kind of cooking is growing. David and Holly discovered “low & slow” smoking on their road trip in America so are keen to compare notes with Charlotte.
Classes will take place at Manna from Devon Cooking School in Kingswear and run from 10am – 4pm. All are limited to just 12 students and cost £175 per person.
It could be argued that Exmouth is going through a mini-renaissance with eating places. Over the last couple of years, great local names like Las Saveurs and The Chronicle have been joined by Oddfellows Exmouth, Ruby Kitchen and now Rockfish Exmouth, which opened on the seafront just before Christmas.
What used to be an aptly named restaurant (The Waterfront) is now owned by Rockfish. Rockfish is small group of restaurants owned by Mitch Tonks and Matt Prowse, with their first having opened in 2010 in Dartmouth, they now have one in Plymouth, Brixham and Torquay. Their vision is to have restaurants right by the sea, and cook excellent fish simply.
Almost all the fish on the menus are from local boats who land fish daily, except for the cod and haddock which is from Norway. This is due to the British being the largest consumers of these fish, and the healthiest stocks are in their seas, and are MSC certified.
So when we received our invite to a VIP opening night dinner, we were very excited.
So on the coastal wall, far right of the town, near the dock area where you catch the boat out to another great fish restaurant (although only seasonally) is this beautiful smurf blue building.
On entry, the restaurant was nicely light and airy; white wood panelled walls, benches and even the ceiling along with baby blue chairs and bench cushions. Seaside charm without the ‘in your face’ factor. A few quotes scribed here and there on the walls and plenty of pictures, wine bottles and cookbooks lining other shelving areas to enhance the white space and make it feel cosy and warm rather than cold and empty. The tables are adorned with paper placemats educating you about the type of fish in the sea.
To the rear of the property is what you could call a conservatory. Having been to this venue pre-Rockfish, I know that on a clear or sunny day, the view is spectacular and you feel as if you are sitting on the edge of the sea, which of course you are. It’s a great spot for the annual speed boat race if anything. I noticed blankets for keeping warm when needed but the roaring fire that was present in the room was certainly doing a great job.
We mingled, as you do, with some local folk we have met before and some new ones. We then had the pleasure of being seated with Catherine Courtenay and Andy Cooper of Devon Life as well as Kate Haskell of ITV fame. We all had a fair few food miles between us and were looking forward to what was to come.
A special shorter menu was on offer to us this evening, and my eyes immediately noticed the calamari – squid, lightly coated in flour, fried crisp and served with a Singapore style chilli sauce. Another fish jumping out at me from the mains was the monkfish, grilled over charcoal and served with garlic butter.
This a very meaty fish that can be tough or stringy to eat if done wrong – a bit like the squid actually, but done right, it is beautiful. It is also a good fish for strong flavours too, such as wrapping in Parma ham or using with a curry sauce.
The squid was perfect, soft to eat, crispy coating with raw chilli and spring onion spread around, to add that much needed crunch and intense flavour, with the sauce adding sweetness should you need it.
The monkfish was a handsome beast; a huge piece served simply, covered in very garlicky garlic butter – yes chef – if it says garlic I want garlic and this didn’t disappoint. The flesh was creamy and meaty and soft, it was delicious. I saw Chris’ tartare sauce and requested a pot for adorning my chips, and I am glad I did. I was lighter than shop-bought sauces, and tangy and delicious.
Pudding was a delight too…nothing gastronomic, but I opted for the sundae with caramel sauce, chocolate brownie cake pieces and topped with popcorn. I think the clever use of ‘Mr Whippy’ ice cream is why I was so happy eating this pudding, it was a ‘childhood-memory-inducing’ dessert – I was just so happy eating it – isn’t that a good way to finish a meal?
Andy Cooper of Devon Life ‘nose’ a good pudding when he sees one!
I really do look forward to returning here en famille – we are all fish lovers and having looked at the full menu there are some great dishes on there. Coupled with an easy-going environment and the possibility of sitting seaside with the fishies – this venue has the potential for both families and couples or groups to have a great time eating out, day or night.
Below are a couple of photos courtesy of Rockfish:
Chris and Lauren of Eating Exeter
Mat Prowse, Steve Edwards, Michael Caines, Mitch Tonks
A long term favourite of mine has to be On The Waterfront; a restaurant based in the old ship buildings down on the Quay, it is well known for its ‘dustbin lid’ pizzas as well as a great drinking venue for the summer with punters spilling out on the riverside cobbles.
Long boatrooms with sloped ceilings, small and large tables able to cater for all party types, for young and old alike.
Large 16″ pizzas served in a wicker pizza tray – many try, some succeed and others fail. If you don’t succeed, you get to take it home and have round 2 the next day – so you don’t lose really.
I’ve been here as a couple, a family get together, group of friends and a large work outing with my most recent visit being a group family dinner for my Dad’s birthday. It was the perfect venue; a menu of fish, burgers and pizzas I knew it would satisfy the easy going one, the fussy one, the seafood lover (not least my 6 year old!) and the very hungry one in my family.
Due to the lighting my photos probably don’t do it justice, all I can say is that everyone was satisfied and it is excellent value and never disappoints.
Dustbin lid pizza’s can be enjoyed as a ‘half and half’ enabling you to indulge in two of their exciting toppings and they certainly don’t scrimp!
Among the items that were devoured were half and half Fiesta Mexicana and No Meat Aloud, a half and half Fully Loaded and Fiesta Mexican, the Fiery Inferno, a half and half Tikka Chicken special and Fully Loaded as well as two bowls of Fruits de Mer which were served with chunky ciabatta fingers – great for soaking up the sauce.
Puddings included Elderflower Pannacotta with Peppered Strawberries, Salted Caramel Chocolate Brownie and Chocolate filled Spanish Churros Fritters with Baileys Cream.
You hungry yet? You won’t be when you leave! Grab some family or friends and get down there pronto…you may need a walk around the canal to burn it off.
Back in September, as a late birthday surprise, I was treated to Sunday lunch at Hotel Du Vin, Exeter. Previously called The Magdalen Chapter, the building that was originally an Eye Infirmary was taken over by the luxury chain earlier this year.
Along with rooms, a spa, walled garden and guest areas, it also has a bistro which welcomes both residents and non-residents. Having seen a post on Twitter politely boasting a table full of seafood and following further menu investigation, I was pleased that my retweet and subtle suggestion to my husband worked wonders.
Due to limited parking, we parked in the very nearby in Magdalen Street Car Park and walked over. On entering the hotel and meandering to the rear of the property, I was pleasantly surprised at how large and light the Bistro was, overlooking the private and well kept garden, containing a few al-fresco tables.
Having seen the menu and the price, at a not-so-eye-watering price of £22.95 per person for 4 courses, I was slightly dubious at what would really be on offer. To my delight, there was the ‘French Market Table’ area covered in seafood, pates, a leg of ham, continental meats, potted shrimp, breads, olives et al.
As we were seated and served drinks by our friendly waiter, we were told there was no hurry. No hurry to eat, no hurry to order the soup or our mains, just enjoy your Sunday – this felt nice. The real hurry was the urge felt by my food mad son, and his desperation to get to the buffet offering and help himself. There is a childrens menu consisting of 3 courses for £10 which had some good items on, but actually I would have been happy to pay the child money and just let him eat once course – as much buffet as he could muster.
So after eating our soup, helping ourselves (quite a few times) to the market table, eating our main of beautifully tender Pipers Farm roast beef with homemade yorkshire puddings and oodles of gravy (a request fulfilled without any disapproval – I do love gravy!), we somehow found room for pudding…
I enjoyed a sweet and sticky apple tartin whilst the boys devoured the ice cream. The ice cream alone is worth a mention; all homemade on the premises, it consisted of the creamiest vanilla, chocolatiest and not too sweet chocolate, and the best pistachio ice cream we have ever tasted – fantastic ‘eye-scream’, we nearly fought over it!
Overall, a lovely setting, tasty and plentiful food and choice, good service and incredible value. It would be a great place to not hurry – either as a couple or with a group of friends catching up over a long lunch. You could, quite frankly, eat til your eyes pop…matron!
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.
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.
A 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!