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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Local Exeter Food Producer Eat The Smoke Makes it into South West Morrisons Stores

Earlier this year the supermarket Morrisons put out a call for ‘The Nations Local Foodmakers’, a mission to find local producers to stock in their stores within each region or city so that customers can buy more British and local. If successful at application stage, the food or drink producer would have the chance to meet their buyers, local store colleagues and customers at one of four regional events that were held, where a final decision would be made.

The mission stated: ‘At Morrisons, we want to feed the nation with a bigger portion of food and drink that is sourced from local suppliers. That’s why we’re now starting a fresh search for a new crop of foodmakers – who we hope can grow with Morrisons and maybe even become household names in their own right.

When it comes to finding local suppliers, we go further. We’re already doing lots to help regional food and drink suppliers ‘make it’ at Morrisons. And now we’re doing even more to meet local tastes – with our search to find The Nation’s Local Foodmakers, and products that are grown or made ‘just down the road’ from their local communities.’

Now we all have our views on shopping local or which supermarket is best, but this is a great initiative to get the deserving small producers in front of more customers and be able to grow more successfully.

One such producer that has been successful is Exmouth-based Eat The Smoke, owned by Christian Sculpher, who produces a variety of BBQ rubs, nuts and sauces.  Now in his 4th year of business, Devon-born Christian has been an avid BBQ’er for 20 years, smoking for 6 and left his stressful 9-5 job to pursue his passion.

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He is already well known on the food festival circuit, and has his products stocked in local farm shops, London distribution in place and they are available to buy on his online shop. His products have also won various Gold and Silver Taste of the West awards 2016 and he was a Devon Life Food and Drink Winner 2016 in the Best Food Product of the Year category. His range includes five BBQ rubs, two varieties of smoked nuts and two BBQ sauces – all made with natural ingredients, are gluten free and can be used for outdoor cooking as well as indoors and the BBQ sauce works amazingly as a ‘ketchup’ too.

Out of this great product range, two rubs, BBQ Hot Rub and Buffalo Hot Wings and Poultry Rub, will be stocked in South West branches of Morrisons from Bristol down to Cornwall.

Although buying direct from him or a local farm shop may seem the more obvious way to buy your goods, if you buy from Morrisons it could result in a better return for Eat The Smoke on the whole as, the more sold in store the greater the possibility of Morrisons stocking more of his range of products both locally and possibly even further afield.

If you’d like to find out more about this awesome local producer and his products, read our write up and Q&A from last year here. Otherwise – pop to Morrisons and vote with your basket, and help the small guy make it big as he so deserves.

Find Eat the Smoke on:

Twitter          Facebook          Website

Smokin’ Summer Pop Up on Exeter Quay – by Lauren Heath

Exeter Quay is currently blooming into a real destination for foodies, as well as those seeking an escape from the busy city and their work life.

Night markets, cookery school, outdoor and indoor activities, arts and culture as well as the growing restaurant scene. At the weekend it comes alive with tourists and locals alike seeking the relaxed waterside vibe.

Recently, The Boat Shed (brainchild of the Bike Shed Theatre) has just docked, ready to provide many arts and social activities for everyone and breathing life into another beautiful stone building.

Alongside this eclectic new venture is an additional food offering for the summer – The Smoke Pit and Grill by Beer and Vittles. Paul Manville, owner of Beer & Vittles was asked by The Boat Shed to come up with a food offering to compliment their cocktail caravan that serves cocktails, beers and organic soft drinks, alfresco style. Paul has over 15 years of professional catering experience and jumped at the chance to do something different on weekends for Quay punters over the summer season.

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So aside the stone wall, with high quality wooden tables and benches to eat al fresco, The Smoke Pit and Grill serves items such as low and slow brisket, BBQ’d jerk chicken leg and even a homemade vegan burger – all items homemade or bought from local farm shops, bread rolls so local they are from the Boatyard Cafe and Bakery across the river and the brisket is smoked overnight to bring you juicy soft meat on the day.

We visited on Sunday lunch and enjoyed a bit of everything – the brisket was tender, the chicken juicy and I must admit the black bean and chestnut vegan burger was excellent (I’m very carnivorous and was impressed!). Even the sauces on the side have an added twist, making them extra tasty too.

Too lovely to sit inside one of the fab restaurants on the Quay? Dine casual bbq style with The Smoke Pit and Grill; maybe even treat yourself to a delicious Dartington ice cream after from The Boat Shed. Here’s to a smokin’ summer!

You can find The Smoke Pit and Grill by Beer and Vittles on social media:

Twitter         Facebook           Website

The Swan at Bampton – by Lauren Heath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Email: info@theswan.co

Web: www.theswan.co

Instagram: theswanbampton

Twitter: @theswanbampton

Facebook: @theswanbampton

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

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

Sunday
Midday – 2.30 pm
6.30 pm – 8.45 pm

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

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

 

 

 

 

An evening of fire and meat with Dean Forge at Pipers Farm

The perfect duo, Dean Forge and Pipers Farm recently hosted an evening full of meat and fire in the rustic event space at Pipers Farm, in the heart if the Devon countryside. Local bloggers and journalists came together to experience the full capabilities of some of stove manufacturers, Dean Forge’s most popular products, the Dartmoor Baker and their large fire pit.

Guests gathered around the fire pit to warm up as Pipers Farm owner, Peter Grieg cooked chicken wings, pancetta, beef and a tray of root vegetables over the hot coals. Inside, seated on hay bales, the group marvelled at the quirky Dartmoor Baker, which slowly cooked a full chicken and a tray of sausages in its integrated oven.

Simon Chew, director of Dean Forge, followed dinner with the lowdown on Dean Forge, fielding questions from guests, in awe of the Dartmoor Baker – a woodburner with an oven!

For more information, visit deanforge.co.uk or call the showroom on 01364 643 57

 

Guest Chef Days Announced at Manna From Devon Cooking School

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 March and 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.

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Peter Grieg

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.

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Mitch Tonks

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.

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Romy Gill

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.

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Charlotte Pike

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.

To book one of the Guest Chef Classes visit http://www.mannafromdevon.com/cookery-courses/guest-chefs/ or call 01803 752943.

Follow Manna from Devon on:

Twitter (@mannafromdevon)

Facebook (facebook.com/mannafromdevon)

Instagram (mannafdevon)

Circa 1924 Express Lunch – by Lauren Heath

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

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

Open Tuesday to Saturday 12pm – 2:30pm and 6pm – late. (Food serve 12 -2 and 6 – 9:30pm). Express lunch 2 courses for £10.95

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Circa 1924 is 1 years old – Happy Birthday! A great achievement for a bar and restaurant run by two young friends Rob and James. It is city centre but slightly back from the high street which affords it a great location but with a slight air of secrecy and exclusivity to it and on a quiet street. I have enjoyed post-dinner cocktails before and Chris (head honcho here at EE) tried their pop-up lunches (Circa 1924 presents Skandel@Circa1924 ) earlier this year with much delight.

So when Rob invited us to try their current express lunch offering, I jumped at the chance to experience their food for myself. Working in Exeter city centre, the choices are quite endless, if not, a little overwhelming. Express lunch appeals to me as, like anyone with a 45 minute lunch, it’s nice to know you can eat restaurant food without worrying constantly about the time and actually enjoy the experience.

The concept of the express lunch is simple, honest, tasty and local food served in good time. The menu changes every few days or even daily depending on what their local suppliers have available, dictated slightly by seasonality too. The menu is handwritten, it is that freshly put together and can change at the swipe of their pen. I started off by choosing a drink that was under the cocktail section, but clearly non alcoholic – so I assumed it would be something a bit different, and I was right. Temperance Cloudy Lemonade (£5), which would not be my top choice, but I was intrigued by the flavours of lemon, vanilla sugar syrup, and dill. I was presented with a lovely large icy glass of cool, sweet and slightly sharp lemon heaven, a great drink do go with lunch.

Priced at £10.95 for two courses, this seems extremely reasonable and almost too good to be true. The small menu read well, with fish, vegetarian and meat options. I have said before, I am terrible at choosing. So even on a starter menu of 3 items, I couldn’t decide between two – so I was pleased to be allowed both, for research purposes of course!

I chose the Heritage Tomato and Mozzarella Salad and the Venison Carpaccio. Both were presented beautifully. The salad had very tasty tomato slices, a lovely and generous pesto drizzle, a light textured mozzarella and some really tasty crunchy bread for texture. With lemon balm micro herbs this just gave it another interesting angle – it was delightful. My second starter came with the same tasty bread, layered slices of venison, again generously drizzled with dijon mustard sauce and atop with cornichons (small pickled gherkins for those who don’t know). The meat was so incredibly soft, the dressing was slightly creamy, and the vinegar of the cornichons cut through perfectly – another wonderful little dish.

Now for my main of Fillet Mignon with Skin on Fries and Garlic Butter (£2 extra supplement). Now…I am not particularly keen on set price menus having an upgrade price for an item, but I have to say, even at £12.95 for one of the starters and then this main would be totally worthit. I imagined thin slivers of meat with maybe half a dozen stacked chips, but what I got was so much better. 3 beautiful well proportioned pieces of fillet, cooked to perfection; the meat was cooked medium and was so succulent and tender, accompanied by plenty of thick well seasoned skin on fries and with a blob of fabulously garlicky butter which just pulled it all together. I felt as if I was on the continent. I absolutely loved this dish, it was a triumph. I almost wanted to tell some customers that had just walked in that they must choose it. All served on a hot plate; a simple touch yet often overlooked in some establishments and I am not sure my photo does it justice.

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I would say this was one of the nicest lunches I have had in a long time –  just spot on, delicious and unfussy food that tasted so good and at a price that you can barely get a main dish for in Exeter. Even with me eating an extra item or two, I was in and out within 40 minutes. Of course, if you’re not in a hurry, then relax and stay awhile.

There are 3 tables in the bar area, another half dozen or so a bit further on in their ground floor area and then 3 tables out the front if you wish to dine al fresco. A great wine menu, an excellent beer, ale and stout menu and of course, their excellent cocktail list too. If you’re circumnavigating town for the best lunch your money can buy, whilst wanting to support an independent, head to Circa1924!

Marco’s New York Italian – by Lauren Heath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Circa 1924, Exeter

CIRCA

When Harry’s Grill & Bar closed in Northernhay Place, it left available a prime spot for a restaurant. The inevitable march of Exeter’s chain restaurants had some worried that the site might be engulfed by some bland corporate named establishment…

Enter stage left: James and Rob, founders of Circa 1924, a 1920’s inspired Steak and Seafood Restaurant that is raising the bar for casual-fine dining in Exeter, with its Shoreditch like coolness and eye for excellent quality dining. Since they opened in May in Northernhay Place, they have been doing some excellent things with seafood and steak. I don’t normally analyse feedback, but if the image on the right is anything to go by, they must be doing something very right.

We visited on a Wednesday night, it was a school night, the city winding down after a busy hot day; the shops had closed but now it was the restaurant’s time to shine.

Based at 6 Northernhay Place just off the bustle and hustle of the High St, the restaurant features a rustic downstairs bar, serving cocktails, beer and wine. The interior is smattered with vintage antiquities, which help create the theme of ‘1924’ with dark wooden furniture and the grand wooden roof that arches over the diners in the restaurant upstairs.

As you walk past the rustic downstairs bar (inspired by the moonshiner bars of the prohibition era) and head up the stairs to the restaurant, the first thing you notice are the large shelves at the top of the stairs, adorned with top hats, vintage telephones and a lot of very nice looking wine in the cupboard underneath. The dark woods and black moleskin booths lay themselves out to straight lines with the till at the end of the restaurant.

The waiters were handsomely wearing waistcoats, not overly theatrical but subtle and efficient. Throughout the meal the service was unobtrusive and friendly.

The menu itself is presented as a typed and simple affair which fitted into the theme of the restaurant. It is printed in-house which gives head chef Lauri Hilli greater flexibility to change the menu depending on the season and weather. The ingredients, as expected, are locally sourced and of excellent quality with a lot of care being given to the selection of meat and seafood.

As well as the wine menu, there is a beer and cocktail menu, which I realised half way through eating that I hadn’t asked for. But as it was, the wines on offer were gorgeous and well selected vintages which worked well with what we chose to eat. Unless you’re into Cocktails or Beer Food matching, with food of this calibre I would stick to the epic selection of good wines Circa 1924 possess.

I would recommend checking out their website if you’re considering Circa 1924 as a place to dine as there is a lot of good information about the food and it is very personable.

We kicked off our meal with Spicy Peanut Chicken (with a rice noodle salad £7.50) which was presented tastefully. The rice noodle salad was chilled, presented in a slate bowl, with a warming dressing that worked nicely with the chicken. As usual, I ate this ungracefully and managed to get half of it on the table. The chicken, as expected was moist and very enjoyable.

I wanted to get a good impression of the sort of things that Circa 1924 can produce, so I went for their daily fish of the day. This changes from day-to-day, depending on what has been landed. Today it was Cod Loin (£14.50) which sounded perfect, and Tori went for a Rib-Eye (£19.50 a really good recommendation from our waiter Matt who sold it to us after we found that Rump wasn’t available). Our sides, which were separate, consisted of Triple Cooked Chips (£3.50) and Seasonal Steamed Vegetables (£4.00).

The Cod Loin flaked; it was tender and well cooked with an excellent taste. The butter created a delicious sauce with the seasoning, and with a dash of lemon the spectrum of flavour intensified. The steak was as flavourful and well-cooked as we had imagined it might be, the fats of the Rib Eye steak gave this piece of meat a really nice palette which worked well with the delightful peppercorn sauce (I am sure my wife is obsessed with peppercorn sauce). The triple cooked chips certainly get my award for ‘Nicest Chips in Exeter’, already seasoned with a bit of salt they were crunchy and moreish and generally bloody lovely.

Normally, at this stage of a meal, I have to start wondering whether I’ll fit dessert in. But on this occasion, there was no question that we were going to explore the Circa 1924 dessert menu.

Tori, who is obsessed with chocolate desserts, went for the Chocolate Truffle Torte (seasoned with chilli, served with frozen orange & cream £6.00), which inspired many noises of delight from the other side of the table. I went for the Lemon & Cream Cheese Tart (served upside down & topped with gingerbread crumble £6.00) which was smooth, creamy and everything in between.

Circa 1924 is a new concept for Exeter. Fine dining, with a casual themed twist, yet still using locally sourced quality ingredients in their dishes. The A La Carte menu was well portioned, and would be a good introduction to anyone who felt intimidated by the concept of A La Carte. The friendly and relaxed atmosphere doesn’t detract from the level of service that one would expect from a restaurant of calibre, and Circa 1924 is definitely here to give some well-established Exeter names a run for their money.

I would recommend this as a restaurant to consider for a special occasion, an anniversary or when the need for a blooming good steak is overwhelming. Let Circa 1924 step in and grill you some meaty magic.

EE Recommends

6 Northernhay Place, Exeter, EX4 3QJ
info@circa1924.co.uk

01392 438545

Knowing your cuts of meat! Useful infographic to cut out and keep, or download.

Knowing your cuts of meat

Knowing your cuts of meat is the sign of a true foody.  But how many times have you been caught out when your meat knowledge fails? Cuts of meat are the thing I have a hard time memorising.  So here is a helpful cheat sheet to keep you in the know.