Byron Burgers, Princesshay by Chris Gower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The City Gate Hotel: The first impressions of refurbishment

http://www.citygatehotel.com/  – Iron Bridge, Lower North Street Exeter, EX4 3RB

The last time The City Gate hotel had much of a refurbishment was back in 2003, a rebirth from the days when it was The Crown & Sceptre hotel.  It sits in a commanding position over the Longbrook Valley roughly where the old North Gate had been situated before being removed in the early 1800s.

For me it was always the choice place for staff drinks, lunches and long afternoons in the beer garden, or watching people from the sofas in the conservatory.  And now, thirteen years later, it has had another revamp by Young’s and it is looking fabulous.

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We were invited along to see what has changed and meet their new Head Chef.  They were eager to show off the new surroundings, and we were eager to see what to see what has changed.

Gone is the well-trod carpet and the dark wooden bar area; there is now a light laminate flooring with modern light furniture.  Gone (sniff) is the sofas from the conservatory, now replaced with more tables and seats for dining.

The downstairs area is now a swanky craft beer and cocktail bar that is bookable for meetings and parties, the back room that was a bookable meeting room is another dining area with more tables etc.

The beer garden, one of the best in the city in my humble opinion, is all about Al Fresco dining, with more seating for eating, sofas for kicking back and relaxing whilst you order a burger from the swanky burger bar that is now making use of dead space.

The rooms are redecorated; gone are the days of being a fuddy little hotel that provided a place to sleep, it is now fully embracing the ’boutique hotel’ moniker.  The gentrification of The City Gate has gone down well with the regulars, we are assured, but will it strike a chord with the rest of Exeter?

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The ethos of The City Gate has changed too.  Gone is the standard pub food, in its place is a seasonal-local ethos being driven by their new head chef Jason Mead who had previously been at The Conservatory, just over the road.

His fine dining background has armed him well and with this experience, Jason is determined to introduce Exonians to this new and improved menu.

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Our feedback evening was a chance for The City Gate to show off and make contact with foodies and bloggers who would spread the word.  In my mind, this was also a chance for me to see properly what has improved and to confirm my suspicions that they had gotten rid of the sofas from the conservatory.

The menu for tonight was a taster of the spectrum of dishes that The City Gate are introducing.  Below is the menu with annotations – the mind of a food blogger is a scribbley messy thing sometimes!

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For our starters we had the choice of a Devon crab cake with homemade tartare sauce and pickled cucumber tarts, or Crispy duck, spinach & watercress, pomegranate, hazelnuts with an aged sherry glaze.

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Naturally we went for the duck (a Gressingham duck) which Jason gets from a local source – which was beautifully moist and tender.

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Next up with had Lamb Rump, again it was locally sourced and was beautifully cooked. With a rump like this, it has to be tender and medium rare to pull it off and Jason did this expertly.

Then the final lovely thing (which my camera refused to capture properly) was a Soft poached rhubarb and lemon curd Eton mess which was, as the rest of the meal was, absolutely delicious.

In lieu of a photo of my dessert this is Lauren’s.  A gorgeous Dark chocolate delice with a salted caramel sauce and honeycomb.  I felt a pang of dessert envy when I saw this come out.

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The food was a great improvement – it is refreshing to experience the passion of a chef who has been given the reigns to create a remarkable casual dining experience.  And I severely hope that readers come and support Jason and his fantastic menus.

Young’s Brewery are firm believers of autonomy as each pub is very different, and that individuality is emphasised in the way the pubs are run.  Diners can experience different menus presented in different ways, as chains go they are not bad at all.

But now the great journey starts for this pub, convincing visitors and locals alike that The City Gate Hotel has turned over a new leaf.  I think they have and I would urge you to come down and give it a try.

Try the lamb.

Polpo Exeter opening event by Chris Gower

18 Higher Market Guildhall, Queen Street, Exeter – T: @polpo

I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Polpo now for, well… months.  We were sad to hear that Grillstock were going to abandon plans to visit Exeter but we knew that in its place would be something exciting.  There was the usual speculation from foodies and news outlets, but to hear that we were getting famed Venetian cuisine restaurant Polpo was a massive plus for foodies in Exeter.  Co-founded and steered by the charismatic writer and restaurateur Russell Norman, we grabbed 10 Questions with Russell soon after it was announced.

If you’ve never heard of Russell before then you might have seen him on telly as The Restaurant Man a few years ago.  If this is still not ringing any bells, take a look at this video.

The Founder. Russell Norman / Polpo restaurant from The Founder on Vimeo.

He is currently writing another book about Venice, having just returned from a 10 day stint.  Polpo even take their staff to Venice to experience the Venetian way of life so they can themselves share that passion with their customers.

Their latest restaurant is Exeter which is now open for business.  We were invited along to sample what makes Polpo special.

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Polpo is the the result of a long love affair that Russell has with Venice and its culture. He is an apostle for the Venetian way of eating and drinking, and a font of knowledge about the subject too.   Just chatting to him casually in the restaurant made us realise that he was passionate about Polpo, the brand, the ethos and its mission to keep things cheap and simple.

Russell was the first person we saw on the door.  I turned to Tori and said in not-so-hushed amazement, “That’s the founder, Russell Norman!” My powers of discretion are terrible.

Taken to our seats by a friendly waitress we were in one of the booth seats by the kitchen, a perfect place to see how the kitchen worked and watch service at work.

The interior of Polpo was as I thought it would be, a well thought out collection of reclaimed features including the floor that was salvaged from an old hospital from The North. Hidden for decades under a modern floor, this addition to the restaurant is one of particular pride, so whatever you do, don’t drop your food on it!   The tiles, fittings and decor gave a feeling of faded elegance, but in such a way that it was clean and well thought out.

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The menu is a simple, cheap and elegant.  There is the option to have a more substantial meal if you wish, or you can nibble on Cichetti, which is a little like Venetian tapas. Venetians often like to partake in a giro d’ombra which is essentially like a pub crawl with lots of little bits of food.

I was lucky enough to sit down with Russell for a mini-interview for the upcoming Eating Exeter podcast (launching soon!) he was absolultely brilliant to talk to, one of the things mentioned was the signature Fritto Misto and Red Chicory which I just had to go for. Both fabulous.

Lauren and Steve had Pizza with Cured Pork Shoulder & Pickled Pepper (jalapeño).  We were introduced to the concept of Braised Cod cheeks with lentils and the brave ones amongst us had Marinated Baby Octopuses… I didn’t because frankly, I am a wuss sometimes.

We were all treated to an Elderflower Martini which was more lime but had a back taste of elderflower which was punchy and refreshing.

There is a lot to say about Polpo.  Tonight was just a taster of what you can expect from this trendy Venetian restaurant.  We loved it.

Exeter Golf and Country Club: The Wear Park Restaurant

Exeter Golf and Country Club, Topsham Rd, Exeter, EX2 7AE
01392 874139 Lunch menu: One course (£9.95), two courses (£12.00) or three courses (£15.00)

To a lot of Exonians (excluding the 4,500 members who currently pay money to use their lovely facilities) the Exeter Golf and Country Club is a little bit of a mystery.  Like me, most residents of Exeter have been here for a wedding or two, maybe a conference or to use the wonderful spa facilities.  The sumptuous Georgian building (take a peek at the club’s history here) that overlooks some of the nicest greenery in Exeter, is home to the Wear Park Restaurant.  Last year Adam Little (ex-Harry’s Grill) was appointed as Head Chef.  Adam brought some of his team from Harry’s as well; the winning combination that attracted diner’s to their previous haunt is back to weave the same magic at the Exeter GCC.

But did you know that the gorgeous Wear Park Restaurant is also open to non-members as well?

We were invited down have a some lunch and take peek at this hidden temple of fine food, admire the greens and peer at the golf caddies.  I’ve only ever tried to play Golf twice, both times I managed to lose the ball, annoy other golfers and chew a large hole in an exquisitely manicured green.  So the idea of going to a golf club had me slightly worried that I might need to get my ‘Bluffer’s Guide to Golf’ out, but thankfully it isn’t all greens and golf carts at the Exeter GCC.

The Club has two restaurants.  The Hub is their family space where families can go and eat cheaply, children are allowed to be themselves and there is an attractive kid friendly menu on offer, no problem.  Many families will come and use the facilities multiple times a week and have their evening meal at the club after the kids have had their lessons and Mum & Dad have been at the gym or catching some squash in one of their courts.  Then for those nicer meals, there is the Wear Park Restaurant.

The lunch menu is fantastic value, choose from one course (£9.95), two courses (£12.00) or three courses (£15.00) OR one of the light bites from the other side of the menu.  Alternatively why not drop in for Afternoon Tea?  There is even a Prosecco Afternoon Tea available which just sounds decadently nice.

When we arrived, we were taken over to the Restaurant (located on the ground floor of the large Georgian house) by a lovely lady from reception as we had no idea where we were meant to be.  The Georgian propensity for the neo-classical gives the building quite an imposing feeling, but the warm welcome we received was in contrast to the austere yet beautiful architecture.

Adam has created a really nice lunch menu to tempt members and non-members alike.  We were looked after by the lovely Richard, the Food and Drinks Manager at the Wear Park who gave us a insight in to life at this busy restaurant.  As we waited in the lounge area, we were able to order our food as we sat in comfort with our coffees. As this was a Saturday lunchtime, I couldn’t quite bring myself to start on the wine quite yet.

Although the temptation to have a full three course meal sat on my shoulder for quite a while, I managed to keep it at bay (one has to think of the waistline) so I went for a main and a pudding.  I started things off with a Pan Fried Fillet of Salmon which came served with beautiful butter boiled vegetables, and Tori went for the Chicken Chasseur with Fondant Potato.  The Salmon skin was crisped perfectly, the flesh flaked with little effort from me and tasted amazing.  Tori commented on the fact her chicken was beautifully moist.

The service throughout the dinner brilliant, we didn’t wait too long before our next course arrived.

For the pudding I stuck to the classic Sticky Toffee Pudding (with clotted cream) and Tori, being the chocolate fiend she is endulged in a Chocolate Delice with Stewed Cherries.  My pudding was soft where it should have been, with a sweet butterscotch sauce and a creamy dollop of clotted cream which was a gorgeous addition.  Tori’s chocolate delice looked like it should have been heavy, but it was light and smooth and inspired many happy noises from her side of the table.

Whether it was the opulent surroundings, the fact it was a Saturday or possibly the beginning of a lifetime’s addiction to Prosecco, Tori took the plunge and had a Blueberry Prosecco cocktail to finish the whole thing.  And I had a cup of tea…it is a well known fact I know how to party.
These fizzy cocktails are a new addition to the menu with exciting combinations available, the strawberry and blueberry liquers that are used have real fruit within the spirit which give it a wonderful fruity nose.

Wear Park Restaurant also do a Sunday Lunch menu, but if you want to try it out, best book in advance!  And that goes for other times as well.  The venue and the value add a special something to the experience for diners, so why not give it a go? It is not just members who can experience the exquisite dining and surroundings of this proper hidden gem.

EE Recommends

Exeter Golf and Country Club,
Topsham Rd,
Exeter,
EX2 7AE

01392 874139

Urban Burger, Queen St

EE RecommendsA few months ago, the independent family run Urban Burger Restaurant invited Beer, Burger and Beyond (Eating Exeter’s side project) to come down and pay them a visit and sample some of the delights that can be found on their awesome menu.  Whilst there, I really really wanted a burger and at the time couldn’t quite bring myself to hit the brand new Smoke Shack menu.  Burger Urge is a strong and powerful thing!

I also realised that Urban Burger didn’t have a place on Eating Exeter, so what else could I do? I just had to go back.  And this time it was with 8 other work colleagues on a social night, a gaggle of us rowdy lot taking up two of their tables and all wanting something different.  Annoyingly I didn’t have a camera with me, so I have reused some photos from our last visit, when the light was much better and I had a DSLR at hand.

Organizing a social night with work friends can be hard sometimes, especially if there are a vast array of needs to be catered for.  Thankfully, working with the lovely people that I do, it was very easy and Urban Burger made it that much easier. First point I have to make here, they reply to their email and were really accommodating to any changes we made. Second point to be highlighted is that they were very happy to accept any form of payment whether it was partly cash, card etc. there was no strange restrictions or charges.

With Urban Burger, there is no smoke-and-mirrors with the food they serve.  After our last visit I drew the conclusion that they really care about the food that emerges from their kitchen, and after a recent menu revamp they are proving that they are competitive and passionate about what they do.  The restaurant space is filled with natural light during the day, with a stonework floor and decor that gives the place a distinctively Urban feeling but without being too harsh and utilitarian as the name Urban might lead you to believe.

The menu is clean and easy to read, it is accessible and professional.  The side of the menu has information about  the Man Vs Food challenge which quite frankly is slightly mad.  20 minutes to eat seven 6oz patties, seven slices of American cheese, seven pieces of bacon, an organic bun and a little salad.  If you win it, you get the whole lot for free (costs £24.95 regularly), a t-shirt and your name on the leader board and photo on the website.  As far as I am aware, there is no where else in Exeter that has a similar challenge meal, only the brave should enter.

Other parts of the menu tell you exactly where the meat comes from and emphasises the fact that nearly all of their ingredients are locally produced and where possible, made from scratch on the premises.  In large characters it says that 95% of everything on the menu is made from scratch, just in case you hadn’t realised.

So. Lets get down to business. The food.

I was quite determined to have something from the Smoke Shack menu (if you want my take on the burgers, have a look at the BBB Review!) and today it would be ½ Hot Smoked BBQ Free Range Chicken (£11.95) and a bottle of Avocet from Exeter Brewery.  My other half, who happens to be a work colleague also, went for the Goats Cheese Salad (£7.95) consisting of Grilled Goat’s cheese, caramelised red onions, roasted red peppers, mixed lettuce, cherry tomatoes, beetroot, cucumber and house dressing finished with a balsamic reduction.  Other members of the party had various things, including two Chief Burgers (The Chief’s Burger £9.95 – Two 6oz prime Devon beef patties, bacon, fried onions, mayo, two slices of American cheese) that went down very well with a small portion of each sale of The Chief Burger going to

The first thing you noticed is the deep colour of the chicken, then the smell of chicory smoked meat.  Rubbed in spices and left to marinade overnight then smoked in Urban Burger’s very own American Smoker.

A whole half chicken (from Greenslade Farm, just outside Clyst St Mary) is a lot of meat, and its a strange thing when you get half way through and realise that your eyes are actually much larger than your stomach.  And this happened to be the dilemma that faced me as I chomped my way through the BBQ Brisket beans, the double fried fries and the coleslaw that came with my half chicken.

The grilled goat’s cheese salad that was being consumed next to me was served in a giant taco shell and looked amazing. Reports indicate that it was one of the nicest salads ever consumed and that we would be coming back primarily for the salad.

Unfortunately on this occasion we didn’t have space for any of Nicole’s Peanut Butter Pie, and I didn’t have a chance to sample any of their cocktails, but will return soon to sample some of their cocktails 🙂

Each meal I have ate at Urban Burger has always ended with a feeling of satisfaction.  It was no different on this occasion and although I didn’t managed to finish the entire meal, I was left with a sense of total and complete ‘happy-stuffed’ feeling.  The prices are average for the type of restaurant and location in Exeter, but the friendliness of the staff and the quality of the food is much more than average.

Visit the website http://www.urbanburger.co.uk/

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