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.

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Dining In The Dark – Three special events taking place in November at The Salutation Inn

I really wanted to come back last night and start writing about this, as the experience left me buzzing.  At The Salutation Inn in Topsham a group of press representatives and us too, had a taster of the Dining in the Dark events that are taking place in November being put on by the WESC Foundation, which is a fantastic institution that offers residency to 100 or so young people with varying degrees of sight impairment, ranging from partial sight to absolutely no sight at all.  Click through here for more information about the events.

As you can imagine there are not that many photos with this post compared to the usual barrage of images and photos taken at jaunty angles that I normally plaster across this blog.  This experience was one that had to be described.

The evening was taking place in The Salutation Inn, an establishment that has become synonymous with fine dining under the command of Michelin trained chef-director Tom William-Hawkes, who has taken what was a ‘sticky carpet pub’ and given it a new life as one of the places to go for fine cuisine and excellent service (1# on Trip Advisor!).

The WESC Foundation will be laying on three one-of-a-kind Dining in the Dark events in November (Wednesday 25th, Thursday 26th and the ‘Gourmet’ night on the 27th November) that will see diners taken on a culinary journey of taste, but also empathy as you are guided up the stairs from the downstairs function rooms to the dining area by one of four guides who are themselves blind or partially sighted, hands on shoulders in to a room that is pitch black.  The dining room is clad in a double lined curtains which creates a darkness that is rarely experienced in this modern age of street lights and twenty-four-seven daylight.  The events are designed to take diners on a journey of culinary delight, but they are also meant to be thought-provoking.

We met our hosts as we entered through the front entrance of the restaurant, and were guided to a couple of rooms that acted as a gathering area for the diners; canapés and conversation were exchanged and consumed, after a little time we were told exactly what was going to happen.  In groups of four, our guides would lead us upstairs in groups of four.  Placing your hand on the shoulder of the person in front, we were led up the stairs in small groups to a room set up for dinner, in complete darkness.

As soon as we entered the room, my eyes were as good as useless.  Having to rely on a mental image that I was painting in my head as to where items on the table were laid, it was only after I put my hand in the Confit of Rainbow Trout, that I realised the food was already served!
Our guides were around to help with anything we needed, I spent most of the meal trying to find my bread but ended up eating Tori’s instead.  After I had poured my water (not in my glass, but somewhere…) I set about enjoying the beautiful piece of rainbow trout in front of me.

The taste of the fish, the tartness of the ratatouille and the basil of the marinade felt like fireworks going off in my mouth. Without sounding too cliché, there was a basil and trout filled party on my taste buds.  Tastes seem to take on a new life without the eyes to play a part in the cognitive process of eating, and given the calibre of what The Salutation Inn produces, this event is guaranteed to deepen guest’s appreciation of taste.

After we had finished our meals, we were led out in a similar fashion to enjoy some teas coffees and petit fours (which we were allowed to bring home, post to follow). We listened to a short talk given by Jon Duckham (Fundraising Manager for WESC) and looked at just some of the kitchen and cooking items that were on display, all designed to help those with sight impairment.

Although our experience in the dark was a short one, it was a good overview of the sort of thing to expect, a journey of taste and an experience that will be hard to forget.

On Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th November the meal will include prosecco and canapés on arrival, three specially designed courses with a glass of wine, coffee and petit fours; all for £40 per person.  The Gourmet night on the 27th November will include champagne and canapés on arrival, four specially designed courses with a full flight of wines chosen to complement each course with coffee and petit fours afterwards, all this for £80 per person.

Samuel Jones opens on The Quay, Exeter

It’s finally opened and I’m quite excited.  For months St Austell Brewery have been getting things ready for the Grand opening of Samuel Jones Smokehouse on The Quay.  Image mercilessly taken from their Facebook page, which is here…

Read more here… from The Express and Echo and visit their website here

14th November 2014: Spooky Culinary Extravaganza @ The Great Fulfords at Cheriton Bishop

DSC_0016EDIT: This event has been moved to Friday 14th November

A few weeks ago, Eating Exeter had the special opportunity to sample ‘Jonny Does Dinner’ serving Dinner In A Polytunnel at Trill Farm and absolutely loved it.  It was an amazing meal served in a fantastic location, ultimately a real treat for a foody who cares about his ingredients.

Jonny Does Dinner has had a few more events since, and the next one is destined to be a corker.  Taking places at The Great Fulfords, near Cheriton Bishop, home of Francis Fulford (appeared on The F**king Fulfords back in 2004) and featuring on BBC Three in a new series called Life Is Toff, the Great Fulfords is a suitably spooky setting for a dinner happening the night before Halloween!

Diners can expect a 4 course meal cooked by Jonny (ex Mark Hix, The Groucho Club and Brindisa) as he “creates a sublime menu with his customary bonhomie and flamboyance. Simple, elegant, outstanding gastronomy, locally sourced where possible” as their website says.

Book tickets online here and read a little more about what sort of things they’ve been up to!

Eating Exeter now on Pinterest. Click the icon —————————————————————->

Being ever progressive in the face of Social Media, Eating Exeter is now on Pinterest.  Read here to see what the point of Pinterest is.

It is about image sharing, exploring topics you’re interested in, and for Eating Exeter this means repinning recipes, foodporn and sharing the love of food eating which binds every human that walks around on this strange rock that we call Earth.

Go forth and share the images, love and recipes with us.  I am sure you’ll agree with me that Pinterest can get quite addictive given it has apps for iOS and Androind too.

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Jack Sprat’s Cafe Restaurant, 18 The Strand, Dawlish

When most people think about Dawlish, most associate it with chips and takeaway by the beach on a summer’s day and not with a place to go for an evening meal.

However there is a hidden gem along the main shopping street (The Strand) and it goes by the name of Jack Sprat’s.

Now I’ve been to this place during the daytime for morning coffee and cake and it is certainly a step up from your average seaside cafe so when looking for somewhere new to take my good lady out for dinner I decided to give Jacks a try with the added advantage it was close enough to home that no one would have to drive!

So with table for two booked we arrived to a different sort of atmosphere to its daytime persona, it was quiet and sophisticated and had the perfect ambiance for a romantic meal for two.

The menu is excellent with a wide range of choice, favoring Italian but including many other options.

After much deliberation we chose Tuna Crostini and Tri-coloured hummus and focaccia for starters and Chicken Milanese and a Pepperoni Pizza for our main courses.

Only after they arrived did we realise that we may have over ordered on the starters but that’s the problem when everything sounds so good.  The Tuna Crostini was heavenly with the perfect combination of tuna, creamy mayonnaise and onion spread onto the fresh warm bread, while the hummus (garlic and lemon, pesto and spicy chilli flavours) provided an interesting and tasty starter and led to much discussion on which was the best of the three.

Jack Sprat’s is lucky enough to have its own proper pizza oven and the Pepperoni pizza that arrived was first class done in a thin Italian style.  Meanwhile the chicken was well cooked, moist and very well-seasoned in the crumb and the accompanying chips were freshly cooked and hot. Both meals were thoroughly enjoyed and even though we could not eat all the pizza they were more than happy to give us a box to take the rest home in (bonus for breakfast!).

Whilst tempting, we decided not to go for the dessert menu this time but definitely think another trip would be in order to go and do so on another occasion. With a bottle of wine include the whole bill came to under £50 which was excellent value for money and I would whole heartedly recommend a visit to this little gem of a restaurant.

18 The Strand, Dawlish, Devon, EX7 9PS

Tel: 01626 865556

The Cosy Club, 1 Southernhay Gardens, Exeter, EX1 1SG

EE RecommendsSet in the magnificent surroundings of the old Dean Clarke Hospital’s Halford Wing in Southernhay, The Cosy Club opened last year (April 2013) to what seemed to be a quiet fanfare.  Ever since it opened, I have heard rumours of the amazing interior, walls adorned and festooned with bits and pieces, and some absolute killer cocktails.  Unfortunately, it being a school night and all, I wasn’t able to take advantage of the cocktails but I was able to see what it had to offer in terms of food.  Word of mouth had said that the food was good, in fact I have never heard anything bad about it amongst my foody friends.  Trip Advisor gave a spectrum of reviews as ever, mostly glowing but some not.

Entering through what had been the chapel entrance of the old hospital, you are presented with one of more unique bar designs in Exeter.  Lofty ceilings with walls adorned with large pictures, the bar area is filled with natural light during the day and fends off any feeling of claustrophobia during the busiest evenings.  Through to the dining area, the clusters of lampshades and the reclaimed lights from the hangar that housed Concorde, cast a yellowy glow across the tables.  Two painting that stuck in my mind was the full length portrait of Lenin and another called Lenin’s Plans for Electrification by L. Shmatko, which dominate the walls they sit on.  There is also a bookable room called The Snug which I wasn’t able to visit, but I will save this for another day.  The interior is a fantastic cavalcade of stuff, it is interesting without being cluttered.  Varied, yet sticking to distinct style and variety.

There were about eight of us, so the staff were going to have their work cut out.  I know its not really a ‘fair review’ given some places I have reviewed just on my own, but my lasting impression of the service at The Cosy Club was that they could handle big parties.  This was a place that says, “yes, bring your birthday parties and leaving dos to us as we can handle a party large than six!”.  This is demonstrated in the fact that they were happy for us to pay separately which is great when its a large party of work colleagues.  The service throughout our visit could not be flawed, and our waitress Abi was absolutely brilliant.  The thing that stuck in my head was the timing and the friendliness of all of the staff that we spoke to, and at no time were we made to feel harassed for a quick decision on our choices or neglected.

So. Lets talk food.  The menu is varied yet still manages a degree of safety.  Burgers feature on the menu like many places do these days, but also things like Beer battered Cornish pollock, Duck shepherd’s pie and Thai beef salad.  Nothing weird or off-putting.  The prices reflect the fact that this is a restaurant in Southernhay, although not bank busting for the average diner we’re not talking Wetherspoons or Hungry Horse prices.

I had the ‘Hero Hamburger’ which had consisted of a “6oz hamburger, chorizo, mature cheddar, fried red onions, chimichurri (Chimichurri or chimmichurri is a green sauce used for grilled meat, originally from Argentina. Thanks Wikipedia), chipotle mayo and marinated chilli served with skin-on fries”.  The skin-on Fries were frankly delicious and some of the nicest fries I have had since Ruby Modern Diner’s ‘Double Fried Fries’, but there was just simply not enough of them in my opinion.  I felt a pang of disappointment when I had finished them all, and after trying to steal my wife’s fries unsucessfully I accepted defeat. More chips Cosy Club, more chips!
The taste made up for it as expected, with a distinctively fine burger which would give a few places in Exeter a run for its money on, it took me a long time to devour the dense beef patty which was something I would be having again in a flash.  At £9.25 for the fries and burger, it was worth it when compared to other places that do burgers in Exeter, and with a pint of Copper Glow (one of the guest Ales) I was happy.  Unfortunately I wasn’t up for a pudding, but I was happy to have a small pot of tea (which was brilliant value at £1.75 for a big-assed pot of Clipper tea).  I know that in journalistic terms ‘big-assed’ isn’t really a term one should use but I had to ask the chap who brought it out if it was actually a small pot and it was. And I was happy.

The service throughout was excellent (big kudos to Abi for dealing with us so professionally) and I have to conclude that although I moaned about the portion size of the fries, I would be happy to recommend this place to anyone who wanted to go somewhere special, different and safe in the knowledge that they could cope with a larger gathering of people.  Is it kid friendly? I wouldn’t think twice of bringing a sprog with me, they have a kids menu and the many different things in view is ammunition enough to keep them entertained.  Given the presence of a Vegan and Gluten free menu too, I would be more than happy knowing that they could cope with nearly any demand that was thrown their way and that they would be more than happy to accomodate.

The Cosy Club
Halford Wing, Dean Clarke House
1 Southernhay Gardens
Exeter
Devon, EX1 1SG

01392 848744
exeter@cosyclub.co.uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CosyClubExeter

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