The Flat, 142 Fore St – Vegetarian/Vegan Pizzeria by Chris Gower

https://www.theflatexeter.co.uk/ –  I: @TheFlatExeter F: TheFlatExeter

Edit: Previous version of this review stated that gluten-free and vegan mozzarella was default, in fact these are options.

Last year Exeter lost two great pizza restaurants.  The Base & Barley became The Book Cover and Pizza Stein turned into Bierkeller, leaving diners in Exeter without a central place to grab hand-made thrown pizza.  Yes, there are plenty of little Italian places that do good pizza but nothing in the city centre.

Enter ‘The Flat’, a vegetarian/vegan pizzeria set-up and run independently located in the heart of Exeter’s quirky and wonderful West Quarter on Fore Street.

flat3

I had heard rumours about the launch of this restaurant for a few months from multiple sources, so to finally see it in full and set up ready for business was very exciting.

I never normally visit restaurants within days of the opening, it isn’t fair to review a restaurant when things are being tweaked and they are bedding in, but we were anticipating great things so we couldn’t wait.

So Tori and myself headed down with our good friend Lewis, owner of Exeter’s premier comic book shop to give Exeter’s newest restaurant a test-run.

Great things happen when pizza is met with passion, and here is a restaurant that produces some delicious pizza.  There is a strong desire to accommodate those with particular dietary requirements and they offer gluten free bases and optional vegan mozzarella which I might add, is home made!  The interior of the restaurant is simple and unassuming with exposed utilities following the trend for modernist, exposed ducts and dark woods.

We hit the evening off with Beavertown Session Neck Oil IPA which was reasonably priced given the way drink prices are going at the moment for £3.75.  Then a Garlic Focaccia (£3.50) for starters, which wasn’t technically focaccia but we ignored this fact, as it was moreso Garlic Flatbread which is just as nice!

flat7

There was three of us so this was a perfect for nibbles size but for those with a bigger appetite, this would feed one person comfortably.

The selection of pizzas is concise but includes a well thought-out range of different tastes. All the bases are gluten free, and everything is hand-made and hand stretched.

Tori went for the Garlicky (£9.50 10 inch), I went for the Smoked (£10.50 10 inch) and Lewis went for the Olive Tree (£9.00 10 inch).

The pace of the restaurant tonight was distinctively European.  It had a relaxed atmosphere which was only enhanced by a large gathering of Italians on the next table – I could close my eyes and be somewhere in Florence or Rome.  It also makes you realise what a fantastically diverse city we live in.

flat5

The Smoked was a lovely hand-made pizza, full of flavour and covered in delicious Smoked Halloumi.  Tori’s Garlicky was covered in veg and looked colourful, Lewis’ Olive Tree was well topped and tasted very nice, we were told.

flat6

flat1

We finished off procedings with a long espresso and some people watching from the big windows that look out over Fore Street.

Flat2
One of the things that Fore Street lacks is a good evening destination.  The Flat joins The Jasmine Thai restaurant a little further up, a few kebab shops and Angela’s at the bottom. There have been drives to market the West Quarter and get shoppers down from the High Street beyond South Street.

This will always be a challenge, but I like to think that the more restaurants that open at this end of Exeter will add that little bit more to the Many Reasons To Visit Fore Street.

I am stoked that this is a Pizzeria in the centre of Exeter and I am chuffed that this is a vegetarian/vegan establishment that is joining other similiar places in Exeter like Herbies, The Plant Cafe and Rabbit up near Sidwell Street.

To add to it the pizza is nice, it is cheap (Beer and Pizza potentially for under £15) and their ethos is in line with my own.

ee-recommends_zpsgsj7cdqh.png

Advertisements

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.

20170425_191211

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?

20170425_185940

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.

20170425_185908

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!

IMG_20170425_194514017

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.

CG1

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

20170425_202520

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.

20170425_210637

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.

Carluccio’s – Cheese and Wine, Deli and Dine – by Lauren Heath

Carluccio’s, Princesshay, Bedford Street, Exeter, EX1 1GJ

Tel: 01392 410492, @carluccios, www.carluccios.com

I was recently invited to Carluccio’s in Exeter’s Princesshay for a cheese and wine evening; I like cheese and wine a lot, but this really had my husband’s name all over it – and he was even more delighted than usual…I hoped it wouldn’t disappoint.

On arrival we were warmly greeted by a member of staff and then we were introduced to our tutor for the evening, Stefanie. It turns out Stefanie is no ordinary employee; she has enjoyed being Exeter’s deli manager for the past 3 ½  years and, having studied both Italian and food, loves that she can bring her two passions together in this role.
She has visited Italy twice thanks to Carluccio’s, and has met and seen where a lot of the products in the deli come from. She also teaches other regional staff from a base near Bristol so she clearly knows her stuff.

If she isn’t available to serve you, don’t worry as Carluccio’s also ensure all their staff are trained well enough to be able to help deli customers, and of course the restaurant customers too as you would expect.

We settled down to a table near the kitchen; it has a lovely large opening so you can see what the chefs are up to, to some degree. We each chose a wine off the menu, both going for the Carluccio’s exclusive but in red for Steve and white for myself. Both were very nice wines; we shared a 3rd glass of their special red which was a delight – full of flavour, but light. Sweet on the nose with flavours of honey, black pepper and cherry.

For a Thursday evening, I noted how busy the restaurant was (they say Thursday is the new Friday right?) but it had a great ambience to it, with staff moving around without fuss and everything seemed to be happening smoothly around us. It’s larger than you think actually, and had perfect level of lighting, low enough for cosiness but not too low you couldn’t see what was on your plate.

Then a beautiful cheese board was presented. …Steve’s eyes lit up. He had to wait a tiny bit longer whilst Stefanie explained her background and the fact that Carluccio’s used to do taster events but this went on the back burner a little. With the current foodie buzz that is happening everywhere and people becoming even more aware of provenance, quality and impressing at home, Carluccio’s are planning to do mini events again whereby you can come along and try a selection of cheeses and possibly wines or olives in a relaxed atmosphere and chat with fellow attendees as well as learning about the products.

C360_2016-07-17-16-28-31-946

Along with our tasters, we had a useful info sheet that was only partly filled in, leaving room for your own notes as well as a map of the region so Stefanie could point out where they were from.

Right…time to dive into the cheese fest. Amongst the 5 cows cheeses on the board we tried creamy Taleggio from the Lombardy region, which has an edible skin, is square in shape, melts well and is ‘young’ (less than 40 days old). Then a Fontina from the Valle D’Aosta region; this is a protected cheese and only 70 or so dairies can make it. It had a lovely nutty flavour and becomes stretchy when warmed so it is good for fondues and delicious with speck ham. The most interesting and unusual cheese was Ubriaco (meaning drunk); this special cheese has a washed rind using skins and seeds of the prosecco grape which is an excellent use of a by-product. I found this totally different; it gripped the tongue and then exuded a hue or aroma in the mouth – certainly one to impress guests!

We were also served some fresh foccacias topped with speck and then some taleggio and fontina. Their foccacia is made in house every day, it was soft, airy and not too oily as some can be. I threw in a curve ball too and asked Stefanie if I could have mozzarella as it is one of my favourites and I do tend to buy the cheaper supermarket versions as well as treating myself to the finer ones so wanted to see how theirs compared. She was very obliging; it was so soft and a bit sweet and melted in the mouth – heavenly. All of the above were served with honey that had a few drops of truffle oil added, balsamic vinegar and some fig jam. All were absolutely delicious and complimented the various cheeses well.

After eating we were shown the deli area; we did not realise the vast selection the deli held. I know we champion local food but, if you want Italian food done right, this looks like the place to come. A wall of jars of wonderful pesto’s, pasta sauces and pastes. A wine fridge for takeaway wines that are not on the menu, and if you do want to drink it with a meal, they charge the shelf price plus a little corkage. Meringues, cakes and breads, a cheese fridge to make any cheese-a-holic jealous.

There is a ‘breakfast bar’ you can perch yourself at, on a stool, order coffee and just chill surrounded by all these goodies. Of course, if you haven’t got time of an evening or can’t get babysitter for one of the future events, then you are most welcome to just pop in to the store and ask to try some cheeses. There is no obligation to buy, it is all about service and sharing their love of all things Italian.

A few little facts for you:

  • Cheese making was done all over Europe as, due to the preserving nature of cheese, it was easy to keep in a time before fridges
  • Forma (of formaggio) actually means ‘shape’. Cheese was traditionally shaped in wicker baskets
  • Cheese ‘skin’ is edible and ‘rind’ is not
  • The biggest cheese festival is held every other year in a city called Bra
  • Grana Padano is suitable for vegetarians whereas Parmesan is not

We had a very enjoyable evening which didn’t disappoint and we will certainly be back to the deli again; it really is an Italian treasure trove. They say animals are not just for Christmas, well neither is Carluccio’s deli. Keep an eye out on their website for upcoming events.

Cafe Rouge, Princesshay

Princesshay, Bedford St, Exeter, Devon EX1 1LL- 01392 251042 – www.caferouge.com

Now and again we like to head to one of Exeter’s chain restaurants, they have their place and there is definitely a space in my heart for a few of them.  One restaurant that we’ve been many times over the last few years has been Cafe Rouge, a take on classic french cuisine in a nice package served by friendly staff.

We were given the opportunity to have a look at their newly refurbished Exeter restaurant and to have a peek at their new menu which came out last week.

The modernist outside is deceptive when you walk through the classic styled doors, lots of dark woods and an interior that evokes a 1920s Parisian restaurant or bistro; a magnificent gold mirror looks over the bar area and is one of the main features that you notice when you first walk in.  The first thing that I note is the restaurant seems to have gotten a whole lot smaller? When I was last here it seemed to drift off in to the distance to a window at the back as well.

The layout has changed a bit, the large cavernous restaurant area has now been sectioned in to two separate areas.  The main restaurant is used every day, but a second smaller area is now bookable for corporate events or functions, or as overspill if the main restaurant fills up.  Paint and decorative elements have changed, nice new chairs and tables, still keeping that Parisian charm, but with a fresh edge.

With a change of decor also comes a new menu.  The website gives you the official news about it but there have been changes to the Risottos; the addition of Bouillabaisse (a longstanding Rouge favourite) has been added back onto the menu – sea bream, mussels, king prawns and squid in a rich tomato and saffron broth with delicious rouille and Gruyère; introduction of Bistro Salads and the arrival of Charolais steak and burgers to the bistro menu.

The scene was set, the table laid and the drinks ordered.  We both went for Stella Artois given I rarely ever have it, but given our choice of food tonight Tori also ordered a Red Wine (Malbec on the recommendation of our server) which would come out at the same time as our main.

For starters we decided to go for a classic Cafe Rouge starter CHAMPIGNONS À L’AIL (£4.50) which we shared.  The Rye toast was a perfect accompaniment to this classic favourite starter that we’ve had at Cafe Rouge before.  The garlicy creaminess of the mushrooms were mopped up with the fresh bread and olives that we had with our drinks.

Our main course was one that I had decided on days beforehand, and a brand new addition to the menu.  The  32OZ CÔTE DE BOEUF (£45); Charolais Côte de Boeuf, dry-aged for a minimum of 35 days. This beautiful butterflied rib steak, served on the bone, is also known as a ‘bull’s head’.  With this epic piece of meat you also get two sides (Frites and Tomato & Onion Salad for us) and two sauces (Peppercorn and Bordelaise) served in teeny saucepans which we both loved.

The meat was delicious, it was meaty and I can imagine that before it was cooked, it was marbled with little fat.  We had a small operation to divide the two main parts of the meat, lots of cutting and pulling, and as the meat was so soft it wasn’t much good pulling the bone! The whole thing had was beautifully presented on its own stand, with some lovely seasoned frites too.  I now have 20+ photos of this epic piece of meat on my laptop.  The four that you see here are the maximum that I have allowed myself.  It was a superbly cooked steak; it was beautiful in that way that meat can be beautiful.

After something so large, we were both very full.  We had wanted to go for a couple of the new desserts, the Parfait being one of them but they had sold out given they are so popular at the moment.  So we went for a coffee instead to finish off the meal.

Our server was Tracey and she was lovely; she was incredibly attentive and has been with Cafe Rouge for 10 years.  Assistant Manager James also explained that the tip we left at the end of the meal goes straight to the staff and not in to some ethereal pot in the management heavens which other chain restaurants tend to do.

Even if you’re not a frequent visitor to Princesshay, Cafe Rouge is one restaurant that is worth trying.  Their newly added steak range adds an extra dimension to some of the types of meat that you can get in steak form.  To my knowledge there is no other place serving Charolais meat in Exeter in this format, which in itself is quite a USP.

EE RecommendsThe staff are friendly, the atmosphere is romantic, the interior is themed but tastefully so and there are many positives for a meal out at Cafe Rouge.  Let me know how it goes in the comment box if you do go.

Zita’s, Bartholomew Street

EE RecommendsRIP Burgerfest.  Your existence in Exeter was short lived. Your burgers were nice, but your secret recipe was not overly transparent.  Your Sega room was liked, your ping pong table was novel but ultimately the demise of your parent company meant your service was short lived.  Although your value was great, your burgers were chargrilled, your beer kegs were terribly harsh on my sensitive derrier.

Out the ashes of the burgery flames comes Zita’s Bar & Grill, still selling burgers but also an emphasis on steaks and cocktails.  The parent company owns the Taste Cafe in the Harlequins Shopping Centre, and Waikiki amongst other places; Zita’s prides itself on being local and independent, a gastro-pub that is ‘homely’ and ‘a friendly spot’.  I wouldn’t call it homely as that brings up a whole set of expectations that I wouldn’t expect from a gastro-pub style restaurant.  But friendly? Yes, very.

We booked a large table as there was about eight of us for 6pm.  We didn’t arrive until 6:30pm at the earliest.  There was no disapproving tutting, or impatient briskness, we were welcomed and we took our seats and chose our drinks.

The interior still has echoes of Burgerfest; a large mural in a comic style that exclaims how large a burger is, still emblazons itself across the wall (might need a few cans of Dulux to cover over that) and the Sega Room is still there too. The atmosphere is much more mellow, chilled music piped softly in the background and COMFY SEATS, no beer kegs, just sofas and nice chairs.

The menu is a simple but effective selection of burgers, with names like The Shaun and The Perfect Pull. There is a wine list, a selection of cocktails, and a nice selection of beers. The two chaps that run the restaurant have previously ran Burgerfest in Torquay, and there are many nods to BF in some aspects, but overall this is a new and shining restaurant.

 

I went for the The Usual Suspect burger. £7.00 is a good price, with some Rosemary and Garlic fries for £3.50 and a drink, for under £15 quid it echoes the great value of BF.

 

My colleague Dale wondering what he’s just let himself in for…

The Usual Suspect is dripping with BBQ sauce. Stacked with giant homemade onion rings, this towering ediface to meatiness was one of the best burgers I’d had for a while for under a tenner.  The meat was seasoned well, and it had a great taste along with it (they source their meat from Dart’s Farm).  The smoked cheese and bacon was a perfect balance to the burger, and even though I had to deconstruct it, it was a glorious burger.

The Rosemary and Garlic fries were chunky and well cooked, given there were eight of us, everything came out hot and together.

Zita’s gets my recommendation as a place to eat as it echoes many of the positive values of Burgerfest.  Cheap food, good value and a friendly atmosphere.  But the one thing that worried me slightly was that for a Friday night, the restaurants was deserted.  We were the only diners for most of the evening, then joined by two other diners, but that was pretty much it.  If you’re thinking of going out over the Easter holidays, please come here, more people need to see these burgers.

KuPP announced for Queen St Dining Quarter

Aviva Investors, the global asset management business of Aviva plc (‘Aviva’) confirmed today (9 March 2016) that KuPP, the Scandinavian-inspired casual dining concept – Food Drink Coffee & Store – will be the sixth restaurant to join Exeter’s exciting new Queen St Dining quarter.

KuPP signed contracts with Aviva Investors last week and this will be KuPP’s first site outside London, marking yet another huge boost for Exeter as a dining location. Aviva have been working hard to secure a wide selection of food and drink operators to create a unique dining offer at Queen St Dining and KuPP is the latest ingredient in this mix.

Beer Tanks_Kupp_CREDIT KuPP

KuPP will be set over two floors complete with outside seating in Market Square, occupying just under 6,000 sq. ft of Queen St Dining. Inspired by Scandinavia, the menu is designed for grazing, sharing and social eating. KuPP uses fresh, quality produce, lovingly sourced with provenance at its heart.  The simple, colourful and flavourful food will focus on Scandinavian ingredients and using cooking techniques such as in-house pickling, curing and smoking. Enjoy alongside tank conditioned beer, a well considered wine list, fresh juices & cocktails such as KuPP’s Aquavit Collins.

Drawing on inspiration from the Swedish Fika style of enjoying a coffee break, which is more about socialising than drinking coffee, KuPP will feature its own unique espresso and filter coffee blend, created especially for the brand and complemented by freshly baked breads and pastries, which customers can enjoy in store or as ‘grab & go’ items.

Simon Green, Director of Aviva Investors said: “It gives me immense pride that we at Aviva Investors can announce that KuPP will be joining us at Exeter’s Queen St Dining. The success of their London Paddington restaurant and their decision to come to Queen St Dining is a great vote of confidence for this ambitious project to create a legacy for the city and our customers”

KuPP Dining & Sharing_CREDIT KuPP

There is a huge interest in Scandinavian dining and KuPP will be bringing something quite unique to the mix of cuisine at Queen St Dining, to Exeter and the wider South West.” Steve Cox from KuPP said: “We are really excited about bringing KuPP to Exeter and being part of Queen St Dining. We considered many locations for our first casual dining venue outside the capital and we feel the city and the location is exactly the right choice. We pride ourselves on our ability to gather & select the finest ingredients & products from British & Scandinavian suppliers. KuPP represents all that we love about coffee, food, drink and Scandinavia and we want to share this with our customers. Whether it be fresh food, an enjoyable drink with friends or the perfect coffee, KuPP will offer local residents and businesses an honest, warm and friendly experience delivered with real passion and knowledge from our teams. In addition, there will be a little bit of our favourite things available in our store for guests to purchase and take home with them.”

When fully open by the end of August, Exeter’s Queen St Dining will have eight restaurants in total along with wonderful new open air spaces designed especially for food events, markets and entertainment. KuPP will be joining Turtle Bay, The Stable, Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), The Terrace and Grillstock which have all previously been announced, with the remaining two restaurants to be named by Aviva in the coming weeks.

KuPP Dining Table_CREDIT KuPP

The Queen St project is seeing the Guildhall Shopping Centre’s neo-classical façade on Queen Street transformed, a new entrance from the high street is underway and the three public spaces within the centre itself are being re-invented: Market Square, bordered by amphitheatre-style seating areas, St Pancras Square overlooking the beautiful 13th Century St Pancras Church and Goldsmith Square, making them all more welcoming and attractive to shoppers and diners alike.

For further information about KuPP visit http://www.kupp.co for more information about the Queen St redevelopment, please visit: http://www.queenst-exeter.com

Zizzi’s Restaurant, Gandy Street by Lauren Heath

Zizzi’s Restaurant, 21 GANDY STREET, EX4 3LS   Tel: 01392 274737

Over Christmas time, we visited Zizzi in Bristol whilst away on a family mini break. For a chain, we were suitably impressed by the food considering its mass appeal. We also found it spacious and well decorated with a cool vibe.

We decided to give the Exeter one a go for our date night this month and although a chain is definitely not our first choice, we had some vouchers to use up so thought it a good enough reason to give Zizzi another go. From a blogging point of view, we were very interested in what appeals to the masses, and that is consistency. So would this be the same, and as good, as Bristol?

I work opposite Zizzi and always admire its spacious appearance, especially with the light and airy conservatory at the rear so was quite looking forward to it.

On arrival at 7:15pm, we were very promptly greeted by a smiley member of staff. The place was already fairly full and as we were led to our table to the right, a little way near the back of the restaurant, I noted how little space there was between the tables and the fact I had to go around a fake tree (!). Thankfully, our table was in a spacious corner.

We had a browse of the menu online earlier in the day as due to my love of all food, I tend to procrastinate when choosing as I could quite happily eat a bit of everything. Steve would have normally gone for the squid, which was really good at Bristol, but I nudged him to go for something we wouldn’t normally make at home so he chose the Fonduta Formaggi, a melting pot of gorgonzola, gruyère and pecorino cheese with ‘little soul’ bread for dipping priced at £5.95.

TFonduta Formaggihe soul breads were little baked nuggets of light and fluffy bread with a crisp outer shell, served well seasoned and super-hot, he had to withhold immediate dunking even with his asbestos hands.

The bread was a perfect portion to match the quantity of cheese. The fondue itself almost spot on; a good balance of flavours, great temperature without burning your mouth but would have liked the addition of a stringy cheese for some fondue fun. The pecorina really shone through at the height of the flavour, with a non-sickly sweetness – it was delicious.

They had a Mushroom Brindisi on the specials for £5.95 and so I went for this as I adore mushrooms. The description stated creamy mushrooms and smoked mozzarella oven baked on their dough, then finished with chopped parsley, grated riserva, crispy sage & smoked garlic oil. When it arrived, my heart sank a little.

It was an average portion size for a starter, but it was a bit sparse on the quantity of sauce and physical mushrooms. The base of the bread was a little too crispy which made it difficult to cut without flinging a piece from my table to the next. It was nice; not a great word when it comes to food. I couldn’t taste any garlic oil and I can’t recall anything cheesy apart from the mozzarella and I had to season it as well. Due to lack of sauce, I had some crusty bits left naked, and gladly leant across the table to steal some of Steve’s fondue! A dish that needs improvement I’d say.

The restaurant was definitely getting busier at this point. Chains have their place; they tend to please all tastes and budgets. There was an eclectic mix of people – various ages, couples, groups, all out for an easy meal, comfortable social situation and dinner without having to cook it. The kitchens are ‘open’ so you can see the chef’s cooking and you could see across the whole restaurant and feel the buzz of the evening.

We had a few minutes break after our starters, before the waitress turned up with our mains having not cleared our starter plates. Our impression is the kitchen had cooked it without her signal, perhaps in haste to cope with the ever filling restaurant but she coped with the situation with ease.

Carnosa Pizza Rustica

Steve had ordered the Rustica Pizza Carnoso, a white base of Fior di Latte and smoked mozzarella, truffle-infused salami, crispy wild boar prosciutto, mushrooms, Grana Padano, crispy sage leaves & smoked garlic oil. This is where Zizzi’s has found a small place in his heart – a pizza chain that does a pizza without a tomato base. A good size, very attractively decorated and a truffle triumph that any truffle sniffing pig would seek out from a mile away. This does was it says on the tin! The truffle in the salami is very evident and sings in your mouth but does not overpower the dish. The meats complement each other well and the crispy sage cuts through the overall richness. An indulgent pizza fairly priced at £13.25.

Steve also opted for the side of Tuscan potatoes, they were well roasted, but that’s as far as it goes. Not particularly well flavoured and at £3.50 for 6 new potatoes cut in half, was a bit overpriced. They also arrived after we questioned their whereabouts.

My choice of Calzone Pollo Spinaci was also delicious, although the dough was not as well cooked on the top as I would have liked. Well filled with roast chicken, speck, spinach, mushrooms and thyme in a creamy mozzarella and béchamel sauce it is also topped with crispy coppa ham which just adds a bit of extra smoke and crunch to a very saucy affair. It seemed smaller than I recall from Bristol but the flavour was exactly the same and I enjoyed it just as much second time round – there you go, consistency has been found. It came with a nice little dipping pot of tomato passata-come-salsa which was great for dipping the calzone edges in. A filling main at £11.95.

Sticky Salted Caramel Pudding

We could just about fit a pudding in, deciding to share one and went for the Sticky Salted Caramel Pudding, described as warm and gooey served with crushed honeycomb, salted caramel and lavender sauce and a white chocolate and caramel pecan swirl gelato. The caramel sauce was cold and we weren’t sure if this was an error or deliberate, but it was silky smooth in texture. We believe it should have been warm in order to pour over the pudding but that’s just our take on it. The pudding was hot, light and tasty and the ice cream and sauce delicious, however we were questioning what the original description was as we both noted there was no taste of lavender and the ice cream seemed to be missing any swirls or other flavours.

An hour and 15 minutes had gone by and we had come to the end of our visit at Zizzi’s. I must say the waitress was very good and she smiled genuinely throughout. It was a short affair but that suited us in that it had left plenty of evening left to go and indulge in some drinks elsewhere…so off we went down the cobbles of Gandy Street back into the heart of the city, content overall, knowing where it wasn’t perfect they would gain consistency through doing it all over again the next day and the day after that for others to enjoy.

An evening with Chef Nina Groves, courtesy of La Belle Assiette.

This meal was provided for guests by Belle Assiette

A quick scour across the lifestyle magazines and foody websites will inevitably show you that private dining is a thing.  Its also a growing thing, with the trend for bringing in a private chef to cook for special meals being on the increase.  Companies like La Belle Assiette make it easy for diners and chefs to hook up, and we were lucky enough to be asked by Millie from LBA to host a private meal to be cooked by Chef Nina Groves as part of her validation for being a La Belle Assiette chef.

I live in a smallish flat.  But the kitchen is decidedly Parisian.  Had we wanted to even consider hosting an event like this, the first thing we would have had to consider is, well, the space.

Had it not been the fact that our flat has a distinctively ‘creative’ vibe to it, then I would have been jumping for joy at the fact that someone would be coming to cook for us in our house, but with the lack of storage space and my obsession with piling things on top of other things, we thought it best not to subject a skilled chef such as Chef Nina to the ordeal that might ensue trying to cook a la carte standard food in a teeny weeny kitchen.

Luckily I know people who have BIGGER kitchens so after some umming and arring, I asked my good friend Dr Steve Price if he could host it.  His house is bigger than ours and its a lot less chaotic.  But after a conversation with Vanessa (a friend of his), it was decided that we would host it at her wonderful house which even nicer than Steve’s.  It had an amazing kitchen but also a separate dining area that would be perfect for the event.

Nina Groves is a Dawlish based chef who has had a varied and exciting career cooking in resorts and on private yachts.  She has cooked for the rich and famous including one of the founders of Google.

We all signed up to LBA’s in-house event system with our email addresses and we were all invited officially. With the menu sorted, it was very much a case of just appearing on the night.

IMG_1617

The evening would start at 7:30pm with arrival at 7:00pm for an aperitif of Soft boiled Quail’s eggs with celery salt, game terrine with onion marmalade and fresh peas and sugar snap peas wrapped around Prawn tails.  They were a lovely start to the evening and, as you might think, divine; and so well presented on mirrored plates.

This evening I was under strict instructions not to worry about photos, as the pro photographer was there to cover this, but I still took a few sneaky snaps (can’t resist..).

For starter we were treated to Crab Tian, layers of fresh Brixham crab, concass tomato and avocado which was a light and refreshing combination that was, well light and refreshing…bloomin’ lovely. The Tomato and Avacado as a combination is quite familiar, but throw some fresh Brixham Crab in to the combination and it works so well.  These were immaculately presented and I felt sad that I had to actually eat it. I know this is generally the idea with food, but I had to admire it.

The main was a Fillet of Ruby Devon Beef with Mushroom Fondant, Celeriac and Potato Dauphinois and Asparagus.  The fillets had been sourced from GT Orsman of Shaldon which I happened to visit last year, given their care and expertise in our fillet we bought last year, this was going to be a good fillet!

As we tucked in, the table went quiet, our chatter and laughter stopped as we all took a step back to realise how delicious it was. Slow cooked and braised, it was one of the highlights of the meal, and not only was the texture perfect but the taste hit the spot dead on.

We had a little time to recover from the main course then we were presented with our dessert.

For dessert we were treated to Pineapple Tarte Tatin with Vanilla Ice-cream.  Full of flavours and varying textures and temperatures, it was a delightful way to round up an amazing evening.

Private dining might not be for everyone, but for that extra special evening with friends or even just as a couple, it is an experience that is hard to forget.  Chef Nina bought all of the ingredients, there was some negotiation about what sort of resources Nina would have before the date and as Vanessa mentioned, the meal itself nearly didn’t happen due to the oven going phutt two days before hand but it ran smoothly, like clockwork.

Would I do it again? Absolutely.  Chef Nina was discreet and generally lovely, there is little hassle in the organisation of such an event and so long as you can get over the fact there is a chef in your kitchen producing culinary magnificence then I would definitely recommend it.

Fore more information, head to their website.

Photos provided by La Belle Assiette

Top Three Eating Exeter moments from 2015

2015 has been a crazily busy year for Eating Exeter.  I wanted to sit down and write a month-by-month review of everything that happened.  But I quickly realised that I wouldn’t have time and there is too much…TOO MUCH to put in.

I couldn’t say for sure if there was a particular favourite event or review, as that would be favoritism, so I have decided to do a ‘Top Three Moments’ from 2015 in no particular order.

3. The Exeter Cookery School launch held in Sapphire Spaces back in May.  Jim and Lucy Fisher are two people I have a ton of respect for on the Exeter foody scene at the moment, not just because they are lovely people, but also because they have been so committed and dedicated to the launch of the Exeter Cookery School despite a few setbacks.

The evening was a resounding success, with Jim demonstrating his cooking and teaching skills in the gorgeous kitchen showroom.

Their dedicated space is going to be opening in early 2016, check out the website for more info!

2.  Our visit to Harry’s Restaurant in Longbrook Street.  I love this restaurant. It is an independent establishment that has been going for years thanks to its quality food, friendly service and it is staunchly independent.  Sitting in its eye-catching Victorian redbrick surroundings, its hard to miss as you’re walking in to town.

  1. The South West Chef Of The Year – Grand Final at Exeter College was a complete treat as a photographer and a blogger.  To be able to record the day and meet some of the press was a bit of a dream-come-true.  I wasn’t judging, but if they ever need a ‘foody opinion’ I’ll put myself first in the queue!

    This is by no means a comprehensive list. There have been some great moments including our visit to Circa 1924 and Dining In The Dark Press evening, and who could forget the more recent highlights including the Beer & Wine Evening at The Pig and Pallet and our private dining event, which I am yet to write up.  Many of these events were thanks to Natalie, Sarah and The Team at Attention Media who are based in behind Jamie’s Italian in Princesshay, so a big thank you to all of them for their support throughout 2015.

    Don’t forget that voting closes for the Food Magazine Reader Awards which ends tomorrow at midday.  The link is on the top right of the page, and I will post a reminder on social media later today too.  Give us a vote and make me ecstatically happy!

    reader-awards-logo

    I am hoping that 2016 is going to be a busy year for Exeter.  January will include a review of Taco-Macho (didn’t quite go according to plan last month), a competition and a heap of other bits.  Oh! And keep an eye out for the latest edition of Exeter Living too, you might recognise one of the contributors 🙂

Eating Exeter Update (November-ish)

Life has somewhat got in the way recently.  Lack of money, lack of time and definitely a lack of energy has meant that EE had to be put on the back burner for a couple of weeks whilst I recharged my batteries, consumed Burger King Burgers and other assorted things that foodies just should not do.  We’re not really meant to admit it either… *hangs head in shame*

Next week I’m visiting Gus at Taco-Macho in Fore St. He’s been really keen for me to visit, so I’m going down to see what he does and see how awesome his food is for myself.  I’ve heard good things on the grapevine and have been meaning to visit for sometime.

Taco Macho

On Thursday we’ve got a meal at Orestone Manor in Torquay, a historical Hotel and Restaurant known for its prestige and heritage which I am very much looking forward to.

There are more things in the pipeline too, but can’t say too much at the moment.  Don’t forget to check out The Complete Dining Club for exclusive member offers.  Fancy being a member? Click the link on the right hand side and purchase a membership! ->

Food Magazine is also calling for nominations for their Food Reader’s Awards.  If you put down Eating Exeter for Best Food Blog, I wouldn’t be offended! But you only have this weekend to get your nominations in. Do it!! https://saltmedia1.wufoo.eu/forms/food-reader-awards-2016/ 

I am looking for recommendations for product reviews as well. If anyone has a particular local product you reckon should be reviewed on here, please send me an email via the contact page.

Cheers.
Chris

 

 

It’s All About The Base + Barley – Exeter’s new Pizza & Craft Beer Restaurant

Exeter’s foodie scene is growing as Base + Barley is set to serve
sourdough pizza and craft beer with a hefty dose of style.

Freshly risen sourdough, clouds of flour in the air, a great range of craft beers, wines and cocktails and a buzzing atmosphere:  Base + Barley will disrupt Exeter’s foodie scene when it opens in late November.

The Base + Barley team have taken two old staples back to their roots – pizza and beer. Sourdough pizza will be made fresh and flavourful with carefully sourced toppings. It’s all about the base, as the sourdough is prepped the day before with finest grade 00 flour and baked to order.

Equally important is the beer. Featured beers are hand-brewed in small batches by local yeast gods who love their barley and hops.

The vibe at Base + Barley will be buzzing and busy, it will be a destination for families looking for a relaxed lunch, friends catching up over dinner and students starting a fun night out. The aim is to offer a simple but well crafted menu with very reasonable prices – the artisan pizzas will all cost £6.95 – £8.95. There will be no reservations, so anyone in the mood for good food and good times will be able to drop in for a great meal.

The restaurant will open on Longbrook Street in November 2015 and will seat 150 diners. The spacious unit will be decorated with contrasting wooden benches and neon lights, with hand drawn illustrations featured throughout the decor. The cool and casual bar will be distinct from the restaurant area, so people looking for a drink with friends will feel welcome even without ordering food.

This level of creativity and, some might say, obsession, wouldn’t come from just anyone. One of the founders of Base + Barley is local Devon boy Joe Hill. Joe already has a successful portfolio of Espresso and Wine Bars with Artigiano, which has five locations across England and Wales. The foodie entrepreneur has had great success with his day to night hybrid concept, and is hoping to stamp his personality on this beer and pizza venture with an ambitious national expansion plan.

Base + Barley Managing Director Joe Hill said:

“People care more than ever about how their food is made, and our pizzas could hold their own in the back yards of Napoli. I can’t wait to see Base + Barley full of life as diners embrace the laid back and stylish atmosphere. Exeter is becoming known as a foodie destination, and I am very excited to add something fresh and fun to what’s on offer.”