Exeter Picturehouse, The Bar, 51 Bartholomew Street West, Exeter

Besides my love of food, the love of film and cinema is the next on my list.  And in my opinion there is nowhere else in Exeter worth going to for cinematic consumption than The Exeter Picturehouse.  Exeter has three main cinemas, and this is the only one where you can get good food and reasonably priced drinks before you go in to the auditorium.  And you can even take your drinks with you.  But turn off your phone.

One of the main criticisms levied against cinemas is the price of their convenience snacks and drinks which are famously extortionate.  But the reality is that a cinema only makes a small profit on showing a film, most of the revenue comes from the popcorn and Maltesers that are for sale and anything else that they have to offer.  The Exeter Picturehouse is lucky as it has a bar area that is licensed and also happens to serve food as well.  To non-members, there are things that are expensive but ultimately cheaper than a few places I could tell you about.

The main staple foodstuff in The Bar are the range of pizzas that they do along with cakes and a few other snacks.  They stop serving pizzas at 9pm but are normally open until later, which makes The Bar a fantastic little venue for meeting up and the bi-monthly infamous Exeter Picturehouse Movie Quiz which is a challenge for even the most seasoned movie fanatics.

The one thing that strikes me about this Bar is the amount of natural light that it invites in.  The views over the River Exe from the mezzanine are hard to match in other bars in Exeter, let alone a cinema bar.  But it really is its own entity, hosting live music and other events during the week.
The bar can get quite busy before and after showings, but visit during a screening and its easy to find a place to plonk yourself with the free Wifi and the lovely views.

Toby Carvery, Digby, Exeter – (2/5)

The great British roast dinner, something that all residents of this peculiar little island hold close to their hearts, and even the picky eaters among us are catered to with the wide variety of elements which compile this classics dish. It became apparent that this strange connection that the British have to the good old roast intensifies at university, and the home cooked roast dinner is glorified beyond belief. Bearing in mind that I had just finished a long term of procrastination chat (with a surprising amount being dedicated to roast dinner dreaming) and not enjoying a Sunday lunch since Christmas, when a friend suggested we meet up at Toby Carvery for dinner I couldn’t say no.

Situated just off Middlemoor roundabout, parallel to the dual carriage way, you definitely wouldn’t be visiting Toby Carvery for the location or the views. The pub, come hotel has a large car park and out door seating, although scenes of the rush hour traffic don’t make for a peaceful ambiance. Arriving at around 7 o’clock on a Tuesday evening we were not expecting the restaurant to be busy, however we were greeted by a long queue once through the doors. I wouldn’t of minded waiting if there was a server there to advise on how long the wait was going to be but the whole service was very unorganised. After a 10 minutes of waiting with no contact from the staff we were seated in a very poky corner of the very crowded pub, by a grumpy looking waitress who I don’t think even grumbled a word to us.
Luckily a polite waitress was assigned to our table and took our drinks order quite swiftly before advising us that we could collect our carvery when it suited us.

Although we planned to wait for our cokes before getting our food, we spotted a lul in the queue and decided to go for it whilst it was quiet (this was a good idea as a couple minutes later we had atleast 10 people waiting behind us.) At the carvery we were greeted by another rude member of staff, the chef who ignored us waiting there for atleast 5 minutes whilst he played around with the food aimlessly, without even acknowledging us. Eventually when he decided to serve us I chose the turkey from the selection of meats ( which also included gammon, pork and beef.) The remainder of the meal was self service and I was pleasantly surprised by the wide range of fresh (looking) vegetables and accompanying sauces and gravy. What’s more we were provided with very large plates, meaning you didn’t have to pile up your food to enjoy everything you fancied.

Arriving back at out table we were glad we didn’t wait for our drinks as 10 minutes on they still had not arrived, so we tucked into our rather large plates of food. In all the roast dinner was nice, and I use this painfully bland adjective as a metaphor. The turkey was extremely dry and was quite hard to chew without swamping it with gravy, luckily the cranberry sauce was really good, so smothering a bit of this on the meat was a solution. The cauliflower cheese was also very disappointing, with not even a hint of cheesey-ness, the bland white slop on my plate tasted as if the cauliflower had simply been boiled in milk. However the roast potatoes were really crisp and tasty, and the gravy was rich and meaty, which really saved the meal.

You can’t argue with the excellent value of Toby Carvery with a huge roast dinner costing only £5.99, although expect the basics, there are no thrills or luxuries here. If you want a simple roast dinner with all the trimmings this is a good pit stop for a quick meal, however if you’ve been dreaming of your perfect roast for a few weeks, Toby’s will leave you feeling disappointed.

Read more from Kathryn at adayinmyshoeskathryn.blogspot.comand follow her on Twitter @kathrynlewis92

The Weekend Breakfast @ Ruby Modern Diner, Queen St, Exeter

74 Queen St, Exeter, EX4 3RX
01392 436168

The award winning team at Ruby Modern Diner at 74 Queen Street have been very busy bees. Not only do they sell some of the best burgers in Exeter (see a recent review in Beer, Burger and Beyond and some recently awarded accolades) but they have also launched a Weekend Breakfast menu, serving breakfast from 9:00am – 12 noon on, strangely enough, weekends. The new breakfast menu is a modern take on the classic American breakfast, with a non-exhaustive selection ranging from a Breakfast Burger to a classic fried breakfast. Waffles, baps and a vegetarian option are also available in this nicely engineered menu with brioche buns baked locally by Emma’s Bread and locally reared meats.

The menu is concise yet inclusive. Want a meat free breakfast? They have a vegetarian version. Want waffles? The Canadian Breakfast strikes a balance between the need for fried stuff, the sweetness of maple syrup and fresh waffles, you can also find the classic Eggs Benedict: roast ham, poached eggs on toasted English muffin slathered in hollandaise. Ruby have also created the Semi, which is perfect for kids or smaller appetites, and the classic Sausage and Bacon Baps are available for eating in or taking away. And, if you happen to find yourself in Ruby after a particularly heavy night, try The Hair Of The Dog for £4.50 which for the uninitiated is a Bloody Mary.

The guys at Ruby Modern Diner really care about ingredients. Take a look at their Suppliers page on the website and you’ll see the role call of local producers that supply different elements of their menu. The one thing that I come back to when I have written about Ruby in the past is the care they take over the sourcing of their ingredients, and this is evident in the taste of their beef compared to other similar places in Exeter. As well as the excellent service which makes the Ruby experience very different from the other independent restaurants in Exeter, it is the visual style of interior and the combination of modernism and Americana that makes this restaurant a really special place to eat.

We both ordered the Morning Glory breakfast which includes refillable filter coffee (roasted by Clifton Coffees, originally sourced from El Majahaul in El Salvador which is part of the Rainforest Alliance) and a Pago Juice in the price (£8.50) which was, from the other side of the table, a perfect combination. With many breakfast menus, you are offered coffee or juice but rarely do you get both included, so this in itself is a big fat bonus. Pago Juices are thick fruit juices that come in a squat green glass bottle. It looked small but it was very deceptive, filling a large glass exactly.
The Morning Glory comes with three rashers of bacon, sausage, two eggs, hash browns, mushrooms and funky baked beans with an in-house BBQ twist. These BBQ beans are totally special to Ruby as they add their own sauce to the beans to give them a slightly smokey edge. The bacon was crisped really nicely and the hash browns were perfectly cooked.

As you might expect, the portion sizes in Ruby Modern Diner are as American as the surroundings, big burgers and lots of fries are the name of the game for their standard menu, and I was glad to see that the breakfast portions were following the same ethos on size as we were both suitably stuffed afterwards… and did I say that the Morning Glory includes toast too?

The breakfast scene around Queen St. is definitely one that will stir up with Ruby’s entry in to the party. It feels like I’m sitting in a diner (maybe Odessa Diner?) in New York City, I’m just waiting for a NYC cop to come in and order a bagel and ‘carfee’ and then the mental fantasy will be complete.

But for now I can live the dream by refilling my filter coffee and scoffing down one of Ruby Modern Diner’s perfectly crafted Weekend Breakfasts.

Eating Exeter were guests of Ruby Burger.  If you want more information about Ruby, visit their website www.rubyburgers.com or say hello at info@rubyburgers.com

The Malt House (Harvester), St Thomas, Exeter (3/5)

Exeter isn’t a large city, and eventually things get back to me about restaurants in Exeter that are either truly amazing places to eat or should be just avoided.  And one thing that comes back to me quite often is the varying experiences of friends of ours who have visited The Malt House. Take a trip to Trip Advisor and you see a worrying consensus.  Out of 404 restaurants in Exeter, The Malt House slinks in at 325.  The vast majority of the reviews are in the Poor and Terrible categories, a lot of diners complaining about service strangely enough with many enjoying the food but finding the execution somewhat unpalatable.

So in need of a quick fix after a Saturday of moving around boxes and rearranging furniture, we headed to The Malt House to see what would happen…

The Malt House sits on the St Thomas side of the river, just down from the Quay.  Originally built in 1791 and extended through the years, Brewers Fayre took it over in 1995 to turn it in to a Family Pub.  Its a family pub, it has plenty of accommodation for kiddlywinkles and in fact, if I ever end up with varying amounts of small children I wouldn’t hesitate to take them to The Malt House given the outdoor playground and the family orientation of the place.

The Malt House has its own car park which is free and within easy reach of the pub.  Upon entering the staff seemed to have an expression of sheer panic which is normally the first sign that they are very busy and not really coping.  The chap we spoke to said that he didn’t have any tables for two cleared (despite a few obvious empty tables?), so we could either do something something in the bar, or be in the bar area, but he would much rather have us in the restaurant area.  It was up to us.
As we stood in the middle of a blisteringly loud restaurant about to ask the waiter to repeat what he just said because we couldn’t hear him, a manager (must have been as he was wearing a buttoned shirt) spied a table that was ready.  So we sat down and ordered our drinks.

We waited for our drinks whilst looking through the menu (which isn’t that bad as menus go).  Lots of chicken stuff, half chickens, racks of ribs, gourmet burgers, hell they even do breakfasts when they manage to open on time (have a look at Trip Advisor).  There was a 15 to 20 minute wait on food, which wasn’t horrendous so not really wanting to go tramping down to McDonalds out of desparation we decided to wait it out.

One of the ‘perks’ of The Malt House is the refillable never ending free salad bar which is, oddly enough, refillable.  If you ignore the fact the salad has been sitting around, just waiting to be man handled by flies and fingers then this is great, especially if you’re very hungry and like me have an appetite like a walrus.  The range of condiments and bread rolls in addition to all the salad is a nice touch, but the inclusion of some tongs for the warm bread rolls would be nice.  Small things, you know.
You can also get a free refillable soft drink for £2.45, but at this point we were still missing our drinks.  So whilst watching the chap who was meant to be getting our drinks wipe some tables, we got ready to wait.

We were spotted by another server who came over and took our food order and tracked down our drinks.  Given we only wanted a quick bite to eat, we ordered from their ‘main meals from £4.99′ section which was pretty good.  It contained the classic sorts of meals including Fish & Chips which is what I went for.  Tori went for a Chargrilled Chicken Fahita Wrap with chips and we both had a bottomless Pepsis.  Whole thing came to £14.88 for both of us, which we thought was reasonable for what we got.

As we ate our salad bar salad,  we concluded that it had a strange taste to it which made us wonder what it had been washed in? Water would be a good guess? Possibly? The food appeared within 10 minutes and was surprisingly nice (given reviews and experience up to this point).

The fish tasted like a quality piece of cod, the batter was well cooked and it had a nice taste to it and the chips, what chips there were, were fresh and crunchy.  Tori had no complaints about her Wrap and by the end of the meal we were left pleasantly surprised by the food.

The Malt House has no qualms about being a family pub and we found that the low ceilings of the restaurant meant the sound resonated at just the right frequency that our ear drums were useless. By the end of the meal, we had come up with our own sign language which we intend to publicise and use as an alternative to BSL.  It featured such gestures as ‘those people have been waiting ages’ and ‘do you want more Pepsi?’, including my favourite ‘This place has free WiFi, I am so happy’.  OK, humorous exaggeration aside, it was noisy and the environment wasn’t overly relaxing but it was very busy.  However by the time we left, the majority of diners had left and we ended up leaving a quieter and much more pleasant atmosphere.

The food was good, the service was flaky at first but seemed to sort itself out after we got someone who stopped obsessing over tables.  Would we recommend it to others? Well, yes but with a health warning (noise and children) and don’t expect too much given the reviews.  Would I go again? Yes, so long as it wasn’t busy.  It is good value, and you can’t get past the excellent prices no matter how bad the Trip Advisor reviews are.

 

Watch “Toast: Inside San Francisco’s Controversial Bread…” on YouTube

Toast: Inside San Francisco’s Controversial Bread…: http://youtu.be/DhPrWm-vKSY

This is a strange one…such an innocuous food stuff is now fashionable in San Francisco, might possibly end up in Exeter like this one day?

Iberico Ham & Chorizo from Jamonprive – Product Review

Eating Exeter doesn’t often review products, but we were given the opportunity to taste some fantastic meats sent all the way from Barcelona.  I know this as it had Barcelona on the stamp.

Iberian Ham is something of a delicacy in Spain, using Iberian Pigs fed primarily on acorns, this gives the meat a distinct taste and coupled with the traditional processes of curing and preparing the meat, you are unlikely to ever taste cured meat like this from anywhere else.

To be precise the meats came from a fantastic online company called Jamonprive who work closely with the meat producers to deliver Iberian Ham and Cured Meats across the EU.  In our case, our Iberian Ham and Chorizo came from Ibericos Dehesa Casablanca based in the Extremadura region, so a massive thank you to them and Jamonprive for allowing us to sample this Spanish delicacy.

In Paolo Singer’s travel article in the New York Times, he visits the Extremadura region and says the following:

“…the Extremadura region, is in the heart of Spain’s pig country. I had traveled there in search of the world’s best ham, a recent food obsession instigated by Spanish friends. Along the way, I discovered a variety of mouthwatering specialties, learned about unique traditions and met locals with a contagious passion for their culinary heritage.

This article only goes to reinforce the heritage of the meats that Jamonprive and their producers sell.  It’s a fantastic journey around the Spanish countryside, and definitely worth a read.

Iberian Ham (Jamon Bellota Loncheado) – Opening the packet was like opening the door of a curing barn, or at least how I imagine it to be.  A strong lingering smell of the meat coupled with a nuttiness to the aroma from the diet of acorns these pigs are fed makes you realise this isn’t just supermarket deli pancetta.

The meat had the same hue and depth in colour as a good red wine, very little fat and a helpful strip of plastic in between each slice meant that the usual picking and peeling that you can sometimes endure with cheaper cured meats was not the case.

The meat quite literally melted as soon as it entered my mouth, it wasn’t overly oily.  It had a taste that lingered with a pleasant aftertaste, the pork seemed to be seasoned with balance and consideration.  It wasn’t overly salty as cured meats can be and this in itself would make for a good accompaniment with chicken or other delicate meats.  Take for example this tapas recipe from the BBC Good Food website.  Blisteringly simple but perfect for putting the meat first with little interference from the tomato and the bread.

Fancy trying some Iberian Ham? Purchase from Jamonprive.co.uk here.

Chorizo (Loncheado Iberco Bellota) – It is only until you have tried ‘proper’ Chorizo that you can truly say that you are a fan of Chorizo.  Don’t give me that supermarket stuff that is made out of calf anuses and lamb ligaments, this is made of Iberian Ham and a few things along the way such as paprika and seasoning.

This is what Jamonprive have to say about this Chorizo (couldn’t have said it better myself!)

“This acorn-fed iberian chorizo ​​is made from selected lean iberian pork, from pigs feeding on the acorns that grow in our pastures in Rodrigo city. It is seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic and made ​​in the traditional way, resulting in an exquisite handmade product that will not not disappoint the most discerning palates.” (Jamonprive http://www.jamonprive.co.uk/iberico/sliced-acorn-fed-iberian-chorizo-ibericos-dehesa-casablanca-221)

Again like the ham, upon opening the packet I imagine opening a barn door in a Spanish farm, with meat hanging somewhere curing.  A delicious smell that lingered in the nose.

The taste was a well balanced mix of seasoning and garlic and it had a slight oily texture too which helps with the preserving of the meat, but the oil was just enough to give it that tapas touch.  I felt however that the meat had to shine so we had a look for a few recipes and came across a really nice Gluten Free Pizza recipe from Gluten Free Girl that I have had my eye on.  Replace Ham for Chorizo and you’re on to a non-glutinous winner!

Fancy trying some Chorizo? Purchase from Jamonprive.co.uk

So what makes Jamonprive different? Jamonprive uses a sytem called drop-shipping and it is this drop-shipping system and integration with TNT’s API that allows Jamonprive to offer the best products at the best possible price and fast/secure delivery.

For more information head to www.jamonprive.com and have a look for yourself.

Tyepyedong, 175 Sidwell Street, Exeter

If I had to choose one cuisine, Asian would always come top of my favourite foods.  I’ve always had a passion for spicy foods and have been lucky enough to visit Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore where my love for South Eastern cuisine flourished. Tasting some amazing authentic Asian dishes on my travels has encouraged me to cook and experiment with Chinese and Thai food myself and I’ll always have a sneaky supply of chilli, garlic and ginger in the kitchen. Therefore I’m always up for going out for a curry with my Dad or ordering a Chinese takeaway with my friends, however I’m often left feeling a little disappointed when I try Asian food in the UK. This week I visited Tyepyedong in Sidwell Street, now I wouldn’t of thought to visit this little noodle bar as from the outside I always presumed it would be another disappointing Chinese restaurant which would leave me wondering why I wasted my time and money, but my friend Lauren had such high reviews of the place that I thought I’d give it a try.

As I said, this Oriental fusion restaurant doesn’t look much from the outside, in a street littered with bookies and bathroom warehouses you wouldn’t expect a lot, but once inside you’re transported into a sleek and stylish eatery. The décor is simple, with an open kitchen where you can watch your food being freshly prepared and long Asian style wooden benches stretching across the restaurant floor. The lay out reminds me of Wagamama’s, however this place has a much more personal touch, with no corporate menu’s and over trained waiting staff.  What’s more when the restaurant is quiet you have your own personal space on the table to enjoy your meal and company, unlike other chain Asian restaurants (*cough* Wagamama’s *cough*) where you sit shoulder to should with strangers which just screams school lunch halls to me.

Entering the restaurant on a Wednesday evening, there was a welcoming atmosphere and a relaxing buzz from the fellow diners. We were shown to our table by a lovely waiter, who was attentive and friendly throughout our evening. Browsing through the extensive menu there was a wide range of Chinese and Japanese dishes to choose from. At first I was drawn to the Japanese Java curries which looked really tempting with fresh vegetables and lots of meat options, however after much deliberation I chose the Malay stir fry served with Mei Fun noodles (£9).

The service was extremely quick and my meal was in front of me within ten minutes of ordering. I was glad to see a hearty portion of thin Chinese noodles scattered with big, juicy king prawns, accompanied by large shreds of chicken and beef and plenty of vegetables. The prawns and chicken were particularly tasty, perfectly cooked and not too chewy as you often find in takeaways, and the Kamaboko-aka (Asian fishcakes) were a delicious and unique compliment to the stir fry. Although I really enjoyed the meal, the dish as a whole was slightly lacking in flavour as I couldn’t really taste the satay sauce it came in, however there was plenty of soy sauce on the table and with a couple of splashes added in, it was delicious!

I would recommend Tyepyedong as a great place for a quick lunch or evening noodle stop, I’ll definitely be ordering my next takeaway from here!  Although, I wouldn’t recommend this restaurant for a special evening out, and the only reason being that the service was so quick, we were in and out within 40 minutes, and it just seemed a little rushed. However the food is still authentically tasty and isn’t too badly priced either, so it’s certainly worth a try!

Visit Kathryn’s blog at  for more awesome reviews and recipes!

Naked Wines Tasting Event – Exeter University Great Hall 2014

I wanted to start off this post with ‘the thing I love about wine tastings….’ but realised that I have only ever been to one and this one was it.  For the uninitiated, it’s a little like an ale/beer/cider festival except there is a lot less liquid and a lot more talking about the thing being consumed.

Some people come and work around methodically, opting for all of the reds or a certain grape they like, others come and find ones they like and drink many samples to just be certain that they like it.  Others are more about chatting to the winemakers and some are happy talking quietly to themselves.

Naked Wines have not only democratised wines and wine making, but also wine tasting events.  A casual and informal atmosphere accompanied by lots of friendly winemakers and fellow wine enthusiasts made the whole experience one that I would quite happily rinse and repeat.

The ethos of Naked Wines is a little bit different from many other online wine retailers, and this is a lot to do with how they are funded.  Naked Wine’s customers are called Angels, who pay £20 a month into their account towards future orders.  This money then goes in to investment in to grapes, winery space, barrels, bottles and other costs.  They help winemakers start-up and set the ball rolling for their own businesses, letting Naked Wine do the selling whilst they concentrate on making excellent wines for good prices. And what do the Angels get in return? Exclusive wines that you won’t be able to buy in the shops and the chance to meet the winemakers at tasting events like this one.

The tables were organised by country and each winemaker was willing to chat and talk about the wines, grapes and the processes behind the production.  I learnt about white wine and red wine, grapes, soil, vineyards and the fact that you can’t actually drink all of the wines on offer or else you will disgrace yourself.  I found that a lot of the wine was chucked in to the traps next to the tables, which I found near impossible to do so I left Tori to feed me sips of wine whilst she was able to tip the undrunk bits away (I know this is what happens at wine tastings but it was SO HARD!)

My highlight of the tasting was meeting Patricio Gouguenheim who was on hand with some of his stunning wines.  He recommended we have a dry white before we taste his red wine, and was willing to chat and take the time to share his passion.  The fact that he was happy to travel all the way from his vineyard in Argentina to talk his wine fans made me realise that the whole process that Naked Wines starts and finishes is just as much about the relationship between winemaker and winedrinker, than just the relationship between Naked Wines.  There is a strong sense of community about the whole tasting, and you could see this in the way that winemakers interacted with the tasters which was nothing but friendly.

We tasted many many wines, but there were a few that stood out.  A few that I would buy entire cases of had I the cash, the time to drink it and the space are the following:

1. Joost & Miguela de Villebois – Lestonnat Bordeaux Superieur 2012 – Loire Valley
This was a beautifully smokey red with liquorice and fruity notes.  It reminded me of drinking a bonfire, kind of.

2. Patricio Gouguenheim – Melisa Malbec 2013 – Mendoza, Argentina
Naked Wines Angels offered £10,000 to Patricio to create a scholarship for his employees’ children, and Patricio made this wine to commemorate the first student to benefit from their generosity.  A dry red that is a fantastic accompaniment to many meals.

3. Peter Klein – Klein Muskateller 2012 – Rhineland-Pfalz, German
The closest you could come to having an elderflower bush explode in your mouth.  Beautifully sweet and drinkable.  This was a definite favourite of the event for us.  Peter has been nominated for Young German Winemaker of the Year, and its clear to see why!

The experience left a lasting memory, and to help here are some photos from the day.

 

 

 

Brunch at the Boston Tea Party, 84 Queen St, Exeter

I absolutely love going out for brunch, I don’t know why but I find it so much more exciting than any other meal out! It’s probably because most of the time I use the term brunch as an excuse to have a dessert as a main meal, pancakes at 6pm… “it’s fine it’s brunch!”

So when I met my boyfriend Jack in town on a sunny Sunday in Exeter without having breakfast, I jumped at the opportunity to go for 12 o’clock brunch at one of my favourite cafés in Exeter.

Boston Tea Party was always my go to hot chocolate stop on cold winters days at college so whenever I’m home I like to make a visit, if not for there gorgeous cakes but for their amazing coffee! The cafe was quite quiet so we chose to sit in the window seats and do a spot of people watching. Ordering at the bar I didn’t go for my customary sweet treat, instead I chose the poached eggs with ham on a toasted bagel with a Sandford Farm blackberry and apple juice. To my surprise jack chose the kedgeree (he’s normally a full English man) which is a spicy breakfast dish which had never appealed to me in the past, so I was excited to try it out!

As always the food came quickly and the staff were warm and friendly. Although the presentation of my meal wasn’t anything special, it tasted great and at brunch that’s all that matters. The yolks of the eggs were lovely and goey, the thick cut ham was perfectly salty and the bagel was soft and delicious. I also tried Jack’s kedgeree which was so tasty I wish I had ordered it my self. It had a great flavour of haddock which wasn’t too strong and complimented the slight spice of the dish. Topped with a cooling yoghurt and poached egg, this was definitely a winning option.

Luckily enough when we were waiting for our brunch to arrive the staff were handing out free samples of their burger. Now I’ve had the burger before and know it’s brilliant but I wasn’t going to turn down free food! Once again the meaty little package didn’t disappoint! A thick beef patty incased in a springy soft bun, smothered with a tangy burger sauce, what more could you want?

There’s no doubt I’ll be making another trip to Boston’s before I leave Exeter, I’m just praying they open one in Cardiff soon!

Read more from Kathryn at her blog http://adayinmyshoeskathryn.blogspot.co.uk/

Byron Hamburgers, Princesshay, Exeter.

It was now a few months ago that I saw a tweet somewhere in the twitter-sphere that said Byron Hamburgers were arriving in Exeter.  And what was the first thought I had?  BYRON ARE COMING TO EXETER!   So I was quite happy about this, but I had a few reservations given we already have a number of very nice burger restaurants in Exeter already.

First impressions of the restaurant was one that it had been styled by someone who really liked tiles, but the allusion to ‘vintage’ comes out in the design of the signage and other small tweaks throughout the restaurant.  The other thing I notice is that the staff are very youthful.  Young attractive things (I felt quite old!) moving around the vast space caring for a vast amount of covers, all within the eye-line of the open plan kitchen where the meaty symphony is conducted by the three grill chefs, masters of their corner of this well designed interior.  Throughout our visit we were served by Sam and Luke who made us feel nothing but comfortable.  The service throughout was friendly, chatty and very prompt and I had to mention these guys by name as one of the things that I can take away from the whole experience was that the service was something else.

Byron became synonymous with the Dirty Gourmet revolution that took off in the early noughties.  Gourmet Burger Kitchen started in 2001 and from there Byron was one of the London based spawns which have gradually spread across the country. They’ve been doing this for a while, and now they’re in Exeter with a prime spot in Princesshay and a chance to bring in the punters that La Tasca didn’t. Sorry La Tasca, but corporate tapas has had its day.  The restaurant chain has quite a following in London, so it will be interesting to see if they can repeat this in Exeter.

Byron Hamburgers today is quite different from the Byron Hamburgers that was founded by Tom Byng back in 2007, but they are strongly tied to their original ethos which is presented in this rather smooth video  and in little glossy pamphlets on each table in the restaurant.  Small menu, proper hamburgers, no frills and simplicity seem to be the way Byron roll.  As Tom Byng writes “We source good beef from Scotland. We mince it fresh and cook it medium so it’s pink, juicy and succulent. We place it in a soft, squishy bun with minimum fuss and fanfare. We serve it with a smile in a comfortable environment.”
So we arrived, we were greeted, we were seated, standard stuff.  The craft beer menu was good, I managed to persuade myself to have a can of Brew Dog Pale Ale which had taken up to this point as the whole concept of ‘Ale In A Can’ was one concept that has, up to now, taken me a while to get my head around.  Ignore the fact it is in a can, and you have a very good Ale which I savoured and am now preparing to source on-line because it was very drinkable.


There was a certain amount of umming, humming, eenying and mineying when it came to choosing the burger even though the menu isn’t expansive, but because my appetite hasn’t really recovered since last week’s visit from Mr Stomach Virus, I stuck to The Byron.  Cheese, Bacon, Tomato, Lettuce, Red Onion in a soft bun (no brioche here…) and a side of Double Fried Chips.  The other side of the table had the same thing, except with French fries which I ate most of.

The Byron is a simple burger, and it was cooked well.  With a similar taste to a burger you could pick up at The Hub Box for instance, the soft bun was lighter than I had imagined it to be with a good taste.  Using Scottish Aberdeen Angus beef, it is ground and made on site in to 6oz patties.  Then cooked to medium, whacked in a bun with the garnish and off it goes.  It took about 10 minutes from order to arrival so there wasn’t much waiting around, but just enough that we were able to start to count the cows.  If you do visit, you will see what I mean.  We managed to squeeze in a pudding in the form of a warm chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, which was simply lovely and rounded off with coffee.

Exeter now has four burger restaurants, but each one has its very own distinct personality.  Byron brings a polished hip image with an ethos that states that it brings good beef from Scotland (Agree. Beef tasted very nice) minced fresh and cooked medium so its pink, juicy and succulent (Agree.  Both burgers were pink and juicey) in a squishy bun (Agree. Bun was particularly squishy) and served in a comfortable environment (Agree. The seats were very comfortable).  Whether you choose from one of the independent restaurants, or decide to do a Byron, you won’t be disappointed.

Eating Exeter were guests of Byron Hamburgers.

26 Bedford Street
Princesshay
Exeter
EX1 1GJ

Telephone: 01392 433340
Twitter: @byronhamburgers

 

The Magdalen Chapter, Magdalen Road, Exeter

Being a student means that I don’t often have the chance to visit fine dining restaurants, not just due to the high prices but as the vast majority of my friends are also students, the opportunity doesn’t pass me by all too often. So when I was invited to lunch at The Magdalen Chapter, one of Exeter’s most exclusive restaurants, for an old work friends hen party, I couldn’t wait to sample the food.

The first things you notice upon arriving at the hotel is how unlike a hotel it actually is! Entering the former eye hospital you’re first greeted by some amazing contemporary art work, which spans the extent of the hotel. My favourite piece was a fantastic collage of a spoon made from beauty advertisements, which I was advised by one of the staff, depicted the way in which women were spoon fed societal values by the media. I thought this was great, supporting original artists and something a little different!

The hotel cradles a beautiful court yard, complemented by the glorious Devon sunshine, which is over looked by their stylish, glass panelled restaurant. As we were a large party we had a private room at the front of the building which was modern and spacious. The room held a wide wooden table which was a perfect fit for the 15 of us, meaning we could all interact and no one was left stranded at the end of a table.

We kicked off the festivities with drinks in the lounge bar. As the sun was shining I opted for the customary summer Pimms (£5). The tall drink was served with freshly sliced strawberries, cucumber and mint, which, I know this may sound silly, made the glass really refreshing and flavoursome, opposed to some bars which will chuck in fruit which you can tell has been sitting around for days. Most of my fellow diners chose exciting looking cocktails (£8) from the extensive menu which included an exotic range of fruity concoctions.

After a few moments exploring the grounds with drinks we were shown to our seats in our private room by our server for the day. The service was brilliant and was one of the elements of the day which really stood out for me. Our water glasses were repeatedly filled, nothing was too much to ask but also they weren’t too over bearing which I have found in the past in more expensive restaurants. We were left to enjoy ourselves with our own space, without feeling we were being watched over.

The lunch menu was concise but included a trail of appetising flavours. At first I was tempted by the monkfish stew but ended up going for the spinach and ricotta gnocchi served with roasted tomatoes and courgette, topped with Parmesan and pine nuts (£12). After ordering the plates arrived at our tables within 20 minutes. Whilst waiting I tried the bread on the table which was beautiful in itself as the crust was baked with herbs and sea salt.

The gnocchi dish was absolutely delicious. The spinach and ricotta gnocchi was slightly gooey from the cheese so had a pleasing texture and was complemented well by the crunch of the courgette and pine nuts. I was apprehensive that the gnocchi may of been a little dry as it wasn’t served with a sauce,  however the juice from the plump cherry tomatoes served that purpose well. My fellow guests meals all looked and sounded great as well. The flat iron steak served with chips and roast tomato was cooked to perfection, and the roast chicken topped with chickpeas and chard smelt delicious.

I honestly couldn’t fault The Magdalen Chapter for the food, service or even price. Although many of the meals were way beyond my normal price range (my gnocchi was modestly priced compared to other dishes) I believe the excellent quality of food and first class service make it worth while. I would highly recommend the restaurant for a special occasion and I will be pestering my boyfriend to take me for a nights stay in the gorgeous hotel until he breaks!

To read more from Kathryn, head over to http://adayinmyshoeskathryn.blogspot.co.uk/ and subscribe to her wonderful blog :)

http://www.themagdalenchapter.com/

Magdalen Street, Exeter, EX2 4HY

Telephone 01392 281000
Email: magdalen@chapterhotels.com

 

 

The Old Firehouse, 50 New North Road, Exeter

Tucked away in the corner of the city centre, sandwiched between two looming grey office blocks, is The Old Firehouse, Exeter’s own little secret garden. Walking through the flowered arched entrance you could be stepping back in time into the bustling beer garden, if it wasn’t for the fairy lights dotted around the walls.

 

One of my favourite places to visit when back home in Exeter, I jumped at the chance to go for dinner with a couple of friends one summery evening. Taking a seat upstairs in the pub, come restaurant, we chose one of the long, vintage wooden tables, perfect for long nights of laughter with friends in one of the cities social hubs. The extensive menu includes alluring options for all (including extensive vegetarian and vegan options), I found it difficult to decide between the intriguing range of burgers (featuring wild boar, a variety of cheeses and an exciting looking list of sauces and relishes) and the diverse range of baked potato toppings (the mushroom and blue cheese was very tempting).

The popular venue attracts visitors of all ages with local ales and ciders, but proves particularly popular with students due to their drink deals and quiz evenings. We chose to share a pitcher of elderflower cider (£5 for 2 pints) which was delicious. Not too sweet like many fruit ciders generally are and carried a really pleasant hint of elderflower.

I opted for the roasted butternut squash, topped with three bean chilli and goats cheese, accompanied by salad slaw (£5.80). Their menu is great as it has the perfect mix of treats and indulgences but also has lighter options to choose from. The service was quick (although it was a quiet Tuesday evening) and the food was extremely tasty. The squash was lovely and soft and the goats cheese complemented the rich chilli sauce. In all the meal was gorgeous, but it was just a little on the small side and I was left wanting more, if the salad slaw was a little larger it would have been perfect! The lasagne also looked delicious, smothered in cheese sauce, served with crusty bread, and received Laura’s seal of approval. What’s more Emily’s hearty burger caught my eye several times and was definitely worth the £7.50 price tag!

All in all I had another great experience at the Old Firehouse, lovely food with great service for an impressive price. I will definitely be visiting again, if not to try more of their tasty flavoured ciders but to try out their late night pizza baskets!

Read more from Kathryn at her blog 

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

COMPETITION! Two pairs of tickets to Naked Wines tasting event: 22nd June

Do you know someone in your life who just loves wine? Not just LOVES it but appreciates all the grape varieties and the heritage of wine making? Well if you do, fancy taking yourself and them to the Naked Wine, Wine Tasting event on Sunday 22nd June at the Exeter University Great Hall?

P1030365

Naked Wines, an online wine retailer who supports independent winemakers from around the world, is heading to Exeter on Sunday 22nd June to host a BIG wine tasting with 40 of their winemakers and we have two pairs of free tickets up for grabs.

To be in with a chance of winning a pair of free tickets, simply do the following:

Comment on this blog post below with your favourite variety of wine AND
Retweet this post (or the original tweet) making sure you include @eatingexeter and @nakedwines so that we know you’ve done it :)

To find out more about Naked Wines and their tasting event, visit www.nakedwines.com/tastings

Closing date is Wednesday 18th June, so lets get commenting and tweeting!

Naked Wines Logo A4

 

Route Restaurant 303, A303 Yarcombe, Devon

As a frequent traveller on the A303 I have often passed what once used to be The Newcott Chef and has since been transformed into the Route Restaurant 303 (it has a twin in Cornwall on the A38) but to date had yet to go there.

BURGER STEVE

Well Friday saw me on my travels eastward again and this seemed to be the opportune place to stop especially if I wanted to avoid only being able to get a day old sandwich from a garage later on in the journey.

Inside the whole place is decked out to resemble a classic American diner and it certainly is proving popular as several tables were already reserved (including one for a birthday) and the rest of the diner was busy, which is usually a good sign when going somewhere new.

The menu looked great with a wide variety and obviously a big lean towards burgers but also covering many other American diner staples. Both of us chose the Rodeo burger which consists of a quarter pounder burger, 2 onion rings, a huge slab of melted Jack cheese, two rashers of bacon and BBQ sauce. (and if I’m quite honest my mouth is watering as I write this description), all for only £8.95.  We were not disappointed when it arrived, being an American style diner they have embrace American portions too as said burger arrived with what I would estimate to be over half a pound of fries (oh and a little bit of salad to make you feel healthy J ).

Once I had worked out the best way to attack this behemoth of a burger I went for the first bite, attempting to get a bit of everything.  Well dear reader, there are times that words are hard to find and this is one when it comes to describing how good this burger is, cooked to ‘medium’ it was moist and meaty and one hell of a combo of flavours, suffice to say, it didn’t disappoint! Favouring the burger over the fries (as I know my limitations) it was an incredible meal and I plan to visit again to try one of the other options.

Open 7am – late, 7 days a week.