The Nutwell Lodge Hotel, Lympstone (4/5 – Off Season)

I don’t normally do ‘lucky dip dining’ as I call it.  Find a place, look at the menu and go in. Don’t research, don’t investigate or go online and have a look at reviews or anything.  Just have a go.  It can sometimes be fun to see what happens but sometimes it can lead to trouble.

But on the knowledge that I had been here back in 1999 for a friend’s 18th party and couldn’t remember anything negative about the experience, I thought ‘well heck it can’t be that bad…’

The Nutwell Lodge sits on the A376 on the way to Exmouth. We’d just been down to our nearest weird little coastal town on the spur of the moment and faced with a sunny day to ourselves, why the hell not… Generally we go to Exmouth and have a walk followed by some inexpensive grub at The Bath House but given the last time the service was so horrific, I didn’t feel like running the gauntlet again.  Initially we’d decided to have a go at The Saddlers Arms over in Lympstone but we were faced with a sign that said ‘Cash Only’.

Quickly moving on I decided to try The Nutwell Lodge; but knowing it was a bit grim and given the last time it’d been looking quite dated even back in 1999 (that I can remember), I was interested to see what it was looking like in the heady days of the 21st century.

The Nutwell Lodge is a family trough-feed-your-face-let-your-kids-scream kind of place.  Its cheap, there are kids everywhere and to those sorts of people that moan about kids screaming here is a piece of advice. DON’T GO TO THE SORTS OF PLACES THAT MARKET THEMSELVES AT FAMILIES. Sorry I know that was in capital letters, but come on.  I don’t have kids, but I know if I go to a place that has a playground at the back, you’re coming in to the child friendly zone.
A quick scoot through Trip Advisor gives The Nutwell Lodge a very mixed set of reviews, but thankfully not clustering towards the very bad side of things. There are a lot of Excellents as well as a lot of Terribles, and from what we saw today I would be happy to say that it was Very Good.
But be warned if you go here during season/peak times, it might be a different experience.

There are two entrances, the Pub Entrance and the Restaurant Entrance.  This is bad if, like me you are easily confused.  If you go in the Pub Entrance you can get to the Restaurant but you need to go to the Restaurant Entrance so that you can be seated.  Once you are seated you are asked if you want drinks, you say “no can we have a look at the menu first” and they say that they’ll be back in two minutes.  Our waiter did come back in two minutes, which was a positive start given in some restaurants they have a strange tendency of forgetting you until 10 minutes later when you’ve decided what you’re going to drink and order.

I had originally opted for a Burger not being the world’s biggest carvery fan, but our waiter James told us that there was currently a 45 minute wait on normal food (which is odd as they really didn’t seem that busy…) but we could just go up to the carvery as there wasn’t a queue.  He popped back with our carvery tickets and boom, off we went..

I can’t even start to imagine what a Large carvery would look like, most probably with more meat? not sure. But I had some lovely beef and very nice ham and lots of veg including perfectly cooked carrots which is a rarity for a carvery.  I didn’t go for whatever local ales they might have had. In fact the overwhelming need for food overrode this and I ended up having a San Miguel (which was £3.65??) which complemented everything nicely.

The Nutwell Lodge comes under the Great British Carvery brand which is part of Orchid Pubs. Orchid pubs runs a number of sub-brands but is owned by Mitchells & Butler.  This mega-conglomerate owns such brands as Harvester (The Malt House anyone?) and Toby Carvery (Norovirus anyone?? lol), and get this…Vintage Inns too is a Mitchells and Butler owned company; they happen to run The St George and Dragon which is the next pub up the A376. All a little incestuous.

The service was without fault, friendly and attentive and the food for the most part was worth the £5.95 per head. Whole thing came to £18.80 for two adults who went away stuffed and happy.


Nutwell Lodge Hotel

Tel01392 873 279

Opening hours

Mon – Sat 8am – 11pm
Sun 8am – 10.30pm

New Features Inspire and Engage at Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink 2015

Friday 24th – Sunday 26th April
Exeter Castle and Northernhay Gardens, Exeter

The 2015 Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink, taking place at Exeter Castle and Northnernhay Gardens from 24th – 26th April is introducing brand new features for visitors in search of the ultimate foodie weekend. Each year, the Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink – Exeter’s only city based foodie festival, brings together a host of south west producers, activities for all the family to enjoy, live music and plenty of delicious food and drink to enjoy.

New for 2015 is Festival Question Time, hosted by Radio Devon taking place throughout the 3 days of the festival with 9 slots in total covering a variety of themes. Visitors can drop into the Festival Question Time marquee to join live Q&As on ‘of the moment’ topics in the world of food hosted by BBC Radio Devon presenters Michael Chequer, Fitz and Bill Buckley. Foraging, making the most of garden grown produce and sugar free recipes are just some of the areas to be aired as well as those common tricky areas such as encouraging children to eat well and dinner party solutions. A panel of experts has been carefully selected for each topic with representatives from local businesses, south west food and drink producers including exhibitors – in keeping with the regional focus of the festival.

For a moment of tranquility, Comins Tea from Dorset will be bringing their unique take on the experience of ‘taking’ tea. With a passion for a good brew and exotic travel, Rob and Michelle Comins personally source Single Estate teas from around the world, visiting plantations to ensure the quality and taste of their product before importing it into the south west where they sell it to tea lovers to enjoy at home or in their very own Tea House. Rob and Michelle will be recreating traditional tea ceremonies in their marquee using their own range of bespoke teaware. Michelle said: ‘We are looking forward to our first Exeter Food Festival. As a Fine Tea Merchant we will be selling our Single Estate and Single Origin leaf teas but also inviting visitors to sit at our unique tea tasting tables to experience traditional Gong Fu tea service.’

Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink 2015 runs from Friday 24th to Sunday 26th April in Exeter Castle and Northernhay Gardens, with Festival After Dark parties from Thursday 23rd running until late. The three-day festival celebrates the outstanding food and drink of the South West, featuring more than one hundred regional producers, top chefs, a Westcountry Bakery, workshops, live music and food-themed activities.

Now in its twelfth year, the Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink is supported by Exeter City Council. The festival is a not for profit event.

Tickets can be booked in advance and are available online from Exeter Phoenix or Exeter Tourist Information Centre. For more information or to buy tickets visit:

Dartmoor’s Blueberry Brothers Chutney Handpicked By Marks & Spencer

The imaginative Blueberry Brothers have launched a new spicy, handmade Blueberry Chutney, one of only 25 products selected by Marks & Spencer for their unique range of branded artisan products. These are now available to purchase in 350 stores, foodies nationwide will be able to savour the subtle blueberry flavour of this luxurious, rich purple chutney.

Guaranteed to pack a punch on any cheeseboard, and the perfect accompaniment with charcuterie, this novel chutney certainly has the wow factor. Bursting with flavours, this spiced condiment incorporates a delightful range of traditional ingredients enthused with an expertly developed blend of cardamon, mustard and fennel. This original product joins The Blueberry Brothers’ fruity Blueberry and Chilli Jam and zesty Blueberry and Lime Jam, both of which have recently been awarded accolades. The Blueberry Brothers’ Blueberry Chutney can be purchased from chosen Marks & Spencer stores nationwide (rrp £3.99).

Founded ten years ago as Yonder Berries Ltd, Nick and Toby Hewison are continuing their mother, Jenny’s love of growing blueberries on the edge of Dartmoor, Devon. As their passion for developing exceptional premium blueberry products flourished they quickly became nicknamed ‘The Blueberry Brothers’. Since their humble beginnings, Nick and Toby have developed an unrivaled knowledge of these popular little berries, using their expertise to develop an award-winning portfolio of innovative products including delicious jams, tasty beers, delectable muffins and baked products and exquisite chocolates and marzipan blueberries.

For further information on The Blueberry Brothers’ Blueberry Chutney and their other mouth-watering products go to, or visit their stand at the Devon County Show in the food marquee on 21st – 23rd May. Follow The Blueberry Brothers on twitter@Blueberrybros, or ‘like’ on Facebook at


Dartmouth Food Festival 2015

Friday 23 – Sunday 25 October 2015

The Dartmouth Food Festival is back for 2015 with a tempting blend of West Country produce, top chefs and engaging foodie talks and events.

The free festival, launched in 2003, takes place on October 23-25 2015. The festival sees around 20,000 people flock to the town each year and is paradise for food fans with more than 100 South West producers showcasing their delicious produce, a packed programme of events and a line up of celebrated chefs demonstrating their skills and inspiring festival goers.

Over the festival weekend, Dartmouth will play host to some of the UK’s top food writers and personalities in the ‘Eat Your Words’ talks and tastings. Events will take place in the Flavel Church, in the centre of Dartmouth.

Visitors can get hands on and stock up on skills in cookery workshops – from filleting a fish to baking the perfect scone, there’s something to suit all home cooks. It’s not just about the food either, the festival will offer a programme of drinks tastings and events for those who want to brush up on their knowledge.

Richard Hunt, chef and proprietor of the Devon Scone Company comments, “The Dartmouth Food Festival showcases all the best produce from the West Country. It is always a must for my calendar, as the whole atmosphere and welcome from the residents and visitors to the festival creates a buzz and passion that is nothing short of inspiring.”

As well as fabulous food in the exhibitor marquees, Royal Avenue Gardens and across the festival, many of Dartmouth’s renowned restaurants will be running special menus and other events.

A programme of children’s activities will be running in the Royal Avenue Gardens. Activities take place all day and are free.

Entry to the festival is free with a charge for some events.  Dartmouth Food Festival relies on the generous support of festival sponsors.

Full details at

Twitter: @DartFoodFest


Mexican Monday at JD Wetherspoons (1/5)

I like Wetherspoon Pubs generally.  They have an amazing range of real ales and often the place is clean and normally quite comfy.  Yes they might be a homogenized brand, but they do it well.

Unfortunately the food can be a little hit and miss.  Frequently I go and have the burger n beer offer which is normally a delightful alternative from McDeath but tonight I was feeling adventerous and as it was their Mexican Monday I felt a little deviation from the norm was needed.

Mexican isn’t a hard type of dish to serve up, its not hard to get it wrong either but it seems that this is just what Spoons managed to do.  Well with the Nachos (my able assistant’s Burrito didn’t look half bad…)

I present to you, a pile of Nachos with a spoonful of BBQ Pulled Pork, a spoonful of Guacamole and some tinned salsa.  Thanks Wetherspoons…

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Its not that I get some silent kick about critcising a chain, but I just had hopes and dreams.  Hopes of cheese that had been melted, hopes of lashings of salsa and guacamole.  Expectations that the whole thing wouldn’t be so, well, dry…

I managed to work out that only a third of the Nachos had melted cheese attached to it but most of it managed to have a horrid bitter tinned salsa sticking to the whole thing.

I’m sticking to the burgers in future…

Live Love Eat Awards 2015

Thursday 26th February was a bit of a special day for me, as it was the inaugural 2014 Live Love Eat awards and I had been invited along to take part in a grand celebration of locally produced food and drink, in an awards ceremony organised by Vicki Sargent and the Live Love Eat team.  It took place in the Deer Park Hotel (set in 80 acres of parkland) near Honiton.

Some of the best local food producers and foodies came together to celebrate those lucky enough to have gathered enough votes to earn themselves a place in one of the twelves categories.

So here I am writing about an event that happened nearly three weeks ago! Unfortunately life has a strange habit of getting in the way and I’ve only been able to sit down and write it up now. Despite the fact it was nearly three weeks ago, it was one of those experiences I am unlikely to forget.

The awards was kicked off with a really nice breakfast for delegates, an amazing plethora of local produce and items fresh from Deer Parks own kitchens.  We got a chance to network and have a chat but unfortunately the weather was against us so we were unable to tour the house.

I had the honour of sitting with Maurice from Hogs Bottom Delights who was providing the Marmalade and Jams as part of the breakfast, and who also won the Platinum Award for Devon in the Condiments & Jams section.

Head over to the Live Love Eat website for a full list of winners and take some time to go and see what Live Love Eat is all about.

Started 18 months ago by Vicki, a farmer’s daughter and 32 year-old mother-of-two, who has a distinct passion about the food and drink industry.  This comes from her parents who bought a farm in Hatherleigh when Vicki was 17.  They converted in into an award winning organic farm and butchery.

The organisation and love that went in to the organisation of the day really shone through.  It was a brief morning but it left me feeling humbled and lucky that we have such amazing food producers in the South West and certainly here in Devon.

Follow on Twitter @liveloveeat
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René Redzepi – Chef and Owner and his staff at Noma in Copenhagen shot for Edible Selby book « the selby

Ever wondered what it would be like to eat at one of the world’s best restaurants? Have a look at Scott Selby’s visit…

New Exhibitors queuing to be part of the Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink!

Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink is celebrating an exciting increase in the number of new exhibitors it will be welcoming to its 12th festival. Taking place this April from its city centre location at Exeter Castle and Northernhay Gardens, the Exeter Food Festival is a multi-award winning annual event that celebrates the very best of south west produce and producers as a not-for-profit initiative.

As Michael Caines MBE, festival co-founder who champions the event voluntarily explains: ‘As ever, competition for pitches was stiff for our 2015 festival and we are delighted to see new producers coming through. The Exeter Food Festival is all about highlighting the fantastic hospitality and delicious food and drink that we are producing here in the south west and I am delighted that new and growing companies      as well as much loved brands are coming to be part of if.’

As Michael continues: ‘The number of applications received from new exhibitors grew by 40% this year. It’s really exciting and demonstrates the growth in food and drink companies in this region and their interest in coming to the Exeter Food Festival.”

Visitors to the festival can expect to find a wide array of items to purchase, to eat and to drink including another collection of Fresh at the Festival exhibitors – championing those who’ve been in business fewer than 3 years. Fresh at the Festival exhibitors are offered discounted participation, training and free promotion; one of the initiatives of Exeter Food Festival to lend a hand to local start-ups.

One such company is Boom Kitchen who won last year’s most innovative product award from Taste of the West. The newcomers from Braunton, North Devon have reinvented the classic British Indian curry with their gluten free curry kits. Each kit contains freshly ground spice mix, their secret Boom Base™ and other chuck in the pan components that let you cook from scratch restaurant beating curries in less time than it takes to order a take away.

James Doel, co-founder of Boom Kitchen says: ‘We’re over the moon to have been selected for Exeter Food Festival for the first time this year. The South West has an incredible number of artisan producers and gastronomes so we’re really excited to be alongside some of the region’s finest names in food and drink. Most of all we’re looking forward to meeting like-minded foodies who share our passion for quality ingredients and a decent curry.’

Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink 2015 runs from Friday 24th to Sunday 26th April in Exeter Castle and Northernhay Gardens, with Festival After Dark parties from Thursday 23rd running until late. The three-day festival celebrates the outstanding food and drink of the South West, featuring more than one hundred regional producers, top chefs, workshops, live music and food-themed activities for all the family.

Now in its twelfth year, the Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink is supported by Exeter City Council. The festival is a not for profit event.

Tickets can be booked in advance and are available will be available online. For more information or to buy tickets visit:

Rob Dawe’s Pop-Up Restaurant at The Heart of Oak, Pinhoe

In writing this blog, I have met some people and eaten some food that I might not have been able to even consider.  I’ve been given some ‘awesome food moments’ for me to write about and remember for years to come, and certainly the Pop-up restaurants that I have reviewed have given me plenty of material to digest and photograph.  They are special, one-time menus that you might never experience again cooked by chefs with vision and experience.

On Tuesday night we were invited to Rob Dawe’s Pop-up Restaurant which was taking place at The Heart of Oak in Pinhoe; I can happily add this evening to my list of ‘awesome food moments’ and it makes me reaffirm why I write this blog with my spare time.

Rob Dawe (formerly senior sous chef at the RAC Club Pall Mall and Head Chef at The Puffing Billy) is a chef tutor at the prestigous Ashburton Cookery School and now he is adding to his many strung bow, by putting on pop-up restaurants in select restaurant locations in and around the Exeter area.  Each evening of his Pop-up restaurants have been a sell-out so far, and Rob is now looking at adding members to his exclusive mailing list which you can do by reading to the bottom of this review.

The Pop-up Restaurant scene has really taken off in Exeter and Devon over the last two years with Chefs such as Josh McDonald-Johnson (Pickle Shack) and Jonny Jefferies (Jonny Does Dinner) doing regular events throughout the county. Tim Maddams, of River Cottage Fame started a Pop-up event using Village Halls as the main locations for his pop-ups, through his Hall and Hearty evenings and I expect there are others too.  But Rob’s Pop-up Restaurants stand out for me as they are mostly in Exeter, and so far they are all in established restaurants.

The recently refurbished Heart Of Oak in Pinhoe was a fantastic setting for the evening, which saw diners treated to a 6 course tasting menu.  The Heart of Oak itself is a pub which has undergone quite a transformation recently.  The clean, modern interior was comfortable, and I hope I’ll be able to do a review of the food here at some point soon.  The menu was a well balanced exploration of tastes, ingredients and presentations which was accessible yet perfectly executed.  As we sat at our table, we were presented with Spicy Duck Canapes to mull over as we inspected the menu.

Rob kicked off the evening with a Sweet Potato, Ginger and Coconut Veloute (generally a soup thickened with either butter, egg yolks and cream).  This was accompanied by artisan garlic bread which warmed up the taste buds.  I loved the coconut and sweet potato combination.

Our next course was a first for both myself and my able assistant, as we are not overly fond of seafood.  Black Bream with a Mussel, Butternut Squash and Fennel Fricasse.  Yes, here is someone who writes about food who doesn’t like seafood and has no desire to eat things with shells.  But that feeling of accomplishment and discovery that we both really quite enjoyed the Mussels both shelled and in the beautiful Fennel Fricasse was overriding. Unfortunately my benchmark of Mussels are now set pretty high, whether I will ever have mussels that good again is unlikely.  But thank you Rob, for introducing me to Mussels.

After the fishy feast, what better way to clear the palette than a Gin & Tonic Sorbet presented in frosted glasses.  This refreshed the palette and got it ready for what I personally saw as the highlight of the evening.

Sous Vide Rump of Beef with a Horseradish Mash, Honey Glazed Carrots and a Port and Thyme Jus was a massive highlight for me and my love of meat.  Sous-vide is a method of cooking using airtight bags with increased cooking times, which results in a beautiful tender texture.

Next out was a Lemon Posset and vanilla shortbread which was beautifully presented.  The ‘topping’ was a layer of raspberry which worked with the tangy zestyness of the lemon.  Add in the shortbread, and it presented the palette with a crumbly, buttery, lemony spectrum of flavours that had me scraping the last few bits out with my spoon.

And then from tangy and creamy, was the glorious taste of salted caramel in the shape of Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart with Honeycomb Ice Cream.  The consistency and texture of the chocolate was literally like slicing through velvet.  Up to this point we had been having a quiet conversation about this and that, narrating the food, talking about what we were eating but at this point our table fell silent and we were quite overcome with the amazing taste.

The menu was rounded off with Coffee and Homemade Pistachio Macarons.

The evening was, for us, a resounding delight.  The service (hand picked by Rob) was excellent and really attentive, food came out quickly and drinks (although not BYOB) were served speedily and elegantly.
The combination of location and the quality of the food would be for any foody, a memorable food moment. For the prices that Rob charges, for instance our night was £35 per head, you are unlikely to get such good value for a tasting menu as well put together. Had we paid £70 per head, then it would have been a true reflection on our evening.

If I could make this the next culinary sensation that everyone talks about in Exeter, I would.  But that is up to whether you put your name on the mailing list for the latest news and dates.
At the moment Rob’s mailing list and word-of-mouth is the only advert for dates of future Pop-ups.

There are two more coming up at The Salty Pigeon on Sunday 1st March and Monday 2nd March. If you would like to book a place, please text Rob on 07745438481.  Drinks are BYO.

There are plans for a website and a greater social media presence.  You can follow Rob on Twitter as well @RobertdaweRob

To join the mailing list, email Rob at

Restaurants line up for Exeter’s £12m Guildhall development (via Express and Echo)

Quite a large article on the new Dining Quarter in The Express and Echo.  So far all that has beenartigiano revealed is that Artigiano is in talks to create a flagship venue (sounds expensive) and the developers are trying to get a balance between National and Regional chains.  But alas no mention of independent establishments…


Michael Caines with Silver South West Tourism Award_February 2015Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink is celebrating another win after the South West Tourism Awards on Thursday 12th February 2015. Exeter’s only city centre festival scooped Silver in the Tourism Event of the Year category sponsored by Bristol Airport for its 11thannual event which took place in April 2014.

Michael Caines MBE, Festival champion and co-founder said of the win: ‘I am absolutely delighted with our Silver at the South West Tourism Awards 2015! The Exeter Food Festival is a celebration of all the fantastic food and drink producers in the South West as well as our region’s rich agricultural and coastal heritage. To be shortlisted with other wonderful events in the South West is an honour and we look forward to bringing our festival to Exeter again this April.’

Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink 2015 runs from Friday 24th to Sunday 26th April in Exeter Castle and Northernhay Gardens, with Festival After Dark parties from Thursday 23rd running until late. The three-day festival celebrates the outstanding food and drink of the South West, featuring more than one hundred regional producers, top chefs, workshops, live music and food-themed activities for all the family.

This year’s festival has received a significant increase in applications from new food and drink producers and those who are applying to take a stand for the first time. Of this rise in interest, Michael Caines added: ‘we have been very pleased to not only welcome back valued stall holders but also companies new to the festival. It’s testament to the thriving foodie culture and the quality of produce and hospitality we have here in the South West.’

Now in its twelfth year, the Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink is supported by Exeter City Council. The festival is a not for profit event.

Tickets can be booked in advance and are available online. For more information or to buy tickets visit:

Trill Spring Seasons Box


A special seasonal treat for nature & earth lovers is the Trill Spring Seasons Box, the latest of the quarterly lifestyle subscription boxes offered from Trill organic farm in Devon, the brain child of Dr Romy Fraser OBE, founder of Neal’s Yard Remedies.

The exact contents of the Spring box is a surprise, but each seasonal box of delights includes a selection of high quality, organically grown and responsibly-made products carefully curated based on what’s in season and abundant from all parts of Trill Farm: food and drink, natural health and beauty, homewares and garden.

Each item is skilfully made on the farm, using minimal packaging and resources, by the the community of small businesses that are supported by Trill and share the collective ethos; healthy and responsible living and education to teach the skills required to live lightly on the land.

Previous box contents have included herbal teas, sea salt body conditioner, woodland soap, self heal salve, honey, chutney, rose & elderflower cordial, egg cups & cosies, a selection of seeds, and much more.

The Trill Spring Seasons Box costs £75 or just £68.75 when purchased as part of a annual subscription (four seasonal boxes). The combined value of the products far exceeds the cost of the box. Purchase of an annual subscription includes exclusive invitations to seasonal events and 20% off all the Trill Trust healthy living courses throughout 2015.

Due to the availability of produce on the farm, a limited number of boxes are produced each season. Orders are being taken now for the Spring Seasons Box, which will be sent overnight for delivery on 16th April. Gift vouchers are available for those wishing to purchase the Spring Seasons box as a Valentine’s Gift or a Mothers’ Day Present.

Trill Farm,
Pudleylake Road,
EX13 8TU

Tel: 01297 631 113
twitter @trill_farm

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Jamie’s Italian, Bedford Street, Princesshay, Exeter, EX1 1GJ

It doesn’t seem that long ago that Strada closed its doors and soon after Jamie’s Italian announced that it was going to open in its place.  In those five months, the Jamie’s Italian fans I know and love, whipped themselves up in to a frenzy at the fact that Mr Oliver had said he was opening another shining beacon of Italian-ness in Exeter.  And given the opportunity to sample this new establishment, I couldn’t resist see what all the fuss was about.

Started in Oxford in 2008 (click the link to read Matthew Norman’s review) it has grown from the one restaurant to incorporate restaurants all over Great Britain and also internationally.  There is Jamie’s Italians in Sydney, Dublin, Hong Kong and even Portsmouth.  Most of them seem to be in London and the middle bit of the map, but now they can add Exeter on to the rostrum of locations of this expanding enterprise.

You might remember a while back I rather sceptically wrote the following post when I found out that Jamie Oliver was destined to open in Princesshay.   I asked him to impress me. Whether or not he ever reads every single piece of Internet that mentions his name is unknown and unlikely. But I had this phrase in my head as we sat down at our table on a busy Friday evening, ready to be impressed.

Scanning across the menu it was clearly obvious that compared to ASK, Zizzi and Bella Italia…well lets say there is no comparison.  The menu has been developed to represent authentic, rustic Italian cuisine with a Jamie Oliver twist.  The ‘Bread and Nibbles’ has, for instance, Crispy Music Bread (with slices of pecorino Sardo & little dots of chilli jam mostarda) and Pork Scratchings (with spiced fennel salt & orchard dipping sauce)  which could be classed as Jamie Oliver with an Italian twist.  The ‘Bruschetta and Antipasta’ returns to its Italian side with such things as Tuscan Style Chicken Liver Bruschetta (smooth Italian paté with pancetta, vin santo & Parmesan) and Sicilian Caponata Bruschetta (spiced aubergine, hard ricotta & pine nuts).

This variation between ‘proper Italian’ and ‘Jamie Oliver Italian’ continues throughout the menu. Take ‘The Mains’ section which has The Jamie’s Italian Burger (Juicy prime British beef with mortadella, balsamic onions, tomato, melted smoked mozzarella, pickles & chillies) which is accompanied throughout with such Italian dishes as Osso Buco (free-range pork, slow-cooked with saffron, onion, tomatoes & Trebbiano white wine, served with Sicilian-style orange gremolata) and Lobster Al Forno (Half a marinated & roasted lobster with silky Parmesan sauce & spaghetti pomodoro).  There is clearly a great deal of originality in the way the menu has been created.

Flip over the double sided A3 and you have the reams of Cocktails, Wines and…well…everything else.  The prices as you might expect from a restaurant in the location that it is, doing the thing that it is doing, are levelled at ‘Special Night Out’ or ‘I have money and can’t be bothered to cook’ level.  Take your wife out here if you wish to apologise for something, take a first date if you want a memory to remember.  It is not cheap, but not any more expensive in comparison to its neighbours (Cafe Rouge, Coal etc.).

The kitchen is open enough for diners to see what’s happening.  I loved this touch in the restaurant design which gave a certain element of theatre to the dinner.  A corner of the restaurant is taken up by the pasta machine which makes fresh pasta daily and a small selection of Jamie Oliver merch.  There is a deli during the day as well for JO fans who might want the real thing.

We decided to share a starter of Pork Scratchings, given this was the first time I had ever seen this as an option on a menu, I couldn’t deny myself some fatty protein.  Being a complete Burger-head I had to go for The Jamie’s Italian Burger (10.95 or bundled with chips for for an extra £3) with Polenta Chips, and my able assistant chose the special of the day which was a pasta dish with lamb and tomato in a red wine sauce.

The starter came reasonably quickly given the fact it was so busy.  The delicate flavours really came out, and it was seasoned perfectly.  The Roasted Pear and Tomato dip had a gentle kick to it but subtle enough for it to work with the seasoning of the scratchings and not cause any mouth related spice-burn.
The scratchings were cooked evenly and presented in a bronze goblet which, to me, was the perfect method of delivery.  Starter finished, we languished ourselves in conversation.  We waited about 20 minutes for our main course (pretty good for a busy Friday night!) through which the drama of a busy kitchen played out in front of us.

To say that the burger heaved in to view was an understatement.  The table next to us had ordered a burger as well and got it slightly before us, I think I stared a little too long for comfort.

A stacked skyscraper of meat, pickles, chilli and cheese made this one of my all-time burgers.  Add in the Polenta Chips which were beautifully cooked and topped with lashings of parmasan and rosemary, you had a most amazing meal; one that I will come back again for when I feel I need it in my life.
Although it required disassembling, it was a burger to be attacked.  As Jamie Oliver said himself to Ellie Goulding in the second episode of his latest series the best burgers are ones that you just need to attack.  This I did.  It was an enjoyable combination of a burger that was at least 9oz, pickles and chilli’s with Mortadella and mozzarella which I devoured far too quickly.  The result was burger impatience disorder that I could only fill with more burgers, but tonight was not the night that I was going to do this.

My able assistant found her Lamb and Tomato thing quite spicy, this being a special it wasn’t something that was mentioned when the waitress told us what the specials were at the beginning of the meal.  There was no pretext saying that this was going to be ‘spicy’.  Luckily we are both spice fans but I know many people who would have been calling the manager over asking for a replacement or a refund.  Was it meant to be spicy? Was there meant to be a warning? Who knows.

With the meal finished, we were too full for dessert.  I had been tempted with such delights as Amalfi Lemon Meringue Cheesecake (velvety mascarpone & lemon cheesecake topped with Italian meringue, served with lemon curd & blackcurrants) and the Epic Brownie (warm fudgy brownie with vanilla ice cream & caramelised popcorn).  But there really was no room at the inn.

Jamie’s Italian is a new and original take on something Britain does quite poorly sometimes.  Italian restaurants are pretty much everywhere in various disguises, the ‘pseudo-Italian’ label is one that we can stick on many restaurants on our high street.  For once, there is now a place that I can say “fancy Italian tonight? Go to Jamie’s Italian…”.  It celebrates the fact it is what it is, and gives the diner a menu that is…

“…rooted in authenticity. We’re all about fantastic, rustic dishes created using tried and tested recipes. Jamie’s friend and mentor, Gennaro Contaldo, has added substance to what is now the essence of Jamie’s Italian – tradition combined with current, innovative ideas and a Jamie twist.”

Its not pretentious, its not snobby.  Like many establishments you make it as expensive as you make it.  And was I impressed? Yes I was.

Jamie’s Italian, Exeter
20 Bedford Street

01392 348 448

Opening Times
12 noon-10pm

12 noon-11pm

Jamie's Italian on Urbanspoon

What’s Your Beef? Urban Burger’s burger competition winner announced. (via Beer, Burger and Beyond)

I was a little busy on Thursday night.  Not only was I working late, but I just had to go and judge a design-a-burger competition too.

Read all about it on Beer, Burger and Beyond


Darts Farm crowned Best Farm Shop in the South West (via Express and Echo)

After a nail-biting few weeks of public voting, Darts Farm was awarded Best Farm Shop in the South West on Monday night as foodies from across the region joined forces to celebrate the fifth annual Food Magazine Reader Awards.

Food Magazine readers voted in their thousands to secure Darts Farm the top spot in a hotly contested category with other finalists including Padstow Farm Shop and Bartlett’s Farm Shop in Honiton.

On winning the award, James Dart, owner of Darts Farm, expressed his delight saying “It’s always fantastic to be recognised with an award that is voted for by the public and it’s a great reward to our team who work so very hard”. He added “A big thank you must also go to our world-class local producers who keep this region at the forefront of the food industry with their expertise and passion”.

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Using a bottle to separate egg yolk

This is an inspired idea. Especially for compulsive meringue makers…

Using a bottle to separate egg yolk

This is an inspired idea. Especially for compulsive meringue makers…

Trill Farm opens its doors for 2015 with an inspiring programme of courses and talks to get you thinking, learning and eating!

Do you want to get your mind and body kick started this New Year? Trill Farm opens its doors for 2015 with an inspiring programme of courses and talks to get you thinking, learning and eating!

Trill Farm, near Axminster, is the brain child of Dr Romy Fraser OBE, the founder of Neal’s Yard Remedies. Set up in 2008, the 300 acre organic farm has become an exercise in creative thinking and living. Cattle and sheep farmers, market gardeners, carpenters, chefs and natural skin-product makers all share the farm and a common ethos; using the land and all it affords in a way that provides a living for its workers, a resource for the local community to use and benefit from and, most importantly, causes minimum impact to the natural resources that sustain the whole enterprise.

The farm also hosts the Trill Trust, an education charity that uses the beautiful habitats and wildlife on the farm, and takes advantage of the expertise and knowledge of those working on it, to inspire and engage others to think and learn about their own relationship with the natural environment and what it means to the them. The Trust organises a series of talks, events and family camps throughout the year and has just employed a new Director of Education, Jolyon Chesworth, who says “Trill farm is such an inspiring place, the rivers, ponds, woods and meadows are teeming with wildlife and I’m really looking forward to exploring it all, showing people around and helping to put on a diverse programme of activities with something for everyone; from those who want their first experience sleeping under the stars and watching badgers; to people who want to understand what grows around them and how it can be used to make delicious foods and herbal remedies.”

The Trill Trust has just released the first of its planned activities, with courses on everything from carpentry, where you can build your own table, to willow weaving and basket making, herbal remedies and homeopathy, bee keeping, foraging and cooking, including our upcoming course on marmalade making, led by the renowned ‘Pam the Jam’.

Jolyon continues:

“One of the things I’m most looking forward to are our monthly Supper and Conversations, these evening events include thought provoking talks from national experts on a whole variety of subjects. On January 30th we have Pat Thomas, an author, journalist and campaigner, giving her views on GM foods and how they may be creeping on to your supermarket shelves, and what it means for our environment and our health. These talks provide food for thought whilst our resident chef provides delicious organic food for us to eat, as we cogitate and discuss the important issues facing ourselves and our countryside.”

“All of our walks, talks and events are listed on our website at and more will be added as the year progresses. We are particularly keen to continue to develop our links with our neighbours, including local schools and colleges. Im really looking forward to helping develop Trill as a community asset, where people can come and experience the best our countryside has to offer through sharing, learning, eating and simply taking pleasure in being outside in the fields and woods, what better way to start 2015.”

Ancient Greeks invented the Mediterranean Diet, University of Exeter reveals…


Ancient Greek doctors were the ones who invented the infamous Mediterranean diet, as hippocratic physicians used rich flavors in food in order to treat their patients, a new study from the British University of Exeter revealed, according to the Daily Mail.

The experts at the University of Exeter studied texts of ancient Greek doctors and found that they believed rich flavors could improve the food’s nutritional potency, while one of them, Galen of Pergamon, prescribed food recipes containing garlic and onions to patients. According to the same study, their work laid the principals of modern Mediterranean cooking, considered among the world’s healthiest. At the same time, ancient Greek philosopher Plato wrote about the importance of food in health, while Hippocrates said: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

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