Burger Fest to open in Exeter (where Casa Maroc used to be)

Its old news that Gourmet Burger Kitchen opening in the Guildhall’s new Dining Quarter. But, did you know (thanks to the Express and Echo) Burger Fest is opening in Exeter.

They started off in Torquay, they’ve just opened in Taunton and soon they’ll be opening in Bartholomew Street East, opposite Mary Arches Street Car Park.

This means that with GBK as well, Exeter will have a total of six burger restaurants.  One thing food tourists will remember our fair city for will be the excellent choice of burgers and coffee!

Burger Fest is owned by Lifestyle Hospitality Group who own Tiger Bills amongst others.

www.burger-fest.co.uk

Cote Brasserie, Cathedral Green

August 20th is our anniversary and this was the opportunity to go somewhere that had been recommended to us by more than one person. It definitely has a few fans by having a look at the feedback on Google and Facebook, including Latoyah at Sugar Pink Food. Cote Brasserie sits on the Exeter’s historic Cathedral Green within earshot of Michael Caines Abode and just a down the road from Southernhay House.  This is the end of town that you want to dress-up nicely for, so I was forced to wear a shirt.  Nor did I hump along my DSLR as this was a romantic meal, but I still took lots of photos with my phone.

The Cote Brasserie brand is about replicating the famous bistros of Paris, this is done through the interior and the uniforms as well as the food.  Also the ‘optional’ 12.4% Service Charge that is added on to the bill at the end, because darlings ‘service non compris’.  And does it go to the staff? No, of course not.

The atmosphere is friendly and congenial, as you walk through the restaurant there are smiles and greetings.  The friendliness is like walking through a party where, everyone knows you and they’re all dressed up as waiters and diners.  The bustle and hubbub invokes feeling of a continental night out, as we sat at our table with a Cathedral view (as requested when I booked the table) one could have been waiting for a friend with a silky French accent who was jetting in frow New York, or possibly having an interview with a political dissident for a high-brow broadsheet.  The experience of just sitting there waiting for our drinks, took us out of Exeter and mentally plonked us somewhere in Montmarte.

Cote Brasserie has some enticing items on their menu (10oz steaks, very reasonably priced) but we were going for their weekday offer.  The lunch and early evening offer seems fantastic value, between 12pm – 7pm but beware as it can be deceptively expensive (I know three courses for £11.90 is an amazing deal, and yes I know there is no pleasing some people, but hear me out!). Our meal included at £2.00 surcharge for Steak and Fries, and the waiter recommended that we have a side with the meal as it is just steak and chips, yes we could have just ignored this but that was an extra £5.50 on to the meal, and then the drinks which were stupidly priced (nearly £4.00 for a tiny bottle of Kronenburg? yup…) and the glass of wine which was as ever overpriced as these sorts of places are.  And the service charge too.

I will discuss my gripe about the service charge at the end, but let us not lose focus.  I started things off with a Carpaccio of Seasonal Golden Beetroot with Creme Fraiche, Pea Shoots and a Hazelnut Dressing which was delightful.  The Hazelnuts were less dressed on the plate, more frantically scattered but it was a lovely beginning to the rest of the meal which was, in terms of quality of taste, exceptional.  Tori had the Duck, Chicken and Ham Terrine which went down well with good meaty chunks, a well balanced starter.

We both had Steak Frites as the theme of the night was ‘Steak’ and we both had the hankering for a steak, so this was the perfect compromise.  A beaten minute steak served with fries; of course we had been talked in to having a sides too, which was a delicately dressed Green Salad.  The combination was very nice, and with the beautifully cooked steak, the delight of the main overshadowed the rather pale choice of desserts.
Again, I mustn’t grumble. This was a great set menu so far, and the ‘Peach Crumble’ with Normandy Butter Crumble and Vanilla Ice Cream was very tasty.  Tori had something chocolatey, which made her very happy.

The service throughout was great, we had about three waiters who were all very attentive  and eager to please.  When the Steak Frites came out, Tori had gone to the loo and the waiter attentively offered to put it under a hot lamp to prevent it going cold.  One thing that kept on striking me again and again was how excellent the service was.

So this brings me on to the prickly subject of the service charge.

I would happily have paid the whole service charge, generally the rule of thumb is 10%, but recently it has been revealed that this ‘optional’ service charge that is added to your bill does not go to the staff but straight to the company.  Their argument is that their staff is paid more than minimum wage and this practice allows them to do this, but within the article it quotes a member of Cote staff saying “We are told by management that we don’t get to keep the service charge because we get paid more than the minimum wage, so we should be grateful, but most of us would prefer earning the minimum wage and taking home our tips for the hard work we do,”

And not to be unfair to Cote, they say the following on their website. “Company policy is that where customers leave a cash tip, it is at the waiters’ discretion to keep it for themselves or to include it in a general pot with other members of staff. Any deviation from this policy will be investigated and disciplinary action taken where appropriate.” which makes no sense.

So lets conclude:

Pros – Excellent food and service.  If you can get a seat by the window, some beautiful scenery of the Cathedral.

Cons – Expensive drinks, dubious service charge, lots of stairs (not overly accessible if you’re not very mobile). Chain restaurant, why go here when you could support our local independents?

Given the whole curfuffle with the service charge fiasco, I can’t recommend this restaurant yet. If they were to change this policy, then I this would definitely change.

19-21 Cathedral Yard, Exeter, Devon EX1 1HB
01392 433406

10 Questions: Jim Fisher from Exeter Cookery School

A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to be invited to the launch of the Exeter Cookery School.  Headed up by Jim and Lucy Fisher, they are bringing the glamour of the Dordogne to our lovely little city.  The school is due to kick off in the autumn from their base on the historic quayside.  The full press release is here, and our write up of the official launch is here, both I urge you to have a look at.

Foodies of all ages and abilities are welcome to come and try their hand at courses ranging from Classic French Dessert making to a Chocolate Workshop, fancy some Hands-On Butchery or maybe French Boulangerie Favourites?

Jim Fisher is a former Masterchef semi-finalist who started his cooking career cheffing in the kitchens of Exeter’s White Hart Hotel (where he and Lucy met and were engaged to be married).  He went on to cook alongside Rick Stein in Padstow, Allistair Little in Notting Hill and Tony Tobin of Ready, Steady Cook fame.

So I couldn’t resist inviting Jim to be our second candidate for the Eating Exeter ’10 Questions’ interview!

Exeter Cookery School1. A cookery school is a fantastic idea, what gave you the inspiration to start one?

I’ve been cooking since I was six years old, making gingerbread men with my mum with my nose just visible above the kitchen worktop. Reaching the semi-finals of Masterchef and working with the likes of Rick Stein and Alistair Little, gave me the confidence to fulfil a life-long dream. We took inspiration for the structure of our courses from Rick’s seafood cookery school in Padstow, where we’ve both worked.

  1. You’re previous school CookInFrance, was set in the lovely Dorgogne region of France. What made you want to come back to England and why Exeter in particular?

We both grew up in Devon and actually met and got engaged while working at the White Hart Hotel in Exeter. So, when we decided to sell our French cookery school in order to bring it to the UK, Exeter – with its vibrant foodie culture and progressive business vibe – was the perfect choice.

  1. Your new premises will be on Exeter’s historic quayside. Has the hunt for a new location been a long process? What sort of requirements were you looking for in a location for your new school?

The search for the perfect venue began 18 months ago. Since then, we must have seen 30 or so properties in and around the city that simply weren’t right for one reason or another. But when we were introduced to our 1830s stone warehouse down on the Quay, it was love at first sight! It reminded us of our beloved Bombel in the Dordogne with its rugged stone features and romantic setting. And it is in the perfect location situated, as it is, in an area that is very much up and coming as a foodie and activity hub.

  1. Out of the both of you, who cooks your evening dinner? Or do you take it in turns?

Mostly it’s me, even after a hard day’s cooking and teaching, but Lucy cooks occasionally and is very good. She makes a mean fruit loaf!

  1. If you have to choose one kitchen utensil you prize more than anything else, what would it be?

Hmm, that’s a tough one, but I think I’d be lost without my trusted De Buyer sauté pan. It’s so versatile: not only can it fry things, it also doubles as a saucepan; a lid in its own right for various pots and pans; a meat basher and garlic crusher; a Dutch oven (with a makeshift foil lid); and a roasting tray (if I remember to take the handle off!).

  1. The Creedy Carver duck that you used at the launch event was delicious. Which producers will be supplying the cookery school with the ingredients?

We are talking to many great local suppliers and have already sourced ingredients from the likes of Little Pod vanilla near Topsham (they own their own vanilla plantation); Exe Valley Eggs at Stoodleigh for gorgeous free range eggs; and Clyston Mill flour, still milled by water power. I could go on about the abundant top quality produce to be found in Devon and around Exeter, but you get the picture.

  1. In the future, will the cookery school be hosting one-off events?

Definitely. Until our venue is finished we have a growing list of venues that are itching to have us run cooking classes and demos. And as soon as our permanent cookery school is up and running we’ll be setting up bespoke cookery courses and special events.

  1. In Delia’s ‘How To Cook’ series of cookbooks, she starts off with boiling an egg. What would be the first technique you would teach to a pupil who was completely new to cooking?

Bread making! There is something about making a loaf of bread that is fundamental, almost primeval, and it takes us right back to our culinary roots. Throwing flour around; adding that magical ingredient, yeast; testing the temperature of the water with your little finger (that ‘Goldilocks moment’: not too hot, not too cold); kneading and shaping; waiting with bated breath in the hope that all that work will result in a well-risen aromatic pillow; knocking-back and watching as the puffball of dough collapses with a sigh. And then, of course, cutting a thick slice still warm from the oven and slathering it thickly with loads of salty butter! Hmm, excuse me while I just knock up a quick batch…

  1. Is there any golden rules that any good cook should follow whilst cooking?

If I had just one piece of advice that I was allowed to pass on to all cooks, it would be: taste, taste and taste again! Taste your food at every stage, from raw ingredient to finished dish – you’ll be a much better cook if you know how evaporation, heat, cold, and the addition of seasoning affects flavour and texture.

  1. Who is doing most of the teaching? Is it completely in-house or can we expect some guest chefs in the future?

That’ll be me, at least initially. We’ll also be hosting master classes and courses by some of the region’s top chefs both at our venue and around Exeter. Teaching cookery is in my blood, but, as we expand we’ll be looking for more chef/tutors who are experts in their field to run courses in tandem. Watch this space!

Jim (Chef)

Pizza & Nibbles at Artigiano

Fancy a bite to eat? Like Artigiano and its hip classiness? Then you’ll be stoked to find out that Artigiano has started doing Pizza!  Click here for the pizza menu

The introduction of their Pizza and Nibbles menu a little while back is a further innovation for this beacon of good coffee and free wifi.  I was lucky enough to sample some of their pizza at the Create Your Own Cocktail experience a few weeks ago.

Pizza’s start at £8.95 and are served on tasteful board, it is very much a plank of pizza!  Scroll down for photos!

The TABAC Taphouse, Queen Street

In the ‘real world’ my job requires me to work opposite Exeter Central at the large unnamed successful award winning educational institution that lies opposite the station, so The TABAC wasn’t a huge surprise for me as I watched with sadness as Whistle Wines became an ‘online only’ company. But was delighted to hear that Hamish Lothian, owner of The Fat Pig et al. was expanding his portfolio by establishing TABAC in Whistle Wine’s place.  The Express & Echo ran a story on TABAC which I urge to go and read (just make sure you have your adblocker on!) as it gives you a context to what the future holds and where the TABAC has come from.  Over the last few weeks, its been fascinating watching it come together and slowly emerge in to a new establishment, ready for customers.

Its interesting how popular TABAC has become recently, the sunny afternoon’s have seen groups of people basking in the evening sun outside the bar since its opened last week, so after work we met our good friend Lewis (owner of OMG Comics in Fore St., Exeter’s BEST comic book shop) to try it out for ourselves.


As this is technically owned by The Fat Pig Brewery, they sell their own creations on draft.  For a half its £2.00 a pop, which given a) location and b) potentially what it could be, wasn’t too bad.  Given it is a bar that is situated in, what I suspect, is a unit owned by Network Rail which has infamously high rents, then I was expecting it cost more.  The journos and PR peeps who might read this will cringe, but it made me do this (:-D). There is a large selection of wines available as well, and as they have an off-licence as well, you can take some home too, I believe.

The seating arrangements were a little tight given it was quite busy when we got there.  We were able to share some table space with a lovely couple who offered it to us after we dragged some stools and sat by the vintage foosball machine (yes they have Foosball!).  The rustic reclaimed stools and decor makes TABAC one of the most hippest spots on Queen St. and perfect for travellers who are waiting for that ‘missed train’ or that ‘cancellation’ that might crop up in future excuses to why you were late home.


Walls are lined with clusters of vintage photographs, a large menu board showing what food they have (a small but well thought out menu) and the talking point of the evening, for us, was the Engaged/Vacant lights that are situated above the door to the toilet.  A simple mechanism allows a red light to appear once the door is locked, and a green light to appear when its vacant.  But it has to be said, this seemed to work correctly when the user had locked the door properly, which was about 40% of the time.

I’ve not been to The Pig & Pickle Taphouse in Heavitree yet, and to be completely honest I haven’t been to The Fat Pig in recent years, but my experience with The Rusty Bike and certainly this latest visit to The TABAC Taphouse makes me think a visit to one of these is definitely needed.

I didn’t have my DSLR with me so I only have a handful of phone camera photos which don’t really do the place justice.  Its unique surroundings, the ‘only in Exeter’ beer that is available and the fact that multiple Tweeters have decided that this place is definitely a new favourite drinking hole says to me that Hamish and the team have got this one right.  Would I recommend it? Yup. Deffo.

Slide1

UNIT 1. CENTRAL STATION.
QUEEN STREET.
Exeter,
Devon01392 437217
http://www.fatpig-exeter.co.uk/

River Cottage Summer Fair 2015

In this end of the South West, we are quite lucky really.  We have a number of popular culinary landmarks that any good foodie must visit at least once in their lifetime.  Gidleigh Park, Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant, River Cottage HQ, The Riverford Field Kitchen in Buckfastleigh are for me, those placecs in the popular food arena which foodies need pay homage to, sacrifice a virginal aubergine, sing the hymn of the organic carrots to.  So, Chris, How many have you visited?   I hear you cry! Well…I’m getting there (slowly) but I have ticked one off my list when I visited River Cottage HQ for their lovely summer festival this weekend.

It is easy to fall in love with this part of the world, the Jurassic Coast has slowly turned itself in to one of the most desirable parts of the UK to live due to its nice climate and frequent appearances on property shows which profess the benefits of the area.  Lying near the sea with lots of beautiful rolling hills, peppered with forests and a patchwork of green fields that literally roll on as far as the eye can see (cliched but true). I would consider myself an apologist for Mid-Devon and the rugged tranquility of Dartmoor, but East Devon is definitely a sapphire on our doorstep.

If you haven’t heard of River Cottage then I can assume you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last 20 years.  In a nutshell River Cottage kicked off in 1997 when journalist/chef/ Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall bought a former keepers lodge on the Slape Manor estate in Netherbury called River Cottage.  It featured as part of the renowned TV and book series that showed on Channel 4 in the early noughties. Further series and books followed, and operations were moved from the original location to Park Farm in 2004, where the River Cottage ethos lives on.

Set in 44 acres of farmland, the farm sits on the same hill as Trill Farm (the amazing setting for my Johnny Does Dinner evening in a polytunnel where I met Tim Maddams!) and within spitting distance (pun intended) of Castlewood Vineyard, a boutique vineyard that creates sparkly stuff and has a Wine Festival too which we went to a couple of years ago.


Park Farm plays host to day events, cookery courses and is the base of operations for the River Cottage universe.  You can even book it for a wedding should you wish!  Learn how to forage, how catch fish, butcher and bake on one of their courses and now there is the opportunity to learn a chef apprenticeship at their Chefs School.

And…did I mention? River Cottage also runs a series of successful canteens in Plymouth, Bristol, Axminster and Winchester which brings the River Cottage food ethos to the masses. One might appear in Exeter, but for now I’ll have to settle for a train ride over to Axminster.

One of the many things that go on at River Cottage (here is their calendar) is their Summer Fair which is where I come in.

Our visit to the Summer Fair was an appendage to a longer trip.  We had been to see Polly, co-founder of Eating Exeter and possible future creator or Devouring Dorset (hint hint Pol if you’re reading this) who now resides in glorious Wimborne.  I’ll bash out a post about our culinary adventures in Wimborne after I’ve finished writing this post.  On the way back we decided to pass through and say hello and see what sorts of things were happening at this family friendly event.


Parking is a little way away from Park Farm which is halfway down the hill at the end of a track.  The tractor shuttle service means you’re transported from your car in style and landing safely at the bottom.  But you are allowed to walk the footpath if you feel up to the climb.

The first thing we needed when we arrived was food.  The street food stalls didn’t get much of a look-in with us as we spotted that the River Cottage Kitchen were doing plates of grub for £6.50.  This went down very well (not being a beetroot fan I am now a convert as the Slow-cooked Beetroot with Oregano was superb!  It was accompanied by River Cottage Baked Beans, Potato and Spinach Curry, English Yellow Split Pea Hummus and Pearl Barley Tabbouleh.


After we topped up our energy level, all washed down with a half of River Cottage EPA, it was time to do some exploring.  As we had arrived later then we had planned, its more than likely we missed some bits entirely as we got caught up with watching Falcons and wandering around the River Cottage Kitchen Garden.

Had we been more patient we could have had a garden tour, but for that moment we were happy wandering around this magnificent piece of horticulture.  The highlights for us were the flowering ball artichokes and the sweet pea arch.

Walking around neatly planted patches of vegetables does funny things to someone at a certain stage of their life.  It makes you want to go home and grow things, the inspiration largely washed off by the time we got home and looked at how much of our garden would have to be completely dug-over.  Could I rent an allotment? Only time will tell.  Certainly Tori being the Head Gardener has decided that we simply have to grow Bell Artichokes.

After a meander around the garden we hit the local producer’s tents.  Shaldon Bakery was represented and so was Conker Dry Gin.  Distilled in a copper still, they are Dorset’s only dry gin company and making a name for themselves with their blind optimism and fresh approach to distilling gin.  We’ll definitely be getting a bottle soon…very soon :D


Further exploring took us up to the demo tent in the Meadow.  We just happened to catch the last part of Good Game’s Steve Williams, I really wanted to go up an say ‘hello’ but we were short on time as it was nearly time for the Falconry display!

Had we been able to come up for the whole day, I might have been tempted to sign up for one of the masterclasses that were running throughout the proceedings.  And it is a credit to the organisers that visitors are literally spoilt for choice in the sort of things that they can get involved with.


River Cottage is such an iconic piece of the food scene in Devon and the Summer Fair was a fantastic way to experience an up-close view of what River Cottage does.  Local producers, activities, large green areas for kids run around in, food to eat, masterclasses to master, things to buy, drink to drink and live music to listen to makes for a fantastic festival atmosphere.

Rob Dawe at the Topsham Lock Keepers Cottage Cafe

You might remember a few months ago we were invited to sample one of Chef Rob Dawe’s Pop-up Restaurants at The Heart of Oak in Pinhoe.  It was a fantastic evening, and something which we enjoyed immeasurably.

I’m happy to announce that Rob is going to be at The Lock Keeper’s Cottage Cafe in Topsham for a couple of weeks, from the 19th August until Monday 31st August (closed on 24th and 25th August).  The opening hours are 10:30am – 4pm weekdays and 10am – 5pm weekends.

The cafe isn’t accessible by car.  You can either park at Turf Lock’s pub and walk up, or its accessible via the Topsham Ferry.


There will be home-made cakes available with hot and cold drinks available throughout the day or how about treating yourself to a canalside cream tea with home-made strawberry jam and Devon clotted cream in the afternoon?  Rob is also providing a small but elegant lunch menu using local produce between Midday and 3pm with a selection of home-made desserts all served with honeycomb and vanillar shortbread & fresh strawberries.

Main courses are excellent value price (given Rob’s heritage) in the region of £7 and desserts £3.50.  Or fancy two courses for £10?

A children’s menu will also be available.  Although bookings are not being taken, if there are more than six people planning to visit, please ring Rob in advance on 07745438481

I’ve borrowed heavily from Rob’s email from his exclusive mailing list.  If you want to know more about Rob’s events, send Rob an email requesting subscription to chefrobdawe at gmail.com

The Nourish Festival returns to Bovey Tracey

Nourish Festival makes a triumphant return to the streets of Bovey Tracey (scroll down for a video!)

Nourish festival of food, craft and music, Bovey Tracey
Music: Fri 4 & Sat 5 September
Food & Craft: Sat 5 Sept

Following the commercial and critical success of the first Nourish Festival last year, Bovey Tracey will once again host some of the region’s top food producers and craft makers, alongside a programme of nationally and internationally renowned musicians.

The Nourish Food Fair will fill Bovey’s high street with some of the best producers from the South West on Sat 5 September.  As well as the regular Bovey Farmer’s Market, the length of the High Street will be heaving with 50 stalls of locally produced handmade cheeses, meat & game, preserves, chocolates and ales, accompanied by some of the region’s most exciting Street Food producers.

The taste-bud-tingling selection of food and drink will get the most experienced foodie excited with wood fired pizza, slow cooked BBQs, vintage tea-time treats, Thai, Caribbean, French, Spanish and even a good old Pastie – all washed down by excellent coffee, cordials and some robust ales.

There is also the opportunity for everyone to release their inner Mary Berry by entering The Great Bovey Bake Off and Junior Bovey Bake Off, offering opportunities to get the community reaching for their mixing bowls and joining in the food fun.

The Nourish Contemporary Craft Fair will be hosted in the Town Hall and on Fore Street. Over 20 exceptional makers from across the South West will present an inspirational selection of jewellery, pottery, glass, textiles and wood.

At the Riverside Mill, visitors will have the opportunity to see the Devon Guild of Craftsmen’s famous summer exhibition and some special events just for Nourish.

Other events include craft demonstrations such as furniture making by local woodsman Ambrose Vevers, and OneHutFull, a multi-sensory experience presented in a beautifully made shepherds hut. OneHutFull immerses visitors in the work of hill farming on Dartmoor.

The Nourish Music programme will see the internationally renowned Brodsky Quartet

returning as headliners on Saturday September 5. New this year, are performances by leading UK piano trio The Gould Piano TrioSirocco Saxophone Quartet, a young and dynamic group of saxophonists from the UK & Germany, and Fontanella, some of the UK’s leading specialist recorder players. Learn Devon will also deliver a range of music workshops for adults in the Methodist Hall.

Nourish Festival organiser Sarah James said:

“We were so delighted with the response to the first Nourish Festival last year. It was a success for the stall holders and craft makers visiting the town, for the local traders, and best of all for the local community. There was such a buzz in the town with so many people visiting the food stalls, talking to expert craftspeople and taking part in our own Bovey Bake Off. The music programme was a tremendous success, and I will always remember the fantastic, moving performance by the Brodsky Quartet, I can’t wait to hear them again. I’m so pleased that we will be welcoming them to Bovey again, along with the other top quality musicians who will be performing for us.”

Nourish Festival is a community initiative led by The Contemporary Craft FestivalThe Devon Guild of Craftsmen and the Cheese Shed.

The Food & Craft Fairs on Sat 5 Sept are free to visitors. Concerts on Fri 4 & Sat 5 Sept are ticketed. Full details and ticket booking is available at www.nourishfestival.org.

The Pig & Pallet: Good Game’s new Deli Cafe

Exeter has a lot of cafes. It is definitely a hub of cafe culture in Devon, if not the South West, and it doesn’t seem to be relenting any time soon.  The newest, and certainly the most exciting to open for a while, is The Pig & Pallet which opened over the weekend on Topsham’s historic quayside.  The company behind this deli-cafe is Good Game, Exeter’s very own artisan charcuterie.

Good Game has developed a good reputation for some tasty smoked & cured meats over the last few years.  They appear at many of the local farmer’s markets and foody fairs that take place across Exeter and Devon, selling butchered cured meats, chorizo sausages, cooking sausages and a number of other self produced products that are available to buy online via their website or a selected number of suppliers (including Darts Farm). They have recently started supplying meat to River Cottage Canteens which really is a seal of approval for any small-scale producer.


Meat comes from their own drove of rare breed pigs, kept and reared at Powderham. Game comes from other local suppliers. The company are (to quote the blog on their website) “the only commercial charcuterie company in the UK who are completely Nitrate and Additive free…”, which fits in with their ethos of simple and uncomplicated manufacture.


I had the joy of meeting Pete Woodham-Kay and Steve Williams at The Pig & Pallet, brandishing our newly bought mugs (the offer was to bring a mug for the cafe to keep and get a free coffee or tea but we like all our mugs too much) and we met their assistant Jenny who was helping out with serving tea and coffee.  Pete and Steve have had a lot of help on their way to get the business set-up and established, but there we were sat in their own deli cafe at the beginning of what I hope, is going to be a golden mile for this awesome business.  I am completely bias as I love smoked meat, and after tasting some of their pastrami…yup, take my money now!!

The mastermind behind the construction and refitting of this former sail loft (the holes in the flooring are from sail maker’s pins!) was Pete who fabricated and fitted much of the interior from reclaimed pallets and other bits n pieces.  An organic design, the Council is yet to give them planning for the true capacity of the space.  It comes with a fully functioning ‘Pig Map’ and flashing ladybirds, and custom Pete Woodham-Kay ‘Pig Clock’.  The deli-cafe also includes a butchery area and deli counter where, you’ll be able to buy products off the bone for a reasonable price.


Good Game is also behind the hugely successful Topsham Beer & Bacon Festival which is due to happen again this year on Saturday September 12th.  I know this because that is my birthday AND I will be down there getting steadily marinated as the day goes on :)

I am intending on writing a product review for their Boar, Smoked Ham and Pastrami that we bought on Sunday afternoon, as it was simply the most delicious thing ever.  I really am bias.  Oh well!

Deliveroo Arrives in Exeter

Now and again I get to work with some awesome companies and brands who I think will benefit diners in Exeter.  Recently I have been lucky to be able to work with two different companies who are looking to benefit dining in Exeter through a well thought out and genuine service.

Like me, you might be partial to the odd take-away, a sneaky Burger King or a cheeky Dominoes. Its great when you get something delivered to your door, especially when it tastes nice. There are quite a few companies that do deliveries, JustEat etc and a few that do their own deliveries.  Delivery prices can vary; it can be a minefield.  But sometimes a company or a startup appears that makes you realise, its not all that bad.

One of these companies is Deliveroo, and I am excited to say that Deliveroo is coming to Exeter! The company has been covered by Wired Magazine’s startup of the week back in April and starting in new cities all over the country.  They aim to “revolutionise the way people dine by delivering quality food from local independent and chain restaurants direct to people’s doors”  By ordering from Deliveroo, you get restaurant quality food to your door.  How cool is that?

Through their tried and tested system, the average delivery time takes 32 minutes from order to door.  Using their own courier service, your food should end up with you (£2.50 delivery charge) delivered and boxed, ready to eat.

In Exeter a number of restaurants have signed up including Urban Burger, Coffee Plant, Forn, HubBox, Truffles Cafe, Al Farid and The Curry Leaf. A few chains like ASK Italian and Carluccios will also be on board too, and this number could rise as time goes on!

So can everyone in Exeter order from these restaurants?  Deliveroo’s previous experience has taught that restaurant quality food only keeps at its best for up to 9 minutes afterwards, so there is a catchment area that Deliveroo will deliver too.  At the moment that is most of central Exeter to start with, but some of the outer regions might not be covered.  There will be more info about the catchment areas closer to launch.

You’ll hear more about Deliveroo from me as I’m going to give it a test run when it launches. In the meantime follow Deliveroo in Exeter on Twitter for the latest updates.  Also see how Dine Birmingham got on with Deliveroo when it launched in Birmingham.

Exeter/Devon Food Bloggers (a conversation starter for @DevonFoodHour) #devonfoodhour

Food Blogging can be as lonely or as social as you make it.  Generally speaking there are lots and lots and lots of food blogs on the internet, some of them updated regularly and others might be more sporadic but no less loved.  I don’t often get to talk to other food bloggers myself (Vicki from FreeFromFairy helps organise the Devon Bloggers Network) as I am a full-time working type, but I like to keep myself updated with other food bloggers in the area.

Jamie's ItalianMost food bloggers will be reading the usual high-profile blogs, but what about bloggers who do their thing in the Exeter/Devon area?  Well here are a list of a few (please let me know if there is anyone else local who I should read!) that I try and read regularly.

This post is direct procrastination over my Eating Exeter Recommends page…

Devon Cream Teas – Ditch Townsend is a man on a mission. His mission is to review cream teas in Devon (in case the title didn’t give it away). Objective writing from a man who is, in my humble opinion, a cream tea expert and Eating Exeter guest blogger.

Free From Fairy – Vicki writes exciting recipes and also about her adventures with intolerances and allergies.  A definite recommended read if you’ve just been diagnosed with a condition that effects your diet.

Devonium & Ant Egg Soup – Both of these excellent blogs are written by travel and food writer Natacha Du Pont De Bie who wrote Ant Egg Soup – Adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos who lives on Dartmoor.  If you’re feeling adventerous I’d recommend having a go at some of the recipes! Devonium is a really well written blog which I try to dip in and out of regularly.

Eat Out Devon Blog – The blog section of this fantastic directory based website which is updated sporadically, a really valuable resource!

Grazing Kate – I nearly met Kate once at the Live Love Eat awards, but I had to run off after the events so didn’t get a chance to say hello.  Kate is one of the inspirations behind Eating Exeter, having followed her blog before Pol and myself started Eating Exeter.  Kate travels Devon, writes about places she visits and things she makes. I like her style and one day, I will say hello to her.

James On Toast – James’s blog is a recently discovery.  Recounting his foodie adventures, he most recently went to Grillstock (so jealous!)…A newish blog, can’t wait to see what he has in store for us.

Live Love Eat – LLL was started by Vicky Glanville (a farmer’s daughter from the wilds of Hatherleigh) who runs, organises and coordinates things at Live Love Eat.  Not strictly a blog per se, but one of the best sources of information and food news if you’re new to the area.  They also run a really successful awards which has just started the voting process for the second year!

Piper’s Farm Blog – One of the rules of writing a good blog is being committed to the blog and updating it regularly. Piper’s Farm are really in touch with their social media and have ‘got’ blogging.  A really enjoyable blog from a producer!

Sugar Pink Food – Latoyah started her few years ago, and has gone from strength to strength with some amazing Simming World recipes and Dining Out reviews (we sometimes compare notes).  Lying at the top of my list of ‘blogs I look at regularly’, I really hope she finally scores some more success at this year’s blog awards.

Tara’s Busy Kitchen – This is a new gem of a blog that I have discovered recently. I love the photos, the layout and Tara’s travels.  If I could strip down Eating Exeter and have it looking like this, I would, but that’d just be copying. Right? ;) Tara also visits places in Exeter (she recently hit Harry’s Restaurant as well and loved it as much as we did!).

Now its your turn…

If there are any food blogs (individual or producers…) that I simply MUST subscribe to then please let me know in the comments section.

Eating Exeter Update – August (No.2)

Good Game TopshamSo I thought I’d just put out a little update before going downstairs and making a brew.

The last few months have been the busiest in the history of the blog, I’ve spoken to more people and been to more events than ever, and just when you think its about to stop, something else appears in the inbox :)

Good Game Topsham – We visited the newly opened Pig & Pallet on Saturday and took photos.  Pete and Steve have done good with their rustic decorated ex-sail loft, and it looks amazing.

Deliveroo – Looking forward to revealing a restaurant food delivery service that’s coming to Exeter in the form of Deliveroo!

Pizza at Artigiano – We were lucky enough to have been invited to the launch of Artigiano’s Cocktail Experience launch, and part of the evening was spent eating some very nice Pizza.  So a few nice photos of Pizza at Artigiano to come up too!

River Cottage HQ: Summer Fest – My first visit to River Cottage HQ!  The summer festival is happening next weekend, and we’re passing it as we come back from a couple of nights in Dorset with Eating Exeter co-founder Polly and her wonderful chap.  So why not pop through and say hello? I thought.

Exeter & Devon Food Blogs – I’m on a personal quest to read more food blogs, and I’ve compiled a list of local food blogs that I read regularly.  This is going to go up tonight as a conversation starter for #devonfoodhour on Twitter.  I am always up for suggestions too, so if there are anymore that I need to follow, please let me know via the contact form!

10 Questions for Exeter Cookery School – I put ten questions to Jim and Lucy Fisher, founders of the soon-to-open Exeter Cookery School. This is a really exciting venture, and after meeting them both at their launch event, I can’t wait to pick their culinary brains!

The Complete Diner’s Club – I’ve been doing some work with Will and John (founders of The Complete Diner’s Club) who are out to get more diners’s in to independent restaurants across Devon.  Post is mostly written, but I have some exciting updates to put in, so this will be published towards the end of August.

Artigiano launches Create Your Own Cocktail Event

Create your own signature cocktail with Artigiano’s resident mixologists for the perfect night out in Exeter.  Artigiano, Exeter’s premier High Street Espresso and Wine Bar, who already offer entertainment with jazz on a Monday night and Acoustic Music Sessions on a Thursday, are launching the first create-your-own cocktail making experience in Exeter – perfect for those social events with a twist.

Created for groups of four, you will get a beautifully presented crate with all the ingredients and equipment you need to create three cocktails each per session for an introductory rate of £20 per person. Artigiano’s resident mixologists will then be on hand to help you create and mix your own cocktails. Why stop at just creating the cocktails? Why not do a blindfold test and pick the winning cocktail?

Alongside Artigiano’s existing entertainment evenings, this new experience offers the perfect night-time venue for a good night out with a group of friends.

Matt Williamson, Manager, is excited about being the first to offer this type of event in Exeter. “We’ve already established a great reputation for quality evening entertainment. We are adding the create-your-own cocktail experience to our ongoing strategy to offer evening entertainment seven days a week. We want to offer something for everyone, and our jazz Monday’s and Acoustic Thursdays are popular with the music fans of Exeter, but we wanted to do something that was social and fun too. And with our introductory rate at £20 per person, we are certain that this experience will prove to be very popular.”

Resident Artigiano mixologist, Simon Steel says “It is really exciting to be the first venue to introduce this experience to Exeter. It’s perfect for anyone looking for something a little bit different to mark a special occasion, or just a night out in Exeter The trials have been popular, full of laughter and great fun – for us as well as the customers.”

Artigiano has been on Exeter’s High Street for two years and. they are passionate about fine wines, craft beers and cocktails and, as well as offering artisan food and Artigiano’s own speciality coffee blends. Artigiano have a firm reputation with being an acoustic and jazz music venue and is established as one of the leading evening venue in Exeter.

Artigiano ‘Create Your Own Cocktail’ experience: The launch event!

In the world of food blogging, you’re generally on your own when it comes to finding things to write about.  Luckily I get invited to bits and bobs, which involve a certain degree of organisation.  Ask Tori (wife, designer and blog assistant extraordinaire) what I am like with times and dates.  I thought the event kicked off at 7:00pm, but it was actually 5:30pm so this is a testament to the fact that I sometimes misread things, or I sometimes just miss the point completely.  Tori even bought me a planner for Christmas that I keep looking at and thinking, ‘I should write in that’.

So we appeared at Artigiano in Exeter’s High St, not really knowing what to expect.  The event was in the midst of wrapping up, it wasn’t a drop in event but one that had a definite start time!.  The event in question was the ‘Create Your Own Cocktails’ launch event that Artigiano had organised to celebrate the launch of their new experience.

Although I didn’t get to mix any cocktails (to be fair I was driving as well, so might not have been a great idea!) the impressive collection of spirits and cocktail accessories really looked like it would be an exciting night, especially if you love your cocktails!

Artigiano is the first place in Exeter to offer this sort of experience.  So what happens? How does it all work?  I spoke to Matt Williamson (the Manager) about what happens.


Designed for groups of four, the experience costs £20 per head and will allow you to make up to three cocktails per person. Following the recipe book provided, tuition and guidance from Artigiano’s resident mixologist is available, so not only do you get to do some drinking but you learn something as well!  Booking is done in advance, and all of the spirits and glasses are provided as well.  You’ll be able to make a gin, rum and vodka based cocktail of your choice.

This sort of event would be ideal for a night out, something a little different. Artigiano already do Monday Jazz Nights and Acoustic Thursday’s; this event adds nicely to a line-up of exciting and attractive events that the High Street’s hippest spot already has on offer.

If you want to book a Create Your Own Signature Cocktail Experience, email the store at exeter@artigiano.uk.com

Thanks to John (Artigiano Director) for taking the time to have a chat with us, and providing some delicious pizza too which will feature as a separate post later in the week.  Thanks to Laura from Chalk and Ward for inviting us, and Sarah & Stacey who made us feel really welcome even though we were really late!

EXETER COOKERY SCHOOL TO OPEN ON HISTORIC QUAYSIDE

The brainchild of Jim and Lucy Fisher, Exeter Cookery School is set to open its doors this coming autumn in a Grade II Listed building on the city’s historic Quayside, which is currently the focus of an Exeter City Council-led regeneration strategy. Fresh from running a successful residential cookery school in the Dordogne, and having scoured the country for the ideal venue, the couple have returned to their roots in Exeter, where they first met almost 35 years ago.

Heading up the cooking, Jim was first inspired to cook in his early teens by watching 70s food icon Margueritte Patten, so much so that he created a three-course meal for his family at the age of just 13. Following 18 years working for the Metropolitan Police, Jim re-ignited his culinary flame and entered Masterchef in 1997, making it through to the semi-finals. Inspired by this, Jim then entered and won a Rick Stein seafood competition. Following this, his life as a professional chef was set and he went on to train with Rick at his Seafood Restaurant, but also spent time working with Tony Tobin and Alistair Little before deciding to up sticks and launch their own cookery school dream in France, complete with teenage daughter, Jenny, in tow. Following 14 successful years running Cook in France, they have returned to Exeter to set up the Exeter Cookery School.

Offering a host of exciting culinary courses – each packed with cheffy tips, tricks and techniques honed in busy restaurant kitchens, but adapted to use in your home and designed to make cooking for family and friends easy and stress-free – Jim and Lucy want to inject a large helping of fun into the mix and help people to cook the way they’ve always dreamed. They are also looking to work with guest chefs to offer a variety of food-related topics from wine matching to specialist baking masterclasses.

Having identified Exeter as the ideal location for their new cookery school, the couple looked at several sites in the city before choosing 60 Haven Road. Set on the ground floor of the property opposite the Quay Climbing Centre and alongside AS Watersports, Jim and Lucy have ambitious plans to transform the derelict site into a hive of culinary creations with a New York loft-style interior coupled with the latest kitchen equipment.

Jim comments: “We fell in love with the venue the first time we set eyes on it. The building has just the right combination of history and character, but also provides us with a blank canvas to truly put our mark on. We are still in the planning stages, but are champing at the bit to get started, as we have big ideas to bring our unique sense of drama and flair, backed up with good, old-fashioned cooking knowhow, to the already booming food industry here. We have been keenly attending all the local food festivals and markets, including the vibrant night markets taking place on Piazza Terracina once a month.”

Exeter Cookery School hopes to attract a diverse range of participants of all ages and abilities, from local food-lovers looking to hone their cooking techniques to visitors wishing to combine a city break with learning a new skill. Jim and Lucy also hope to entice office workers searching for a lunchtime or evening escape and corporate groups for a spot of teambuilding with fun firmly on the menu.

Having been identified by Exeter City Council as a prime area for regeneration, including the potential for an exciting new destination theatre courtesy of The Bike Shed, Exeter’s historic Quayside is the perfect location for what promises to be the city’s, if not the South West’s, hottest new cookery school.

British Street Food Festival 2015 – South West

Falmouth’s Event Square Bank holiday weekend (29, 30 & 31 August)

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  • A delicious day out featuring the best street food vendors from Cornwall, Devon, Somerset & Dorset
  • FREE ENTRY EVENT and free 1/2 pint of Sharp’s Brewery Beer for Early Eaters (each trader will give 40  x 1/2 pint voucher to the first 40 paying customers over 18 on saturday & Sunday – maximum 2 per visitor)
  • Entertainment curated by Universal Music

Sat in a deck chair, overlooking the sea, it’s hard to think of anything nicer than a bag of chips and a pickled egg. But a new generation of street food traders are shaking things up. And this August Bank Holiday, in Falmouth, the best traders from across the South West are competing to prove they’re shaking it up better than anyone else. So it’s Cornwall v Devon v Somerset v Dorset in the regional heats of the 2015 British Street Food Awards. Who wins? And represents the South West in the big national finals? You decide.

In Falmouth’s Events Square, the 13 best traders from the region will be cooking up their signature dishes all weekend, from a weird and wonderful fleet of vans, trucks and trailers. The public then vote for their favourite. There will be live music and DJs – curated by Universal Music – with live newspaper reviews hosted by the editor of the Independent on Sunday. There will will be a street food/beer matching experience from Sharp’s, and Have I Got Foods For You, the Festival’s take on the topical news quiz. With better prizes.

http://www.britishstreetfood.co.uk/festival

The Competitors…

 

Jalopy Pizza (DORSET)

The idea for Jalopy Pizza came from holidays in the south of France, where wood-fired pizza vans regularly park up in lay-bys, campsites and supermarket car parks. When Katherine Locke stumbled across an ancient Peugeot J7 being sold in Montpelier, with a FANTASTIC Ephrem wood-fired oven, well….it was fate. Jalopy have since gone on to win Best Snack at the 2011 British Street Food Awards, but this year they want to go one better. They want to win Best Of The Best at the big finals in London.

Truly Crumptious (CORNWALL)

Is there anything more delicious than a crumpet? Yes. A homemade crumpet. Made with organic flour from the South West, and cooked up on a lightly-oiled griddle to give it a crisp, thick base. Serve it out of a 1967 Cheltenham Waterbuck – built in the day when caravans looked like caravans – with butter, jam or cheese, and you’ve got something just a little bit special.

The Glorious Oyster (DEVON)

According to Norman Lewis, in “Aphrodisiacs I Have Known”, the sexual power of oysters is all in the mind. A group of male pearl-divers on the island of Kamaran get most of their nourishment from the lovely little things – but their sex drive remains resolutely low, low, low. The Glorious Oyster is more than just an oyster bar, which is maybe just as well for public order in the county of Devon. They serve up an ever-changing seasonal menu of local seafood, from a horse box, and where better for them to come and showcase their wares than Falmouth, home to the world-famous Oyster Festival and one of the last remaining traditional oyster fisheries?

Tea N Toast (DEVON)

Ben Mills is an OG — an original gangsta — in the world of street food and, for the last ten years, has been attempting to save the world by dispensing tea. And toast – where necessary. Ben set up Tea N Toast to warm the cockles and feed the soul in a small van covered in flowers. The only surprise is that he hasn’t competed at the British Street Food Awards before. These are the last heats before the finals. Maybe this year his stars are in alignment….

Vee Double Moo (SOMERSET)

This ice cream van, affectionately nicknamed Daisy, serves up gourmet soft scoop and frozen yogurt round the South West. There are lots of interesting Milk Bar style options on the menu including dipped cones with smoked sea salt, alcoholic softserve shots, and pies a la mode. The vintage VW – with its distinctive beige and sky blue cowprint livery – has a twin sister serving churros.

Have you won any awards?

Yes, I was awarded a badge for my post card collection at Brownies.

What do your friends and family make of what you do?

They are very patient – and of course very proud?!.  Especially my kids who have grown up with Vee Double Moo and are now very adaptable, ice-cream loving young people.  And they can both strip down an ice cream machine with their eyes closed.

Anything else you want to tell me?

Please encourage the British foodie public to use and abuse Twitter – if you use it for nothing else, it is totally the best way to keep track of all your favourite traders, their locations and opening times.  That and the British Street Food app obvs!  Oh and never stress about queueing – “if it’s queueing it’s worth doing” and you can use the time to chat to your friends, make new ones . . .  or even tweet.

Inkie’s Smokehouse (CORNWALL)

There’s the easy way. There’s the fast way. And then there’s the best way. Inkie’s barbecue is a family run smokehouse that serves up authentic pit-smoked q. All the meat is locally sourced and cooked low ‘n’ slow over hickory, maple or cherry wood for a minimum of 16 hours. Check for the smoke ring – this stuff is authentic.

Just FAB (LONDON)

They always told me that eating on the bus was rude. Wrong. Check out Just Fab — Italian street food that’s cooked up and served on a real life London double decker bus. It would be rude not to! The menu’s emphasis is on vegan, so expect arancini (rice balls) with spinach, mushroom and herbs, and fava beans crocchetta served with a fennel salad. There’s room on top for 34 to sit in comfort – otherwise it’s standing room only, with a plateful from the takeaway windows downstairs. All aboard!

Sapeur (DEVON)

You think you know waffles? Batter-based cakes that don’t taste of much, right? Wrong! Everything from the recipe to the type of iron is up for grabs. In Vietnam they’re green for God’s sake. Sapeur is a 1961 fire engine from Chatillon Sur Indre, adapted to serve Gaufres — fresh Belgian waffles. They have taken what we still perceive as a simple delivery system for other ingredients, and elevated it to an artform. Come and meet Paul (one of the nicest men in street food) as he does his thing. See him here in his other project, Lemon Jelli….

SeaDog (DEVON)

Think of the South West and you think of the coast.  Atlantic breakers and pretty harbours bobbing with boats bringing in the bounty of the sea. But less than 10% of the seafood stays in the region. The rest is exported. That’s where Seadog comes in. They create innovative world street food that takes our local catch on a wondrous journey across the globe picking up influences from Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and beyond.  We’ll never let Johnny Foreigner get his hands on this stuff again….

Eat Like A Greek (DEVON)

The Greeks are famous for their hospitality, their food, and their dancing. If they can just get past the whole plate smashing thing, they would be market leaders in the street food game. This husband and wife team fell in love in Greece, and relocated to Devon, intent on marrying their two cultures together — the best of West Country ingredients with organic herbs and spices from their farm in Samos Island. For the Awards in Falmouth, they are building something new – in a horse box. “We wanted to bring the memories of that little beach side taverna on holiday to our customers minds using handmade olive wood counters, hand painted décor and little trinkets from home. It’s going to take our business to a whole new level.”

How many people can you feed in a day?

Mike says as long “As I have meat and bread I will never stop!!!!”

What is your signature dish?

We have epitomized the Greek Souvlaki pita wrap. We use Devon meats from our local butcher, season it with our own special blend of spices and create a mouthwatering Tzatziki sauce from our family recipe to top it all off. We are working on some special additions for the Awards.

Are you rich?

Big cliché coming…..not cash rich but rich in life. Street food has given us the perfect platform to live out everything we love. Mike cooks, I organize, our daughter laughs. We travel in our camper van through the UK and beyond earning a living and spreading joy with our food. Sounds good to me.

West Country Higgler (DORSET)

The Higgler is an ultra-rare, bare metal Land Rover. Built from scratch. And called Womble. It serves up delicious coffee, made from high altitude, top grade beans, with velvety milk from Craig’s in Dorchester. But you won’t be waiting too long for a brew. “We can put out 80 to 200 coffees per hour depending on our set up” says . “And we don’t need sleep. Obviously”.

Field and Kitchen (DEVON)

Vicki and Jonny – the Field and Kitchen team — only picked up ‘Betty’, their vintage Peugeot market van, last month. There was the inevitable rust to deal with, and a few Gallic issues when it came to the subject of hard work. But now she’s all prepped, and ready to go, with a menu of what is in season, and what is popular. Don’t be surprised if it’s homemade flatbreads, with lamb koftas with homemade houmous, or pork pibil with fresh guacamole and salsa. Try it all.

Linleys (DEVON)

A mid-life crisis? Maybe. But this husband and wife team have never regretted leaving the security of the corporate environment for the world of festivals and street food. The suppliers that they use are all local to their set up, mostly within ten miles. Examples of their menu include slow cooked, smoked whiskey brisket, served in a wrap with their own slaw and salad or roasted salmon steaks with honey roasted vegetables, served with a dill and horseradish dressing. All for under £5.00 – and handed over with a smile.

Princesshay Grand Dine Out

Princesshay is running a fab competition over August.

Grand Dine Out PrincesshayGrand Dine Out will reward four winners with a £1000 Princesshay Gift Card when spending £35 or more on food in any of its restaurants between 1st August and 28th August. There is no limit on the amount of times diners can enter the competition, so the more times visitors dine, the more chances they have to win.

Princesshay offers dining for all tastes, with family friendly restaurants, cosy intimate options and plenty of alfresco tables.

All nine of the centre’s restaurants are participating in the Grand Dine Out competition, providing delicious fresh summer menus and seasonal flavours including pan Asian tastes from wagamama and Japanese delights from Yo! Sushi; modern European dishes from Jamie’s Italian, Café Rouge and Carluccio’s; relaxed dining in Coal Grill & Bar, Giraffe and Nando’s and proper hamburgers from Byron.

Wayne Pearce, Princesshay Centre Director, said: “We have something for everyone in Princesshay, our restaurants offer a choice of menus, styles and cuisines from around the world. Our new Grand Dine Out promotion celebrates all that’s great about summer holidays, eating out with friends and family and now the chance to win £1000 to spend in Princesshay”.

For more information on the new summer campaign Grand Dine Out visit www.princesshay.co.uk/granddineout

Cream Tea at Bovey Castle Hotel

Guest blogger, Ditch Townsend, tastes the opulence in central Devon

WH Smith bought the land on which his son built Bovey Castle in 1907. A luxuriantly lush hotel now, its granite-ballustraded rear terraces look out over part of their golf course, woodland, farm land on the hillside opposite, and even some moorland on its top. For less pleasant weather, the large, beautifully appointed dining room is available. On arrival, and make sure you’ve booked as the venue is a very popular site for afternoon tea, your car may well be handled by a valet. I was found a lovely site on the terrace, and settled down to wait for my cream tea.

Very freshly made and warm scones soon arrived, tall but small, one with raisins, one without; both sugar-dusted. Inside was a dense, soft, sweet, bready-biscuity mix. Outside they were swathed in very thin and crispy brown crust, almost as if they’d been buttered and lightly grilled all around; delightful anyway.

A locally made, quite tasty, homogeneously mixed strawberry jam was provided: I could have had something else, commercially produced, but I coped without (I always like a choice and hardly ever relish strawberry jam).

The cream was locally produced – very firm, like cold butter, despite the hot sun on it. Lightly yellowed, it had very little taste, but what it had was the gentle smokiness which I love and hardly ever stumble across.

As for the tea… A glorious choice of loose leafs; mine was an unusual Assam massala chai – rewardingly complex, and as suggested, best without milk (I know, I experimented for my readers’ benefit).

All round, a luxurious afternoon. What else would you expect for £17.00? (Just try not to get stuck with tedious table talk alongside!)

You can follow Ditch’s blog about his anonymous, self-funded, ‘mid-range’ cream tea exploits via www.devoncreamteas.info and be kept up-to-date on Twitter @DevonCreamTease. Like this one, he hopes to offer us occasional reviews about his ‘high-end’ cream tea peregrinations at Eating Exeter, so keep a look out. (NB: The ones here are complimentary, but neither paid for, nor edited by the venue.)

© Text and pictures by Ditch Townsend (13 July 2015)

Circa 1924, Exeter

CIRCA

When Harry’s Grill & Bar closed in Northernhay Place, it left available a prime spot for a restaurant. The inevitable march of Exeter’s chain restaurants had some worried that the site might be engulfed by some bland corporate named establishment…

Enter stage left: James and Rob, founders of Circa 1924, a 1920’s inspired Steak and Seafood Restaurant that is raising the bar for casual-fine dining in Exeter, with its Shoreditch like coolness and eye for excellent quality dining. Since they opened in May in Northernhay Place, they have been doing some excellent things with seafood and steak. I don’t normally analyse feedback, but if the image on the right is anything to go by, they must be doing something very right.

We visited on a Wednesday night, it was a school night, the city winding down after a busy hot day; the shops had closed but now it was the restaurant’s time to shine.

Based at 6 Northernhay Place just off the bustle and hustle of the High St, the restaurant features a rustic downstairs bar, serving cocktails, beer and wine. The interior is smattered with vintage antiquities, which help create the theme of ‘1924’ with dark wooden furniture and the grand wooden roof that arches over the diners in the restaurant upstairs.

As you walk past the rustic downstairs bar (inspired by the moonshiner bars of the prohibition era) and head up the stairs to the restaurant, the first thing you notice are the large shelves at the top of the stairs, adorned with top hats, vintage telephones and a lot of very nice looking wine in the cupboard underneath. The dark woods and black moleskin booths lay themselves out to straight lines with the till at the end of the restaurant.

The waiters were handsomely wearing waistcoats, not overly theatrical but subtle and efficient. Throughout the meal the service was unobtrusive and friendly.

The menu itself is presented as a typed and simple affair which fitted into the theme of the restaurant. It is printed in-house which gives head chef Lauri Hilli greater flexibility to change the menu depending on the season and weather. The ingredients, as expected, are locally sourced and of excellent quality with a lot of care being given to the selection of meat and seafood.

As well as the wine menu, there is a beer and cocktail menu, which I realised half way through eating that I hadn’t asked for. But as it was, the wines on offer were gorgeous and well selected vintages which worked well with what we chose to eat. Unless you’re into Cocktails or Beer Food matching, with food of this calibre I would stick to the epic selection of good wines Circa 1924 possess.

I would recommend checking out their website if you’re considering Circa 1924 as a place to dine as there is a lot of good information about the food and it is very personable.

We kicked off our meal with Spicy Peanut Chicken (with a rice noodle salad £7.50) which was presented tastefully. The rice noodle salad was chilled, presented in a slate bowl, with a warming dressing that worked nicely with the chicken. As usual, I ate this ungracefully and managed to get half of it on the table. The chicken, as expected was moist and very enjoyable.

I wanted to get a good impression of the sort of things that Circa 1924 can produce, so I went for their daily fish of the day. This changes from day-to-day, depending on what has been landed. Today it was Cod Loin (£14.50) which sounded perfect, and Tori went for a Rib-Eye (£19.50 a really good recommendation from our waiter Matt who sold it to us after we found that Rump wasn’t available). Our sides, which were separate, consisted of Triple Cooked Chips (£3.50) and Seasonal Steamed Vegetables (£4.00).

The Cod Loin flaked; it was tender and well cooked with an excellent taste. The butter created a delicious sauce with the seasoning, and with a dash of lemon the spectrum of flavour intensified. The steak was as flavourful and well-cooked as we had imagined it might be, the fats of the Rib Eye steak gave this piece of meat a really nice palette which worked well with the delightful peppercorn sauce (I am sure my wife is obsessed with peppercorn sauce). The triple cooked chips certainly get my award for ‘Nicest Chips in Exeter’, already seasoned with a bit of salt they were crunchy and moreish and generally bloody lovely.

Normally, at this stage of a meal, I have to start wondering whether I’ll fit dessert in. But on this occasion, there was no question that we were going to explore the Circa 1924 dessert menu.

Tori, who is obsessed with chocolate desserts, went for the Chocolate Truffle Torte (seasoned with chilli, served with frozen orange & cream £6.00), which inspired many noises of delight from the other side of the table. I went for the Lemon & Cream Cheese Tart (served upside down & topped with gingerbread crumble £6.00) which was smooth, creamy and everything in between.

Circa 1924 is a new concept for Exeter. Fine dining, with a casual themed twist, yet still using locally sourced quality ingredients in their dishes. The A La Carte menu was well portioned, and would be a good introduction to anyone who felt intimidated by the concept of A La Carte. The friendly and relaxed atmosphere doesn’t detract from the level of service that one would expect from a restaurant of calibre, and Circa 1924 is definitely here to give some well-established Exeter names a run for their money.

I would recommend this as a restaurant to consider for a special occasion, an anniversary or when the need for a blooming good steak is overwhelming. Let Circa 1924 step in and grill you some meaty magic.

EE Recommends

6 Northernhay Place, Exeter, EX4 3QJ
info@circa1924.co.uk

01392 438545

Exeter Cookery School pre-launch event

We had the pleasure of attending the pre-launch event for the Exeter Cookery School, which is opening in the autumn.  The school is headed by husband and wife team Jim & Lucy Fisher who had previously ran a cookery school in France (CookinFrance) and have now returned to their roots and have established the Exeter Cookery School which will be situated on Exeter’s historic quayside.

The event itself wasn’t on the quayside though, we were hosted at Sapphire Spaces opposite Dart’s Farm.  Sapphire Spaces are luxury kitchen and bathroom specialists who sell such things as standalone baths and fridges with water dispensers in, I had to describe it as the ‘fridge of kings’ when I saw this.  I digress.

So a bit about Exeter Cookery School.

Jim and Lucy are opening their doors in the autumn to students after the extensive works are finished on their refurbished space.  Foodies of all ages and abilities are welcome to come and try their hand at courses ranging from Classic French Dessert making to a Chocolate Workshop, fancy some Hands-On Butchery or maybe French Boulangerie Favourites?

Jim Fisher is a former Masterchef semi-finalist who started his cooking career cheffing in the kitchens of Exeter’s White Hart Hotel (where he and Lucy met and were engaged to be married).  He went on to cook alongside Rick Stein in Padstow, Allistair Little in Notting Hill and Tony Tobin of Ready, Steady Cook fame.

Lucy was a high-powered bi-lingual PA in the City of London before becoming a full time mum to their daughter Jenny (who was there helping out with canapes).

It was lovely mingling with ex-students of Jim and Lucy’s previous cookery school.  There was an overwhelming feeling that Jim had a gift for teaching what can often be a scary and confusing subject for those that are not naturally the most culinary adept, and this natural affability and personal touch to the courses they teach has given Jim and Lucy a loyal following who will, no doubt, be coming back for more now they are in the UK.


Throughout the evening, Jim demonstrated dishes with various volunteers (including Tori at one point!)  showing how to make Pan-Fried Magret, Confit Du Canard, Basil Ice Cream and Creme Brulee.

Prices for courses start at £42.00 for a lunchtime course and range depending on the length of the course and what is included.  Prices and course information will be available on their website www.exetercookeryschool.co.uk

I myself am taken with the idea of  Chocolate Workshop.  Subscribe to the blog or follow one of our social media channels.

Thank you to Natalie from Chalk & Ward PR for inviting us along :)