It was a chill December evening: forget about "wind chill" - in Devon it's "damp chill" that you feel on account of the twin coasts and the spaghetti of inland rivers conspiring to ensure that as soon as the temperature drops below zero nothing but the best of thermals will stop the moisture-laden cold penetrating to your bones.
And strangely enough that's what I'd been in Exeter for - to pick up my thermals.
My day had started with a short unthermalled and ungloved cycle ride to my nearest bus stop - only a mile or so but by the time I got there I was effin' frozen. The bus was late and wasn't too well heated either.
Chilled to the bone I picked up (and put on) my thermals then popped down to Plymouth by train to do a bit of shopping (including a new pair of cycling gloves) and then back to Exeter in order to get the bus back to pick up my bike and cycle home.
I missed my intended bus by literally a minute and had an hour until the next one. I hadn't thawed all day and sustenance was definitely required.
I was going to do the cheapo bit and get a "sub" from the Subway on Queen's Street but this little place next door looked inviting for a sit-down, unchill and to-hell-whether-I get-the-next-bus-or-not.
Turned out to be a good choice.
I'd eaten here before when it was themed as a "Cafe Rouge" and immediately noted that the old Cafe Rouge furnishings and fittings were the same - the only difference was in the decorative bits: the Eifffel Towerwas replaced by that of Pisa and a few similar alterations.
Once a chain restaurant always a chain restaurant - HA!
As chain restaurants go tho' this was pretty good. A warm welcome from my enthusiastic server, not particularly proffessional but genuine as he he handed me the menu and informed me the soup of the day was a "warming pumpkin puree and ideal for a night like this".
Favorite Dish: OK that was the starter sorted - then I noticed I was still in time for the "Pezzo Fizzo" menu which runs from lunchtime until 7 pm (£8.95 for 2-courses) and the "Penne Diavolo" looked good to continue the unchilling theme.
The soup indeed was "ideal for a night like this" - a smooth thick puree of pumpkin with little back-hints of garlic, onions and ginger and served piping-hot with a crunchily-toasted slice of ciabatta.
My pasta too worked - a huge bowl of slightly al-dente quills generously meaty with slices of spicy sausage in a rich tomato sauce enlived with fresh green chillies and finished at the table with a good crack of black pepper and freshly-grated Parmesan.
Best though was the service - I had to wait a little longer than expected for my soup to arrive but the waiter, noting that I was sort of staring into space (which actually I was and wasn't - lot of things on my mind) brought me over a copy of the latest "Exeter Events" to read whilst waiting - that was a nice touch.
The restaurant itself is quite intimate with a front room more suited for cafe-style eating and the low-ceilinged back room a tad more formal. Even on a quiet Monday December evening the place had a pleasant buzz with a mix of locals, shoppers and a couple of tables of tourists.
After eating I fancied a liqueur with a coffee but my waiter didn't have the list in his head (nor was it on the menu) and so I went to the bar to see what they had - I immediately fell in love with the manageress - she had a smile that I'd die for to see at breakfast time ;)
Frangelico (the hazelnut liqueur from Piedmont) is one of my favourites and as I noticed the bottle the manageress simultaneously recommended it to me - HA! We're getting married tomorrow.
Me and Frangelico that is - I never did find out the manageress's name ;(
This has long been one of favourite quayside pubs as it has always stocked a decent pint of beer - enough said in that department - HIC!
It is also one of the best eating houses on the quay, offering simple, but good, pub food.
The location is perfect, overlooking the Exe Canal, but set back that little bit back so as you can enjoy both the waterside and the pretty girls passing - HIC!
Hey, Hey - I've always enjoyed this pub and in the winter it becomes very much a local's haunt but even during the summer with the tourists descended it keeps its individuality and still gets its regulars.
Favorite Dish: Simple is always good and for me my favourite is the Pork Pie and Chutney - both locally made and washed down with pint of local beer (ever changing) with the pretty girls passing and friendly staff looking after you.
As the late Pete McCarthy almost said in his, what is to me anyway, definitive Irish travelogue, "McCarthy's Bar" - "Singapore Noodles are the travellling drinkers's healthy eating and are the benchmark for the cuisine of a Chinese restaurant."
Here at Exeter's "House Wong", just up the road from St Davids train station, unfortunately this benchmark is set pretty low.
To me "Singapore Noodles" should be noodles and beanshoots, stir-fried with a good upfront spice and a handful of prawns. It doesn't have to be a big handful and any extra protien such as slivers of duck, pork, chicken and etc are mere bonuses.
Here the noodles were OK, the beanshoots tho' a mere wisp and the spice supplied by a splash of the house curry sauce. Both of the tiny prawns hid shyly underneath the carbohydrate mass and the added protien was slivers of something totally unidentifiable, either by texture or taste.
Having said that this little takeaway's location is opposite one of the university's main halls of residence and so cheap is the byword and these were cheap (at £3.80) and the portion substantial. Service was swift and friendly and so I suppose you get what you pay for!
Website below has menu and prices.
PS - Despite all the rumours and hearsay - the "Mystery Meat" wasn't cat or dog - it wasn't meaty enough for that ;)
The last time I passed through Exeter by train I was in no particularly hurry (I think I was heading back to work) and as is my wont I dropped into the Jolly Porter, opposite St Davids Station, for a couple of beers.
I was also kindof peckish and was looking forward to getting one of the excellent burgers from Peeps burger van once I'd worked up the motivation to head onwards.
However plan A went straight onto the back burner once I discovered that the JP is now host to a new Chinese restaurant which has taken over the left-hand room. Chatting to the guys at the bar most of them had tried it out and were unanimous with their praise.
Well here I was with a few trains that were easily missable and the prospect of a few beers which were pretty much unmissable and so I decided to give it a brief workout.
This turned out to be an excellent change of plans.
The restaurant occupies what was formerly the pub's lounge area and it still retains the pub fittings and furniture. The tables though have been laid up with, admittedly a bit wrinkly, tablecloths and some plasticky orchids whilst the only change to the decor is the addition of a couple of hanging lanterns and other ornaments. It was obviously early days but the young couple running it were welcoming and enthusiastic and the couple of guys on the other table occupied were making a lot of appreciative noises as they ate.
The table menu was the same four-fold giveaway as they use for their takeaway but that was OK by me - the less frills the better and of course this means the eat-in prices are the same as the eat-out. The menu covers pretty much all the Chinese takeaway staples and lacks a "house specialities" section but as I was to discover everything IS the house speciality.
Favorite Dish: A basket of very prawny prawn crackers with a nice chilli kick got the gastric juices working as I perused the 140 or so dishes and finally I settled on the Hot and Sour Soup to start, to be followed by the Duck with Ginger & Spring Onion accompanied by Egg Fried Rice.
HA! I suppose it's the Chinese way of doing things but instead of getting my soup to start everything arrived at once but that wasn't worth complaining about especially considering the assualt of delish aromas my palate was assailed by - the chillies, the garlic, the ginger and the aromatic spices - I just tucked straight in!
The soup was definitely worth writing home about - rich, sweet, sour with a good depth of flavour and a tongue-tingling heat. The duck too zinged, meaty but not fatty, cooked with copious quantities of onions and an unexpected slathering of Chinese mushrooms all bound together in a rich soy-based sauce. The rice too was exemplar and tasty enough to have been eaten as a meal in its own right (though maybe I should have stuck to plain boiled rice as a foil to the richness of the soup and duck).
Having thoroughly enjoyed my meal I went to the counter to pay and the chef popped out to ask if everything had been OK. I didn't tell him I am a cook myself but I did tell him that it was one of the best Chinese meals I've eaten and we passed the time of day having a little natter - about how long he'd been there (a couple of weeks) and how trade was (picking up).
The bill came to the princely sum of £9.10, I gave them £12 - I'm not normally an extravagant tipper but at even at £12 it was still too cheap. We shook hands and as I left I did mention that us philistinical Brits do expect the starter to come before the main course.
Then it was back to the bar where I added my profound praise to the consensus.
When the sun's out and lunch is a'beckoning you can do a lot worse than stop off here for a light bite and sit on the terrace overlooking the Cathedral and its green. No 21 is a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde sort of place: during the day its persona is as an informal cafe bar catering for us informal snackers and then as the evening approaches becomes a real restaurant. I haven't actually been for an evening meal here yet but I do know the chef/proprietor and so I reckon I can recommend the evening food as well as the daytime fare.
The only little inconvenience about sitting outside for lunch is that the local bylaws prohibit the sale of alcohol in the Cathedral Yard which caused me a little consternation as I never know what to order from a non-alcoholic drink menu ;p) Anyway the sun was shining, my company delish, and so no point in going inside for the sake of the booze: a Frobisher's pineapple juice worked just as well!!!
Favorite Dish: For a light lunch the soups are excellent and served with decent bread and I can personally recommend the stuffed field mushrooms. Whatever you have, this is all good stuff and not too expensive for the quality - well worth dropping by on a sunny lunchtime:)
I hate to give Michael Caines yet another write-up here on VT but I must give credit where credit is due and the Caesar Salad that I had for lunch here recently was absolutely excellent.
I hate it when people muck about with simple classics and the Caesar Salad is one that is often overly mucked about with. It should be a very simple dish - Cos lettuce, croutons, Parmesan cheese and an egg-enriched anchovy dressing. At MC's Cafe Bar at The Abode they do muck about with it a little but the basics are perfect with the addition of a little crispy bacon and a sprinkle of white anchovy fillets. These little additions don't however do it any harm at all, making it that little bit more substantial for a light lunch. What tops it off though (literally) is the lightly poached egg with its runny yolk adding that extra dimension yet still remaining true to the basic credo of the original recipe. YUMMY!
Not only was the food excellent, the service professionally attentive and the bill more than reasonable, but sitting outside on a sunny late-spring afternoon was a doubleplus good bonus (even if I couldn't have a beer or two to wash it down!).
The Well House, part of the next-door Royal Clarence Hotel, is first and foremost a proper old-fashioned Alehouse with a range of 6, mostly local, beers on draught plus all the usual bits that a pub should have.
It doesn't do food in the evenings but the lunchtime fare is well worth sampling. The menu is relatively short but nevertheless is pretty comprehensive covering all the usual pub culprits such as fish and chips, pye (sic) of the day, sausage and mash, ploughmans & etc but as befits food from a Michael Caines kitchen everything is done with an added touch of panache.
Perhaps not the cheapest place in town to eat but definitely one of the best for a good simple pub lunch and of course overlooking the Cathedral Green is a bit of a plus too!
Favorite Dish: Even tho' I do normally like a bit of variety when eating out I have found myself always ordering the smoked duck salad - it's just so delish: slices of flavoursomely smoked duck breast, perfectly pink with an interesting salad and a zingy hazelnut dressing makes for an excellent light lunch (HA and leaves plenty of room for the ensuing beers!).
This is the latest addition (Nov 2007) to Exeter's ever expanding culinary scene and a very imressive one it is too! I just happened to be passing on my way to my Iron Bridge barbers' and noticed that what was formerly a closed-down Irish-theme bar suddenly had a new coat of paint (or should I say a new coat of stripes!). A quick glance at the menu was enough to convince my faintly-rumbling belly that in fact it was time for lunch.
The name "Tiger Bills" fits the proverbial bill (of fare) with the menu being composed of two entirely different halves - the Tiger being a comprehensive selection of Thai classics whilst the Bill is based on an equally classic American grill menu. Niether the twain meet tho', in as much as this isn't a "fusion" place, but there is nothing to stop you mixing and matching between the two halves - for instance you could start with "Thod muin plar" and have a New York Strip for your main. The Thai and American Combos also look good and would be great for larger parties in a Greek meze-fashion.
Service was absolutely excellent, decor a little on the trendy side for my personal taste and the food towards the expensive side - HA! but seeing as it was early days they were offering a 20% discount from Sunday to Wednesday and even tho' it was Thursday extended it for me, well that was the gratuity sorted then!
Favorite Dish: In addition to the main menu there is also a short specials menu of Thai dishes and for those that know me it will come as no surprise that that was what I headed straight for: Panang Goong with Jasmine Rice - good sized, perfectly-cooked king prawns in a flavoursome, slightly hot, creamy curry sauce with green beans and fresh lime leaves, accompanied by spot-on sticky rice and washed down with a bottle of Japanese Asahi beer (UK brewed unfortunately). Yep, an excellent lunch :)
This has got to be one of the most unusual Wetherspoons there is. It is in the site of a former Quaker Meeting House. There is the gallery complete with piano and pulpit still intact. It's been very tastefully done and the food is good.
On meeting my partner in town for lunch, we decided to try out the newly opened 'Shed' restaurant in the new princesshay development. On entering the newly opened shed you are greeted with a light and airy contemporary decor, some suitably expensive looking yet gaudy pieces of artwork adorn the walls, and much like the pitcher and piano, the bar is devoid of any advertisement as to what they serve. We were greeted by the cheerfully smiling maitre 'd who snapped up a couple of nervous looking waitresses we were asked to sit down. Drinks orders were taken (and prepare to empty your wallet at exe shed as the drinks are london prices, i.e a 50% mark up on everything).
The menu was a satisfying mix of the cautiously regular (fish and ships, barbeque chicken etc) and the the more worldly discerning (thai curry, plum hoisin duck duc etc). They offer a very reasonable special of a started, a main and a side for 9.77 from 12 - 7 monday to friday. We chose to sit upstairs, which was sparse and a little bit too 'cafeteria' for my liking.
Favorite Dish: We were two of 4 people dining in there and as the 5 ever nervously circling waitresses. I didnt appreciate being circled when eating i have to say and the maitre d's perma smile was beginning to freak me out.
The plum hoisin shredded duck and noodles starter was lovely. Moist, chilled, succulent and a lovely balance of textures and flavours. The noodles were fresh, the rocket was crisp and peppery, and the duck was juicy and not at all flakey or dry like so many restaurants seem to serve. I felt that this gave the place real promise. However after the starters it went downhill. I ordered the Battered Cod with the quaintly named 'yorkshire caviar' (mushy peas) and chips, and a mixed salad.
We waited...and we waited....and we looked at our watches and wondered if they realised that people have to go back to work after their lunch *hour*. Finally after 20 mins between starter and main we were served with 15 minutes to hoof the food down and get back to work. Of my dish which was woefully luke warm. The chips were served in a cone of financial times paper *stapled* into a conical shape with the chips shoved inside.. this is not margate and i do not want my food to taste of the nasdaq nor staples potentially dropping perilously into my lunch.
The fries were overcooked and tasted like someone had run to the nearest Mcdonalds (hence the lateness and temp of the food?). The fish was pathetically small, tasteless and greasy and the batter uninspring. The spoonful of mushy peas plopped on to the plate were moderately tasty, and they served me vegetables instead of a salad, of which half were raw and half were boiled to death and they were all drizzled in grease.
Every restaurant has it's teething problems i'm sure, however if it wsnt for the 977 deal and we'd paid regular price i'd have felt thoroughly ripped off. Don't waste your hard earned cash on this pretentiously teething cafeteria until it gets at least a year under it's belt.
They do a special lunch menu here between 12-3pm which is terrific value. I had Chicken Udon soup at £4.90 incl green tea or a soft drink. The partner had Tyepyedong Mei Fun Soup at £5.90; both of which were gorgeous, fresh and tasty, served in huge bowls. The meals I saw coming out of the kitchen looked pretty good too. Very friendly staff who took time for a chat as it was our first visit. Served all kinds of oriental food and beers/wine. Nice, clean interior with long wooden tables and benches. Highly recommended!
Open 12-3pm and 5-11pm (except sundays 10pm)
Bar Venizia is quite a cool place, although from your name you would think they did just Italian food, but it is really more of a Mediterranean place. We had the vegetarian pizza, sat on the chairs outside next to the river Exe on a sunny day watching the kayaks & Canoes paddle past. Very relaxing, In the evenings they have music to but I have not experienced this there.
Starz is an American restaurant which serves fantastic food and the portions are huge,a really frendly place with a nice atmosphere.The ribs and chicken are really nice and there home made colslaw is lovely.
The cat and fiddle is situated just outside Exeter.A charming 16th century Inn full of character,excellent for familys.
Favorite Dish: The sunday Carvery is a must its my favourite,they also do lots of other meals and a childrens menu as well.There is a lovely play park outside for children and lovely seating area when the weather is nice.This is a must.
When you walk into the Old Timers you just dont no what to look at first,it has so many things hung up and around the Restaurant you could spend all day looking at everything they have collected.Go there you will be amazed.
Favorite Dish: This Restaurant is such good value,there is a specials board each day,i love their prawn wraps.