Whilst I still have plenty of exploring to do within the Devon food scene and this list is subject to change, these are a couple of places I have particularly enjoyed so far. I always welcome any recommendations so if you have any please do let me know!
The Old Firehouse, Exeter
An institution in Exeter, The Old Firehouse is ever popular with locals and students alike and is busy every night. I always make this my first stop for when I am back in the homeland of Devon. The medieval style pub is rustic and quirky, lit up with candles. It is cosy and atmospheric and I enjoy the sound of endless chatter from the groups of friends that have gathered here for the evening. The small courtyard is always bustling with punters and the three floors are always filled up with groups of pals and drinkers alike. The food is solid pub grub, home-cooked hearty dishes at reasonable prices and let me TELL YOU ABOUT THEIR PIZZAS. These bad boys are huge, great for sharing – there are over 19 different choices on the menu to choose from and the best part? They are served until the early hours; it totally beats that late night kebab.
Forn Tapas Bar & Restaurant, Exeter
Now coming into its second year, Forn is relatively new to Exeter’s food scene, but I think it is quite a special independent and definitely something different to what already inhabits the city centre dining wise. A tapas bar and restaurant; you are able to grab a seat at the bar to enjoy some of the hand-picked wines on selection or indulge in a cocktail. If you are feeling more formal, you can book a table in their restaurant and enjoy some great tapas from one of their Spanish chefs. The restaurant is authentic and rustic, with a beautiful secret garden that you wouldn’t know was even there unless you’d visited before; perfect for the summertime. They also run great cocktail master classes, where a group of you can go and team up with one of their mixologists for a fun and boozy evening; do you need any more encouragement?
One of the first establishments in Exeter to be open all day and late into the evening, Artigiano is a café-come-bar on the high street. By day, you can pick up speciality coffees and pastries, artisan sandwiches and salads; come the evening, you can enjoy cheese and charcuterie boards, rustic pizzas and all the drinks – were talking cocktails, wines or beers. They often have live music and events on in the evenings along with ‘Fizz Fridays’ (my favourite day of the week). At night, expect a great atmosphere with the trendy crowd whether you are coming with your friends, family or for date night. By day, why not make it your meeting place to stop for a coffee and a cake. Modern and cool, this is one of the places to be seen.
The Exploding Bakery, Exeter
Two lads with a love of food and baking opened this joint together and what a treat it is. A bakery with a small café to the side of it, you can watch the guys lovingly prepare their cakes on site, all made with simple, honest ingredients and none of the rubbish stuff. Passion is what drives them and they also serve up savoury treats and coffees throughout the day. The café is small and quaint but anything you order you can take away with you as well. Its definitely worth checking out.
Crab Shack, Teignmouth
The Crab Shack is a sustainable seafood restaurant based in Teignmouth, North Devon. The aim of the game is to bring their customers the freshest and finest lobster and crabs they are able to source. With over 30 years’ experience and the largest fishing boat in Teignmouth, you can trust these guys to get it right and be safe in the knowledge that this shellfish is considered some of the best, strongest and cleanest because of the area of the channel they inhabit. The ‘catch of the day’ menu changes regularly depending on what has come back with the boats at that particular time and all of their fishing methods are environmentally friendly, with baited pots being used at the bottom of the seabed so as not to disturb natural habitat and coral. Only the best quality fish is selected and the remainder are returned to the sea alive. Their boats are also equipped with ‘holding tanks’ meaning the crabs and lobsters are all kept alive on their return to the restaurant. However, they do also offer vegetarian and meat options for those amongst you who don’t fancy a taste of the sea.
Urban Burger (and Urban Underground), Exeter
Everybody loves a good juicy burger, especially me. I have been a big fan of the gang at Urban Burger since they first opened their doors four years ago. An independent, family-run establishment; all ingredients are locally sourced within Devon and 95% of the menu is made from scratch, on site. The restaurant is lively and fun, with the burgers being big and bad ass. Choose from a hefty selection or make your own if you prefer (my personal favourite is ‘The Bolt’ – Jamaican jerk chicken, jerk mayonnaise, salad and mango chutney, BOOM). Vegetarian options are available and because the burgers do not have any breadcrumbs or fillers in them, they are all gluten-free. If you are really brave (or just a nutter) you might want to face the Man vs. Food challenge, which includes: seven 6oz burgers, seven pieces of bacon, seven slices of American cheese all in a burger bun with two portions of fries and a salad. Oh, and if you eat it in under 20 minutes you’ve succeeded!
Whether you want to head on down after your meal or are just passing by, the basement cocktail bar Urban Underground is also a great spot if you fancy some cocktails and music. Tucked away downstairs feeling like a secret hideaway, it is a perfect venue to come and get your evening started with a group of pals.
Private Club, Exeter
If you want a stylish, upmarket drinking venue that will be sure to impress, then book a table at Private Club. This establishment reminds me a lot of the ‘secret’ cocktail bars which are dotted around Bristol and sits up there with them in terms of service and class. Located underground, this elegant venue has leather seats lining the walls with an intimate dance floor located at the end, as guests DJ’s hit the decks every week. Manager Charlotte and her team will do all they can to ensure you have a fantastic and faultless evening and are well looked after. If you want sophisticated drinks in a venue like no other in Exeter then come and check this place out.
The Prospect, Exeter
Independent and friendly pub The Prospect is situated down on the glorious Quayside and has been a firm favourite of mine for many years. A big champion of keeping it local , what you can expect to find upon visiting is hearty pub grub (the chips are hands down some of the best I have ever encountered) alongside a vast range of local beers, ales and spirits from the surrounding areas. With a warm welcome and friendly atmosphere, it is a traditional pub at its best and a firm favourite with locals. Equally, it is a scenic spot to sit outside and enjoy a beverage whilst taking in the view. I am probably biased but they also have a kick-ass selection of local Gins from the region so surely that is enough to prompt a visit?
Al Farid, Exeter
Tucked away in the corner of Exeter’s Cathedral Green is hidden gem Al Farid, a Moroccan mezze bar and restaurant. This intimate but charming venue is packed with character. Once you enter you are transported to what could be Morocco itself. The interior is quirky with lanterns adoring the ceilings, shisha pipes and comfortable seating with rugs and drapes everywhere. If you have not tried this sort of cuisine before, then the menu has plenty of choice for you to get stuck in, whereas if you want a bit of everything the mezzes are great value and perfect for sharing. If however you are a fan of this type of food, the menu is sure to please, with plenty of authentic Moroccan dishes on offer. Not only will you be going out for dinner if you visit this place, it will be an experience of another culture.
El Olivo, Exmouth
In the seaside town of Exmouth is where you will find the glorious El Olivo, a Mediterranean tapas restaurant. The restaurant itself is small and intimate but also incredibly relaxed, this is a place where you come to enjoy amazing dishes in friendly surroundings and the owners will treat you as their friends. The service is wonderful and the food is even better. There are plenty of dishes to choose from so I would advise going with a group of pals and ordering as much as you like, the staff are also happy for you to stagger your orders if you want breaks in between eating (and to glug red wine) – which is perfect if you are like me and want to try most things on the menu! Tip, try the spanakopita – it is BANGING. I ordered it twice.
Darts Farm, Exeter
Recently awarded ‘Best Farm Shop in the UK’ at the 2016 Farm Shop and Deli Awards, Darts Farm is a place to shop, eat and drink. What started out as a humble working farm 40 years ago is still going strong today and the farm shop champions the finest in South West produce, whether it is locally grown, baked, reared or caught. It is worth paying a visit just to go and peruse the vast selection of goodies on offer from a huge range of suppliers all under one roof. They also have a deli bar and butchers, or if you are after something a bit more formal there is an onsite restaurant. One of my personal highlights of Darts is the ‘Fish Shed’ – it is one of my favourite places in Devon to go and enjoy a classic fish and chips dinner. Everything is caught locally and if you are interested in where the fish has come from, just ask and the staff will be more than happy to indulge you. Lobster anyone?
The Oddfellows, Exeter & Exmouth
The Oddfellows has been a firm favourite of mine since its arrival within the Exeter food and drink scene. An independent restaurant and bar, expect to find a menu of classic English dishes with a twist, all created with locally sourced ingredients in an open kitchen. Menus change quarterly with the seasons and the specials board is different every week in order to showcase what produce is at its best. Not only do these guys do food incredibly well, they have plenty of beverage choices with their hand-picked wine selection and variety of continental beers. However, the show-stopper at Oddfellows Exeter has to be their speakeasy cocktail lounge situated upstairs. The ethos here is simple; to create fantastic drinks using quality ingredients and embrace experimenting in order to create the perfect cocktail to suit your taste. You will not find any boring, bog-standard, watered-down refreshments here. The cocktail lounge can also be booked out for private hire and is the perfect location for a knees up for girls and guys alike. Oddfellows also has an establishment in Exmouth.
The Terrace Rooftop Bar & Restaurant, Exeter
One of the most anticipated openings of this year in Devon was for the Terrace Rooftop Bar and Restaurant situated in Exeter’s newly refurbished dining quarter in the Guildhall Shopping Centre. In my opinion, it was well worth the wait. Exeter is lucky in that it has some beautiful outside spots and beer gardens dotted about, however not so many roof terraces for us to enjoy. The rooftop bar and restaurant here is stylish and beautiful to look at and I imagine during the summer months you could easily fool yourself into thinking you are abroad. The restaurant is banging out brunch, lunch and dinner all day and the menu is varied with items ‘from the sea’ (some of which include oysters, lobster and mussels) and ‘from the land’ (with beauties such as pipers farm venison and chicken or a steak if you prefer). They also do Sunday lunch. Alternatively, if you are planning a night out, then the first floor is bringing sexy back to the South West. With inspiration taken from some of the most fashionable venues in the world, the club is upmarket and an exciting addition to Exeter’s nightlife scene. I’ll see you at the bar yeah?
The Salutation Inn, Topsham
If you are a food lover and wanting a truly special fine dining experience then The Salutation is a must. Situated in Topsham, the restaurant is famous for creating dishes and tasting menus that take the diner on a journey through their palette. Offering weekly changing tasting menus; you have the choice from 4, 6 or 8 courses with the option to adjust a menu to suit your requirements if you so wish. Chef Tom William—Hawkes (formerly of Gordon Ramsey’s Hospital Road and Michael Caines’ Gidleigh Park) heads up the kitchen here and creates French influenced plates for you to enjoy and if you want to go all out, why not choose the wine flight to accompany your meal. The restaurant here is much more of an experience than just a dinner. However, if you are after something a little less formal, The Glasshouse Café is open for breakfast, light lunches, afternoon teas and Sunday roasts. The ‘Fizz Friday’ deal is also ever popular, for a bargain price of £17.50 you are able to get a bottle of Prosecco or Sparkling Rosé Pinot Grigio with Salutation nibbles – the perfect start to the weekend. The Salutation also offers beautiful accommodation, if you want to turn your gastronomic adventure into a delightful stay as well.
Denley’s Essence of India, Topsham
Another Topsham favourite of mine HAS to be Denleys. Personally, there is not a finer Indian restaurant and takeaway within the area (in 2011 Denleys was voted one of the top 100 Indian restaurants in the UK, making it pretty special in Devon). The only thing better than the food here has to be the staff, who are all incredibly friendly, helpful and extremely passionate. You’d be forgiven for assuming the venue to be small as from the outside it looks very modest; however once you have entered the front door you’ll find a beautiful 150 capacity restaurant. The team at Denley’s aim to showcase how cooking methods differ across India; with the stronger, spicier curries originating from the south and the more delicate dishes coming in from the north. The chefs here specialise in cooking from the Kashmiri region, a more sophisticated form of cuisine using gentle and subtle spices. The team will always be happy to help you decide on what to choose from the menu if you are seeking some inspiration or something a little bit different. The best bit of all is that if you are planning on staying in with a bottle of plonk and ordering takeout, you can give these guys a ring.
The Fat Pig, Exeter
The Fat Pig is a glorious rustic little brewery tucked away in one of Exeter’s side streets in the city centre. Why is it glorious I hear you ask? This is why: the gang like to keep the food miles low, so if they have not caught the game themselves, then all of the meat supplies come directly from the farm with no middleman. They cook EVERYTHING. Nothing is wasted and they are big advocates of the ‘nose to tail’ philosophy. They have roughly 100 single malt whiskies, a cracking wine list AND an experimental brewery on site which they use to create their own beers. To go with all of the booze, they have a cracking menu which changes regularly depending on what is available to buy from local game keepers, fishermen and the farmers. If you haven’t yet paid The Fat Pig a visit then please do it for me.
The Jack in the Green
I don’t know what impresses me more when it comes to The Jack in the Green; the food, which has been recognised both by Michelin and the Devon Life food and drink awards, or the genuine heartfelt passion behind the business. These two combined create a one of a kind gastro-pub (voted 26th in the UK’s top 50) which offers amazing cuisine for outstanding value. The menu can best be described as ‘Modern British’, with the chefs using their artistic flair to put their twists on the dishes coming out from the kitchen. One of my favourite things about the pub is their ‘Totally Devon’ menu, which is a celebration of suppliers from the Devon area with three courses coming in at just £30. Surrounded by the countryside it embodies everything that is right about the Westcountry.
Not a conventional restaurant as such but this seafood shack and oyster bar is just as impressive nonetheless. Situated in Westward Ho! North Devon, this unique kitchen horsebox serves up local shellfish, seafood and beachside dishes. Founder and operator Lyndsay relocated to North Devon in 2013 but was surprised to discover that up to 80% of what is caught locally is shipped off and sold before it is processed – a bit of a shocking statistic in a thriving fishing area which is teaming with lobster, crab, scallop, squid and whelk. Armed with this information, Lyndsay decided to take matters into her own hands with the Glorious Oyster; she liaises and buys directly from the local fisherman and processing companies in order to keep more of the local catch within the area and add value to the economy, she makes all of her own sauces and dressings and is a champion of sustainability. The menu here changes throughout the seasons and is dependent on what is caught and available at the time, however you can expect to enjoy pan fried squid with sweet chilli sauce, seared mackerel with Spanish mojo sauce and seared scallops with garlic butter to name but a few. Oh, did I forget to mention that Lyndsay was also a finalist for the BBC Food & Farming Awards 2016? This is girl power at its finest.
At the risk of sounding like a 90’s RnB crooner, Rendezvous is for the grown and sexy amongst us. This hidden gem is a stones throw from the city centre and is an intimate basement wine bar and restaurant in one. Think low lighting, stone walls and warm interiors; this is the perfect place to come to enjoy some seriously good vinos which have been hand selected from around the world or a special dinner with daily changing menus. Again showcasing the best in south west produce – this is a lovely date night pick as it is sure to impress. It is worth noting that they also have a great secret garden hidden out the back for the summer months, a perfect oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the centre. I can’t wait until I finally get a boyfriend and can basically force him into taking me here.
No matter how long I have left it, I always return time and time again to the waterfront on Exeter’s beautiful quayside. For me, they have been banging out the best pizzas in the city for as long as I can remember. In a casual setting situated right on the waterfront, I have many happy memories of sitting in the sunshine and enjoying great quality food in the company of my family and friends. There are plenty of pizza options to choose from and you can always go half and half with toppings if you really can’t decide (trust me with all the delicious options it can be quite difficult to choose a favourite). I think there is a reason this establishment has been going for as long as it has. Not only can you indulge in amazing food which is extremely reasonable, the waterfront has a sense of community and it’s loyal Exeter following speaks for itself. This is the perfect place to while away summer days.
Family run Harry’s Restaurant opened in 1993 and has managed to maintain a fantastic reputation throughout Exeter’s changing food and drink scene. With a strong farm to fork ethos; over the years the team here have maintained strong relationships with local suppliers but also do their bit in supporting community projects and charities. The menu here is vast and varied with plenty of choice, however, the real challenger is the famous ‘Harry’s Heart Attack’ dessert – which consists of, chocolate brownies, marshmallows, chocolate ice cream, peanut M&M’s, chocolate flakes, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream AND hot chocolate fudge sauce. What I really love most about Harry’s is that it is great for family get togethers, it has a homely relaxed feel and the staff really do go above and beyond to make sure you enjoy your evening.
No 1 Polsloe
I have been waiting a very long time for something to arrive in Exeter like the No 1 Polsloe Café and now my prayers have been answered. I have watched establishments come and go from this space on the corner and couldn’t help but think that for the right business, it would be a perfect fit. Enter Rebecca and her small team. I have shamelessly stalked No 1 Polsloe’s instagram feed with delight; taking in the sights of beautifully presented dishes and their hand crafted cocktails. I was over the moon when I finally got to visit. The café itself is cosy and charming and utilises the space it has well; think long wooden benches with cushions strewn across them to take or leave, quirky décor, plants and funky ornaments. The menu is varied with lots of different options; whether you want a lighter bite or full meals there is more than enough here to choose from. Open throughout the day and into the evening, this kitsch café is the perfect place to come with a group of your girls, with family (I came with my Mum – we both loved it) or if you want to get your head down in a creative space. The staff are wonderful and nothing is too much for them. I am already planning a night of cocktails there and I love that there is nowhere else like it. Who run the world? GIRLS. Obviously.