Belinda Dillon seeks out places to eat in Exeter, and discovers some of the best restaurants are proudly independent.
Devon is heaven for gastronomes, of course, with the land and sea combined acting like a giant larder. But if you want a spot of urban glamour with foodie treats at every recognised meal time – and a few outside them, there’s no judgment here – then Exeter is the go-to destination for guaranteed taste bud satisfaction.
While there are plenty of your favourite chains, some of the best restaurants in Exeter are proudly independent. Situated on Cathedral Yard, The Plant Café is a mecca for discerning vegetarians, with everything home-made on the premises (their beetroot and raspberry cake – oh my!). Set your day up in the best way possible with their delicious Persian baked eggs, which has just the right amount of chilli heat to warm you up. Staying on the veggie (and vegan) tip, for a truly delicious supper head down Fore Street to sample authentic pasta and pizzas at The Flat. Only open in the evenings, this friendly little neighbourhood eatery is one of the best places to eat in Exeter; I defy you to taste a bowl of their crema e funghi spaghetti without emitting gasps of delight.
If you’re more of a carnivore, then new kid on the block South Street Standard’s ‘All of the Meat’ sharing platter is a sure-fire winner. Featuring pulled pork, harissa chicken thighs and BBQ-glazed pork ribs – with giant onion rings and skinny fries on the side – it’s beyond indulgent, and all served in a chic, post-industrial-style aesthetic over three floors, the walls festooned with joyful street art. For a more traditional vibe – and for a Sunday roast par excellence – head to John Street, an unassuming little road in parallel to Fore Street, where The Fat Pig serves up exquisite beef or pork with all the trimmings (other menu options are available, and they are the kings of the smokehouse). Be sure to book a table, though, because you’ll be competing with the locals for this stand-out cooking. The pub also has its own brewery and distillery – be sure to try one of their artisan gins.
Eating out in Exeter can also be about sweet treats, to keep you going while soaking up the culture. The Exploding Bakery, next to Central Station on Queen Street, are purists when it comes to coffee – I defy you to find a better flat white anywhere – and their traybakes are so good they ship them all over the country (and to many of the cafes around the city). Grab a slice of their sour cherry and pistachio and be spoiled forever. Similarly, artisan and indie-proud is The Boatyard Bakery and Café, down on the Quay, where Emma and her team whip up the finest sourdough loaves. If you have to wait for a fresh batch to come out of the oven – and boy, is it worth it – stave off the hunger with one of their perfect sausage rolls, or a gluten-free brownie.
With so many talented producers, makers, bakers and chefs in the region, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to delicious places to eat in Exeter.