I am not a golfer so I approached my lunch at Wear Park Restaurant at Exeter Golf Club with a certain amount of apprehension. Was there a dress code? Would women be allowed in the clubhouse unaccompanied? Would it be just a little bit stuffy?
The restaurant and bar have been open to the public since early 2012, having previously been the preserve of club members only. On this glorious sunny afternoon, we had an aperitif on the terrace in front of the grand Georgian building overlooking the putting green. My Pimm’s was perfect – with slices of strawberries, orange and cucumber – and I tried not to stare quizzically at the golfers perfecting their shots.
Our food was served indoors in the large high-ceilinged dining room next to a wide-open French window overlooking the parkland and herbaceous borders. It was easy to forget that we were so close to the centre of Exeter, the setting was more like a country hotel. The leather armchairs were comfortable, tables had no tablecloths but proper linen napkins and I liked the fact there were two bottles of house filtered water (sparkling and still) awaiting us.
My tian of local crab with ribbons of marinated cucumber was attractively presented and seasoned well with chopped dill, but my husband’s starter was the clear winner. This twice-baked Devon blue cheese soufflé with apple and pine nuts is one of the chef’s signature dishes and very popular with regular diners. The soufflé contained just the right amount of cheese and had a wonderful texture, the apple slices and drizzled balsamic balancing its richness to perfection.
My main course, grilled halibut, was cooked to perfection – crispy on the top with plenty of cracked pepper and served on a generous dollop of green-tinged pesto mash with roasted cherry tomatoes and mange tout. My companion was equally happy with his smoked haddock and prawn fishcake topped with a runny poached egg and served with chunky chips and homemade tartare sauce. He declared that it was perfect comfort food.
Two of the desserts tempted us. The excellent pear and almond tart was served warm and had delectably light pastry contrasting with a decadent splodge of clotted cream placed on top. The coconut pannacotta with mango and banana salsa was one of the few items on the menu that veered away from the Devon theme; its tropical flavours conjured up the essence of warm summer holidays.
The waiting staff were charming and friendly and we felt we were in a hotel- style environment but with food that was priced so attractively it was better value than many gastro pubs or bistros in Exeter. I am happy to report that my preconceived ideas of the golf club were blown away by my wonderful lunch experience there. A quick tour of the beautiful indoor and outdoor pools, spa and gym made me wonder whether taking an interest in golf might actually be a good idea after all...