Our 4 latest top Devon foodie treats

PUBLISHED: 16:08 09 December 2020 | UPDATED: 10:26 10 December 2020

The emphasis is on small plates at House of Brine. Photo: Matt Austin

The emphasis is on small plates at House of Brine. Photo: Matt Austin

MATT AUSTIN IMAGES

Try our Editor’s choice of these great places to eat out or takeaway

The emphasis is on small plates at House of Brine. Photo: Matt AustinThe emphasis is on small plates at House of Brine. Photo: Matt Austin

1) I have something of a love/hate relationship with tapas-style menus. When I was lucky enough to wander into one of the many alleyway bars in San Sebastián, order my assorted pintxos dishes, sip my beer and then pay my ticket on the way out it was magnificent. That time closer to home when some friends and I just kept ordering as assorted minuscule apologies for dishes came out – and we left feeling hungry and ripped off - well, the least said the better.

I am therefore pleased to report that the small plates on offer at House of Brine – newly opened in Exeter – are most definitely inked into the quality side of my own Tapas Venn Diagram. Frankly, how could they be anything else with the place being run by Jodie Sawatzki and Josh McDonald-Johnson?

Already well-known for their Pickle Shack pop-up business, the couple have now added some bricks and mortar to their empire by opening up this restaurant in one of the atmospheric buildings alongside the city’s ever-burgeoning Quayside.

The emphasis is on a variety of small plates and so it makes for great sharing options...IF someone can prise, for example, the plate of rare beef fillet tataki, pickled carrot, radish and hot sauce away from you. Take my tip: don’t give them a chance and keep it to yourself. It’s simply amazing.

Take a break and indulge yourself with a selection from Willie’s Cacao. Photo: Andy CooperTake a break and indulge yourself with a selection from Willie’s Cacao. Photo: Andy Cooper

Or, you might want to distract your dining companions by claiming my brother Bradley Cooper just walked past outside as you snaffle the curried monkfish, violet potato, chili salsa and toasted coconut. That outrageous double whopper is worth it to get those taste and texture sensations all to yourself.

I could go on with a list because frankly that is what we did as we couldn’t decide what to leave off our order. The best bet appears to be to commandeer one side of the ample and varied menu to yourself, choose some of your own dishes and then mix and match them with your fellow diners.

The place is open for brunch through to dinner so pick your moment which suits during the day and luxuriate in a properly distinctive eaterie where the emphasis is on the difference which care and attention to food, presentation and service can bring.

It’s good fun and great eating: and no big impact on your wallet either from your small plate fiesta.

No. 5 features beautiful interiors. Photo: No. 5No. 5 features beautiful interiors. Photo: No. 5

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2) New opening No.5 on Cathedral Green, Exeter, might just be the venue the city has been waiting for.

Rockbeare Manor cannot normally be booked for just dinner and a stay. Photo: Rockbeare ManorRockbeare Manor cannot normally be booked for just dinner and a stay. Photo: Rockbeare Manor

It’s housed in the building formerly occupied by ASK but No. 5’s owners Charles and Linda Horner have taken what was already a pretty special spot and given it the extra ‘wow’ factor with beautiful interiors and the opening up of new areas.

Billed as a fine dining restaurant and cocktail lounge, No.5’s atmospheric spaces mean it can cater for everyone aged from 20 to 80 and offer a vibrant, quality visit.

As well as lunchtime and evening dining experiences, No.5 is also offering a Parisian-style breakfast sourced from Exeter’s much loved Exploding Bakery.

Rockbeare Manor lit up at night. Photo: Rockbeare ManorRockbeare Manor lit up at night. Photo: Rockbeare Manor

With specifically crafted menus using locally sourced produce and ingredients designed by head chef Sam Billson, formerly of Sandy Park, No.5 looks all set to become a ‘go to’ spot on the Exeter dining scene.

3) Legendary Devon-based chocolate guru Willie Harcourt-Cooze has just launched a unique Chocolate Tasting Box containing ten artisan chocolate bars, two of which are not available in the shops.

The food at Rockbeare Manor was magnificent. Photo: Rockbeare ManorThe food at Rockbeare Manor was magnificent. Photo: Rockbeare Manor

You can buy as a one-off or on a monthly subscription and somehow tucking into these quality choccie bars feels just that little bit more wholesome than some of the more regular chocolates available on the market! You can choose either all dark chocolates suitable for vegans, or milk, white and dark.

Willie’s Cacao bean to bar chocolate is made from the world’s great single estate cacaos and 100% natural ingredients. It takes three weeks to prodce a bar, compared to moments from some more well-known brands and you can certainly taste the difference.

Willie himself has a cocoa farm in Venezuela and was the first person to set up a ‘bean to bar’ chocolate factory in Britain for hundreds of years.

The emphasis is on small plates at House of Brine. Photo: Matt AustinThe emphasis is on small plates at House of Brine. Photo: Matt Austin

4) You’d normally need an invite to stay and dine at magnificent wedding and events venue Rockbeare Manor...but now you can invite yourself as it has opened up to the public for the first time in its 260-year history.

The country house, which is just outside Exeter, was transformed into a contemporary events and wedding venue with rooms in 2016. Following the lockdown, the initial ban on weddings and then the following restrictions on numbers attending events, owners Andy and Aimée Carveth of PM Hospitality, decided to adapt their offering to open the Grade I Regency manor house up to guests.

People can now book for dinner or take in the delights of the house and 100 acres of parkland, with a ‘dine, stay and unwind’ break.

The emphasis is on small plates at House of Brine. Photo: Matt AustinThe emphasis is on small plates at House of Brine. Photo: Matt Austin

When I visited it was a truly magnificent occasion, right from the approach to the beautiful illuminated facade of the imposing building, to sipping pe-dinner drinks in one of the amazing lounges through to a rather special meal, attentively served in fabulous surroundings.

Book now before the limited open season ends and it returns to an invite-only venue.

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