We once ventured to Exeter for The Big Cake Show. The show was great, and what we found in was beyond expectation – fantastic architecture, an easy to navigate and clean city centre as well as some top notch food and drink – we sniff that out wherever we go, of course. We love train travel from London and Exeter is over three hours’ journey, but it’s such a worthwhile trip. We’re looking forward to returning, but for now here’s our pick of the places we visited on a flying visit.
Artigiano had impeccable customer service. We were acknowledged by virtually every staff member, whether that be by greeting, interacting with us or bidding us farewell, and the coffee was nothing to complain about either; nice to see a piccolo on the menu! We loved the fact it’s both a coffee shop/café and a bar in one, not to mention that there’s an array of food served too. Scanning the room during our afternoon visit, it was clear to see the locals do embrace every facet and function of the business.
We adored the colour scheme of the Exeter High Street branch: warm tan, light brown, whites and blacks, with splashes of blues, purples and yellows. The selection of seating is also worth noting, providing the perfect seating for any situation cosy nooks with armchairs, large shared workbenches for singles, spacious tables for groups of four and some counter seating too. We’ve also gone to a London branch of Artigiano, but we prefer the Exeter branch –just a truly beautiful place to spend an afternoon.
Our hotel was the Mercure Southgate Hotel, which we cannot recommend enough. The attention to detail at the hotel is top notch, and the customer service is second to none. We had great assistance from the reception staff, and had also unfortunately been nearby when an irate customer was disputing all manner of charges to their room in a very tacky fashion; the reception staff treated both extremes of interactions with confidence, ease and friendliness, they are a credit to the management. Check out their website for all the info about the hotel if you’re considering a trip to the South West.
We had dinner in the restaurant of the hotel on our first night, and breakfast on both mornings. The buffet breakfast had an enormous selection, as well as a menu to order from to your tastes too. For dinner, I had the two specials of the day – the cauliflower and blue cheese soup, followed by the local gurnard, pan-fried and crispy-skinned, on a bed of pearl barley with a butter and tomato sauce. Russell chose the paté, followed by some fancy pie and mash. The whole meal was a dream, and the starters in particular were a delight – and the added theatre of how they are served and presented is a great touch, very unexpected!
Baker and Maker had, without shadow of a doubt, the most jam-packed and busy stall of the show. Not only are the kitchen e-tailer’s fantastic, unique and really eye-catching, but their position towards the entrance doors of the centre meant that there was a constant crowd, at least four rows deep, at all times, and only one poor assistant to serve everyone! We also loved the gorgeous porcelain tea cake stand stall, and our lovely friends at Daisy Bakes. Kate Allnutt and her husband John have some of the most delicious bakes that we’ve tasted at any of these kind of expos or exhibitions and they run a cute and homely bakery and café in Torquay.
We ate in HubBox, which is right in the heart of Exeter, and who we had been excitedly thinking about before and during our trip, and were delighted to get a table on the Saturday night to chow down. It’s ultra casual, quite a bit hipster, but the substance underneath all of the style and modernity is truly stable and delicious!
Get to Exeter by train, bus, car or plane. We journeyed by train. Exeter St. David’s is the final stop of the train from London, but is somewhat beyond the city (and requires a walk up and down a hill to get back to town) so we would suggest getting off at Exeter Central if staying in the city itself.