@34 Restaurant, Exeter College
What makes @34 Restaurant a truly unique culinary experience is the fact that it is catered for and run by the students of Exeter College themselves. It’s a fantastic opportunity for young people with a passion for food to gain experience working in the restaurant industry and it opens it’s doors to diners every weekday lunchtime and Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 7.00pm – 9.00pm*.
This was our first visit to@Thirty Four but our accompanying friends had been before and recommend that we give it a try. I admit, I was glad to have them there to lead the way because the restaurant is a little hidden away in Exeter College’s Hele Road site, but once we were inside we were impressed with what the students had managed to achieve in their teaching/working space. The tables were nicely laid out with crisp white tablecloths and tea lights. After being politely shown to our table our waiter served us a jug of iced water and offered us a choice of bread rolls, before handing out our menus and a list of very tasty and very affordable cocktails and drinks. The list was exhaustive, with everything from none alcoholic beverages to to full on Gin Martini’s, all priced from as little as £1.60 to £4.40. We were also given the option to match our drinks with our meal, which we were more than happy to take them up on.
As an appetiser we were served an Artichoke salad with artichoke sauce. This was beautifully presented and very nice. It’s a real shame that it was just a taster because we all felt that we could have eaten a lot more of it.
For starters we all chose the Bouillabaisse: a classic fish soup with a crouton and aioli. This was packed full of flavour thanks to the meaty chunks of salmon and the lovely garlic flavour from the sauce. Needless to say, there were clean plates all round. To accompany this course we had a glass of South African, Bon Courage Chardonnay – a fruity and crisp wine that was very popular with all four of us.
In between our starter and main we were served a Nicosia Salad. The fish in this course was also cooked perfectly but once again it was only a small portion and we could have eaten a lot more!
For our mains I was the only one who chose the Katsu Chicken Curry with Sticky Rice and Pickled Salad. I wouldn’t normally choose chicken when I dine out, because I find it can be boring. However, this chicken was moist and coated in a delicious breadcrumb, making it one of the tastiest chicken dishes I have enjoyed in a long time. If I had any criticisms at all it would have to be that I would have liked a little more of that katsu sauce, else the rice was a little too dry.
The other three members of our group opted for the Slow Cooked belly Pork, with Broad Bean and Chorizo Stew. Without exception they all loved it. The pork just fall apart and the chorizo added a rich depth to the sauce.
To accompany these dishes we had a southern Italian, Pinot Gorgio. This matched wonderfully with the pork dish but not so perfectly with my chicken – I guess you win some and you lose some.
Dessert was Poached Pear with Brown Sugar Rice Pudding. The fruit was perfectly poached and sweet and the rice pudding had a subtle caramel flavour that really complimented the pear. Because we missed our prosecco at the beginning of our meal we drank it with our deserts and opted for a coral pink sparkling wine from Italy.
To end a positively enjoyable evening we finished with coffees all round and homemade petit fours. Served on a slate board the selection included chocolate truffles, mini biscuits, yum-yums, millionaire shortbreads, fruit pastille jellies and marshmallows. By request, one member of our party was also provided with her own chocolate-free selection, which was a really nice touch. While the petit fours were not all technically sound, I applaud the students for their ability to present us with such a diverse range of treats. Overall they were very tasty and it was apparent that a lot of hard work went into creating them.
It’s fair to say that we all had a great evening at @Thirty Four Restaurant. There were a couple of little errors here and there, but the students can definitely be forgiven for these when you consider just how early on they are in their careers. You would be hard pressed to find anywhere else in town where you would get such value for your money, As well as teaching the students how to work as part of a team, the restaurant teaches them to learn to accept mistakes and to celebrate their achievements. In this respect, @Thirty Four is a wonderful place to eat and I would recommend that you give it a try yourselves. Expect good food, accommodating staff and perhaps even the opportunity to be served food by Devon’s next big culinary star!
Reviewed by Collette
*During term times.