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It’s fair to say that the city of Exeter has been suffering from an influx of chain restaurants as of late and many independent businesses are struggling to compete in a market saturated with run-of-the-mill burger joints and franchised gastro pubs. But this onslaught of clone restaurants can only continue for so long before the people of Exeter start looking for somewhere with a little bit more originality. So is the tide starting to change?
When we were invited to sample dinner at Exeter’s new Restaurant 44, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Occupying the site of what was previously a popular (and independent) burger restaurant, there’s something about this very central of locations that doesn’t seem to have been able to attract enough clientele for the past few years. But as we stepped through Restaurant 44’s doors and into the chic upmarket setting, it was clear that this establishment has some pretty big aspirations…
What is Restaurant 44?
Exeter’s first champagne bar and an independent restaurant which offers ‘intimate dining with a unique twist’. As well as a menu of contemporary European cuisine, Restaurant 44 utilises an indoor barbecue with open coals for many of its dishes.
Where is Restaurant 44?
This new independent restaurant has replaced what was formerly Exeter’s Urban Burger on 44 Queen St, Exeter EX4 3SR. It’s ideally located for the Exeter Central Station and there are plenty of nearby parking facilities.
Who to go with?
With its plush sophisticated decor and stylish champagne bar, Restaurant 44 is an ideal location for a date night or an intimate meal for two. There are plenty of two person tables and just enough background music to facilitate private conversation. That being said, we saw plenty of people enjoying what looked to be a catch up with olds friends and even a table of business colleagues.
Warm sourdough / chicken & truffle butter – £3.50
Rather than opting for starters, we decided to share a basket of warm sourdough bread with a creamy chicken & truffle butter. The bread had clearly been given the charcoal treatment, as it had a lovely grilled flavour and went very well with the flavours of chicken and truffle . It would have been nice to have had more of a selection of breads, but the wonderfully seasoned butter made up for this tenfold.
Hake / crispy mussels / clams / BBQ lettuce / peas / cider – £15.95
My main of hake with crispy mussels was a beautifully cooked and well balanced dish. The creamy cider sauce that accompanied the meaty fish was outstanding and I can’t fault the execution of this dish.
10 oz. Ribeye / mushroom cooked in beef fat / triple cooked chips / Caesar salad – £26.50
My dining partner opted to try the steak. She ordered this medium-rare and chef certainly delivered. While she wasn’t overly keen on her Cesar salad (a wedge of lettuce with ample cheese and Cesar sauce) I personally thought it was a nice accompaniment and i’ll admit that I was a little jealous of her generous portion size. The accompanying triple cooked chips were nicely done and despite being a touch over-seasoned the steak itself was succulent and tender.
“Millionaires” shortbread éclair – £6.50
For her dessert, my dining partner went for a very impressive looking dish. Filled with salted caramel sauce, cream and chocolate, this eclair is not for the light hearted. Personally, I found this to be far too sickly and rich for my taste, but I can’t fault the technical aspect of the dish, as the eclair was light and crispy. From her perspective, it was delicious and if you’re a fan of Instagramming your food then you might want to give this a try…
“Rhubarb & custard” baked custard / rhubarb doughnut / poached rhubarb / crumble – £6.95
My own dessert was beautiful. Rhubarb is a glorious ingredient and while it is in season i’m trying to order it in every possible form. The custard was light and creamy, while the poached rhubarb was sweet and not at all tart. Arguably, the little doughnuts added very little to the plate, but they were perfectly tasty nevertheless. I’d also award them high marks for for presentation, as this very pink and delicate plate was visually stunning.
Rhubarb Royal / Elephant Sloe Gin, Rhubarb Syrup, and Champagne – £9
As further testament to my love for rhubarb, we took advantage of the two-for-one cocktails and tried some Rhubarb Royals. This pretty drink was light, fizzy and definitely packed a punch. Since she was the designated driver, my dining partner only tried a sip of her cocktail before deciding it was too potent. So naturally I had to take one for the team and finish all of hers off as well (it’s a tough job). If you are thinking of making the most of Restaurant 44’s champagne bar – which you should – I suggest you also take advantage of the nearby train station. I should also note that if you look under 25 you should expect to be ID’d at the table – because I certainly was!
The Atmosphere / Interior
The interior of Restaurant 44 is unlike many establishments in Exeter. Whoever decorated this restaurant clearly has an eye for interior design, as the dining room and bar are both very chic and the atmosphere feels relaxed and intimate. The restaurant is not too dissimilar to the upmarket cocktail bars of Exeter’s boutique hotel scene – such as Hotel Du Vin and Southernhay House. This isn’t the sort of establishment one would pop into with friends for a casual pint after work. However, it would be ideal for an evening with your significant other or catching up with good friends in a beautiful setting.
We thoroughly recommend trying Restaurant 44 for yourself. It’s fabulous to see another independent restaurant on the local foodie scene. While Restaurant 44 is clearly still finding its feet and our meal was not without a few minor hiccups (such as empty menu binders) I have high hopes for this establishment. The staff are polite and attentive, the food is made to a very good standard and the atmosphere is precisely what Exeter needs right now to compete with larger chains. Fingers crossed it’s here to stay!
To book a table visit: www.restaurant44.co.uk / www.facebook.com/restaurantat44 or call 01392 982440.
Quote ‘The Devon Foodie’ when booking for 10% off your bill.
Have you visited Restaurant 44? We would love to hear your thoughts. Please leave us a comment below letting us know about your own experience.