The last time I paid a visit to one of The Stable’s restaurants, I was soaking up the sun in Newquay at their Fistral Beach location. I remember being impressed by their unique selection of pizzas and I fell in love with the concept of their cider tasting boards. The Stable is what many in the foodie world have come to refer to as an ‘Independent Chain’ and while they aren’t stand alone establishments, I admire their commitment to sourcing South West fare and tailoring each menu to specific locations.
So when The Stable hit the Exeter food scene last year, I was excited to see what offerings their newest venture would bring. Would we get to sample the fabulous ciders produced in our county? And given their penchant for unique buildings, how would they decorate their Queen Street unit? To find out the answers to these questions, and more, I popped in one Sunday to try out lunch…
You find your way to The Stable by heading upstairs in Exeter’s new Queen Street development. It’s tucked away above the other restaurant’s, giving it a sort of cosy feel as you look down on shoppers strolling along the pavement below. The Stable houses an incredibly spacious dining area on the first floor and a roof top terrace and private dining space on the top floor. I won’t lie, there’s a bit of a ‘hipster’ vibe to the whole affair, but I do think that this has its appeal, particularly when you consider The Stable’s menu and cider speciality.
Sunday lunch at The Staple is not your standard roast affair. It’s the same menu as the rest of the week, which is comprised of very tempting pies and pizzas that come with unconventional toppings (many of which are named after local landmarks and locations, such as The Exmouth Angler and The Ten Tor Tingler).
Following the waitress’s recommendation, we started off our lunch with Cheesy Garlic Bread to share. This was just as delicious as anticipated, though we quickly realised that we weren’t going to have room for our mains if we managed to polish off the whole thing! As it was around the size of one of The Stable’s standard pizzas, we ended up leaving a few slices to save room for the rest of our lunch. I’d definitely recommend getting garlic bread to share if you’re dining out as a family and I’d also recommend giving it a drizzle of their chilli oil, which gives the bread a little heat, if you’re into that kind of thing.
For mains, we both opted for pizza – even though the Steak Out Pie sounded pretty good. Between us we shared a Billy the Kid pizza (Rosary goats’ cheese, caramelised onions, field mushrooms, spinach, tomato sauce and mozzarella. Topped with roasted hazelnuts) and one of the week’s specials; the name of which I can’t recall but I do know that it was topped with rabbit ragu, chorizo and buttered leeks.
Both of these were – in my opinion – perfectly done. The bases are super crispy and they certainly don’t hold back on the toppings. The chorizo was SO good that I could have done with a few more slices and the goat’s cheese and hazelnuts were a match made in heaven. If you’re looking for a pizza that’s going to satisfy your cravings for Dominos then you may want to look elsewhere, but if you appreciate proper pizza, The Staple is ticking all the right boxes.
Once again, my dining partner was concerned that he wouldn’t have any room left for pudding if we managed to finish off both pizza’s. So he did the unthinkable and he left the crusts. But having said that, I suppose this goes to show that The Stable know how to do generous portions and if you’re hungry you know you’re onto a good thing.
The Cider Tasting Board
Alongside our food, I was determined to sample the Exeter branch’s Cider Tasting board. I’m a huge fan of the ciders we produce in Devon and I couldn’t wait to see which varieties they would chose to showcase. The concept is simple: for £7.50 you get a tray of five different 1/3 pints ranging from dry to sweet. You receive a handwritten card with the name of each cider noted down, alongside the percentage – which you’re free to take away with you should you decide to return for a full pint at a later date (or the same day – I definitely won’t judge!).
As you can see below, our tray contained choices from Cornwall to Somerset, all coming in varying degrees of cloudiness and sweetness. I’ll admit that I was a little disappointed with the selection, as I believe that we have a lot to celebrate in Devon and they could easily have filled the entire tray with local producers. Then again, this is The Devon Foodie, so I suppose we’re bias. Overall, I maintain that the tasting board is a brilliant concept and it was a really enjoyable way to sample new ciders.
My favourite cider on the board was probably the Devon made Yarde Sweet – though I must admit, we also tried samples of the Lilley’s Mango Cider and Lilley’s Crazy Goat and they were both REALLY good. So good in fact, that I’m definitely ordering one of those next time I visit. And yeah… I realise they are made in Somerset…
For dessert we had to try the newest addition to The Stable’s menu: Ice cream!
It seemed strange to me that a chain known for having a number of South West restaurants would only just have introduced ice cream to their menu, but after chatting to the manager it became apparent that they weren’t prepared to put anything in front of their diners until they were 100% satisfied that it was going to be perfect.
We ordered three scoops: Strawberry & Cream, Clotted Cream, and Cider Sorbet, with a rather ill-advised drizzle of chocolate sauce (which was my dining partners decision not their recommendation) and I have to say, I now see why they chose to wait. The consistency of the ice creams were all spot on (particularly the Strawberry & Cream) and the flavours really stood out as fresh and natural. The Cider Sorbet also had a refreshing elderflower taste which I think worked beautifully. Kudos to Yarde Farm, who were responsible for creating them.
I also really wanted to try The Choc Chic Hot Chocolate. This ultra-decadent drink is topped with whipped cream, marshmallows, chocolate sprinkles, chocolate drops, chocolate sauce and homemade crumble. There’s not really much to say about this drink, aside from the fact that it tasted just as good as it looked!
The Rooftop Terrace
After lunch was over – and we were suitably stuffed – we headed upstairs to take a quick glance around the roof terrace. This trendy little outdoor space contains ample seating for enjoying a drink in the sun or for sitting with friends and listening to live music every Thursday night. I loved the use of vintage caravans as a refuge from the wind and strategically placed outdoor heating would no doubt take the chill out of the air at this time of the year. I can definitely picture myself heading here to retry those Lilley’s ciders once the sun is here to stay,
My overall impression of the Exeter branch of The Stable is very positive. When you consider the price you’d pay for a dish at a more generic chain – such as Pizza Express – I believe that you receive food of a much higher quality and a far more vibrant and colourful atmosphere. While The Stable own some 17 restaurant’s throughout the South; I think they do a good job at representing each locality and the restaurants retain far more character than their high street counterparts. The food at The Stable is undeniably tasty and their tremendous range of ciders is enough of a reason alone for me to return!
My only minor gripe (and it always will be) is that I’m really not sold on restaurants that insist on communal seating. There are seats for more intimate dining away from the main dining area, but it would be nice to not feel like you’re sat on top of other people. Maybe I’m just being a grouch, but this has always been a pet peeve of mine.
One thing’s for sure – if you’re a fan of good pizza and great cider you’ll want to give this place a try. During the day it’s particularly family friendly and on an evening I think it would be an ideal spot to meet up with friends.