Autumnal menu reivew at The Oddfellows

My first impressions of The Oddfellows are from comedy and cocktail nights in the upstairs speakeasy; the vintage interior offers sophisticated quirks and charms that are a luxury for students, and the vast array of spirits and ales are incredibly exciting. The cocktails are an absolute delight – these experimental and delicious concoctions are overshadowed by popular and inexpensive cocktail bars in the city, attracting students from the deep, dark depths of their deadlines. If you’re in need of a cosy space for an uninterrupted first date, then students, leave the sugary, syrupy cocktail pitchers at Firehouse and head across the road to The Oddfellows. If conversation is sparse you can discuss the eccentric decor, like the giant pine cone chairs, or the animal heads hanging from the walls.

Sometimes I just hate breaking the news that I’m vegetarian to the restaurant owners overseeing my reviews, particularly after first-glance at a lavish meat feast of a menu consisting of duck breast, black pudding mousse, chorizo couqettes…the chefs certainly know how to curate a menu according to season. So when my lovely server, Ryan, recommended the last of the venison on today’s specials board I didn’t want to announce “I’m afraid we’re (referring to my lucky reviewee partner and myself) vegetarian”. And that’s made awkward more so by the fact that the only vegetarian main on the menu was a risotto, albeit a luxurious, al dente, creamy risotto. Although, I do prefer it when a menu is composed of a few extensively and passionately designed dishes. Situated on a table with full view of the happenings of the kitchen, the solo chef on this Monday evening knew his way round the elaborate yet tempting menu, juggling the orders for hungry diners.

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

The dish that deserves the spotlight from this three course is surprisingly a simplistic vegetarian starter, which merely thinking about is making my mouth water. On paper, it’s rather unexciting: Goats cheese mousse, quince purée, and butternut squash. This restaurant certainly loves its mousses and purées. The goats cheese mousse melted in the mouth – it wasn’t overpowering or too rich like you’d expect it to be but was the perfect, soft accompaniment to the crunchiness of the butternut squash – which there were only three cubes of – a tad ungenerous, if not to emphasise the mousse as centerpiece.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

An additional vegetarian starter on the specials board also caught my eye: salad of roasted heart of artichoke, giant caramelized shallots, served with a concentrated spinach and basil dressing, and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds. This was a wholesome and more filling starter compared to the first. But starters aren’t meant to fill you up, they’re there to whet your appetite for the next courses, and the goats cheese mousse was incredibly exciting, making me anticipate the what would come next.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Up next was unfortunately the only vegetarian main up for grabs: creamy roasted cauliflower risotto with truffle oil. It didn’t disappoint in taste and appearance however; the charred cauliflower with truffle oil against the luxurious base of al dente (cooked to perfection in my books) risotto rice really worked. If you prefer less rich, less creamy risotto then this may not be for you – it’s truly indulgent.

img_0038

I’ve never had parfait before, so the dessert was an appealing excuse to try it I’m also a sucker for all the components of this dessert: peanut butter, caramelized banana and salted caramel sauce. I thoroughly enjoyed the way this was assembled, rather than merely plated; it was similar to the artistic arrangement of the winning starter.

On average starters and desserts were priced at £5.50, and mains ranging from £13 to £19, so it’s a student treat, or somewhere to take when the parents visit for graduation perhaps. I would definitely go again if the options for vegetarians were increased and more varied, there’s much more scope for experimentation in the non-meat dishes. Otherwise I’ll just have to order three of the goats cheese mousse starter.

Truffles Pizzeria: restaurant review

Upon entering Truffles Pizzeria, the air was pungent with the luxurious smell and quality of truffle oil – as one of my favourite cooking ingredients, this was a good indication of what was to come.

Opened as a pizzeria only a year ago, amongst the dainty throng of local independents on Magdalen Road, business seems to be prosperous. Even on a Wednesday evening, tables were occupied or reserved; popular with local families, companionless individuals perhaps in need of a restful meal and some quality time to themselves, young 30-something couples and people popping in for a hump-day takeaway order. All students tend to migrate towards The Old Firehouse when pizza is fancied, but I recommend this restaurant for a more relaxed, intimate atmosphere, and for a greater selection of elaborate toppings.

Truffles Pizzeria is sadly lacking in a website and an accessible menu online, so I couldn’t do my favourite, unspontaneous habit and peruse the menu and decide what I was going to have beforehand. But its TripAdvisor profile, rating it #24 in the whole of Exeter, and at a stable 5 stars from over 100 happy customers, reassured my qualms concerning the menu. I can vouch that the pizza menu is extensive, for vegetarians and meat eaters alike, featuring experimental toppings like blue cheese, honey and walnut (without a tomato base) to the classic pepperoni. Pizzas are priced at approximately £11.50 each.

Typically I’d go for the most experimental, i.e. the blue cheese, honey and walnut combo, but I’ve seem to be recreating these same flavours again and again for my own recipes (like my pear and stilton flatbreads) because blue cheese and walnut are the recipe for a perfect marriage. On this occasion my reviewee date and I went for ‘The Autumn’, to enjoy the current seasonal flavours, and ‘The Vegetarian’. ‘The Autumn’ is apt for those with luxurious and expensive tastebuds as it was laden with mushrooms, pine nuts and truffle oil. The flavourful ‘Vegetarian’ option featured tender artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, green and black olives and caramelised onion. Both were a real treat, but ‘The Autumn’ was particularly distinct in flavour due to the drizzling of truffle oil and the abundance of toasted pine nuts.

The owner Chris is cheerful and welcoming, and the way he runs the restaurant truly reminds me of No 1 Polsloe’s style, as it has a lovely, personal touch which comes with independent businesses. For example, Chris recently invited in local primary school children to propose their own perfect pizzas, and the winning design made its way onto the menu. The walls are decorated with exceptional prints and drawings by local secondary school students, too.

I apologise that my photos aren’t up to my usual standard as the restaurant was romantically lit by candlelit, so the pictures do not do the pizzas justice. I would encourage you to try out Truffles whilst you have the chance before entering graduate life; it’s a perfect location for a cosy date. Alternatively, you can experience the pizza in the comfort of your own home with Deliveroo…

Truffles Pizzeria on Facebook

Truffles Pizzeria on TripAdvisor

 

Saag paneer

paneer is a fresh, unsalted white cheese – it requires no ageing so it can be made in no time at home. It’s a staple vegetarian Indian ingredient which holds its form well and is flavoured beautifully with turmeric and garam masala.

Saag paneer vegetarian & gluten free; serves 4

Ingredients:

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

For the paneer: 

  • 1.5 litres whole milk
  • 1 lemon, juiced

For the saag: 

  • 1 medium sized brown onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 5cm of fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 vine tomatoes
  • 2 heaped tbsp coconut cream
  • 500g spinach
  • Salt and pepper

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

Method:

  1. In preparation for the paneer, line a sieve with a large piece of muslin cloth over a bowl.
  2. In a heavy based saucepan, bring the whole milk to the boil and then leave to simmer on a low heat.
  3. Stir the simmering milk continuously with a wooden spoon while dropping in the lemon juice in a tablespoon at a time. Continue stirring until the curds and whey separate.
  4. Take off the heat and carefully pour into the sieve, so that the curds gather in the muslin. Gently rinse under cold running water. Squeeze the curd bundle to remove any excess moisture.
  5. Place the bundle back in the sieve, over the bowl, and place a 1kg weight on the cheese. Leave in the fridge for at least an hour to set.
  6. Once firmed, cut the cheese into 2cm chunks. Fry on a medium heat in chilli infused oil (if to hand) for 5 minutes. Add more oil if necessary, and ensure that the cheese retains its shape by only stirring occasionally. Remove from the pan and leave on kitchen roll whilst you cook the saag.
  7. In the same pan, add the chopped onion with cumin seeds and cook on a low to medium heat until softened. Stir in the crushed garlic, peeled and chopped ginger, garam masala and turmeric. Then add finely chopped tomatoes and cook for a further 8 minutes.
  8. Lower the heat, add the coconut cream and the spinach and cover with a lid to wilt the spinach. Add a splash of water if needed. Once a creamy consistency, serve immediately.

No 1 Polsloe cafe

No 1 Polsloe on Facebook

No 1 Polsloe on Instagram

No 1 Polsloe café – the clue is in the title and the address – they’re No 1 at delivering high quality food, No 1 for aesthetic, No 1 for value. 

They faced me with a challenge: to get through three of their vegetarian breakfasts, one strawberry ice cream milkshake, a flat white and a cappuccino. Suffice to say, I was waddling to my 12pm lecture after.

image2[2].JPG
Here’s me tucking in, with brunch appropriate hair clips (available to buy via my Etsy shop)
I had been to this café back in 2014, but since it changed hands in August 2015, the aesthetic and vibe of the dainty space has gone from strength to strength. Decorated in makeshift cacti botanical bowls, fairy lights, plant wall hangings, and giant flowers floating from the ceiling; all I’m thinking about whilst waiting for my breakfast is how I wish I had the creative juices of the café’s trendy yet modest owner, Becky.

The space also boasts connections with Devonshire artists. Illustrative artist Elise who runs Skelliton illustration, has currently got a table of gorgeously designed goods up for sale there. The menus are designed by artist George Goodwin, who goes by the title ‘Omg I drawed it’ – and I’m looking at his art on the walls thinking Omg I WISH I drew that. But fear not, George’s drawings are available to purchase so you can bring home a little bit of that No 1 Polsloe aesthetic.

After feeling a little jealous of all these creative types, the food arrives, and the pressure is on to do all this beautiful food justice through my little iPhone camera.

Becky’s team have given me a platter featuring: their special smashed avocado and poached eggs on thick-sliced bread, with lime, chilli, and dill; a vegetarian, avocado aficionado version of eggs royale; and, buttermilk pancakes with honey, banana and Greek yoghurt.

The combination of lime, chilli, and dill with avocado tastes sensational. The hollandaise sauce poured over the eggs, avocado slices and warm muffins is absolutely perfect. I used the pancakes, accompanied by the strawberry ice cream milkshake, as my desert to the breakfast trio – they have clearly mastered their pancake batter recipe. After sampling all of these, I cannot help but think I would be over the moon to receive this in a highflying hotel. Yet, a brunch here will only set you back £6 at the most.

It’s all the thoughtful finishing touches which makes this eatery so great. Everyone is considered – from the meat-eaters, to the vegans, to the gluten-free customers. I truly appreciate seeing a restaurant also fully supportive of local businesses, such as using Exe Coffee Roasters to supply its beans, and KB Eats’ spectacular cakes to stock the counter.

No.1 Polsloe does not stop at brunch – it’s open for lunch and into the evening for pizza and cocktails. It’s now available to be hired out for private parties too.

I’d definitely give it 5 avocados out of 5. 

Berlin reflections

pretzels, bagels, bratwurst, currywurst…and erm, more currywurst

To make my flight €100 cheaper, I stopped off in Berlin for a few days before heading back to London. I found that Berlin had few concrete, fundamental dishes and ingredients that sets it aside from the rest of Europe. The capital certainly has the rest of Germany’s predilection for meat, particularly sausages. But, I was disappointed I couldn’t try the dish most ranted and raved about – that is bratwurst sausage with curry toppings, or ‘currywurst’ – because of dietary requirements. There’s even a museum dedicated to the phenomenon that is ‘currywurst’.

I fell in love with the city; it lives to reflect and learn from its controversial past, with the effect that it now exists as a liberal and lively hub. In the process, it has accumulated a vast array of multicultural cuisines. I ate in authentic Turkish, Italian and Asian restaurants (and many modern vegan eateries that are dispersed throughout the city).

The German bakeries are the city’s redemption. Think pretzels galore. Here’s a ‘streuseltaler’ – a fine yeast dough pastry with a refined butter crumble. It’s essentially an excuse to eat cake for breakfast.

berlin3.jpg

 

In East Side Berlin, there was a substantial selection of vegan eateries, to match the cool and hip ambience of this side of the city. Just past the East Side gallery, I came across a building hosting Veganz (a supermarket), Goodies (a vegan café dedicated to great coffee), The Bowl (a clean eating restaurant for the best, beautiful bowls of goodness), and a vegan shoe shop.

the bowl aesthetic .jpeg

The Bowl boasts a 100% plant-based kitchen, producing gluten and sugar free bowls for a little over €10. I tried went for the ‘California’ bowl from the menu; this was lemon quinoa, deep fried sweet potato sticks, sesame tamari leaf spinach, raw apple carrot salad, avocado slices, tomato coriander salsa and teriyaki hibiscus sauce. (But I also pinched a spoonful of the ‘Buddha’ bowl too from my travel buddy). The ingredients are simple, but the sauces and dressings bring the ingredients to life.

This restaurant refreshed me from a 3 hour urban art walking tour of the East Side gallery and beyond. And it has given me inspiration for new healthy, filling and vegan recipes.

 

 

Rosemary & dark chocolate buttons

Rosemary & dark chocolate buttons makes 1 gift; vegan

feeling inspired by the ultra-fancy chocolatiers ‘Rausch Schokoladenhausin’ the heart of Berlin. This is a simple, yet beautiful gift to give to someone special. The rosemary is freshly picked – no need for cooking

Ingredients:

  • 100g fine dark chocolate
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder (if needed)
  • 1 long sprig of rosemary, trimmed

Method:

  1. On a sheet of baking parchment, use a circular stencil to draw the outline of 9 circles, evenly spaced apart.
  2. Break the dark chocolate into pieces and melt over
    a pot of boiling water.
  3. If the cocoa percentage is low, stir in some cocoa powder for extra richness.
  4. Leave for 1 minute to cool slightly. Using a desert spoon, fill the circles with chocolate. Place trimmed rosemary sprigs in the middle before they begin to set.
  5. Set in the fridge for at least an hour. Snap off the baking parchment and gift in a small cardboard box, with ribbon.

image3.jpg

 

Sweetcorn hash with asparagus, halloumi and poached eggs

Sweetcorn hash browns vegetarian; serves 2 

I tried something similar at a Boston Tea Party café and wanted to recreate it for myself…with added spice, of course. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sized potatoes, grated
  • 2 heaped tbsp drained tinned sweetcorn
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 fresh red chilli
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Method:

  1. Grate the potatoes into a clean tea towel, or kitchen paper, and squeeze the liquid out by twisting the towel. Once dry, remove and place in a bowl.
  2. Mix in the sweetcorn and bind with the beaten egg. Season well. If the consistency isn’t solid enough, add more sweetcorn.
  3. Heat a frying pan with a generous amount of vegetable oil. Add heaped spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan and flatten into patties. Fry on each side for 2-3 minutes until crispy. Top with fresh chopped chilli.
  4. Serve with grilled asparagus, fried halloumi and poached eggs.

image

Date and cauliflower couscous

Date and cauliflower couscous vegan; serves 2

cauliflower “couscous” is a new trend that’s taking over courgette “spaghetti”. I’ve added some spice and fruit. This will be a unique accompaniment to a summer BBQ. 13692150_1202111379852045_566859860_o 

Ingredients:

  • 400g cauliflower
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • A handful of dates, chopped
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • t tsp ground cumin
  • 100g couscous
  • 40g pomegranate seeds
  • 15g fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses

Method:

  1. Pulse the chopped cauliflower florets in a food processor until it has the consistency of couscous.
  2. Cook the couscous according to the packet instructions.
  3. Heat the coconut oil in a frying pan. Add the cauliflower and chopped dates in garlic, turmeric and cumin, tossing regularly. Cook until the cauliflower is lightly toasted, and has a rich golden brown colour.
  4. Combine with the couscous. Sprinkle on the pomegranate seeds and coriander, and drizzle with pomegranate molasses.