Find out where to eat and stay in Exeter with our insider’s guide …
The Devon capital may be crawling with copycat cafes and replica restaurants, but scratch the surface and there’s a thriving indie scene to be explored, fork first. Kathryn Lewis packed a tasting spoon and set off on an edible expedition
Brew with a bang 10am
Fresh off the train at Central Station, saunter into the warm embrace of speciality coffee and just-out-of-the-oven bread at the newly expanded Exploding Bakery next door. Welcoming weary travellers to the city one silky flat white and tip-top tray bake at a time, fuel up at one of the communal benches or start your edible expedition en-route to your next stop.
History hit 11am
Fully carbed-up, make a hop-skip-and-a-jump down the street to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum which is well worth a snoop since its super-duper refurb. Swot up on local history, check out the impressive ancient Egyptian exhibition and don’t forget to say ‘hi’ to Gerald, Exeter’s celeb-status giraffe.
Single origin sorcery 12pm
Said to be the cobbled alley which inspired Harry Potter’s favourite stomping ground, indulge in a spot of edible alchemy as you head into the centre of town through Gandy Street. Chocolate fiends are in for double trouble with Chococo crafting ultra-luxe single origin hot chocolates in its cafe-come-bean-emporium at one end, and Choccie Bar on hand with a homemade haul of bars and gifts, at the other.
Midday munchies 1pm
Come lunchtime, don’t let the glut of casual dining digs throw you off course. Circa 1924’s (pictured above) express lunch – fillet mignon, moules marinièr et al – is a bargain if you’re on a budget. The Terrace in the swanky new Queen Street Dining Quarter is another great shout, as is The Stable for impromptu pizzas, pies and a cheeky cider.
If the weather’s good, pick-up gorgeous organic goodies at The Real Food Store. Picnic packed, find a spot on the wall which lines the Cathedral Green and tuck in under the splendour of the 15th century sanctuary.
Indie inspo 3pm
Make tracks to Fore Street – via The Beer Cellar for a quirky IPA if it’s that kinda’ day – where a fabulous selection of indie shops and eateries await. Stock up on coffee gear and fine teas at Artisan Chai in McCoys Arcade (pictured below), before popping into neighbouring Hops + Crafts for a vibrant selection of craft beers from the South West and beyond. Across the road, No Guts No Glory is your go-to for some serious interior inspo, and there’s a vintage barbers, Sandyman Chop Shop, a couple doors down if you’re after a badass bouffant.
Bath time 6pm
Retire to your room at the thoroughly fabulous Southernhay House a little early as you’re going to need a few extra hours in which to wallow in the roll-top tub at the end of the bed. De-stressed and dressed to kill, saunter down the staircase to the elegant bar where an indulgent cocktail list awaits. If you’re planning to explore Exeter by night, you’ll need to steel yourself to steer clear of the tempting bar menu after your second SH Garden Martini.
Exeter eats 8pm
On the prowl for indie eateries, Rendezvous – also on Southernhay – is a must for the impressive wine list that keeps the bill of seasonal dishes company. The Rusty Bike on Howell Road is another good find for rustic food and local produce, or go down the dirty burger route at Hubbox.
Speciality start 10am
With another day of eating ahead, start the morning right with an expertly prepared coffee at EXE Coffee Roasters on Heavitree Road. Roasting beans in its basement, try the Neighbourhood blend as espresso or flat white before bagging a few beans to take home.
Magdalen must-haves 11.30am
Wired and ready to go, make the short walk over to Magdalen Road where you’ll find a charming collection of community shops and eateries. Kick things off with a loaf of freshly made sourdough – and maybe a brownie or two – at The Magdalen Road Bakery, before making your way to Bon Gout Deli for locally made charcuterie, a cracking selection of cheeses and walls lined with delightful delicacies from around the world. Top off the spending spree with a bottle of something good from Smith’s and that’s tomorrow’s lazy post-break lunch sorted.
On your bike 1pm
Work off any of the treats that didn’t make it into the canvas shopper with a voyage along the River Exe. Rent a bike or canoe from Saddles and Paddles on the Quay and explore the river’s winding banks by land or water. Back on two feet, have a nosey around the eclectic mix of shops buried in the historic cellars which line the waterfront.
If you’re more hollandaise than handlebars, book into one of the Exeter Cookery School’s afternoon courses in its sleek new classroom overlooking the water.
Rum remedies 6pm
Make a pre-dinner appointment at Doctor Ink’s Curiosities (pictured top), where a tall tale accompanies each of the crafty concoctions on the Victorian inspired cocktail menu. We prescribe The Bee’s Knees – vodka, Mandarine Napoleon, pamplemousse, citron, wildflower honey, bee pollen and meadow flowers – for medicinal reasons, of course.
Greedy goodbyes 8pm
Head back to Magdalen Road for dinner and roundoff a greedy two days in Exeter with a seductive selection of Galician tapas at Cafe Catalan.