The biggest city on the Devon coast, built by seafarers and traders, Exeter is a hidden gem of the British dining scene, benefiting from fantastic local seafood and farms around which the finest restaurants centre their dishes. Discover more with our guide to Exeter’s finest restaurants, inns and pubs.
One of the features of The Conservatory is its restored Tudor wall, dating back to 1600. This combination of historical reverence amongst the more modern is reflected in the restaurant’s menu. It includes all the English classics served with the best of unpretentious modern cooking techniques, and paired with a superb wine list. Since opening more than ten years ago, it has become one of Exeter’s most popular dining spots.
One of the two restaurants in Exeter to have a prestigious ‘bib gourmand’ rating from Michelin (awarded to restaurants offering good food at reasonable prices), Jack in the Green is seriously committed to combining the best of locally sourced fine dining with a traditional pub experience. No wonder it has also been voted one of the top 20 gastropubs in Britain, with its menu of seasonal fare and its option to eat ‘Totally Devon,’ which means sampling the best of the county’s produce across three delicious courses for the reasonable price of £25.
Five Bells Inn is a ‘bib gourmand’ rated restaurant by Michelin, located in a restored 16th-century inn, complete with a thatched roof. The menu is focused on fine-dining versions of pub classics based around seasonal ingredients. Also worth trying are their one-pot dinners, featuring succulent cuts of meat and vegetables prepared for couples and groups to enjoy together over two leisurely courses. Whatever you decide to try, however, you can be sure of great service and a warm and comfortable atmosphere.
Named from the initials of the two surnames of its owners, the team behind The HH were right to be proud enough of this restaurant to put their names to it. Serving English cooking with occasional French and other international twists, they offer unpretentious fine dining with a friendly atmosphere. An emphasis is on ensuring a relaxed and relaxing experience that has seen them awarded countless plaudits and fans since their opening.
When celebrity chef Michael Caines is not gracing TV screens in programmes like BBC1’s ‘Saturday Kitchen,’ he is busy running his culinary empire, one of the more popular branches of which can be found in Exeter. A sister restaurant to his nearby Michelin-starred Gidleigh Park, this spot can be found within Exeter’s Abode Hotel, and offers both fine and casual dining options. Both of which receive as much love and attention as dishes from Gidleigh, and from chefs trained by Caines himself.
Part pub, part curio from another age, The Bridge Inn has been run by the same family since 1897, offering a service that has changed little since then. This makes the Bridge Inn a refreshing change from the droves of identikit chain pubs that surround it in Britain. Serving lunchtime food only, they offer a selection of authentic British pub fare with their immensely popular ever-changing cask ales. Little wonder then that this was chosen as the first pub ever to be visited by the current queen, who stopped in while on her millennium tour of Britain.
Offering the best of local dining, @Angela’s specialises in local seafood, which it offers from its dining room hidden away in the west of the city. Easy to miss, but to do so is a foolhardy move, as you will miss one of the city’s best hidden treasures. Also serving West Country meat and game, the husband and wife team behind @Angela’s will do their upmost to make even the most unwilling day-trippers feel like locals.
Housed in a 19th-century wool warehouse located, as the name suggests, on the waterfront, this restaurant has to be one of Exeter’s most sumptuously decorated. Inside features warm lighting and exposed brick, and there’s a lovely outside dining area for the warmer months with views of the water. The menu is international in flavour, with modern pub classics aplenty, a selection of pizzas as a speciality as well as burgers and, naturally, the hearty fish selection you expect from any Exeter restaurant worth its salt.
La Petite Maison is the culmination of over thirty years of culinary experience accrued by its head chef Douglas Pestell. Finally opening up his own restaurant in 2000, La Petite Maison has been going ever since, serving modern British cooking in its intimate dining room of thirty covers. The locals are treated like family, and those who love food in a friendly atmosphere should be sure to visit.
One of the restaurants found in Exeter’s quaint village suburb of Topsham, The Restaurant at the Salutation Inn has seen major redevelopment in recent years. Originally a pub, it has become an inn, offering lodging of a quality that matches that of its food. This food is a loving tribute to the history of traders and seafarers who have looked to Topsham for lodging over the centuries. The chefs use local ingredients as well as those that the traders would bring to the town across a five, seven or nine-course tasting menu.