Food and drink
The South West is renowned for its contribution to the UK’s rich food and drink culture, especially in recent times. It’s no surprise that renowned chefs like Nathan Outlaw, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Rick Stein and Michael Caines make their home in the area.
As regional capital, Exeter is at the heart of the South West food scene. As well as being home to a vast array of outstanding restaurants, coffee shops, delicatessens and markets, it also hosts the annual Festival of South West Food and Drink, drawing people from around the country to experience the best the region has to offer.
Exploring outside Exeter reaps culinary rewards too; the Devon countryside is littered with vineyards, cider presses, and specialist farms supplying outstanding produce.
Exeter excels when it comes to eating out. As well as the chain restaurants you’d expect, the city boasts an abundance of independent and small-scale eateries, from burger joints and gastro-pubs to celebrity-chef-run restaurants, street food, and international cuisines.
If you fancy a burger, Hubbox and Ruby Modern Diner are must-visits, while The Rusty Bike and The Hourglass offer serious takes on pub food (as well as excellent cellars). Magdalen Road provides several excellent small-scale restaurants, cafes and bistros, and if you’re after fine dining, The Conservatory and Abode can’t be beaten. On The Waterfront, on the quayside, is a summer student favourite for pizzas al fresco. Al Farid, Tyepyedong, Afriteo, and The Gurkha Kitchen offer excellent takes on Moroccan, Oriental, Caribbean, and Nepalese cuisine in the city centre.
Venturing a couple of miles down the river to Topsham brings further delights, from the cycling-friendly Route 2 Café Bar to the renowned Salutation Inn. Even further afield you can discover the Riverford Field Kitchen near Totnes, Gidleigh Park on Dartmoor, and Café Ode in Shaldon, as well as dozens of others.
All the usual supermarkets from Aldi to Waitrose are represented in Exeter, many of them in or close to the city centre if you don’t have a car. It can be cheaper and far more rewarding to explore the outstanding local produce on offer at the various butchers, bakers, delis, fishmongers and greengrocers across the city though. Magdalen Road, near St Luke’s Campus, has an array of such foodie-pleasing shops, many of them festooned with awards.
There’s also a good array of specialist international supermarkets, delicatessens and butchers catering for Asian, Indian, African, European and religious cuisines, many of them situated on and around Sidwell Street, just a short walk from Streatham Campus. Meanwhile The Real Food Store on Paris Street brings together many of the regions' best local produce providers in one shop every day.
Exeter Farmers’ Market takes place every Thursday at the junction of Fore Street and South Street, right in the centre of town. There’s also the University’s own Farmers’ Market, every Friday on the piazza during term, which increasingly attracts people from the city onto campus as well as catering for students and staff.
For those craving something special on non-market days there are several Farm Shops just outside the city. Most notable is Darts Farm in Topsham; recently awarded 'Best Farm Shop in the UK', it offers an array of local West Country food and drink, luxury gifts, and home and lifestyle products.
There are plenty of chain coffee shops across the city, but real bean lovers in Exeter (and there are plenty) tend to steer clear of the franchises and explore the numerous independents and small-scale local chains that have sprung up around Exeter in recent years. These include Devon Coffee, Boston Tea Party and The Exploding Bakery on Queen Street, The Glorious Art House on Fore Street, Artigiano and Café #1 in the city centre, and Exe Coffee Roasters, opposite St Luke’s Campus and down the hill on Heavitree Road. Each of these offers a more individual, quality take on the coffee experience, and more are emerging all the time; another quality independent has probably opened while you’ve been reading this page.
The Exeter Food and Drink Festival happens every April in Northernhay Park, slap-bang in the middle of the city, and is a celebration of all things culinary that the South West has to offer. Admission isn’t cheap, but as well as a mouth-watering array of produce – from venison to cider to gelato and far, far beyond – there’s also an amazing atmosphere, making a trip to the food festival a great day (or evening) out as much as it is a chance to browse peoples’ wares.