Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Taste of the Teign Festival - Dr Paul Cleave at the Oystercatchers Cafe

This was the second event for the inaugural Taste of the Teign festival.  The earlier Crab Cracking Workshop at The Crab Shack, Teignmouth was a big success.

Dr Paul Cleave from Exeter University honoured us with his presence in the Oystercatchers Cafe, Teignmouth.

We learnt much about the historic importance of food and tourism in South Devon.  The area  has a long history of food production.  The diet varied in different parts of Devon, but overall simple dishes used to be served: some regions were known for barley, others for fish.  Seafood such as lobsters was often viewed as 'poisonous'!

Dr Cleave talked of the Shaldon women fishing for salmon in the very beautiful river - the men were more likely piloting ships or labouring in the fisheries.  Apparently the hopes and disappointments of these women would have provided an excellent subject for a sketch!  Shaldon was described in the 1936 book, Come to Devon, as a 'delectable spot' and ideal for staying for a few weeks at The Roundhouse Hotel.  The Teign Estuary was described as being 'unmatched in beauty'.

Doctors used to promote visits to the seaside for their bathing, sunshine, food and clean air.  Teignmouth in the late 18th century was described as a great place for hospitality, food, bathing, and walks with an interesting landscape and had a 'sufficient' theatre.

Of course the 1860s brought the railway to Teignmouth, with lots more tourism.  This area of the Teign Estuary provided scientific appeal (geology) and wildlife (dolphins were frequently seen at Teignmouth and once a whale).  The sealife has always been very good and there were many edible fish. The apple orchards were good for eating apples, the production of cider and to create an attractive landscape.  

In the 1950s there were 28 varieties of cheese in Devon.  I'm not sure there are that many any longer.  Celia Fiennes, a late 17th century / early 18th century traveller was very complimentary about 'clotted cream served with an open apple tart with custard'.  NB Custard AND clotted cream.  Until 1952, clotted cream was illegal and now it's one of our local delights.

Overall the talk was really interesting, (there were quotations from several old books that Dr Cleave had kindly brought along) particularly the parts about the fishing and the clotted cream!  Lastly Dr Cleave opened his hamper and let us taste some barley bread (rather like wholemeal scones) with clotted cream and homemade jam.

There are many more Taste of the Teign events this week (from now until Sunday 27 Sept 2015).  I am going to several more (the quiz this evening at the Oystercatchers, the lunchtime talk at the Cockhaven Manor, the tour of Shute Fruit, the preparation of fish at Alice Cross Centre and a browse of the markets at the weekend).  For more information on the events, consult the Facebook page. The events are informative for people interested in local food and delicious when there are samples!

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Circa 1924, Exeter: Restaurant Review

Circa 1924 is in Exeter and is directly behind Boots near John Lewis.

We went there on a Thursday evening and it was fabulous!  We parked right outside and had a non-alcoholic cocktail and a beer (Bath Gem) in the very comfortable bar.  The barman obviously knows his stuff.  My non-alcoholic cocktail was delicious and mango-flavoured - I think I necked it within a few minutes rather than sipped it daintily! The waiting staff were all very welcoming, friendly and cheerful.

We browsed the menu whilst drinking our aperitifs in the comfy bar area.

We were taken upstairs to eat the food.  Downstairs the bar area seemed 'new shabby' (if you know what I mean) whereas the upstairs was more inviting: dark and gleaming.  I did wonder why there was a single standard lamp at the far end of the room.

For starters, I had the crab bisque and my husband had the scallop ceviche.  Both were very good but my bisque was tasty, creamy and very good.  The ceviche was fresh tasting and tangy but my bisque was better!(You can see it in the distance in the photo below.)

There were a few other tables seated and enjoying their meals.  We found it the right level of busy-ness.  Not so quiet that you felt like a fool eating there; not so busy that the next table can eavesdrop on your conversation.

Moving on to the main courses, I had the Duck with Pak Choi and Macaroni Cheese (as it was such an unusual combination and I had never even heard of it) and my husband had the Rib-eye
Steak with Bearnaise sauce and triple cooked chips.  He thought the steak was cooked to perfection I was disappointed that the duck didn't have crispy skin - the skin was on the breast and was soggy.  I felt that the sauce was very sweet.  The macaroni cheese (served alongside in a separate dish) was amazing and I loved that.  You can get it as a side order too.

We did have desserts - my 'Lemon tart' was OK but I felt I could have made it myself.  My husband's Chilli Chocolate Torte with homemade Ice Cream - which he felt was very nice - the chilli wasn't overpowering and the tangy citrus sauce stopped it from being cloying. This photo shows the chocolate dessert.

I think this place would be good for a 'date', great for couples and a really good place for groups.   If you chose well (e.g. the crab bisque, the steak, the macaroni cheese) you were rewarded with fabulous food.  My husband also thought that the waitress who served our food was really good