I haven’t visited Circa 1924 before, but I have heard and read about it a lot since moving here, and it was firmly on my list of top restaurants to eat try in Exeter.
Over Christmas they had a big refurb, swapping the popular downstairs bar for the restaurant and turning upstairs into Exeter’s newest musical hotspot. When one of the owners, Rob messaged me to see if I would be interested in coming for dinner to try the menu and check out their brand new nightspot (a night out incorporating two of my favourite things; food and music) how could I refuse?
Circa is one of Exeter’s fabulous independent restaurants, here’s a little bit about them from their website:
“Two history buffs, a Swede and some lovely staff set out on a mission to provide Exeter with an establishment to be proud of.
Our formula is simple; unpretentious friendly service and a seasonal menu utilising the world-class produce from the green rolling hills and stunning coastline of Devon.
Since we opened in June 2015, we haven’t looked back and the reaction we’ve had so far has been amazing.” (from circa1924.co.uk)
The restaurant itself is beautiful in it’s simplicity, broken into two dining spaces, it is lit with bare filament lightbulbs, there are wooden crate shelves and tasteful images and portraits on the walls. It’s minimalist and stylish.
They aren’t lying about their staff either; “lovely’, “unpretentious” and “friendly” are the perfect adjectives. We were made to feel very welcome and our waitress took the time to talk us through the menu and make a few excellent recommendations that I will share with you.
We discovered that Circa infuse their own spirits, and the first thing I was recommended was the jalapeño Gin, which – despite my initial concern about starting the evening with burnt tastebuds – was absolutely divine, all the flavour of of a jalapeño pepper without any of the heat (they take the seeds out) it was superb and incredibly morish.
Fresh or pan fried oysters were on the menu so we ordered half a dozen natural oysters with red wine, vinegar and shallots as an entree. Perfect after the gin, they were swimming in the shell, fresh, meaty with the scent of the sea, we could have happily eaten a dozen!
For starters, I opted for the lightly pickled beetroot carpaccio with charred goats cheese and pangrattato. Perfect in its simplicity, the pickled earthy beetroot worked perfectly with the creamy goat’s cheese and the crispy pangrattato gave the dish a delightful crunch
My husband is a staunch meat eater and for the main course, he opted for medium-rare ribeye with truffle butter.
For my main course I had the grilled & salt baked celeriac with wild mushroom risotto and lingonberry chutney.
The smell of the mushrooms and truffle oil was outrageous, the combination of perfectly baked succulent celeriac, mushroom risotto and lingonberry was to die for.
I might add that at this stage in the meal I was really excited, it was easily the best vegetarian meal I have eaten since moving to Exeter, carefully planned and beautifully presented, I wanted to make the main course last for as long as I possibly could.
For dessert our waitress suggested the raspberries & cream, she didn’t mention that it came with sorbet, gel, meringue, fresh & freeze dried raspberries, vanilla creme and flowers. As you can see, the presentation was on point and it tasted as good as it looked (I didn’t do well at sharing).
We finished our meal with a fine Espresso and headed upstairs to check out the music.
The bar was intimate and busy with comfy wooden furniture and blackboards, a little bit prohibition and a little 1960’s Parisian chic, it had a cool vibe.
The house band, The UpCrowd and guest vocalist Chloé Chatard were playing a chilled jazz set, it was loud enough to enjoy it and still converse.
It’s a smooth venue, the kind of place you would happily head to on a date if you’re in the mood for romance of if you fancy a night out with close friends of discerning taste in music and booze.
Upstairs is open every night with live funk, jazz & blues every Friday.
We will definitely be back and I would love to see more vegetarian dishes on the menu, Circa 1924 do them so well.
Circa 1924 is at 6 Northernhay Place, Exeter, EX4 3QJ (01392 438545)
Disclaimer: I was invited to sample the menu and check out Circa’s new upstairs bar for free, my review reflects my honest opinion – it is THE best vegetarian / pesce meal I have eaten in Exeter since moving here.