Exeter is Devon's capital, its ancient history resulting in an architectural mashup all the way from Roman to ruins to modern waterfronts via Tudor mansions and manicured gardens. But despite its heritage, it's known as one of the UK's quieter cities, with more pubs than clubs. Unpretentious and unhurried, it basks in its West Country location, and as you'd expect from such a prime setting, Exeter is home to a clutch of places to eat and drink that lean heavily on the local produce – from veg and seafood to beer – for inspiration.
And that's where Foodism comes in, using our nerve and nouse to track down the coolest cafés, the independent restaurants, and the vineyard tours and tastings to give you a real flavour of the local area.
The River Exe Café, for example, is an an incredible floating space that's only reachable by boat, a mission that'll make your meal taste all the better; new arrival Stage, on Magdalen Road, offers seasonal tasting menus inspired by West Country produce; and head to family-run Kenton Park Estate for a unique dining in the vines experience.
What's more, you could make a complete West Country trip of it, and team a stay in Exeter with a brilliant break in Cornwall.
Has all that left you hungry for more? Here are more great places to eat and drink in Exeter.
2 great places to drink in Exeter
38-40 Southernhay E, Exeter EX1 1PE
Perched in Exeter's stylish Southernhay Quarter is Rendezvous, a wine bar that's French in name, but leans on local ingredients and European wines for its menu. And it is indeed a great place for a rendezvous, whether that's with mates, dates or colleagues – especially given it offers a set menu for lunch and dinner that's frankly ridiculous value when you factor in the quality of the produce.
The Fat Pig
2 John St, Exeter EX1 1BL
Exeter is known for its abundance of pubs, but The Fat Pig stands out from the crowd. Sat slap-bang in the middle of the city, it's ideal for a pitstop, no matter when you're going. And beyond the beers, this offers more than standard pub grub, traversing genres all the way from deeply flavoured Moroccan-inspired tagines to smoked pulled pork and apple sandwiches.
8 great places to eat in Exeter
6 Northernhay Pl, Exeter EX4 3QJ
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If steak is top of your list, Circa should be too. The meat is slow-reared on local Devon farms for extra juice and depth of flavour. Go all out and get a châteaubriand, because, you know, why not? But there's an interesting tasting menu, too, that'll take you all the way from Porthilly oysters served with a Thai-spiced emulsion, to line-caught pollock with lardo. Get in our face.
31 Magdalen Road, Exeter
A new kid on the block, Stage offers a five- or six-course tasting menu experience. It's run by a group of chefs, who also happen to be behind other local favourites Taco Boys and Porthilly Bar. So far, so good. If you visit on a Friday or a Saturday, Stage makes a departure from its tasting menu mission to become a cocktail bar with music and snacks until midnight.
9 Piazza Terracina, Haven Road, Exeter, EX2 8GT
Rockfish is a restaurant from Mitch Tonks, a chef famed for his fish. This riverside spot doesn't disappoint, and the location on the Quayside is the perfect setting for sustainably sourced and locally landed seafood and is easily one of the best places to eat in Exeter. Our pick? Local fish, so fresh it's still flapping, cooked on the plancha *chef's kiss*.
86 Longbrook St, Exeter EX4 6AP
It's a well-known fact that one year of a restaurant's life is equal to seven years of a human life, which means that Harry's Restaurant is basically ancient. And that's because it's a real local favourite, and frequently rated one of the best places to eat in Exeter. The restaurant is still family-owned: chef-owner Samantha Pounds took it over from her parents, and her four daughters all work alongside her every day – a story that warms even our jaded heart. It's also pretty handy that the food is wicked-good, too: from steak to sweets, you'll find it hard to put a foot (or a fork) wrong.
Eat on the Green
2 Cathedral Cl, Exeter EX1 1EZ
Like tea? Eat on the Green is one for you – it specialises in Devonshire high teas. But it specialises in a whole lot more besides, like banging all-day breakfasts that cater to veggies and vegans; and vibrant lunch plates that lean on local produce.
14 Catherine Street, Exeter EX1 1EU
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Those in the know will recognise the name of Philip Warren, a farmer pioneering regenerative farming methods and rearing meat so tasty you'll find it in the very best London restaurants. In fact, the produce is so good that there's a long waiting list if you want to be supplied by him. And you can be damned well sure that his beef makes a great burger, best sampled at Exeter's Hubbox, a classy joint serving up beef, chicken, veggie and vegan buns alongside mighty portions of crispy skin-on fries. This is junk food that's anything but rubbish.
Cake or Death
68 Bartholomew St W, Exeter EX4 3AJ
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Cake or Death came to lockdown fame in London thanks to its incredible vegan letterbox brownies, stuffed with everything from Jammy Dodgers to roasted peanuts. Its owner, baker Katie Cross, decided to leave the Big Smoke behind and move to Exeter, where she's now set up a bakery and coffee shop. Thankfully, you can still order the brownies to London. Phew.
River Exe Café
Water taxi departs from The Point Bar, EX8 1XA
You can only get to this unique restaurant on a barge by boat – but don't worry, if you aren't captain of your own ship, there are water taxis you can take, too. And your meal will be worth the journey: describing itself as Devon's only gastro shed, the River Exe Café has won more than a few awards for its locally sourced food.
Exeter's most delicious food and drink experiences
Dining in the vines at Kenton Park Estate
Kenton, Exeter, EX6 8NW
The Kenton Park Estate is a family-run vineyard producing sparkling wines to rival France. And so they should: the owners spent years educating themselves about winemaking and turning an abandoned vineyard into the stunning location it's become today. These days, they've expanded to produce gin and whisky, too. Pop in for a tasting, a tour and lunch at their sunny café, or for a seriously special meal, book the Dining in the Vines experience.
Just outside Clyst St George, EX3 0NZ
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Another award-winning independent Devon winemaker is Pebblebed, sitting pretty near the tiny town of Topsham. The vineyard is deeply entrenched in local culture: its story begins in 1999, when 11 local families came together with Geoff Bowen at the helm to plant the first half-acre of vines. The Bowens went on to run the vineyard until recently, when it passed into the hands of their family friends, another local business called Darts Farm. The head winemaker has remained the same, and we're seriously glad about that – Pebblebed's sparkling is known to be some of the best in Britain, and the white, red and rosé aren't half bad either.
Cowley Bridge Rd, Exeter EX4 4NX
No prizes for guessing what you'll find at Exeter Brewery, but what it lacks in mystery it makes up for with a range of crisp local beers, ranging from Avocet, its original award-winning real ale, to an IPL, which stands for It's Proper Lager. Visit the tap room on Cowley Bridge Road to try the beers fresh from the kegs, or book a tour of the brewery to find more about the brewing process.
For more information about the city of Exeter, go to visitexeter.com