Review: Circa1924

For many years Harry’s grill bar has been hailed as the best steakhouse in Exeter, and firmly cemented it’s reputation in the centre of the city.  It was to my surprise when I heard that it was no more, being replaced by Circa1924; I was intrigued to try it out!  Circa1924 was created by two local guys, James and Rob. According to the website they "both love good food and a great drink" - Definitely something that I can relate to!

"After both spending time living away from the area, we couldn't help but notice that our hometown needs to recapture it's culinary soul. There are too many chains and not enough good independents. We want to be the place to eat in Exeter. Our Exeter restaurant is a 1920s inspired steak & seafood house with a rustic speakeasy cocktail bar. Being based in Devon, we are lucky to be inundated with fantastic local produce - we pride ourselves on serving a simple, seasonal menu with the best ingredients available."

As the previous location for one of Exeter's few independents I was glad to read that this was a theme that the new owners wished to continue, as well as being passionate about quality and trying to source ingredients as locally as possible.  When I had a look at their menu I was instantly attracted by their vast selection of cocktails, many a twist on a classic, and a few that I had never heard of before!  Their menu still retains some similarities to Harry's, most notable the 2 people sharing steak the Chateaubriand!

We arrived and were greeted by one of the mixologists at the bar.  I really liked the atmosphere from
the minute we walked in; relaxed and really in keeping with the rustic speakeasy cocktail bar theme.  There was plenty of bare wood and bulbs and plenty of seating downstairs in a really relaxing environment.  We decided to go for some cocktails to start, after much deliberation!  I went for a SEXY G & T - Plymouth Gin, Benedictine, Lavender Syrup, and Fever Tree Tonic where Nick chose a GRAPEFRUIT COSMO - Stolichnaya Citros vodka, Cointreau, Lime Juice, and Grapefruit Juice.  Both were presented incredibly and I loved the sprig of lavender pegged to my glass!  I have had many many G&Ts in my time and it was great to have a twist on a classic.  Nick enjoyed his, so much that he had a 2nd!

After enjoying our drinks we set off upstairs to sample their food.  Sadly we are not great fans of fish so couldn't test it as much as I feel we should have! There is a big selection of Oysters, mussels and prawns as well as a fish of the day.   There are some great sharing bowls that are perfect for fish
Ceaser Salad with prawns
lovers, but Nick was a little upset that calamari was not offered as a starter on it's own! I chose a ceaser salad with the topping of the day, which was King Prawn.  While there isn't much that can go wrong with a ceaser salad, I have to say that this is one of the nicest salads I have eaten at a restaurant! There was just the right balance of dressing, salad and topping and just the right amount of food for a light starter.  The prawns actually worked really well with the dish and instead of the traditional crouton there was crisp bread on the side.

Peanut chicken Skewers
Nick went for a spicy Peanut Chicken with a rice noodle salad.  Served beautifully on a slate board and bowl it was a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth!  The chicken was cooked beautifully with a nice kick to it and the salad was delicious and somewhat refreshing.

For main I couldn’t resist trying the Duck & Mac- crispy local duck breast in a spicy glaze served with mac & cheese and pak choi.  Duck isn't usually something that I would go for as I always worry that it will be too fatty for my taste but I decided to put them to the test!  The breast itself was cooked beautifully, crispy skin and rare in the middle.  The mac & cheese was incredible- nice to see a restaurant apparently make it themselves instead of using a packet! I really enjoyed the whole dish and would definitely come back to eat here again based just on that!

Delicious Mac 'n Cheese!

Nick's Steak
Nick went for a ribeye steak and requested medium rare, but it came very rare!  This isn’t an issue for Nick as he likes rare meat, however I know a lot of people can’t cope with rare meat. We didn’t send it back as he was happy to eat it and he enjoyed it.  He said that it was a little fatty, as expected with that cut of meat, but the fat is where the flavour is.  He had it with peppercorn sauce, triple cooked chips and a crab side to make a surf and turf!  The chips were perfectly crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle.  The peppercorn sauce was nice but for my personal taste it was a little runny and wasn’t peppery enough!  There was a depth of flavours, one of which I couldn’t identify but was quite similar to aniseed?  Just not to my personal taste.

Crab side for a surf & turf
We were so full after our meals that we couldn’t even contemplate dessert!  Something I have regretted since, but am more than happy to go back and try!  The service was quick and all the staff were very attentive.   My only criticism is that the steak was not cooked as requested although I’m sure if we had raised this to them it would have been quickly resolved.  I never thought about going to Harry’s Grill bar for anything other than a meal, but the environment, atmosphere as well as quality of cocktails here mean I would happily spend an evening sampling every cocktail on the menu with my friends!  Visit their websie here