This well known restaurant has been situated in the village of Broadclyst for many years, many more than I have been blessed with on this earth. It has taken different names and themes over the years and changed with the times, but not always with great success. Most recently it has been known as the “Coachman’s Rest” which was known for serving “international” based cuisine from old British favorites to the odd curry dish etc. Although successful in its final days it did struggle with very little business, which from the location of this restaurant should not be a problem based directly in the centre of town and on a very busy through road.
The restaurant was then purchased by new owners with the intension of completely rebuilding and refurbishing the tired looking building, bringing life and freshness back into its history. The refurbishment took from September until the restaurant opened at the end of November/Start of December, they had also decided of the name of the establishment which would be based on the owners surnames and hence the “HH Restaurant” was opened.
I had to hold back from rushing to the telephone upon opening as I do think no matter how experience head chef you have (Thiers coming from a well known back ground of “Jack in the Green – Exeter), it takes time to familiarise yourself with the menu and your new surroundings. I decided to wait until they did a menu refresh as I thought this would give them enough time, and through the wonderful world of Twitter and speaking to Darren who is one of the owners he kindly informed me the menu would be updated on January 8th, so I quickly booked a table on the evening of 13th January at 7pm.
Upon arriving the external of the restaurant does have a very fresh look with clean white walls and a large dark brown sign indicated the name and details of the restaurant, the conveniently placed car park is right on the side of the building and saves the annoyance of hunting a car parking space on the small streets of the village.
Upon entering we were immediately greeted by the front of house team and with our coats taken shown to a small sitting area and menus provided, our drink orders were then quickly taken and served. Darren was then kind enough to come over and chat for a small time about the refurbishment and general chit chat etc. First impressions of the internals of the restaurant are good with clean white walls, dark brown and black leather chairs and small bits of structural wood placed around the area, which all make for a pleasing environment.
Looking through the menu which was presented in a very large and I must say unneeded wooden folder, it is a mix of traditional English with a slight French influence thrown in for good measure. I was quite glad to see there was not an abundant use of different mousse’s/gels/foams etc which can show a chefs need to show off in this sort of place, gladly though each dish was described well.
After making our selections and a short wait we were then asked to the table, where we were then greeted by a young waitress. Any long term readers of my blog will know there are 2 real loves of mine when it comes to dining out, 1 being the dessert (It is the best part…. Period), and the second would be the offerings of different flavour/types of bread. Luckily the HH restaurant did not fail on the bread front with our young waitress presenting us with a large basket of bread rolls, of which there was 3 different types which were:
- White Buttermilk Loaf
- White Poppy Seed Loaf
- Country Fennel Seed Loaf
These all looked great and were served lovely and warm, my first selection being the White Buttermilk roll which was in a shape of a spiral, which as you unwound it released large amounts of steam which and just emphasized how fresh it was. Being the child like person I am I could not decide how to easily cut the roll as it being in a shape of a spiral it would have just fell apart, so I proceeded by carefully unwinding the bread which allowed me to lather it with ample amounts of butter, then I was easlier able to roll it back up into the original spiral shape, this made for one of the nicest pre-dinner bread eating’s I have had, with the bread being soft and flavoursome, the milk and butter flavours being strong and complimented well with the butter, unfortunately at this time I was so enticed by the now dripping roll filled with butter my camera seemed a distant thought. Next was the fennel seed loaf which had a strong hard crust but being nice and firm on the inside, the fennel came through well but I found it lacked some flavor and some additional salt could be used here, but this was resolved easily due to the ample use of butter! Unfortunately I did not make it to the try the final bread offering as the small loafs were quite a large size.
Amuse Bouche – Celeriac and Truffle
Just after the bread was presented a small bowl of soup was given to us, this had a wonderful rich flavour with the sweet, creamy flavours of the celeriac coming through which mixed with the taste of truffle made for a very very good soup. This was indeed very rich and a small portion is only needed.
When Darren brought me this dish and his first words were “Ah sorry need to move your cutlery due to the different sized plates your having this evening”, now I am all for having different styles of plates etc and do appreciated how these add to the impression of the food, however if you are going to do this, please make sure you have spaced your table settings appropriately as it gives a feeling that the meal no matter how well done is just pretentious. Onto the food, the presentation was good with each of the elements spaced out on the plate, on first glance I was disappointed at the size of the serving of the terrine, but this turned out to be a lot thicker than I had expected and quite filling. The flavour of the terrine was good with the strong flavours of pork coming through, and surprisingly this was not salty at all as is the case when using ham hock, it was nice to see a good selection of root vegetables packed densely into this square and made for pleasing textures. The apple gel I found paired perfectly with the ham hock adding the sweet element which tied and partnered these 2 different items perfectly, there was just the correct amount as well of this to allow for the gel to be tasted with every bite of the terrine. The foie gras was very very lightly seared and placed in a pool of oil which I found gave to abit of a overally slimy texture to the entire piece, and due to the very light searing and the already “soft” centre of the liver, I found this texture just to much and slightly dampened my enjoyment of this. The mustard and turmeric dressing which was dotted around the plate did not add anything special to the dish at all, and due to the very little amount use was very hard to sample on the palette, in the end to try and get the taste I used my knife to sample this individually and although the flavour was good, it was just overpowered by everything else. I would say the dressing is used as more of presentation item than a item of substance.
This dish was presented in my opinion perfectly with a slightly rustic approach that this countryside retreat from the city of Exeter needs, there were gladly no small dots of jus or mousse’s etc, everything was plain to see and easy to identify. The steak was obviously the first item I sampled and asking for the meat to the be “rare” this was cooked just to my liking, the meat was incredibly tender with a wonderful taste and good sear on the outside, the accompanying sauce also added a wonderful taste and balanced the seasoning perfectly. The dauphinoise potatoes were very densly packed thin slices and had a dense texture, with the rich garlic and cream flavours given a great sensation, however it would have been nice if this was abit more moist with the addition of more cream. The shin faggot on this plate though stole the show with such great strong flavours of beef, and a very rich binding sauce making for a wonderful item to try, I only wish there was more of this on my plate, the meat within the faggot casing was moist, tender and succulent without being too salty and the seasoning balance was wonderful. I did really enjoy this main course and really approve of the slightly more rustic approach to the plating of the dish, the flavours all worked well and complimented each other, being not too overpowering and ending up fighting on your palette.
Now don’t act surprised that I ordered the chocolate dessert, it was bound to happen. When Darren took our order for this dessert he was kind enough to let us know it was fresh and that would take up to 20minutes to prepare, not being in a rush and having thoughts of gooey chocolate on my mind, I really did not mind the wait. As the minutes slowly ticked by my tapping feet got faster and faster the dessert arrived, the plating of this was gorgeous with the simple pudding easy to identify, everything look fantastic, my only disappointed thought at this time was that surely the salted caramel was not this small scraping on the plate. Moving on to the pudding through both myself and my dining partner held our breaths as we cut into the cake to see if this was a true “Hot Chocolate fondant”, needless to say I think a picture tells a 1000 words.
The inside was incredible with the chocolate being moist, gooey, liquidy, and very runny, the outer cake had a slight crust which combining the 2 different texture was brilliant. At this point I will say this was the best chocolate fondant I have every tasted, with the rich dark chocolate working well on the palette, and when combining this with the praline ice cream which was surprising light and refreshing it just made for a fantastic combo. I can safely say that if you order this dessert you will not be disappointed, it was that good! Overall I loved this dessert (if you didn’t already get it… I really did like this), my only disappointed however came with the salted caramel, as sampling this on its own was amazing with the sweet taste of caramel offsetted with the strong salt flavour work well but where was the rest of it? There was such a small amount on the plated unless you actually made a point to only pick this item up alone on your fork you couldn’t get the taste with the other items.
When coffee arrived these items were also presented, and again the question instantly comes into my head…. Why give 1 item of each to a table of 2 people? This means only 1 person is able to sample an item, we attempted to cut the chocolate ganache in 2, but this failed and resulted in a mound of disfigured chocolate. All of these were good (except for the fudge which my partner sampled and I cannot comment on) with the chocolate cylinder having a good thick shell and having a great crack upon biting upon.
Service - This was brilliant and considering they are still learning the ropes of the restaurant everything went smoothly, with both the owners being present on the evening in question im sure everyone was trying to impress. It gives a great impression though for the whole team and our young waitress really looked after us well, and supplied me with ample amounts of bread.
Overall – 7.5/10
I did really enjoy the food here on this visit, and would love to give a slightly higher score, but there are some small little things which im sure over time will be address by the team. A slight disappointment of the evening was the price of the starter and main course being £8.95 and £21.95 respectively this is quite a high amount and certainly for the starter would have expected abit more.
Personally I would love if they kept their food plating and styling like the main course I sampled tonight, the location of the restaurant, decoration and warm interior gives for a great rustic clean feeling, I didn’t feel there was a great need for the different size and styling of plates and gave abit of a over pretentious feeling to the evening.
I will be returning in the Spring for sure, hopefully to sample a new menu when it is released and knowing that this place has only been open for a little under 2 months, im expecting fantastic things to come. I think it would be good to see maybe a mid week 3 course dinner special with a set price of £30-35 as this im sure would tempt people to visit and sample the wonderful food.
I would recommend the “HH Restaurant” for a intimate gathering with a partner, or makes for a great first date sort of environment as its very open and gives a fresh feeling without being too overbearing and fussy.