D-day came and went last Wednesday and by Friday, at two days overdue, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself! My husband knows that the best way to improve my mood is by some kind of spontaneous gesture… usually involving delicious food that I haven’t had to cook.
I’ve wanted to go to the River Exe Cafe for dinner since it opened and despite it being on our doorstep – how lucky are we – we’ve never made it. Jim has been for a work social (read: all-day drinking session) but neither of us have eaten there. So I was really looking forward to it.
With babysitting duties sorted (thanks mum) we were booked on the water taxi from Exmouth docks at 6pm. Return journey to the restaurant is £10 per adult and it takes about 15 minutes each way. Friday had been a pretty rubbish day weather-wise but by the evening it had redeemed itself and turned into a beautiful evening. As far as taxi-journey-views go, this one is pretty special.
Dinner bookings are in two-hour slots and our table was booked for 6.30pm. This gives you a nice leisurely couple of hours before the water taxi picks you up for the return journey. When you book a table, the restaurant takes care of the boat booking at the same time so you don’t have to worry about it.
As soon as you step onto the floating barge that is the River Exe Cafe you are greeted by friendly staff and an equally welcoming atmosphere. The rustic timber structure adds to the relaxed feel. Note – this is not a dressy venue and for obvious reasons leave the heels at home! We were shown to our table, which was booked for inside, although it was probably mild enough to brave the outdoor seating area.
The menu is mainly seafood with other options available – steak, burgers, chicken and vegetarian dishes. However, I am not about to order a rib-eye from a restaurant sat in the middle of an estuary renowned for the quality of its seafood and shellfish.
Dishes on the main menu range from traditional fish and chips to catch-of-the-day, to the award-winning Exmouth mussels. The specials board offered even more variety with scallops, lobster and crab dishes. There is also an excellent choice of starters. We decided to save ourselves for the main event, but ordered some olives and bread to keep us going.
I really fancied a pregnancy-friendly beer, but unfortunately, despite an impressive beer and wine menu, there was nothing alcohol-free or at least very low alcohol. So instead I went for Belvoir fizzy elderflower and J a pint of Tribute.
I was tempted by the fish and chips (pre-labour carb loading kicking in?) but felt I should really try something I wouldn’t cook at home or am able to eat regularly elsewhere. So I ordered hake – baked in a creamy bacon sauce with peas and new potatoes – and J the scallops from the specials board – served with crumbed bacon, samphire and a pea puree. Both were delicious and we would happily order either again.
Once dinner was washed down with a couple more drinks and baby had moved around a bit to give me some more room, we gave in to the temptation of the dessert menu. Waffle with toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream for J, while I had the chocolate brownie with salted caramel ice cream and berry coulis. Both as expected – oozing calorie-laden pure indulgence!
With dinner finished and the bill paid (a pretty reasonable £70 ish), I was a bit worried I might capsize the water taxi returning home, so thankfully we still had 20 minutes to mooch about on deck and enjoy the view while digesting.
It’s so easy to take our surroundings for granted and I am biased, but we really do live in an amazing place. Businesses like the River Exe Cafe enhance this and offer something a bit different for visitors and holiday makers. However, it’s so important that local people support them too and I’m only sorry we left it so long. Will definitely be back soon!