Bilby Bites - the food blog from Bilby Marketing

@Angelas Restaurant, Exeter

One very ordinary Friday I was checking Twitter, as I do intermittently, when I spotted a fun looking photo competition that the Food Magazine was running. Take a picture of your local food lunch and pop it up on Twitter. It was their Fab Food Friday way back at the end of June. It has taken me a while to finish my review due to a chaotic summer of work, family visits from Australia and my Real Food Store activities. Maybe a poor set of excuses, but I'm sticking with them due to a lack of any others. Anyway, back to @Angelas ... I entered said competition and ended up winning a prize, much to my excitement. I could chose from a variety of different food related prizes, including tickets to a jazz evening at Trerice House in Cornwall, a place I love, but the one that stood out to me was the voucher for a meal @Angela's. I had been planning to visit for a long time and this was obviously a massive incentive to get my act together. I spoke to both Richard and Angela, the husband and wife team who run the show, to book a table and timed it for the weekend after my sister and brother-in-law went back to Australia following their visit with us. I thought that would cheer me up nicely.

@Angela's sits at the top of New Bridge Street and the bottom of Fore Street and was previously a single, small unit that was easily missed. Back at the beginning of summer, the restaurant expanded into the unit next door and is now a very comfortable space seating up to 42, with private dining space for 26. The restaurant decor is clean and neutral. The floors are stripped wood, the furniture is simple and each table features a single fresh flower. There is nothing to dislike, although personally I am keen on warmth and texture, which I found lacking. Others will disagree with me on that. What was incredibly warm though, was the greeting I received from Angela who came to our table soon after we entered the restaurant. Not too soon, but with impeccable timing. We introduced ourselves and an already genuinely welcoming Angela, beamed a touch more on discovering I was a prize winner. @Angela's has just won a Food and Drink Devon Outstanding Contribution award for Service Excellence and this does not surprise me in the least. I would cheerfully say that the service we received that night was second to none, both professional and enthusiastic, without a shred of affectation and everyone I saw received the same level of attention.

My excitement at finally eating a meal at Angela's took me straight to the wine list where I spotted a Sacred Hill Traminer Riesling, the perfect celebratory drink. I am a fan of the Traminer Riesling from way back. It was a favourite tipple when I first moved out of home and headed for the bright lights of Sydney and it always gives me a feeling of fond nostalgia. This was a good start to the night. We were furnished with a basket of homemade bread soon after - chilli, multi-grain and tomato and herb - all of which were very tasty, but my favourite being the tomato and herb. Good, warm, homemade bread is always hard to say no to. The next decision was the choice of our main course, having decided that a main and a dessert were all that we needed that night. JC opted for the traditional Honey Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apple, Sage & Calvados, whilst I opted for the Monkfish and Samphire. I cannot resist monkfish on a menu, unless there is also a choice of scallops, at which point mass confusion occurs. There was a scallop starter that night, but I convinced myself they wouldn't do this as a main for me just to avoid messing about. I'm almost certain they would have accommodated. Angela's is a haven for seafood lovers. Currently on the menu, half of the starters and a third of the mains are seafood dishes. There is also plenty for the seafood phobic also. The range of dishes is cleverly inclusive.

In terms of expense, Angela's is not a 'let's go out, I can't be bothered to cook' option. I would suggest it is at the top of the budget for most people, with a 3 course meal with wine setting you back at least £40 per head. Having said that, it is most definitely one of the only independent restaurants of this calibre in the city and a perfect special occasion venue, for those looking to splash out. Both mains arrived in perfect time, allowing me a window of opportunity to take a look next door and snap a few pictures. The smaller, original space is intimate in a good way (this is not a euphemism) with a peep-hole view into the kitchen. In some ways I preferred this space and would request a table in this part in future if available. I would hazard a guess that most people would prefer the larger space of the newer, main entrance area. The monkfish and pork dishes were both very enjoyable. I loved the monkfish and samphire, although the roast pepper sauce was slightly too sharp for me. I absolutely adored JC's creamy calvados sauce and the pork was cooked to perfection. The side vegetables served with both meals, consisting of broccoli, beans, carrots and boiled new potatoes, were cooked to perfection. I apologise that I didn't get any photos of these. I had held JC off for as long as possible, but there is only so long you can hold back a hungry cyclist and so the vegetables were attacked with vigour all too soon.

The dessert selection largely consists of trios of various puddings (£6 - 7.50) - an Assiette of Gourmet Desserts is a regular - and local cheeses which is a great idea. You will have to forgive me as I did not record every dessert on our plates, but amongst them was a rum baba, a crème brûlée and a tiny dark chocolate tart. They were all good, although I would prefer to go for a single dessert next time. On the current menu there are a couple of desserts that appeal, namely Poached Pears in Semillion & Gewurtraminer Dessert Wine & Cinnamon with Vaniila Ice Cream and an Iced Parfait of Caramelised Almond and Hazelnuts with Black Cherries in Kirsch.

If you are keen to try Angela's and the cost seems prohibitive, there are early evening and lunch menus consisting of two courses at £21 and three courses at £25, which includes Friday and Saturday before 7pm. This sounds like a great way to access some of the best quality cooking in Exeter at the moment. Whether you decide to splash out or not, Angela and Richard will guarantee you have a special evening. The combination of good food and genuinely friendly service will impress without doubt.