Bilby Bites - the food blog from Bilby Marketing

Ruby Burgers Exeter

It's a long time in the coming, but I've finally pulled together a review of one of my favourite ‘easy’ dining Exeter independent eateries. Ruby Burger arrived on the scene in early 2013, but for one reason or another I just haven’t got my act together to post my thoughts until now. Exeter has no less than four devoted burger restaurants right now (July 2014) and this compelled me to give them all a comparative visit. Ruby Burger has buckets of visual style, unique personality and some great local ingredients to work with so I’ll be honest, from the start they are a hit for me. On this particularly lovely Friday evening in Summer, JC and I trotted off for our umpteenth trip to Ruby.

Ruby founders Erin Allgrove and Dicky Harrison have a definite way with colour, typography and design. They have managed to create at once a very ‘American’ dining experience, but with a quirky local twist, using recycled wood, retro furniture with a sophisticated, yet home-made vibe. The place manages to look well-loved and lived in and simultaneously fresh. The building they are housed in, formerly Effings and originally the Post Office (mid 19th century), is a grand Grade II listed building in the Italianate style. I love this block of buildings on Queen Street that includes the much loved architectural treasure that is the RAMM. When I go out for dinner I don’t just want good food, although this is obviously high on the agenda. I want atmosphere, warm and friendly staff and in an ideal world, beautiful architecture and decor. Ruby manages to pull all of these off. The photos that West Country photographer Matt Austin took just before their launch, capture the mood of the place perfectly.

Our waitress this evening, who has served us before, is genuine, helpful and knowledgeable. I ordered a JD and coke as it had been one of those weeks, whilst JC went for the Gosling’s ginger beer from Bermuda. There are many more international non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages on offer than local, with Sandford Orchard ciders and apple juice the Devon representatives. As well as a range of shakes - both hard and soft, beer, spirits - including Sailor Jerry’s and Goslings rums and wine. For the serious partygoers there are a few, select cocktails and shooters including the enticing Lynchburg Lemonade and Dark & Stormy. Coffee is from Clifton Coffee and the teas are organic Clipper.

When it came to ordering our food, I deviated from my usual pulled pork or salt beef choices, both of which are marinated, smoked or brined in-house, in order to partake in the true burger experience. If you prefer to / or must go gluten-free, Ruby have this covered with bareback (no bun, extra salad) and gluten-free burger and bun options. Our waitress was completely on this, letting me know of my options and telling me which items on the menu contained gluten, right down to the soy sauce. I can say that the brioche buns are baked by Emma of Emma’s Bread at The Real Food Store and I can honestly tell you that they are exemplary, having tried them in my gluten days. I had the Ruby 6oz burger (£7.50) with a gluten-free bun, whilst JC opted for the Classic 6oz burger (£5.50). Ruby use Ruby beef from a local Devon farm and this is a real draw for me. I know that some restaurants choose their suppliers based on budget alone, but to ignore all of the wonderful produce we have in the West Country, seems to me a major mistake. The Ruby burger comes with Hawkridge mature cheddar (based in Copplestone), streaky bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion and Ruby sauce with the Classic served without the cheese and bacon. I’m from Australia so I grew up eating burgers that were stuffed with pretty much every conceivable food item you can think of including, but not limited to cheese, bacon, avocado, pineapple, beetroot and fried egg. I like to jazz things up a little. The Classic is a little too minimalist for my taste, but the Ruby burger is very good and the burgers have a real, beefy, aged flavour to the meat. JC is a fries man and I prefer a chunky chip - both were very good.

Well, dessert was a funny one. I’m starting to understand that I’m going off very creamy food so feel free to take this part of the review with a grain of salt as it is very subjective. The Knickerbocker Glory (£5) consisted of strawberry puree, strawberry ice cream, meringue, vanilla ice cream, maple syrup and squirty cream which I’m not a big fan of. I fell fowl of greedy-bird syndrome I think and just didn’t enjoy it. The ice cream is from Otter Valley Dairy and is extremely rich and smooth - generally a very positive thing. Perhaps Hub Box have the right idea not bothering to offer dessert! JC ordered a vanilla malt milkshake which was good, but sadly not as good as the Byron Burgers version from the previous week. I say sadly, because I am searching for the perfect burger experience and Ruby tick so many boxes for me. I want them to serve wonderful, super cold and super thick shakes and sundaes with fresh fruit and nuts, but that's not what is currently on offer. My favourite dessert at Ruby if I wasn’t in the gluten-free camp would be the waffles without a doubt. The banana split option looks fantastic. I hazard a guess that if I tried to eat one of those waffles following a burger and beef chips, that I may need escorting from the premises in a gurney.

Ruby will, for me personally, always have the edge on other burger places in Exeter, because I love their location, their gorgeous red branding, their local supplier loyalty, their friendly staff and of course, their great food. They don’t get everything spot on, but as the experience of eating out can often be lead by your mood, your wants at that precise moment in time and the people you are with it’s hard to get it right every time. 90% of the evening was bang on and for my money, this is pretty tough to beat. If budget is driving your decision on where to eat I can tell you that you are looking at roughly £15-20 per head for a burger, a side, dessert and drinks.

Ruby is open from 11:30am until late Monday to Friday and from 9am for breakfast on Saturday and Sunday until late.