Bilby Bites - the food blog from Bilby Marketing

Tea on the Green, Exeter

Just before I took my recent trip to Australia back in March, I organised a Sunday get together at Tea on the Green with JC’s family, to celebrate his mum’s birthday and catch-up before I headed down under for three weeks. That was such a long time ago now and since my return I have been caught up in a whirlwind of trying to get some structure back into my day to day life and fighting the post-holiday blues. In the process of putting together this post, I managed to rekindle a little of the wonderful vibe from that Sunday, sat looking across at one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve ever seen, in the centre of our very own Exeter, with a lovely group of people. On top of that, the quality of the food and the friendly service somehow matched up to the view, which was no mean feat.

Owner Ben Mangan, a co-founder of the Boston Tea Party chain, bought the lease on the early 16th century building - previously Hanson’s for 27 years - back in 2009 and over the past 3 years he has built this perfectly situated cafe into a well loved and definitely well patronised haunt. The philosophy of Tea on the Green is centred around the use of local produce, the employment of friendly staff and the cooking of good food. I had been into the cafe once before for lunch with JC and had a very good panini, titled The Capricorn, with a filling of local goat’s cheese, rocket and some fearsome Devon Fire chutney from Otter Vale, the winner of a Gold award from the Taste of the West. Reading the menu on that visit, convinced me that we needed to get back quickly and try the Sunday menu. I’m not usually a massive fan of Sunday roasts if I’m honest, but the Tea on the Green (TOTG) take on this British favourite turned my head.

Having specifically booked a table that had a cracking view of the Cathedral for the six of us, I was thrilled that it lived up to my anticipated expectations. I hadn’t actually looked upstairs on my first visit, but I’ve a pretty good imagination, so thought I’d book it sight unseen! We were seated by a member of the smiley staff and I ordered a glass of the Brancott Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, whilst JC went for a bottle of the Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola - no nasty big brand stuff here. Northumberland based drinks company Fentiman’s, make old-fashioned soft drinks with natural ingredients and TOTG stock several flavours. Other soft drinks on offer include Blackdown Hills apple juice, freshly squeezed orange juice and fruit or milk smoothies. There are local (Manstree and Kenton Estate) and Fairtrade wines on the drinks menu, or if you are feeling in a celebratory mood, then Prosecco is served by the glass or bottle. Ben is so passionate about his local beverages, he even drives 200 miles to collect the Cotswold lager, which is sold exclusively by TOTG in Devon. There are only 6 brewers producing lager in the UK, so this is quite special.

Once we were all settled and had spent a while chatting, we set about ordering from the relatively small Sunday lunch menu which offered a choice of beef, chicken, pork or nut roast all at a price of £9.95 for one course or £12.45 for two courses. Between us, we managed to order everything but the pork which was good work. The chicken was local Creedy Carver chicken and the beef was also local, although you will have to forgive me as I didn’t make a note of the supplier on the day. JC’s dad ordered the nut roast which was lovely - I must admit I was torn between the chicken and this as I’m often just as excited at the prospect of a pile of vegetables with good gravy as I am at the meat du jour. When the plates arrived I was taken by the little TOTG logo printed on each of them, a cute touch you don’t see in many cafes or restaurants. Everybody was clearly impressed by their meal and the accompanying treats, such as the Yorkshire pudding with the beef and the excellent honey & mustard glazed parsnips and carrots with broccoli. Of course there were roast potatoes, with a crunchy outer and soft, fluffy inner, worthy of high praise. There wasn’t a single thing we could fault regarding the quality of the food.

As it was going to be the last family gathering for a while and it was a birthday celebration no less, a few of us decided that dessert would be a good idea. I decided against it as I was quite full, but insisted on trying some of JC’s New York cheesecake once it had arrived as it looked incredible. It came served as a large, individual portion with a blackcurrant sauce on top and I just couldn’t resist a try. The blackcurrant sauce is made by a talented farmer's wife in Ben's village. I’m not generally one of those who poke around in other people’s food, believing that it’s a bit rude to reach over and poach from your fellow diners, but I’m very glad I did that day. That cheesecake, with its very own homemade sauce, will make for a decadent afternoon tea on a return visit. The French apple tart was also given the thumbs up. We finished it all off with a range of appropriately tasty teas and coffees - TOTG use D J Miles based in Minehead for their tea & coffee, just up the West Country road. The specially blended coffee is ground to order for serious freshness.

I most certainly haven’t covered everything that is great about the TOTG here, including their gluten-free friendly outlook. They offer gluten-free paninis, cakes, meat & veggie pasties and scones, so you just need to ask. Maybe the savoury cream tea option with cheese scones, West Country cheeses and chutney will turn your head, or the weekend only option of Eggs Benjamin consisting of poached eggs, Halloumi cheese, spinach and Hollandaise sauce on a toasted bagel, surely reason alone to stay in bed a little longer and enjoy a Sunday brunch instead? There are plenty of valid reasons for visiting TOTG, my personal favourites being THAT view, the magical, twisty building and some excellent grub.