Best places to eat in Exeter

Along with its rich history, the cathedral city of Exeter offers visitors unique bakes, fresh seafood, hand-roasted coffee and even south Indian curries.

Exterior of Reed Hall with pink flowers in the foreground

With the arrival of fine-dining hub Lympstone Manor, the Exmoor Food Festival and vibrant new restaurants, cafés and bars, Exeter is now firmly on the foodie travel map. Between exploring the sights of this picturesque city, with its imposing cathedral, ancient fortifications and quaint Tudor buildings, you can enjoy a wide range of local and international dishes.

Contributing editor to BBC Good Food, Orlando Murrin, is lucky enough to be a resident and takes us on a foodie tour in and around this popular UK holiday destination.

Lympstone Manor
Special occasion

Luxury hotel bar

Ten miles south of Exeter, Michael Caines’ gorgeously renovated 18th-century mansion commands luminous views over the Exe Estuary. From the moment you step through the door, everything is absolute perfection, particularly the world-class food. The à la carte menu (£115) offers such sumptuous choices as tuna millefeuille adorned with caviar or fillet of Darts Farm beef. Taste of the Estuary (£130) is a seven-course tasting menu based around local scallops, sole, turbot and sea bass. Stay overnight if you can. The Oyster Catcher suite has huge dual aspect windows, a marble bathroom and the comfiest bed in Devon. B&B from £246.50.

The Daisy Café
Cheap eat, kid friendly

Full English breakfast on a plate and mug of tea with 'Daisy Cafe' logo

Located on the outskirts of Exeter, this traditional café with a modern twist has rapidly won the hearts of locals since opening last year. Faye Rowbury manages to please everyone, with proper breakfasts, generous sandwiches, warming bowls of homemade soup and hot daily specials (the brie and bacon panino is a personal favourite), all made with locally sourced ingredients. Once a month Faye throws a brasserie evening – get in fast, as it invariably sells out. In summer, ask for a table in the garden. Sandwich platters from £5.50.  

Coffee cake next to blackboard

The Flat
Cheap eat, kid friendly

Just up the street from Angela’s (see below) is an edgy new establishment called The Flat, which describes its food as ‘planet-friendly indulgence, done simply’. It is, in fact, a vegetarian and vegan pizza and pasta joint where everything is made from scratch using ethically sourced organic ingredients. A choice of seven pizzas (in two sizes) and three pasta dishes keeps things simple. My top picks are the blue cheese, truffle and radicchio pizza, and The Flat pesto pasta (bursting with fresh basil). Gluten-free bases are available. Small pizzas from £5.  

Casual dining

Polpo restaurant exterior window

The Queen Street end of the Guildhall Shopping Centre has been transformed into a restaurant hub, bustling with different food outlets. Pick of the bunch has to be Polpo, modelled on the wine bars of Venice. Instead of sticking to starter and main, share tasty cicheti (snacks) – the arancini are particularly good – and moreish meat and fish plates (I love the pork and fennel meatballs). The ricotta and raisin doughnuts have a cult following among dessert lovers. To be enjoyed with a glass of prosecco, or better still, ask your waiter for an Exeter negroni, made with infused Campari and Bad Fagin's, a local gin. Snacks from £3.50, plates from £6. 

The Curry Leaf
Cheap eat, kid friendly

Two rice flour pancakes with white dip

In the centre of town, behind a rather dour façade, lurks Exeter’s best Indian restaurant. The menu includes traditional south Indian specialities and is great for vegetarians. Try something a little bit different – for instance appams (fermented rice flour pancakes served with various stews), or their take on biryani, served under a flaky crust. There are options for kids and you can get takeaway too. Mains from £6.95.   

Cheap eat, kid friendly

After marvelling at the beauty of Exeter Cathedral, follow the path around to the right to find yourself in front of Cakeadoodledo. What started as a cupcake company in 2006 has blossomed into the city’s most iconic tea shop. Every week there’s a new joke in the window, and every day a new selection of 20 luscious cakes and bakes is available. The whole lot is made on site by baking guru Kate Shirazi, which means the air is fragrant with toasted nuts, vanilla and chocolate. My personal favourite is the chocolate blackcurrant cake (with vanilla cream cheese buttercream). While you’re there, check out the Cakeadoodledo range of aprons and linens – pretty and practical to boot. Cream teas from £4.50.   

Casual dining

Rendezvouz wine bar interior

Tucked away under one of the grand terraces of Southernhay is Rendezvous, a wine bar with a charming, slightly retro vibe and outstanding service. Exposed brick walls, flagstone floors and low lighting produce an intimate atmosphere. Choose from over 60 wines, and dive into comfort food such as pork belly with mustard mash. Rendezvous also has a lovely garden – an oasis in the heart of the city. Mains from £14.90.  

Seafood on a dish

The Conservatory
Special occasion  

This restaurant is on the site of a Tudor merchant’s house, and as you enter the upstairs dining room you can see some remarkable painted panelling that dates back to about 1600. Chef-owner Mike Barry’s food, on the other hand, is bang up to date: fresh, locally sourced and with a lovely light touch. Fish comes daily from Cornwall, vegetarians are well provided for, and the lunch/early-bird dinner menu is a snip at £17.95 for two courses. À la carte mains from £15.95.

Angela's Restaurant
Casual dining, special occasion

Two plates of salad, fish and flower garnish

What with the Blitz and post-war development, not much of old Exeter has survived, but one exception is the areas around Fore Street, which slopes steeply down to the River Exe. The city’s independents are clustered here, including vintage shops and Angela’s, a restaurant run by a warm husband and wife team who take great pride in sourcing local meat and fish. The roasted Creedy Carver duck is top notch. Mains from £21.  

Dinosaur Café
Casual dining, cheap eat

It may not sound like a Turkish restaurant, but this is the place to head for excellent meze, salads and grills. Its location near Exeter College and the University of Exeter means it has a devoted student following and can be busy, but everything on the menu is fresh and tasty, and the welcome is warm and genuine. Mains from £7.40, no-nonsense wine list from £12.

Rodean Restaurant
Special occasion

Slices of lamb on a plate with flower garnish

In the pretty village of Kenton, 20 minutes out of Exeter, is this charming family-run restaurant, which over the years has become something of a Devon institution. Long before it became fashionable, chef Matthew Tilt was into local sourcing, and practically everything comes from south Devon. Signature dish is Trio of Lamb with plum chutney. Main courses from £16.

Chocolate pudding topped with spun sugar globe

The Exploding Bakery
Cheap eat, kid friendly

The parade of shops outside Exeter Central Station has come to life recently, with the arrival of the Real Food Store (formerly in Paris Street), and this groovy bakery-cum-café: everything they make and serve is seriously good, including hearty soups, tortillas and sausage rolls. Don’t leave without a slice of Lumberjack Cake (apple, dates and nuts - £2.50), which has become part of Exeter’s foodie folklore.

The Lazy Toad
Casual dining, kid friendly

The Lazy Toad pub exterior
The best pub in Exeter itself, is incontrovertibly The Hourglass in Melbourne Street, but a pleasant half-hour’s drive out of town is this excellent gastropub in the picture postcard village of Brampford Speke. It is everything a country pub should be, with smashing food (including fresh produce from their own smallholding), local ales, log fires, and dogs. (Sunday lunch mains from £14.95.) If travelling from Exeter, take a detour to Quicke’s Farm Shop at Newton St Cyres to buy one of Devon’s finest cheddars from the source.

Circa 1924
Special occasion, casual dining

Smoked salmon on a plate with herb and sauce garnish
This imposing building behind Exeter High Street is the place to go for steak, seafood and cocktails. Everything is good, but as the chef is Swedish, you may wish to try something little bit different, such as his lightly smoked mackerel and torched salmon pastrami. The two-course express lunch at £12.95 is one of the best bargains in town.

Café Catalan
Casual dining

Exeter is lucky to have a great tapas restaurant on a corner site in the Madgalen Road food quarter. The atmosphere is buzzy, and the food authentic, fresh and excellent. Meat lovers will salivate over all the porky treats on offer, and vegetarians for the exciting vegetable, bean and cheese combos. Vegetable tapas from £4.50, meat from £5.50.

Harry's Restaurant
Casual dining, kid friendly

Sponge pudding in a pan topped with chocolate pieces and icecream

A perennial favourite with university students (and their parents), set in a marvellous building that dates from 1883, designed as a wood and stone carving workshop for the sculptor Harry Hems. Although the hammering stopped long ago, it remains a noisy place, with lots of birthday parties and celebrations, but the food is carefully sourced and meticulously presented. Pop idol Will Young cleared tables here when he was a student. Mains from £12.

Lloyd's Kitchen
Cheap eat, kid friendly

Thanks to Exeter’s Princesshay development (providing a mix of shops and restaurants), the city has become a must-visit for shoppers. The handiest place to grab a bite is this ever-popular café in a plum location: the pedestrian street that runs between the cathedral and the shops. Go for the Exe Breakfast (£8.95), or lunch, with one of the open sandwiches (from £6.95).

Reed Hall
Casual dining

Reed Hall dining room interior with ornate ceiling

Exeter University stands amid sweeping landscapes on a hill overlooking the city. For a quick, cheap meal on campus, it’s hard to beat the View Restaurant at the Northcott, but those in the know head for Reed Hall. Dating from 1867 and surrounded by acres of gorgeous Italianate gardens, this is arguably the university’s finest building, and where you’ll find the gracious Woodbridge Restaurant. Few realise it is open to the public; even fewer that it has its own (free) car park. Main courses from £7.95.

The Devon And Exeter Institution
Cheap eat

If you know anyone who is a member, beg them to take you to lunch at this venerable library/reading room adjacent to the cathedral. The recent restoration of the cupolas (thanks to lottery money) has restored it to its full glory, and Mary Noon serves delightful, fresh and seriously inexpensive lunches (often under a fiver), beneath the glorious Tudor plasterwork of The Courtenay Room. Members only.

The Galley
Casual dining, special occasion

Breaded fish on a bed of mushy peas with a side of chips

Exeter residents think of Topsham as rather posh: with its quaint high street, gabled houses and estuary setting, it’s certainly a desirable place to live, as well as visit. The town offers a wide choice of restaurants and cafés, and to its credit, all are excellent: there is no selling out to the tourist trade. For me, the Galley is the best: a daily menu of super-fresh fish, cosy atmosphere and attentive service. If you love fish and chips, go for the champagne-battered sea bass (£17.50).

5 foodie places to try

Exeter Cookery School

In a gorgeous location on trendy Exeter Quay, Jim and Lucy Fisher’s cookery school offers short courses in fish, chocolate, butchery, pasta – just about everything.

Exe Coffee Roasters

Cup of coffee on a bed of loose coffee beans

The best coffee in Exeter is roasted by Steve Pearson in a roaster he made with his own hands. You can also buy coffee beans and learn to be a barista.

The Spanish Shop

An elegant emporium for fans of Spanish food. The products stocked are the best of the best. Those in the know head here for lunchtime bocadillos. 

Bon Goût Deli

Range of deli food bowls

The epicentre of Exeter’s food scene is this compact, heavenly shop on Magdalen Road – a sort of mini Fortnum & Mason. The homemade items are truly exceptional.

Pipers Farm

The best butcher in Devon is now an online and mail-order business, which means you can get expertly reared beef, lamb, pork, chicken and more delivered to your door.

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All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of the February 2018 and will be checked and updated annually. If you think there is any incorrect or out of date information in this guide please e-mail us at

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