The 12th April, yesterday, marked the first day of pubs, restaurants, gyms, bars and outdoor spaces re-opening in the UK. Freedom! We found ourselves making a break from the heaving highstreet and onto the quieter cobbles of the Cathedral Green. Outside the doors to No.5. This third lockdown has definitely been the hardest for us. With the first feeling like a movie with a ‘We’re all in this together’ attitude. This time has just been a little bit… rubbish. So we knew we deserved a little treat and weren’t going to let the impending rain and hail stop us.
I dressed in one of my most fabulous outfits for the occasion. A new (bargain) belted knit dress with my fabulous ‘Big Bird‘ coat slung over the top (needed for the chill in the air!) along with a statement bag and ankle boots.
As Exeter’s latest fine-dining restaurant and cocktail lounge, I had been following the progress of No.5 via Instagram. It was showing some promising dedicated vegan and vegetarian dishes, so I was looking forward to sampling the food. The venue itself was part of the restaurant chain ASK for many years. Before it officially opened its doors to the public, under new ownership, as No.5 on 8th December. Just a few weeks before we were plunged into lockdown 3.0. The 16th Century building has been fully renovated by the No.5 owners Linda and Charles Horner. And my understanding is that each room has its own dedicated theme. Since then, the restaurant has once again undertaken a full re-brand and overhaul, including a new management team ahead of the opening on 12th April
This isn’t Linda and Charles’ first foray into the restaurant business as they founded No.3 in Topsham and Crockett’s Gin Bar (which Ben and I are already huge fans of) as well as a new Pizzeria and Cocktail Bar at the top of Fore St, before opening No.5. As far as the outside dining goes, there are plenty of options to keep everyone happy. At the front of the building, seating is available outside the restaurant on the Cathedral cobbles. With more seating just within the railings. All of the outdoor space is also dog friendly!
Heading through the old archway, the walkway opens out into a beautiful covered courtyard that will be completely open to the sunshine in summer. But tucked right at the very back is the jewel in the No.5 crown. A beautiful walled garden on three levels with a fully stocked Fever Tree Bar and numerous seating spots to choose from. With inside dining not currently permitted in the UK, we made ourselves comfy in the garden. On the patio next to the bar, and settled in to choose from the menu.
Wanting to sample as much as we could and revelling in the joy of being able to ‘eat out’, we chose a selection of starters.
Squash and leek arancini with honey parmesan dressed leaves.
Smoked garlic hummus with root vegetables and tahini dressing.
Fresh watermelon and feta salad with lime marinated onions, and crunchy seeds. This was definitely our favourite. The feta, unbeknown to us at the time, is vegan. But tasted so creamy and perfectly complimented the crisp freshness of the watermelon and slightly bitter onions.
You can never go wrong with fries, so we ordered a side of the truffle oil variety to go with our other dishes.
Thoroughly enjoying the ambiance and food, and with baby giving me a little kick from the inside, I took my cue to order a pudding. Poached strawberry tart with peppered strawberries and meringue. DELICIOUS!
Despite a few opening-day hiccups, where staff forgot our cutlery for both courses. The venue, staff and food were all exquisite. The people really make a place and the people at No.5 are a really good bunch with a genuine interest in the customer. The food, unpretentious but beautiful, pairs simple flavours with clever twists to reinvent and really hail the locally sourced ingredients.
The restaurant is open from 11am to 11pm Monday to Sunday with bookings recommended!