Steve and I went on a budget movie and dinner date the other night. First stop was the University of Exeter library for a film. When I used to work there, in another life, I cottoned onto the private viewing carrels and pretty extensive video collection spanning British, American, European and World cinema.
We saw Rebecca; released in 1940 this was Alfred Hitchcock’s first American project. Based on the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name, it is a classic.
For dinner we had booked a table at Michael Caine’s Abode restaurant in the Cathedral Green. At about £12-15 for a starter and £22-24 for the main course, this isn’t normally a first choice for a cheap date. But we had taken advantage of an early dining offer at £14.95 for 2 courses if booked between 6 and 7 pm Monday to Friday. It was fabulous. The food was very good and beautifully presented and the service was exquisite. At no time did we feel like hoi-polloi because we were there on the early bird special. While we had a pre-dinner drink in the Champagne Bar, our waiter took our dinner and wine order. The dining room was beautiful, decorated in dark wood with bright orange notes from Gerbera daisies on the tables and details on the menu. From our table, we looked across the green to the beautiful Exeter Cathedral. As I mentioned before, the service was 5 star. Each dish was described to us as it was served and our waiter kept our bottle of wine to one side and never let our glasses get empty.
To begin, Steve had pickled fillet of sea bream with soused onion and fennel and a fennel cream sauce. I chose ham hock terrine with a grain mustard emulsion and pickled vegetables. Both were very savoury and delicious. I was a bit disappointed with my main course of Jerusalem artichoke and truffle risotto with parmesan and an artichoke broth. It was just a tad too bland for my taste, although the risotto was cooked to perfection. Steve hit the jackpot with roasted local Creedy Carver duck leg with roasted celeraic & garlic, savoy cabbage and a lightly spiced jus. The meat fell off of the bone and the vegetables were a perfect accompaniment to the richness of the duck. We shared a bottle of Le Petit Jaboulet Viognier which cost as much as our meal, but what the hay!
The early dining offer is a great idea, either to keep dinnertime business coming in at a time when folks are cutting back or to lure people in who may normally not pay upwards of £35 for a meal. The menu is seasonal, local and changes weekly. I know where we’ll be going for our next cheap date!