As a born Exonian and lover of good food, I’m always pleased to see new independently run cafés, bars and restaurants cropping up across the city. Favourite predecessors of mine include names such as; The Rusty Bike, The River Exe Café, Exploding Bakery and The Hourglass – with many more notables holding favour in my foodie directory. However, it’s my latest discovery that’s proven its culinary credibility as of late.
Since opening in 2015, Circa 1924 has blended into the red-brick surroundings of Northernhay Place in true non-chalent fashion – tempting customers away from the high street chains for an alternative dining experience. What used to be known as the popular Harry’s Grill Bar, has been substituted with this worthy gourmet replacement – providing guests with a classy yet unpretentious environment to enjoy seasonal, local and exceptional food. With the addition of a newly re-furbed live music venue upstairs, Circa is quickly paving the way for refined weekend entertainment in the area.
On arrival you’ll be welcomed into the downstairs dining area – dark, muted tones, wood-lining and ambient lighting set the scene along with a playlist of funk, jazz and soul to accompany. Pick up the menu and you’ll find Scandinavian inspired lunch and dinner options on offer Tuesday-Saturday, with dinner plates ranging from £7 - £24.50. There’s also a more modest lunchtime offer for those with slighter budgets (2 courses for £10.95). Amongst the impressive foodie line up you’ll find a wide selection of seafood and meat dishes, all boasting some of the regions finest local producers. The vegetarian plates don’t fall short either, with this seasons offerings including; Risotto with Västerbotten cheese, asparagus, peas & mint and 'Primavera' with chilli marinated grilled sprouting broccoli, risotto, confit tomatoes. Whatever your taste, it’s clear the team at Circa are extremely capable of providing delicious food for all.
During my own recent evening visit with a friend, I took full advantage of exploring some of the creative choices on offer. Truffled' Buffallo Mozzarella with confit tomatoes and crispy softshell crab were the chosen favourites for starters – delivering in both rich flavour and exceptional presentation. Our extremely cooperative waitress also persuaded us (easily) to try the Fried Oysters – a complete game changer. For those of you who are suspicious or simply unfavourable towards shellfish, I can confirm that these are an anomaly. Served in an incredibly light batter (also available GF) and perfectly paired with a tangy spicy caper relish, this dish is a clear demonstration of Circa’s innovative flair and culinary confidence. For mains, we both opted for the locally caught fish – a meaty Cod option and an equally well proportioned fillet of Red Mullet - both served with new potatoes and a choice of sauces and butters. In the name of research, it seemed rude not to order additional sides – despite the virtuous voice in my head saying otherwise. Albeit, the Asian slaw was very much enjoyed – rounding off a fabulous two-course sitting.
If you’re looking to extend your evening’s entertainment (recommended), Circa provides an informal cocktail bar and music venue upstairs – showcasing live jazz (hallelujah) from their talented house band ‘The UpCrowd’ every Friday night. With self-produced infused gins, authentic cocktails (no counterfeit 2-4-1 mixtures here I’m afraid) and the best Negronis the city has to offer – this is the perfect setting to enjoy a relaxed yet undisputedly classy social visit.
So, if like many of the inhabitants of Exeter you’re looking to add some variety to your usual evening explorations, or simply visiting and looking for somewhere dependably apt to fill your hours – head over the simply stylish Circa 1924. Make sure you reserve your night’s schedule and give it the attention it deserves - this contemporary night-spot is best experienced when it’s fully embraced.
To make a reservation at Circa 1924, please visit their website.