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Restaurant The Rusty Bike

Slow cooking with care and flair from the man who brought us The Fat Pig, says SARAH FEELEY


amish Lothian might describe himself as a humble pig farmer, but I’d describe him as a shrewd entrepreneur, a passionate

lover of food and a full-blown force of nature. And if I ever find myself standing next to him at a racecourse, I’ll sneakily put a tenner on his nag of choice, as he’s got a real talent for picking a winner. He’s turned two neighbourhood pubs in

Exeter into incredibly successful destination eateries (don’t say ‘gastropub’ – never ever), The Fat Pig in John Street and The Rusty Bike in Howell Road, with plenty behind the bar to keep those who prefer their refreshment in liquid form more than happy. And he’s even started his own pig farm

to compassionately rear rare-breed porkers for the plate, getting his own hands dirty (literally) to personally carry out his slow-food philosophy and ensure his pigs are happy with plenty of room to roam (he even tickles them – I’ve seen him do it). The Rusty Bike has recently finished a

stylish new extension which means it can serve even more covers, a definitely plus point for such a popular food pub. As soon as you walk through the door, you

feel at home – or rather, at the funky-fabulous home of a bon viveur friend who keeps bringing you top-quality food and drinks. Having had a long career in the trade,

Kicking off with seared Creedy Carver duck

hearts with braised chicory and a balsamic and Madeira jus (£5.95), this was a top notch dish with a sublime texture that’s making my mouth water just thinking about it. This is bold, confident yet careful cooking –

no distracting food pyrotechnics, but bringing out the best of the raw materials, letting the quality of the ingredients shine through. Other starters I could have ordered included

“I didn’t want it to end. The last time I lingered so long over something, it was the final Harry Potter”

Hamish really knows what he’s doing, and it shows. Everything is pitched just right, from the prints on the walls to the beer on tap. And the menu? Superb. Full of tempting-sounding dishes packed with the finest-quality local ingredients cooked with passion and care.

36 Exeter Living

pan-fried squid with a saffron and citrus aioli (£5.95), roasted pumpkin and ginger soup with parmesan croutes (£4.95) and rillette of rabbit and rare- breed pork with a red onion jus (£6.25). For my main, I ordered

slow-braised Chagford Ruby Red beef with curly kale, horseradish dumpling and new

potatoes (£13.95). This had an incredibly deep flavour, divine texture and had been cooked so perfectly I didn’t want it to end. The last time I lingered over something for so long, trying to eke out the magic for as long as I could, I was reading the final Harry Potter book.

Other mains I could have ordered included a

rare-breed steak from the pub’s own farm with a potato rosti, bacon-infused creamed cabbage and a port reduction; a ragu of Dartmoor venison, bacon and butternut squash served on linguine with buttered savoy cabbage; and confit of duck leg with a garlic and mushroom potato cake, kale and Madeira jus (all £13.50). I must say, for this standard of cooking using

such top-quality ingredients, this is incredible value for money, and it harks back to Hamish who wants more of us to be able to afford to eat really great food than just a privileged elite. For pudding, I had a chocolate and

nougatine parfait with cappuccino cream (£5), which was original and glorious. So many top restaurants concentrate so hard on the main courses to the detriment of the puds which are almost an after-thought, but here the passion and care carries right on through to the pudding menu, and how. The other puds I could have ordered were

home-made fresh plum crumble with clotted cream (£5), hand-made vanilla cheesecake with home-made shortbread (£5) and a selection of fine West Country cheeses with home-made chutney and pickles (£6.95). You can feel the passion coming off every

plate, and a deep sense of pride at serving the very best Devon produce is palpable. This is the perfect place for anyone who

loves good food, cares where it comes from and appreciates not only the huge time investment to take it from farm to fork and the quality of cooking, but not being charged the earth. EL

Visiting details

Opening hours Mon-Wed 5pm-late; Thur-Fri 12pm-3pm and 5pm-late; Sat-Sun 12pm-late Prices Starters from £4.95, mains from £11.95, puds from £5

Child friendly? Kids especially welcome during the day Vegetarian choice Plenty to keep veggies happy Disabled access Very good including downstairs WC Wine list Full of carefully-chosen gems Service/atmosphere Friendly and welcoming

The Rusty Bike, 67 Howell Road, Exeter EX4 4LZ tel: 01392 214440,

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