With the top quality food, chic décor, and lightening quick service, breakfast at No. 1 felt like a true indulgence. Add to that a value-for-money menu, and you’ve got the city’s best new dining spot.
Last week, Emma and I jumped at the chance to experience food at the café given 5* by every TripAdvisor reviewer. We settled into a sunny window spot and, after perusing the extensive menu for some time, Emma settled on a decaf tea and the American pancake stack while I went for the veggie breakfast and chocolate ice cream milkshake.
The drinks came in no time. Emma’s tea was in the prettiest crockery I’ve ever seen used in a restaurant and I was assured it tasted as good as it looked. My milkshake was humongous, piled high with whipped cream, packing a powerful chocolate hit but remaining refreshing and smooth. It was quite literally the best milkshake I’ve ever had, and I’ve been craving one ever since.
The food arrived soon after. A generous floppy stack of three pancakes was topped with a bacon rasher for each and a sprinkling of icing sugar. Watching the maple syrup being poured on top was enough to make me consider rebelling against my current veggie phase. Just by looking at it you could tell the ingredients were of high quality and cooked well.
That was, until I tucked into my own meal. The highlight was the two free range eggs, fried to perfection with the yolks in that perfect molten stage, mopped up with a doorstop of buttered white toast. Unfortunately, not being a tomato fan, I can’t comment on the two grilled halves, and though they looked pretty I wish I’d remembered to be asked for them to be subbed for an extra egg or something. The two veggie sausages, along with a generous helping of juicy fried mushrooms and a side of baked beans was, as everyone knows, a delicious combination. This fry-up didn’t feel greasy at all, but satisfying yet nutritious.
With such a relaxed vibe, we could have easily wiled away the whole day here, surrounded by eclectic lamps, hanging planters and cushions on comfy wooden benches, occasionally getting up to order more tea and grab a pastry at the bar. It’s like they knew I was coming and had picked out some of my favourite music to play softly in the background – think Death Cab for Cutie. I was surprised not to see more of the working-in-a-café brigade at No.1 but I guess they just haven’t discovered it yet.
We wished we were able to come back in the evening. The dedication put into our breakfast means I’m certain that the hand-stretched pizzas, nachos, blackboard specials and cocktails list (two for £9 before 9pm) wouldn’t disappoint. With the old favourites On the Waterfront and the Old Firehouse doing as well as ever and new kid on the block Base & Barley opening recently, opting for a pizza-rich evening menu could be a risky option. How No.1 will win is with its friendly, independent atmosphere and rarer options (Fruits de Mer, chocolate pizza!). I’ll be back there soon to test this hypothesis.
The café is in good reach of most of the Exeter University population: if you live anywhere near Mount Pleasant, Polsloe, Belmont, or Heavitree you’re probably within a ten minute walk. It’s situated at the cross of Polsloe and Blackboy Roads (in other words, opposite Beer Box and Henry’s Bar), so chances are you’ve passed it at some point and noticed the cute terrace, leafy railings and tempting blackboard offers. Even if it’s just to experience the flawless milkshakes, everyone should go. Hell, I’m at the tip-top of Pennsylvania and it’s become my new goal to eat through No.1’s whole menu.
The café re-opened a few months ago under new ownership. Rebecca Alford worked here for quite some time before taking over at the end of last summer, and her cuisine experience shows. With just her and one guy behind the bar and a floor plan big enough to entertain a good amount of people yet remain intimate, I believed her when she said that the place is buzzing much of the time. It’s obvious that she’s passionate about her customer base and regularly has offers on to suit.
Why 4.5 stars and not 5? Additional items on the plate – such as hash browns or spinach – would have got me to 5 stars. To really make breakfast at No.1 go above and beyond, I’d like to see more breakfast deals (e.g. cooked breakfast, milkshake and a pastry for £10 – can you tell I’m greedy?!), group combos (e.g. pancakes to share) and a dedicated vegan option, but I really am nit picking here.
No. 1 Polsloe Café has it all – laid-back vibe, quality breakfast, the best milkshakes in town, and an enviable looking evening menu. Its reasonable prices and stylish yet laid back-vibe will attract students in droves. Serving breakfast and brunch until 4.30pm on a Sunday makes No. 1 just as suitable for a hangover rescue as it does for a classy evening date.
Fancy popping in to see for yourself? Here are No.1’s opening times:
Thurs/Fri/Sat 10-3 6-late