Situated in a prime location on Exeter’s quayside, Samuel Jones is a ale and smoke house built in an old warehouse. The inside decor is sophisticated, but still maintains that warm and comfortable pub feel. There’s a range of seating from long benches, small candlelit tables and leather sofas by the fireplace. Outside there’s a huge deck right on the riverfront, perfectly situated for a drink in the sun. The bar is extensive and boasts a range of craft beers, spirits and wines.
Our waiter Michael was one of the most friendly and helpful waiters I’ve had. He was more than happy to go through the menu with us, sharing his recommendations and giving us as much time as we needed to choose.
Laurel: Homemade Hand Cut Bread with balsamic oil
For starters, I opted for the simple homemade hand cut bread, with balsamic oil – a safe choice and a generous serving of four thick slices, with the oil served in a cute little saucepan. The bread was great, though very filling, and I was cautious of spoiling the rest of my dinner, so ended up keeping it alongside my main course to enjoy throughout the evening.
Harriette: Potted Smoked Salmon with cucumber, croutes and creme fraiche
Smoked salmon is always such a treat to have at a restaurant so I couldn’t resist when I saw it on the menu. It was delicious! Melt in the mouth salmon, with crispy croutes, and I really liked the presentation of it all, and everything well seasoned. It was quite a good sized portion for a starter so I think I’d definitely go back and have it as a light main another time.
Laurel: Beetroot & Chickpea Burger with goats cheese and chunky chips
As a long-term vegetarian, it can sometimes be a bit tricky to go out for dinner, so I was pleased to see a veggie section on the menu, with multiple appetising options available that could have easily been made vegan too. After much deliberation, I went for the beetroot and chickpea burger, which was served with chunky chips and mixed leaves. I ordered the burger without goats’ cheese (I’ve never been much of a fan), and was pleased when our food arrived to see that this was followed through, as it’s surprising the number of places that seem to forget! Although I would have liked a little more veg in the burger, the patty itself was delicious with a lovely texture and flavour – far better than any chickpea burger I’ve ever made. Samuel Jones, I want your recipe! Our waiter Michael also showed us the restaurant’s very own homemade ketchups, which were rather different to Heinz and I’m not sure I preferred them, but a charming touch nonetheless.
Harriette: West Country Rib Eye with peppercorn glaze, chips, tomato, pepper & onion
Like smoked salmon, steak is not something that I eat at home, so it’s a bit of a treat. This steak was cooked to perfection. (Would it be too much to say this is the best steak I have ever had?) It was a good sized portion, and very tender but not chewy. The peppercorn sauce was lovely and the chunky chips were so yummy! It was nice to have a bit of veg too, just to add a bit of flavour to the dish. It was just great gastro-pub food, well cooked, delicious and extremely satisfying. Again, Michael the waiter was very attentive and came across to check that my steak had been cooked to my liking – admittedly there was not much left of it at that point…. If you’re a bit steak fan, I would definitely put Samuel Jones on your list of places to try, because I was very impressed. Although it was slightly on the pricey side at £19.
Laurel: Chocolate & Orange Mille Feuille
Finally, the desserts… My favourite part of any meal. They all looked amazing, and I ended up choosing the chocolate and orange mille feuille (don’t worry, I can’t pronounce it either). It was a very original dessert, with discs of mille feuille propped up by white chocolate and passion fruit fudge and scattered with raspberries, melted chocolate and toffee popcorn. The fudge was the highlight of the plate for me; it was absolutely gorgeous and, although the serving was on the slightly lighter side, this was probably a good thing since I was already so full up from the other courses!
Harriette: Strawberry Cheesecake with Viennese sables
Admittedly, at first I was slightly disappointed because I really fancied the Opera Gateaux (french buttercream, chocolate ganache, coffee joconde sponge – yes please!), but sadly they had run out so I went for what I thought would be the rather boring choice of the strawberry cheesecake. Let’s be honest, cheesecake is never bad in restaurants, but some times it arrives, and it just looks a bit like the one you could pick up for £2 in Tesco. But this cheesecake was clearly homemade – the base was sweet and crumbly, the strawberry topping had a smooth, mousse like consistency. It was very fruity, rather than milky, which was nice. I thought the presentation was great, although cutting a cheesecake in half makes it look deceptively smaller than it is.
The Viennese sables tasted like homemade, buttery shortbread. I very nearly asked for a doggy bag to take the last one home because they were extremely tasty. For £6 I thought that this dessert was a pretty decent size and it tasted amazing – I am definitely going back for this.
All in all, we had a great evening. The restaurant benefits from a wonderful location, tucked out of the way on the quay and with a lovely outdoor area overlooking the water, which would be perfect in the summertime. With friendly staff, reasonable prices and delicious food, Samuel Jones is definitely one of my new favourite places.