REVIEW: Michael Caines at the ABode, Exeter

by - August 24, 2011

The best things come to those who wait and wait we certainly did for our courses at the Michael Caines Restaurant inside the ABode Exeter.

The amuse was nicely presented as we waited in the bar area, and they even served up an additional celeriac soup amuse after we took our seats at the table.

The bread basket was huge and groaned with an impressive assortment. (Good job as this was to sustain us for quite some time before the starters arrived.)

Totally out of character, I chose the Wild Mushroom Cannelloni (£12.50), rare as I never order pasta out but these fine vertical tubes were filled with intense, smooth roast cep mushrooms that smelt like a fresh woodland floor. The earthy mushroom velouté had a great consistency and manners alone stopped me from mopping the plate clean with more bread. You had to really love mushrooms for this dish but luckily I do.

Caines is one for local produce and there was plenty of local fish on the menu. Mr. GF chose the Roasted Brixham Scallops (£14.50) with cauliflower and truffle purée and a sweet raisin vinaigrette. Despite the presentation looking a little 90s, these were some of the best scallops I have tasted (tearing one away from the husband was no mean feat).

Given plenty more time to reflect on how good the starters were, the mains finally arrived after another age of a wait - must be all that fannying around with tweezers in the kitchen. Don't get me wrong, I'm Italian and used to spending hours on end around a table, but we're usually eating for most of it!

Anyway, I opted for more local fish in the form of a Slow-poached Brixham Brill served with stir-fried vegetables, shiitake mushrooms and a Thai purée with lemongrass foam (£23.50). Despite being one of the smallest plates of food that has ever been put in front of me (why is it the higher the price the smaller the food?) it was utterly delicious. The fish was pillow soft and the different Thai flavours of citrus, sesame, and lemongrass flashed throughout the dish. I liked the textural contrast the crunchy vegetables under the fish offered. Sad to say, I was so hungry at this point I wolfed down the dish in five mouthfuls, probably not giving it the time it deserved to fully appreciate.

Mr. GF's Slow-roasted Devon beef sirlion with Madeira cream sauce (£23.50) looked great, and despite being two teeny weeny little pieces (that tortellini in the picture isn't that big) was tender perfection. The Jacob's Ladder tortellini itself was pretty good I must say and the pasta here seems very well made indeed, filled with rich, flaking tender beef. It was a crying shame there was only one. However, Mr. GF insisted that my meat ravioli are better, but that may be because I serve a hell of a lot more than one on a plate.

Dessert orders were finally taken just under an hour after main were cleared. We were largely ignored but it may have been because friends on the table were due to get married the day after and family came to wish them well. The waiting staff may have been giving us some extra space for this but I had heard about the painful service from other reviews.

When dessert orders were finally taken, I was warned that my souffle would take 15 minutes to arrive (ho ho). My Apricot Souffle with Pistachio Creme Anglaise (£8.50) sure looked the part didn't it? The accompanying ice cream and poached apricot were delicious but the souffle was swimmingly raw at the bottom. Irritatingly schoolboy but it has to be said that it was removed from the bill without a word.

Many people on the table chose better with the impressive looking Trio of Chocolate and plates were practically licked clean. I liked the way the hazelnut in a sugar syrup spike looked.

With no sticky toffee pudding on the menu, Mr GF predictably opted for local cheeses, which included some well known and loved ones like the Quicke's Raw Milk Cheddar and Sharphan. I thought £10 wasn't bad for the selection as well as the pickle and quince accompaniments.

So, all in all a good meal but service should have been a heck of a lot sharper for the price point. The food, when it eventually arrived was, on the whole, great but part of me will never be able to swallow the whole small food/high prices issue unless utterly spectacular and faultlessly delivered. I'm not adverse to spending astronomical amounts on dining and am more than happy if I leave full, happy and impressed but I can't say I left feeling like this particular visit was a good value for money experience.

Michael Caines at the ABode Exeter
Cathedral Yard
Devon EX1 1HD

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