Restaurant Launch Review: Circa at Sandridge Barton
Let me introduce you to one of my Devon favourites
Tucked away behind the High Street in Northernhay Place, Circa was one of our favourite places to eat in Exeter. It’s also one of the first restaurants I enjoyed reviewing on the blog around seven years ago (take a peek here).
Circa was one of Exeter’s finest independent, family-owned businesses. We enjoyed eating with them at home during lockdown, and we were sad to see the team leave the city. But luckily for us, they haven’t gone far – they are now one of Devon’s finest and last week, I was very excited to have the opportunity to visit their new home at Sandridge Barton.
Circa is run by Rob Weekes and his partner Kate. Nestled in the scenic valley of the River Dart in South Hams, a short drive from Exeter. The Circa team share their new home with Sharpham Wines.
In the old stone milking parlour, Circa preserves the rich history of the dairy farm it once was. It’s welcoming, rustic and inviting, with gorgeous views. A unique dining experience with a location perfect for relaxing and escaping busy lives.
Ethical and sustainable
Circa’s philosophy revolves around sharing and showcasing the finest produce from the estate and the local area. They want to create a relaxing and enjoyable atmosphere where guests can unwind and savour exceptional food paired with locally produced wines (Sharpham wines are some of Devon’s finest).
Sustainability is a core value of the team at Circa; this is clear in various aspects of the team’s operations (Rob was foraging while we ate!) Circa follows an ingredient-led approach, emphasising the use of seasonal produce and prioritising organic ingredients; the restaurant also considers food miles, ensuring that the sourcing of ingredients doesn’t come at the expense of excessive transportation.
The commitment to sustainability extends to the kitchen as well. Rob, Kate and co pride themselves on preparing homemade dishes, utilising raw and unprocessed ingredients whenever possible. Circa also adopt a zero-waste approach by using bi-products from wine-making, ensuring that every available resource is used.
When it comes to sourcing produce, ethical considerations are paramount. The vegetables come from no-dig, organic farms during abundant seasons, ensuring freshness and minimising environmental impact. The restaurant collaborates with trusted local fishermen who deliver day-boat fish in the morning, just a few miles away. Additionally, they source beef from the herd on the estate, promoting local agriculture and supporting sustainable farming practices.
What’s on the menu?
Chef Rob pulled out all the stops with an incredible menu showcasing the best local, seasonal, and foraged ingredients. The flavours of the dishes he created were truly memorable and unique (I would have expected nothing less).
We started the evening with homemade sourdough and freshly churned butter, setting the stage for the culinary journey. The smoked cod roe with sourdough cracker and dill was a delightful and flavourful appetiser. The roasted beetroot with Arjo Bianco, dill oil, and sourdough offered a refreshing combination of earthy and tangy flavours.
One of my standout dishes was the asparagus with smoked hay, hollandaise, and nettles. The tenderness of the asparagus paired perfectly with the smoky hay and velvety hollandaise, creating a harmonious and memorable combination.
However, the celeriac “risotto” with coffee kombucha, mushrooms, and celeriac hay was a revelation, with the rich flavours of the mushrooms beautifully complementing the tender celeriac, it was incredibly moreish, and I was sad that I had to share it (even if it was with lovely Chris from Dining Devon).
The main course featured an estate dry-aged rump with wild garlic and a beef fat crumb. This dish was an explosion of savoury meatiness, with the dry-aged rump cooked to perfection. It was a well-balanced and satisfying dish, accompanied by purple sprouting broccoli, spring greens, rhubarb, and sesame.
To end the evening on a sweet note, we were treated to spent coffee, kombucha truffles and Alexander root gelato. The truffles were delicate and delicious, and the gelato was silky and luxurious (I’m not entirely sure what an Alexander Root is though).
Would we go again?
Erm, YES! Circa is still a very firm favourite, even more so now. the restaurant offers a memorable dining experience in a stunning setting. Rob’s culinary expertise combined with the team’s commitment to sustainability and using locally sourced, high-quality ingredients take guests on a culinary journey that celebrates the flavours of the estate and wonderful Devon. Pair the food with carefully selected local wine and it’s a recipe for delight. My hubby missed out on this trip (he was very upset) but we will be going back very soon.