Laurence Building, Exeter College Hele Road Campus, Exeter, EX4 4JT
Open: Lunch, Monday – Friday, 12pm – 2pm.
Dinner, Wednesday & Thursday, 7pm – 9pm.
Prices: Starters and snacks, £2.95 – £3.20. Mains, £5.75.
Seven-course dinner menu, £23 – £30pp.
Welcome to the proving ground for Devon’s next generation of chefs, restaurateurs, and front of house staff.
Run by budding young chefs and enthusiastic serving staff aged 16-19, @thirty-four is Exeter College’s on-site training kitchen and restaurant offering a unique dining experience provided almost entirely by the college’s students studying to pursue careers in the industry.
Here, students are guided by award-winning mentors, and even occasionally joined by celebrity chefs, to hone their skills in an authentic and challenging environment.
Backed by a prestigious AA College Rosette Award, you can expect fine-dining two evenings a week with a seven-course dinner menu that is regularly changing to explore new themes and flavours, as well as a daily lunch menu serving a two-course express lunch or simple paninis during term time.
With students on a three-year course, they graduate their way from cooking and serving the lunch menu to then being responsible for the dinner menu as their skills develop.
We visited during December and enjoyed the Christmas menu, complete with a Venison Carpaccio with parmesan and rocket, a rich, warm butter-poached turbot fish course with morel mushroom sauce and a classic Christmas poultry platter with all the trimmings to provide a hearty main.
Each course had been plated with attention to detail and a creative flare, delivering a visual treat as well as a treat for the tastebuds. The Baileys ice cream baked Alaska Christmas pudding was particularly impressive, served after a Limoncello sorbet palate cleanser and finished beautifully, providing multiple levels of textures and flavours to journey our way through.
One of our servers, Hayden, was particularly polite and attentive, and told us of his aspirations to run his own restaurant here in the city one day showcasing his favourite way of cooking – a fusion of Spanish and Italian flavours. We also heard tales of cooking at home for family and highlights from the course to date.
It’s an entirely wholesome affair. We watched as one table next to us requested to personally thank the student chef responsible for their favourite course as mentors looked on from afar.
It’s that interaction between students, staff and diner that add something really special to a visit here. Exeter College mentors Ian and Claire are fantastic role models who ooze enthusiasm and care for their students while providing all the tools they need to learn and succeed. Watching the whole package come together in the buzz of an authentic working restaurant is impressive and heart-warming all in one.
Look to the @34restaurant Instagram or visit the website for up-to-date menus of what’s to come. January alone already has a great line-up, including an Italian themed menu on 19th – 20th and a vegan focused menu on 26th – 27th. Look out for the World Book Day inspired menu coming later in the year combining literature with flavour.
@thirty-four offers a rare chance to experience Devon’s future chefs and front of house managers right from their roots. Treat yourself to a head start as soon as you can.
Words: Jake Tucker
See more like this
This manageable there and back route offers easy walking and wheeling along the eastern side of the reservoir and to the dams, plus additional access to the wildlife trail in the Burrator Arboretum