The instant curb appeal of this unusual and quirky restaurant sat on Exeter’s south street immediately got us excited as we made our way down the hill to the restaurant front. Peering through the window, my two boys Riley (age 6) and Morgan (age 3) were amazed to see trees and tree trunks for tables and chairs in what looked like a page out of a fairytale; we couldn’t wait to get inside!
Owners Cristina, originally from Spain, and Darek, from Poland, warmly greeted us as we entered. One of the first things I noticed was how warm and cosy the restaurant felt. Sitting on logs might not seem comfortable on first glance but we were pleasantly surprised when we sat down! Padded with cushions and blankets, it really made the restaurant feel like a cosy hideaway, heightened further by the relaxing music, dimmed lighting and an unobtrusive, friendly atmosphere. The eye-catching murals of Exeter on the walls added a local touch to the décor which worked well to give a sense of celebration to the city and the feel of the Mediterranean all at once.
Having previously worked in national chain restaurants, both Cristina and Darek wanted to create something unique, natural and personal. Cristina was very keen to tell us that she wants The Canopy to make diners feel welcome, and told me that: “We want to try to build a big family here, where every single person is important to us. The best way, we think, to do that is to give a leaf from one of our trees to diners and they can write whatever they like – feedback, inspirational quotes or even just their name. We’ll then put it on our tree and any time they come back they can see that they’ve got a space in our restaurant.”
A simplistic menu choice, with both a Mediterranean and British theme, ensures that diners aren’t overwhelmed yet still have a good variety to choose from. While there is no separate children’s menu or options specifically for allergens, vegans or vegetarians, both Cristina and Darek will still make you feel totally at ease when ordering and cater for your dietary requirements accordingly when asked. As everything is cooked fresh to order, the menu is totally flexible; removing and replacing ingredients is no problem. For the children, all meals on the menu can be made in smaller portions, or altered if needed and they are given the added option of using the restaurants tablets to watch their favourite programmes or movies while they wait for their food.
To start, my husband had the biggest meat platter I think I’ve ever seen! Delicious slices of chorizo, salami, smoked pork fillet and prosciutto ham were accompanied by a parmesan and rocket side salad and organic bread (£11.50). I selected the Organic Broccoli Soup (£5.50) served with gluten-free bread, while the kids munched on some mixed olives (£2.95) and enjoyed sharing the meat platter too.
I opted for the generously sized Freshwater Bass (£12.95) for my main. Two fillets of sea bass on a bed of roasted vegetables and a side of dairy-free mashed potato, flavoured with tomato. It was evident that everything had been freshly prepared using the best, locally sourced ingredients. My husband’s delectably tender Stuffed Chicken Breast (£12.95) in a creamy mushroom sauce, served with traditional French ‘pure’ mashed potato and fresh sweet carrot was equally as impressive, and presented beautifully. The children each had a small portion of the classic beef lasagne, served with garlic bread. It was satisfying to know the kids were receiving a healthy cooked meal when eating out as all too often the options for children are very limited.
For dessert, I decided to try the signature Canopy Fruit Salad (£5.20) while my husband selected the locally named Exeter Cheesecake (£5.00). It was refreshing to go to a restaurant that serves high quality, locally sourced and freshly cooked ingredients, but also without cutting back on the portion sizes. The two don’t often go hand in hand, but The Canopy has managed to do just that.
The service here really sets this apart from other restaurants – it truly is five star. Everything from the music, the menu and the decor made for a totally relaxing and unique evening. The attention to every little detail makes this restaurant one of a kind, and Exeter is certainly in need of such a restaurant to add something different to the influx of larger chain restaurants coming to the city. Welcome aboard!
Words & photos: Amber Balkwill
Visit The Canopy online at: www.the-canopy.co.uk