The City Gate has been proudly perched on the corner of Exeter’s iconic Iron Bridge since it first opened in 1778, but despite its longevity, you might not be so familiar with this 18th century pub-hotel. It’s time for that to change. Following an extensive refurbishment by pub-hotel group, Young’s, behind the City Gate Hotel’s unassuming doors now lies a truly beautiful, boutique restaurant and hotel, serving top quality food in a relaxed, yet classy, atmosphere.

The recent renovation has transformed this hotel into one of Exeter’s finest. From the sophisticated upholstery to the captivating local artwork and murals of the Cathedral, the ambience perfectly balances a local pub feel with the elegance of a unique dining experience. Whether you’re looking for some after-work cocktails or a refreshing pint of real ale, a casual brunch or a three-course dinner, the modern British menu and elegant design will make everyone feel welcome.

There is a choice of dining areas to reflect different moods for those who dine. These include the conservatory, the bar, the dining room or the enigmatic secret garden. Being a hot and sunny summer evening we decided to sit in the beer garden and soak up that summer feeling with a cool glass of rosé and an ice cold beer. Aptly labelled the secret garden, we were amazed at the size – a big covered dining area and also an outdoor bar, perfect for summer gatherings. Each of these individual areas are available for private hire too – summer evening parties in the sun at the outdoor bar or, for a more cosy winter party, there is the rather stylish exposed brick cellar with its own private sound system.

The food was equally as special as the venue, starting with a light and fresh Dressed Brixham Crab Salad with Toasted Sourdough (£8) and deliciously smooth and creamy Chicken Liver Parfait (£6.50) served with grape and onion chutney and toasted brioche. Both starters offered good portion sizes, great value and locally sourced ingredients too!

I chose the Chef Special Lamb Rump (£16) for main which was cooked just as I’d asked – very tender and moist and served with roasted new potatoes, grilled asparagus and a caper and shallot dressing which complimented the lamb wonderfully. My husband ordered the 28 day aged 8oz Angus Sirloin Steak (£19.50) which was again served just as requested which he described as ‘melt in your mouth meat’. The steak was accompanied with a classic combination of slow roasted tomato, triple cooked chunky chips and peppercorn sauce. While most of the menu choices are dishes and combinations you will have seen before, there’s something to be said about doing them right. The City Gate does just that, making the traditional dishes delicious, plentiful and with a touch of elegance.

For dessert we finished off with a Sticky Toffee Pudding (£5.50) served with toffee sauce and clotted cream while my husband chose the Stem Ginger Treacle Tart (£6.50) with lemon curd and clotted cream. Both desserts were presented beautifully and offered that rich, tempting texture and taste with a lightness that helps you to keep on going – how they do it, I do not know!

As the sun started to go down we took our drinks inside to the conservatory where there was a contented, laid back atmosphere where we could tuck ourselves in the corner and admire the interior design. Even though it was a busy Friday evening, at that moment it was if we were the only two people there.

Throughout our visit we felt looked after by knowledgeable and friendly staff which enhanced the relaxed evening. I have a feeling the City Gate is going to become a favourite of ours; perfect in summer housing one of Exeter’s few beer gardens, yet cosy and snug in the winter months. A well-priced boutique pub/restaurant serving quality, seasonal British food in a comfortable and chic setting – what more could you ask for?

Words: Amber Balkwill
Images: Amber Balkwill & City Gate

Visit the City Gate Hotel online at:

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