I’ve never been to a fish and seafood restaurant before, so was very keen to try out the experience when my husband and I headed out to Topsham from Exeter one balmy July evening. Not knowing what to expect is quite liberating when trying out a new eatery as we had nothing to compare it to, and so we were pleasantly surprised and excited to discover ourselves in a quaint and historic building with dramatic views over the estuary, coupled with a very warm welcome by our host and restaurant owner, Nigel.

The Galley pride themselves on serving ‘the best of Devon on a plate’ accompanied by great service tailored to your needs and that was evident as soon as we entered and rang the bell for attention – a lovely retro touch! Nigel and his team couldn’t do enough to make us, and every other guest, comfortable (many of whom had clearly been before). From helping an elderly guest get from a to b, to answering all my questions about whether certain ingredients were pregnancy friendly; his passion for his product was overflowing and infectious.

Whilst perusing the menu, we were served with bread and olives to take the edge off of our growing appetites, and both were absolutely delicious. We eventually settled on the Devon Scallops, served with cauliflower puree and braised pork (£9.50) and the Thai fishcakes with a mango, chilli and coriander salsa (£7.50) to start. Each dish was presented beautifully, my fishcakes didn’t look like your conventional fishcakes and they certainly didn’t taste like them either – each bite was an explosion of flavour and divine texture. On enquiry I discovered the reason why; there was no potato filler in these beauties, just solely local hake and cod, seasoned to perfection and served with a punchy salsa that was as fresh as it was flavoursome. The hubby’s scallops were equally delectable; the balance of flavours enhanced each individual component and made for a truly satisfying dish.

Still reeling from our exquisite starters, we moved onto our main courses, which for me was Champagne Battered Sea Bass, with double cooked chips, minted peas and tartare sauce (£17.50) and for my husband was Lobster Thermidor which was specially ordered in by request beforehand. On first bite, the lobster was prescribed ‘just magnificent’ – in fact it was SO good that my hubby said he would be sad when it was over; the wine that the restaurant recommended offset the dish perfectly and amplified his whole enjoyment of the dish. My sea bass was perfection, from the crisp batter to the freshness of the peas and the creamy intensity of the tartare sauce, every mouthful was a joy and I too, was sad when it ended.

I was pleased to see upon being presented with the dessert menu, that The Galley’s obvious flair for flavour combinations extended to the finale of a meal. It’s not often a specialist restaurant gives dessert much consideration in my experience, but here, I was not disappointed. We opted for the Crème Brulee with poached rhubarb and gingerbread (£7) and Raspberry Bakewell Tart with roasted apricots and vanilla ice cream (£7). I didn’t even get a chance to try the brulee as my husband devoured it with enthusiasm (unusual for him as he doesn’t have a sweet tooth) – I on the other hand savoured each and every mouthful, admiring how the sharpness of the raspberry was juxtaposed with the sweetness of the apricot and married together with the creaminess of the ice cream.

The ambient atmosphere, the dulcet tones of Madeleine Peyroux in the background, the spectacular food and the sun setting on the estuary as we ate equalled one of the nicest nights out we have ever had in a restaurant. Nigel and your team, we applaud you.

Words & Images: Mary Bennellick

Visit The Galley online at: www.galleyrestaurant.co.uk

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