Located on Fore Street in the heart of Topsham, your first impression of The Galley may be of a small, unassuming restaurant. Facing a boat yard, the restaurant has a charming view across the river, with a newly refurbished cobalt blue exterior. The Galley looks like a quaint, local business. In fact, it is exactly that. We were welcomed by a charming waiter, who sat us on a small, but well-presented table in the corner facing the river. It was 13:30 on a Wednesday, and the restaurant wasn’t too busy; there were three other tables with some couples and a group, all chattering away quietly and sipping on wine. The gentle jazz music added to the chic and tranquil ambience. Nigel Mitchell, the friendly owner, came over to introduce himself, and gave us the menu to look over; it had an excellent selection for fish-lovers and vegetarians alike. So far, so good.
At a very modest £22.50, I decided to go for the 3-course lunch menu, and my guest chose his courses from the A la Carte menu. As a fish and seafood restaurant first and foremost, our natural choice was to go for fish and seafood for our starters and main. From the lunch menu, the creamy mussels were juicy, creamy and garlicy. I often find creamy mussels overpowering, but the sauce was incredibly well balanced. The 12 hour cured trout from the A la Carte menu had an interesting mix of flavours – the sweetness of the beetroot complimented the tender cured trout, which worked very well with the crushed avocado and thin, crispy sliced radish.
For the main, the grilled plaice is an excellent choice – if you don’t mind dealing with fish bones. With the delicious sharp, vinaigrette and buttery steamed vegetables, the fresh plaice was well complimented. If you are looking for a main course to remember though, I strongly recommend the Turbot Boulangère from the A la Carte menu. It was a combination of ingredients that I had never seen before: some turbot, with a few slices of potato perfectly cooked inside it, placed on a bed of tender-stem broccoli and chicory, with smooth, pureed butternut squash and dried apricots, drizzled with rich fish red wine and crunchy almond flakes. The sweetness of the apricots and the squash were an excellent pairing with the fish and potato. What’s more, the presentation was considered without being pretentious. Every mouthful was a delight.
And finally, pudding, which can often let a delicious meal down, was perfectly executed. The cheese board from the Lunch menu provided an excellent variety of cheeses and the dark chocolate mousse was well paired with some Muscat, an Australian desert wine. A soft scoop of chocolate mousse laid on a bed of biscuit crumbs, surrounded by perfectly caramelised bananas and sweet, crunchy honeycomb. The combination of textures and flavours was fantastic, and it is something I would order again and again.
Having completed their recent refurbishment in February, The Galley promises a relaxing dining experience for its guests. The bare brick walls and nautical themed décor give it a charming and warm atmosphere. Nigel Mitchell has owned the restaurant for seven and a half years, and in that time, he has gathered a loyal clientele from students and staff at the University. Their new Head Chef, renowned Lee Harry, has created an excellent menu based on local, good quality produce. The fish is bought locally from the fish market in Brixham, the mussels from the river at their doorstep, and the meat and vegetables from award-wining farms such as Darts Farm. Considering they offer 1, 2 or 3 course lunch menus at £13.50, £18.50 and £22.50 respectively, there will definitely be something to suit your budget.
Overall, The Galley exceeded my expectations. It is a short bike ride and even shorter train journey from Exeter, and it is well worth the visit. The humble décor, the attentive service, and the exceptional food together make an excellent dining experience. A massive well done is due to Head Chef Lee Harry for his culinary expertise, and to Nigel and his team, for the attentive and warm service. Already booked up for Graduation week, The Galley will impress those lucky enough to have managed to get a table. Understated from the outside and an oasis on the inside, it is everything it seems and more: modest, chic and remarkable.
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– by Luanna De Abreu Coelho