If for any reason you should find yourself in Exeter, I have just come across an interesting place for you to check out – it’s a new funky budget hotel called Barcelona.Â Budget hotels have been popping up all over the place in recent years, offering excellent value and enabling many more people to travel than ever before. Most charge a price per room, so if one is really economizing the whole family can squash in together. One can even bring a picnic if you can’t afford or decide against the economy breakfast. So what’s different about Hotel Barcelona – well the answer is not much on the outside – the former West of England Eye Infirmary is a tall imposing and somewhat austere brick and stone structure – it’s on Magdalen Street – just a stone’s throw from Exeter Cathedral Close.Â However, once inside the door, the impression is altogether different – there is a profusion of colour, a fire crackling in the grate in the entrance, original marble terrazzo floors and great music to lift one’s spirits after a long journey or a stressful day. The staff are young, cool and really eager to please. Someone had great fun decorating and converting this former eye hospital. Victorians’love of fresh air meant there were large windows which allow in lots of sun and light A collection of original 1930’s, 50’s and 60’s furniture, rugs, art and funky artefacts blend well with the Gothic proportion of the original wards. The bedrooms still have the original parquet floors and great fun bathrooms. Best of all many of the bedrooms have features that one only expects to find in luxury hotels – a cordless telephone, modern dataport, video and CD player and a hidden away television.
The restaurant called Cafe Paradiso, has been designed to resemble a ‘Big Top’ with a glass wall overlooking the gardens and terrace and the most beautiful ancient Holm oak. At one end there’s a 30ft mural by Jon Eaves and a woodburning oven. Head chef Michael Field is passionate about food and hopes to put Cafe Paradiso at the top of the food map in Devon. He’s committed to serving honest simple Mediterranean food including Neapolitan pizzas and aims to serve simple dishes using the best local raw ingredients. We had a delicious dinner of local shellfish, Devon beef and a plate of Cafe Paradiso desserts. But the best was yet to come, for those of you who would prefer to boogie rather than flop into bed after dinner, there is a very grown-up theatre -style night club and the Kino bar with a collection of 1950’s Film Noir film posters , and lots of 1960’s memorabilia – just my era.Â This is a fun spot put together with an intelligent understanding of the needs of the many young creative customer who wants modern ultra funky decor and stylish luxury at affordable prices -it was terrific when I visited – hope they can keep it up and realize their vision. Hotel Barcelona, Magdalen St. Exeter, EX2 4HY Tel. 00 44 1392 281000 Fax 00 44 1392 281001 Emailinfo@hotelbarcelona-uk.comÂ Â www.hotelbarcelona-uk.com
Cafe Paradiso Guinea Fowl with vine tomatoes and basil
4 Guinea fowl breasts
4 tomatoes on vine
1 bunch of basil
1 glass red wine
Dried mixed herbs
Heat extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper in a pan until it smokes. Add the Guinea fowl skin side up to seal. Then turn so skin side down. Add shredded basil and vine tomatoes (whole on vine). Add wine and chicken stock, reduce in oven. When cooked (approx. 9 mins) allow to rest (3 mins) before serving.
Cafe Paradiso Tiramisu
1 egg white
1 egg yolk
Double measure of Tia Maria or Marsala
Make a coffee syrup with coffee, 100g sugar, Tia Maria and 180ml water reduce and allow to cool – Soak the sponge in half the coffee syrup. Beat egg yolk with 20g sugar in a pan with 20mls water, boil to a thick syrup. Onto this pour half the coffee syrup and whisk until cold. Fold in mascarpone, whisk until stiff. Whisk egg white with 20g sugar to soft peaks and fold into the mascarpone mixture. Layer sponge and with mixture. Finish with cocoa. Refrigerate for 4 hours.
Cafe Paradiso Catalonian Fish Soup
4 pints Shellfish stock
1 finely chopped red chilli
1 finely chopped red onion
Handful of chopped chives and Italian parsley
Thicken with corn flour if necessary
Caramelise the red onion and chilli in a pan. Reduce the fish stock and red wine in a pan. Add the mussels, scallops and crayfish to the caramelized red onion and chillie’s. When the mussels are beginning to open add the reduced stock/wine. Just before serving add chopped herbs.
Cafe Paradiso Pan fried lamb with a balsamic and rosemary jus
4x8oz Lamb neck fillet
8 sprigs of rosemary
Finely chopped red wine
1 teaspoon lamb stock
1 teaspoon redcurrant jelly
1 clove of garlic
Seasoning and reduce
Heat extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper in a pan until it smokes. Seal the lamb. Add the red onion, garlic and red wine – reduce. Add the lamb stock and redcurrant jelly. Once the jelly is dissolved add balsamic vinegar. Serve.