ArchiveMay 2001

Hotel Barcelona – Exeter

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.  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.  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.  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


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
Tomato concasse
Olive oil
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


250g Mascarpone
1 egg white
1 egg yolk
150g sugar
200ml water
15g coffee
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
4 Scallops
8 Mussels
4 Crayfish
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.

Food for Thought

All Winter long people have been popping pills to prevent and cure all manner of actual or anticipated ills. Every year doctors caution people from overdoing the vitamins and encourage them to eat fresh naturally produced food instead, yet, one in ten people are currently taking supplements. In theory if we eat plenty of fresh food including fruit and vegetables, we should be getting all the nutrients our body needs. Unfortunately, there is mounting evidence that this is no longer the case, according to an article called Vital Elements by Hazel Courteney recently published in the Sunday Times Style magazine.

In 1940, two food scientists, Doctors McCance and Widdowson, were asked by the Medical Research Council in the UK to analyse the mineral content of British-grown fruits and vegetables. In 1991 the duo conducted similar studies for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods. Recently, David Thomas, a geologist, turned nutritionist, did a comparative study of their figures. He found that calcium levels in broccoli had dropped by up to 75% and magnesium levels in carrots had fallen by similar amounts. If these figures are correct, why are mineral levels becoming depleted? “Intensive farming methods during the past 50 years, plus acid rain and overuse of artificial fertilisers, have reduced the absorption of minerals such as selenium and zinc into our fruits, vegetables and grains. ” says Thomas. “Mass-produced fertilisers generally contain only three minerals, but there are more than 36 known minerals, 21 of which are vital. If they’re not in our soil, they’re not going to make it into our foods. This imbalance is having a big impact on our health.”

Did you know that if your body becomes deficient in the minerals, magnesium, calcium and potassium, you are more likely to suffer irregularities in your heartbeat? And if you have an excess of iron, but insufficient copper levels, this greatly increases your risk of a heart attack, especially after 50. There is also evidence that pesticides and pollutants such as lead accumulate in the body and prevent absorption of essential nutrients. When Thomas began experimenting at his clinic by giving liquid minerals to his patients, he noticed improvements in a variety of conditions, including leg cramps, chronic fatigue, hyperactivity in children, migraines and, in some cases of autism. What Thomas and numerous nutritional physicians have established is now being recognised by the scientific community. In trials in China, Tunisia, America, France and New Zealand, when people were given a daily supplement of 200 micrograms of chromium, which regulates blood sugar levels, instances of late-onset diabetes were almost halved.” Says Dr Richard Anderson, a research scientist for the US Department of Agriculture.

Since 1984 when the Finnish government decreed that all fertilisers should contain selenium,, sperm motility (the ability of sperm to swim) in subfertile men has increased by up to 35%, while instances of heart disease and prostate cancers have fallen. “During the 1970’s, before joining the EU, we imported huge amounts of Canadian wheat, which is rich in selenium, and the daily intake averaged 70 micrograms”, says Dr Margaret Rayman of the University of Surrey. “Today, the average is 29 micrograms. Virtually all farm animas are given minerals in their feed to help prevent disease. Perhaps its time to do the same for humans.”  So how do we increase our mineral intake from our food? Walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds are all rich in minerals. Fresh vegetable juices contain high levels of nutrients – cabbage, broccoli, absorb minerals well and are an important source. So maybe our resolution should be to seek out really health giving food that is naturally produced on fertile organic soil, eat more organic fruit and vegetables with the skin left on. Peel contains a higher concentration of minerals. After all, as in the Asian philosophy, food should be our medicine – I rather fear that nowadays the opposite is often the case.


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