The Oddfellows, Exeter
This industry is all about people. Being able to sell a barrel of beer to a pub is a given for any brewer hoping to succeed – to forge a close working relationship with that business and to be able to join forces, especially in their home town, carries a much greater value. Suffice to say, close friendships underpin everything and I think those with a genuine focus on quality and consistency will always naturally be drawn towards each other.
The Oddfellows brand was created and introduced into Exeter by Faye and Yvan Williams in 2006. It’s a lightly eccentric and playful take on what a pub offering can look like driven by two strong personalities that complement each other perfectly. Probably because of this unique formula, in recent years the business has more than stood its own in the face of an onslaught from chain eateries moving into town.
We first met this dynamic couple several years ago over a shared desire to improve the drinks offering and infrastructure at Exeter’s Christmas market. As well as being pub landlords, Faye and Yvan also run outside bars – think the eponymous Exeter Festival of South West Food and Drink, various events in the Cathedral and most recently a summer pop up on Exmouth seafront. As you talk to them, you can almost see new ideas swirling around their heads.
The pub sits a stone’s throw away from Exeter’s main shopping area and this old Victorian haunt really comes into its own in autumn and winter. The exposed brickwork, wooden floorboards and light streaming in through big windows all combine to provide a snug refuge where time somehow feels elastic. They take their drinks seriously here. As well as the carefully chosen wines and a regularly changing line up of Cask Marque accredited ales, upstairs there’s a self-contained Speakeasy-style cocktail lounge that boasts an impressive selection of West Country gin and rum and which can also be booked for private dining and cocktail masterclasses.
The food has just as much flair – the approach is to know the provenance and story behind everything they serve. Expect to see produce from Dart Fresh and Good Game in Topsham, the Rusty Pig in Ottery, Exe Coffee Roasters, Sharpham cheese, ultra-local honey from Heavitree and so on. With a recent gold award from Taste of the West under their belts, the kitchen team of Mark Kersey and Millie Cox calmly serve accomplished pub food with a nod to retro lifestyle trends from the open kitchen. Starters of smoked mackerel pate and wild rabbit terrine were both a picture on the plate, as was the veggie main of pan fried herb gnocchi with pea shoots and the corn fed free-range chicken supreme with roasted red pepper polenta cake. Well done guys – top marks all round.
This is an established and successful business that’s proud of its uniqueness. Yvan and Faye, both very qualified to do their jobs, have perfected a formula built around serving ethical local food and drink and providing warm service to create an original concept that refreshingly pushes back against the recent explosion of chain restaurants. Perhaps it’s just old-fashioned hospitality but ultimately we’re designed as human beings to eat, drink and be pleased. This cosy and convivial city centre refuge ticks all the right boxes and is a jewel in the crown of Exeter’s indie scene.
The Oddfellows, New North Road, Exeter. EX4 4EP
Tel: 01392 209050