BASE and Barley is the latest venture from Exeter’s poshest coffee shop chain, Artigiano. Situated just a stone’s throw away from Exeter Firehouse and across from the (in)famous King Billy pub, the restaurant opened its doors last week, offering pundits and foodies alike the chance to sample their Italian sourdough pizzas, craft beer and cocktails.
The restaurant itself is a spectacle, with a mixture of rustic and modern interior fittings and ambient mood lighting. A huge wood-fire oven dominates the room, churning out delicious looking and authentic Italian pizzas. The drink selection is varied, with exotic cocktails and posh soft drinks. The craft beer selection, however, is a little limited, with Brewdog’s Dead Pony club probably the highlight – although this will set you back the wrong side of four pounds.
The menu is surprisingly reasonably priced, with the pizzas all costing under nine pounds. I am tempted by the Piri Piri King Prawn dish, but instead plump for a No.2 pizza; topped with mozzarella, peppers and spicy nduja sausage. The waiting staff are attentive and friendly, although there are clearly still some teething problems that need to be ironed out – orders kept arriving at our table, before our hopes were dashed as we realised these weren’t in fact our pizzas.
Unfortunately the turnaround on the food is slow, and by the time our pizzas finally arrived (almost an hour after we ordered) we are all absolutely ravenous. Luckily the food is excellent – the crispy thin sourdough bases and fresh toppings that could easily have been prepared in a restaurant on a sunny Rome piazza. The portions aren’t massive, but represent good (if not great) value for money for under ten pounds, and the food seems reasonably healthy, or certainly healthier than your average dominoes.
Overall it’s hard to judge Base and Barley on the basis of this outing. The restaurant is clearly still finding its feet, and there are undoubtedly some flaws that need attention – the wait on food and slightly hesitant staff being two of these. Fix these flaws, however, and it may just become one of the trendiest and most popular hangouts in town.