If you're an Exeter resident, you may have noticed adverts for Base + Barley sprayed onto the pavements of the city. Ever curious, I had a quick google and discovered that the people behind the day to night bar, Artigiano, were launching a brand new venture with a focus on beer and pizza (with sourdough bases no less) a.k.a my idea of heaven.
I signed up to their newsletter and thought little else of it. But a few days later, an invite to their launch pinged into my inbox. Which was pretty much the most exciting thing that's ever happened to me seeing as a) I've always wanted to go to a launch and b) the invite offered FREE FOOD AND BUBBLES to toast the occasion.
I was 100% sold.
After a quick glass of mulled wine at mine, we made our way through the pretty miserable weather with our stomachs growling in anticipation.
Inside, we were shown to some seats in the bar area and given a drinks menu to peruse whilst we waited for our table. The decor has that nonchalant just-thrown-together air that characterises many casual foodie hot spots and ties in well with the feeling at Artigiano. The bar and restaurant areas are separated slightly so that you can pop in for a craft beer or cocktail or sit down and have a meal with friends.
Lorna and Vicky both went for cocktails which were prettily served in jars and disappeared before I could have a taste.
I am evidently my father's daughter and went for a pint of their craft lager. After a year in Italy, I can assure you that there is no better accompaniment to pizza! This one was pretty damn good with a smooth yet bitter flavour that balanced the flavours of the pizza well - but more on that later!
After a short while, we were shown to our table and handed some food menus.
The main offering at B+B is pizza, which is cooked in their wood-fired pizza oven. The prices are pretty decent and the menu is varied but not overwhelmingly so. There's also the option to create your own pizza or you can steer clear of pizza altogether and choose one of their other dishes such as the roast aubergine bake or the maple glazed salmon.
We placed our orders and settled back with a glass of bubbly (admittedly tipping towards the drunk side of the spectrum by now).
Lorna went for the pizza with nduja, sweet roquito peppers, onion and basil and Vicky had the pizza with spinach and ricotta. I was boring and went for the margherita to test out the basics!
And the verdict? Not bad at all! The base was good with the thin Roman-style crust not becoming too crispy. A little more salt would have helped as the crust itself didn't have much flavour but that's just me being picky. The tomato was nice and sweet and carried the creaminess of the mozzarella well. It looked like an Italian pizza, it tasted like an Italian pizza... I was happy.
And drunk (as mentioned). We decided to try and recreate a typical food blogger photo...
Before deciding that I am not made for finesse and elegance:
Vicky's pizza came out a little too overdone underneath but I think this is just a teething problem and will get better over time. We mentioned it to the waiters who whipped a fresh one up within minutes which was really kind of them.
Once the pizza was gone and we were feeling pleasantly full and tipsy, Lorna and I decided that we hadn't had enough alcohol and went for a Baileys affogato each. Because drinking a double espresso two hours before your bedtime is an excellent idea!
At the end, one of the managers came over to chat to us about our experience - I'm not entirely sure how much I rambled on about the pizza base and the atmosphere and how much I'd enjoyed myself but I was definitely talking for quite a while - oops!
By the time I'd finished, we were some of the last ones there.
Thank you Base + Barley for having us!