Forn Bar & Restaurant
14 Mary Arches Street, Exeter, EX4 3AZ
When entering Forn, a super-stylish bar in Exeter’s city centre, you feel like you have been transported to a contemporary bodega in one of Barcelona or Madrid’s fashionable districts. Inside, you’ll find trendy filament light bulbs, copper-topped tables, walnut cow horn chairs and aged leather bar stools lining the huge elliptical bar, which suits both those passing through after a quick drink and those who settle in to enjoy tapas at the bar, just as they do in Spain. Famous for their Tapas Tails (that’s mini cocktail tapas to you and me), Forn are really setting trends across the South West. Gone is the struggle to get a table at the weekend – at Forn they only book out half of the restaurant, leaving the tables surrounding the bar, the huge decked terrace and garden and the 18 covers at the bar free for those who are a bit last minute. Don’t think it is not packed out every Friday and Saturday night though – you certainly need to arrive before the crowds, as this place is always heaving with regulars who have their preferred seats at the bar where they enjoy exquisite cocktails while being treated to free canapés as a reward for their early arrival. The food is a work of art. Traditional recipes are presented in a beautiful manner and cooked with love. All dishes are made in-house with fresh ingredients from local suppliers. This is not a fast food restaurant, so dishes come out when they are ready and the atmosphere encourages you to settle in and chill out with friends. Not for those looking for a quiet, whispered meal, this place is always buzzing – there’s even a Spanish guitarist at the weekend. Hiding behind the wall-to-wall bifold doors is an enormous suntrap terrace and garden. Huge paellas are cooked outside in the summer by the all-Spanish chefs and gin and tonics are served in big bowl glasses with plenty of ice. It’s the perfect summer scene – one I intend to wholeheartedly immerse myself in.