Nestled in Exeter’s thriving indie quarter, The Flat offers a laid-back dining experience with some of the most memorable vegan dishes you could ask for. Owners and Exeter residents Chloe and Pietro opened the restaurant this weekend to a huge buzz among the veggie community of the city and, judging by the response so far, they shouldn’t expect the excitement to disappear anytime soon. Stopping by for dinner on Friday to see for ourselves what the fuss was all about, we swiftly returned for lunch the next day. Yes, it’s just that good.
The menu has plenty to offer, with a varied selection of pizzas and pasta to choose from that deliver classic Italian combinations as well as some inventive touches. Everything is vegetarian and can be made vegan and gluten free, with different types of homemade vegan cheese to complement the mixes of flavour in each dish. Wanting to sample as much as possible, we took advantage of their launch opening 2-for-1 offer on pizza and pasta and opted for the small portions of each, with pasta to start and pizza for main. When the bowls of pasta arrived, the gorgeous smell alone was overwhelming, and we couldn’t help but take that in for a few moments before digging in. The Crema e Funghi is a creamy, nutty, delectable dream, particularly for mushroom lovers. With a light but indulgent sauce covering smooth, perfectly cooked pasta, the incredible flavour and textures from the selection of mushrooms goes superbly with the crunch from a scattering of chopped walnuts. It’s rare to find a creamy vegan pasta dish when eating out, as restaurants tend to go for just the tomato-based option, so to find this available in Exeter is something The Flat should be proud of – and just one of the many reasons they stand out from the crowd of Italian chain restaurants dotted around the city. Our second pasta choice, The Flat Pesto, was just as flavourful – we couldn’t quite get enough of the freshness of the pesto, the silky pine nuts and the beautiful balance of the whole dish.
After sitting in awe of how delicious our pasta starters were, our pizzas arrived accompanied with dressed rocket. Having just devoured a good sized portion of pasta each, we were pleased to see these were small portions of pizza, although we quickly regretted not ordering the regular sizes once we’d tasted them. The Smoked pizza packed a punch, with fresh spices and smokiness bursting from the sauce and the carefully curated toppings. After practically inhaling it, my omnivore dining partner said the dish had such substance to it that he didn’t feel it wasn’t missing any meat or dairy – Pietro’s skill in flavour combination leaves you wanting nothing else except more of the same. Offering a lighter approach, the Garlicky pizza had a delicate sesame flavour that came through wonderfully, with fresh courgette, aubergine, red onion, creamy chunks of vegan mozzarella and crispy pumpkin seeds. With light and fluffy yet crispy bases, we couldn’t pick any fault with our main course, only that there wasn’t more of it. To finish up, we enjoyed some chocolate and hazelnut Booja Booja ice cream and a tall glass of the homemade lemon Sorbetto, which is an absolute must-have to end your meal.
Chloe and Pietro have filled a gap in Exeter’s dining market that the city probably didn’t realise it had, but now that’s it’s been filled, we’re extremely glad The Flat has been occupied.