Absurd Bird was set up three years ago by a self-proclaimed whimsical entrepreneur. Decked out with swing seats and colourful rocking chairs, this whimsicality is undoubtedly brought to life in the décor of the restaurant. To make things quirkier, there are birdhouses and ivy leaves dotted around, and even the hanging lampshades are crafted like birdcages. The restaurant spreads over two floors, featuring a bar, and has outdoor seating for when Exeter’s weather is on its best behaviour. The general vibe is shabby-chic and what with the chirpy –pun intended– atmosphere, it really does pay off. In fact, a large mural up the stairs with the following quote says it all: “We don’t hide crazy, we just put it on the front porch and give it a drink”. Definitely worth a visit!
If you’re bored of opting for a generic coke or lemonade at dinner out of sheer indecision, the drinks menu is for you. With sweet American cream soda on offer, as well as several flavours of ice tea (which you often find on European menus, rather than British) there’s more of a chance to try something different. Yet really it is all about the cocktails here – especially when they’re only £5 between 5-7pm. Designed by expert ‘mixologists’ Soul Shakers, their absurd drinks include: ‘Cock Shot’, ‘Chicken Rum’, and their unique ‘Moonshine’ in original, vanilla, apple cinnamon pie, and pumpkin pie variations. We were lucky enough to try each flavour, and can safely say that flavoured moonshine tastes like a soft drink rather than its shocking 70% alcoholic weighting. That’s what I call a perfect shot.
We enjoyed a variety of chicken dishes for our main courses. Absurd Bird offers the option of picking from their wing shack, where you can order a selection of flavoured wings, or choosing from an assortment of mains. We opted for the latter, and we were certainly not disappointed!
Absurd Bird takes a lot of its influence from American cooking of the Deep South, and this is reflected in their menu. American staples such as chicken and waffles can be found, and diners can also opt to have chicken smoked in a southern style. Absurd Bird also uses its own absurd oil and absurd sauces, reflecting the restaurant’s dedication to having its own unique flavour.
The servings that we received were particularly generous: Absurd Bird has definitely taken inspiration from American portion sizes, in addition to American tastes! We found that the burgers were a great choice for those wanting a hearty meal. Diners can pick from both chicken and vegetarian options, with a choice of how they want their chicken prepared. Our team particularly enjoyed the crispy fried chicken burger, topped with BBQ sauce and coleslaw.
Burger fans can also opt for the sliders, mini-burgers filled with fried chicken, bacon jam and pimento cheese. These ingredients worked really well together, and this dish was especially filling!
The chicken Caesar wrap was another dish enjoyed by one of our party. The wrap was thick enough to contain the filling yet soft and malleable. The ingredients inside the wrap were seasoned in a tasty but not overpowering Caesar dressing and there was an impressive chicken to salad ratio! She opted for the grilled chicken which was cooked very nicely, very succulent and the meat was of a very high quality, but they also offered fried or pulled chicken, giving you the option to alter the dish to suit your tastes.
As a lighter choice, Absurd Bird also has an assortment of salads available. The mango and quinoa salad was fresh, well-balanced, and colourful. We were surprised at how sweet the mango was; often restaurants don’t have the ripest fruit in (its horrible to receive cold and firm avocado in a salad for example) yet this mango was so flavourful, which really lifted the meal. This salad could be served with or without chicken, making it a perfect option for vegetarian diners.
One reason why we found Absurd Bird’s dishes so good was the mix of sweet and savoury flavours in each meal. The bacon jam that they use on their burgers was particularly tasty, and the mango added a great sweetness to the salad. Overall, we found the menu to be inventive, and the chicken particularly well-prepared and flavoursome.
Again, the portion sizes for the sides were very generous for the price. At only £3 when eaten with a main, they might even prove a bigger bite than you can chew. Ranging from smoked corn on the cob coated in absurd butter, to a sweet potato bake topped with marshmallows, the sides cater for all tastes, whether you’re looking for something unique and sweet, or more conventional like the classic American fries. The sides we tried were presented in aesthetically pleasing dishes, such as a mini saucepan for the jalapeῆo mac & cheese and innovative copper coloured cups for the fries. The mac & cheese deserves to be its own main course, with its creamy and luxurious texture delicately balanced with the slight after-kick of the jalapeῆos, and the ample portion size. We couldn’t help but try the sweet potato bake; how many times do you see marshmallows in a starter? We’re still undecided about breaking the age-old rule of having something sweet before instead of after the main, but it’s something you don’t see everywhere, and therefore one you mustn’t miss if you want the true Absurd experience.
Before I had even settled on which burger I wanted for my main course, one of life’s tough decisions I know, I was mentally spooning the peanut butter cheesecake. I was thrown a little as we then had to eye up other customers’ choc chip cookies. I knew really I fancied the classic cookies for the presentation value; in that cute little tin with your own mini milk bottle. I mean imagine the Instagram opportunities! No, my heart was set and there it was on my plate in all it’s gooey caramel and peanut glory. My imagination had not let me down. Despite already being so full I just about had to roll home the soft peanut buttery layer, complimented by a chocolate biscuit base and trimmed with walnuts was too good to say no to. Although dense this seemed to work well with the strong, sweet flavours to keep you going back. I even just about managed a mouthful of the crack pie. Basically described as ‘sugar and sugar and more sugar’ the pie had almost a sticky toffee pudding taste and is definitely a dessert Absurd Bird can claim as unique. The carrot cake also looked divine served as a mini trio. Their oat texture meant that these were also very filling, we definitely weren’t to go hungry! Overall the presentation and the flavours of our desserts were a delicious way to finish our feast. When you go to Absurd Bird you probably won’t have room for dessert but you will definitely want to make some!
From the moment we arrived we were greeted warmly and well attended by the friendly members of staff. We were served with menus very quickly and did not feel rushed as we spent an age mulling over the menu, the waiting staff were also more than happy to answer any questions we had about both the drinks and food menus. As it was a Sunday night some of the menu options had run out of stock, however the staff were very apologetic and also helpful in recommending alternative dishes, which were delicious. At points the food service was a little slow, but with such a wonderful ambience in the restaurant itself we barely noticed, and when it did arrive it was served fresh and piping hot – well worth the wait! The tables were cleared quickly and we were regularly checked upon to see if we were enjoying our meal (which we most definitely were). All in all, the staff seemed knowledgable and well trained, and could not have made our experience andy smoother or more enjoyable.
Absurd Bird boasts generous prices – especially considering how much food the restaurant is willing to give you for them! Indeed, Absurd Bird’s price/food ratio really is pretty kind – one Crispy Fried Chicken Burger and a side of fries, for example (£9.80 and £3.75 respectively), is enough to ensure you’ll be proudly nurturing a food baby for the rest of the day. In fact, most of the mains on offer can be yours for under a tenner (unless you’re opting for their gloriously wild Chicken and Waffles, or one of their bigger Grilled Chicken dishes); desserts, likewise, all hover around the £5 mark (except the £8 ‘Dipsy’, a tear-and-share-brioche) and come in hefty portion sizes too. Delightful! If you’re fancying a cocktail too, drinks are due to put you back at around £7-8; their collection of Moonshine shots and their assorted flavours, meanwhile, are available at £4.80 each. Absurd Bird isn’t the cheapest restaurant Exeter has to offer, but the sheer volume of food it offers you for what you’re paying makes it a great investment on those days when you’re feeling like indulging yourself. And with the stress of deadlines already lurking ominously close on the horizon, that shouldn’t be too far off.
Absurd Bird is located in the Guildhall Shopping Centre, Queen Street, Exeter and is open seven days a week.
–Razz Magazine Committee; Lucy Lincoln, Anna Bonet, Hope Claydon, Chrissi Lewes, Isabelle Kemp, Hattie Cotmore, Sarah Turnnidge