Epoch Restaurant and Bar
For Chef Tyler Brooks, the day you stop learning is the day you stop growing.
“I always tell people, no matter if you make it to Executive Chef, sous chef, whatever you end up being, we’re always still learning. There’s too much food on this planet to know everything about it and everyone has something to teach everybody. And you’re constantly learning. Once you shut yourself off to learning you’ve, you have doomed yourself for the rest of your career.”
And all of that culinary know-how makes for one mouthwatering menu at Epoch Gastropub.
Located in the historic Exeter Inn, in Exeter, New Hampshire, Epoch Gastropub provides true New England style comfort, through both the food and the atmosphere.
“The building was built in 1932. We’re sitting in our main dining room. This is where we serve everyone that comes into Epoch Gastropub. And then our bar, it’s kind of separate, but I also love it because it’s the first thing you see you see all the beautiful hardwood that we’ve put a lot of effort into keeping and maintaining. So our patio is one of the busiest patio dining scenes in Exeter, the best part is it’s kind of secluded. You have this almost private serene dining scene. It’s beautiful.”
And when it comes to his kitchen, if it’s not fresh, it’s not served.
“We make everything. We get everything we can fresh and everything if we can’t get it fresh, and we’re probably not going to have it. We take that extra step.”
There are many ways to kick off your meal at Epoch Gastropub, but none better than the classic brown bread- a dish this midwesterner mastered on the job.
“I’m not originally from New England. I’m from Ohio. So one of the funny things like when we talked about brown bread, and like, what? It’s sweet and savory but you have that slight bitterness to it. That molasses caramelizing gives it that kind of sharpness to it. And a honey butter just to kind of smooth it out a little bit It’s delicious”
For more of that classic comfort fare, try the Scotch egg, wrapped in housemade sausage and topped with pickled red onions or fresh mussels swimming in a sumptuous broth of white wine, garlic, tomatoes, and house sausage. But if you ask Tyler what he’d order, he’d go with the so-called Shrooms and Belly every time.
“Shrooms and belly Yeah, that’s kind of my brainchild . I get a whole lot of pork belly and we slow cook it for about six hours. Then we get it really crispy in a hot cast iron pan we take some local mushrooms we cook them down a bit of butter at the end just to get that nice richness, and pickled turnips, and Maldon sea salt. It’s..one of my favorites on the menu.”
There are light dishes like the beautiful beets and burrata topped with candied walnuts and a wildflower honey. Mediterranean style lamb meatballs presented with pickled vegetables over an aleppo oil and poppable roasted corn arancini drizzled with smoked paprika aioli – which will have your taste buds singing. You get crunched and then you definitely get this warm cheese and then a smoked paprika. So you kind of get this smoky flavor with this just decadent rice and cheese and corn inside of it.”
The sandwich game at Epoch Gastropub is strong, with options like this decadent play on grilled cheese.
“We toast our challah bread with our roasted garlic aioli so it has this nice kind of almost like garlic bread, Cabot cheddar, roasted eggplant, grilled tomatoes and it’s put it together and it’s literally an adult grilled cheese. It’s just very decadent and just tastes phenomenal. And their fried chicken sandwich rivals the best ones out there, seasoned with a gochujang buffalo sauce and fried until it’s ultra crunchy. That big, big crunch is kind of always what I’m looking for ‘crunch’ you know. You get that kind of nice crunch. That is what we’re going for every single time we send one of those out.”
The crispy chicken continues right through the entree section, with a beautifully executed Chicken Under a Brick, served with fingerling potatoes, roasted squash and kale.
“It’s literally a half a chicken, we cook it in a pan with a brick on top that really gets that skin really crispy and that’s kind of the key. I almost want to be able to crack into that skin when we sear it.”
There’s also the steak frites served with charred broccolini, and the wildly popular seafood stew.
“It’s one of those dishes people see. And it goes right out the door after that. We use chopped clams, bacon, potatoes, garlic, onions, celery, some really nice pieces of cod
and then fresh mussels. So it’s like a chowder. But it’s really taken to the next level.”
And there’s no sweeter way to end your meal at Epoch than with some Sticky Toffee Pudding
“It is sweet on sweet on sweet, and it’s that warm sweetness with all the dates in it. It’s a must order.”
But no matter what you do order, if it’s coming out of Chef Tylers kitchen, it will always come with a side of integrity.
“Integrity is big thing my biggest mantra is like our first plate will look the same, if not better than our last plate that we send out. And once you have that you you can build and you can really grow. We should always as chefs be building that next generation to move up. At the end of the day integrity is what it’s about.”