TODAY I am lunching with the features editor of Food magazine. When it comes to culinary matters, it has to be said cook and connoisseur Catherine Jones knows her onions. She's not one to mistake her shallots for her scallions. So where to take her?
The calm of the Gallery Café at the Queen's Theatre seems like a good idea on a manic mid-week dash into town before Christmas. It's somehow a relief to be upstairs and above the snake line.
From our window seat, the hustle and bustle in the street below seems like a speeded up, silent movie. It's great to hide for a while.
On offer to settle rumbling tums is an impressively big selection of paninis, sandwiches, salads and jacket potatoes.
A goat's cheese panini with cranberry red onion relish and spinach attracts me. It is sweet, rich and filling.
Catherine, meanwhile, tucks in to a colourful Queen's Theatre Special: roasted vegetables, sundried tomatoes, feta and pesto with a mixed leaf salad and a grilled slice of sour dough bread. Her verdict?
"A generous pile of salad leaves with a medley of warm chunks of roasted vegetables. Nice mustardy dressing and zingy touches of sundried tomatoes, feta and pesto. The slice of sour dough bread is a thoughtful added touch. Altogether I feel I've had a very healthy and flavourful lunchtime pick-me-up."
We also get our chops around a couple of the cakes – it would have been rude not to – which we think taste more "home-made" than "bought in".
"The fruit cake is moist and packed with fruit, and the ginger cake has a rich hint of smoky black treacle which goes well with the soft, sweet icing," declares Catherine.
There are so many lovely little tea shops in town that it's easy to forget that the theatre can nourish us with convenient snacks as well as cultural shows.
Cost: The above meal for two with drinks came to £20.60.
Where: Gallery Café, Queen's Theatre, 100 Boutport St, Barnstaple, EX31 1SY.
Website: www.northdevon theatres.org.uk.