If you’ve been a student in Exeter for any amount of time, it’s likely that you’ve take yourself to the Waterstones café for some serious main character time. You may also have sampled the delights of Boston Tea Party with friends or queued outside Pret for a flat white. But how many of the city’s independent places have you tried? This year, I’ve discovered so many more independent cafés and restaurants in the city centre, and I can honestly say that they’ve brightened my year, lockdown and all. Here are some of my favourites:
1. Grow Coffee House, South Street
Located near the subway to the quay, Grow was my stop for hot chocolate and cake on my copious lockdown walks this year. With an eco-ethos at the heart of their business, you can expect to find plenty of vegan options here, alongside locally sourced coffee and refreshing smoothies. Now that we can sit indoors again, Grow is the perfect place for a classic café studying sesh thanks to their comfy seats and numerous plug sockets (trust me, I’ve become a connoisseur of Exeter’s cafés and plentiful plug sockets are hard to come by). They also have a lovely outdoor space for sunnier days.
Try this: vegan chocolate banana bread
2. Phoenix Café Bar, Gandy Street
You might have been to see a tear-jerking foreign film at the Phoenix, Exeter’s only independent cinema, but did you know that they have a delicious café? Toasties, mac and cheese, soup and jacket potatoes are the kind of fare you’ll find at the Café Bar, alongside a wide variety of cakes and drinks. Perfect for lunch or a drink with friends before you catch a film, with plenty of veggie and vegan options. Their outdoor space is lovely on a sunny day but has a cover for classic British summertime rainy weather.
Try this: fish finger wrap
3. Tapitapa, Fore Street
I only discovered this hidden gem two weeks ago and I’ve been there three times since. That should tell you all you need to know, but I’ll expand. Tapitapa serves authentic tapas dishes, paella, and my personal highlight: churros with rich chocolate sauce. Sipping on a Sangria, eating chorizo, staring out at the blue skies… you almost feel like you’re in Spain. The staff are incredibly friendly, and the food is amazing and well-priced. The perfect place for a date or a dinner with housemates.
Try this: Iberian ham croquettes
4. Sacred Grounds, McCoy’s Arcade, Fore Street
Nestled in amongst a vintage shop and Exeter’s first independent book shop, plant-based café Sacred Grounds couldn’t be in cooler surroundings. Enjoy brilliant vegan waffles, open sandwiches and toast and delicious coffees, teas, smoothies and juices served by lovely staff who all seem to have a genuine passion for the plant-based lifestyle. The food is also very Instagram-worthy if that’s your vibe.
Try this: sweet cardamom porridge
– Caitlin Barr
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