The best cheap eats
If you caned the credit card, swanky dinners are probably off the menu. What you need is a Muddy-approved cheap, chic and, er, some healthy dining spots.
No one wants to splash the cash on pricey restaurants this month so we’ve pulled together a selection of our favourite cheap but chic eats across Berks. Here are our favourite local spots for healthy and lardy dining that won’t break the bank. If we’ve missed anywhere good near you, do pop a mention in the comment box below. Ready to tuck in?
The Dolphin, Newbury
Flirting with the idea of veganism? It’s the food movement du jour and everyone tries it at least once this month. The Dolphin in Newbury has added a selection of plant based vegan dishes to its menu this month, including pressed squash, beet and tomato terrine and sticky Korean tempeh. They offer small plates of loads of dishes, for you can dabble with the committing.
The vegan diet can give your wobbles, but if you fancy dipping your toe in the water, try the mighty Vegivores in Caversham. Plant-based street food sellers – Kevin and Emma Farrell – recently opened their very first bricks and mortar Vegan restaurant and the delicious food is going down well with die hard meat eaters. The loaded tacos are a surefire hit and with nothing on the menu over £12, it’s healthy on the wallet as well as the bod. Warning! It’s right next door to the local butchers, so avert your eyes and feel the veggie love.
The Hind’s Head, Bray
Do not be fooled into thinking a trip to a Heston’s gaff requires hefty wedges of cash. His Michelin starred gastropub The Hind’s Head in Bray, under head chef Peter Gray, serves the most incredible 3-course set menu for £29.50pp. Three plates of Michelin twinkling food for less than 30 quid– and they’re usually Hind’s Head classics, like pea and ham soup, cottage pie and cherry bakewell tart.
Hurley House, Hurley
Tired of the pub food?Then you’re gonna LOVE Hurley House Hotel‘s Japanese menu. Chef Kyoichi Kai (who’s worked in Zuma, Roka and The Arts Club in London and Toko in Sydney) offers a sushi menu for lunch and dinner Tues-Sat, alongside the hotel’s traditional a la carte dishes. Expect Sashimi, Sushi Nigiri, Uramaki and more. Grab your chopsticks and tuck in. I was really impressed.
The Blackbird Cafe, Chapel Row
Escape to the country and immerse yourself in rustic charm at The Blackbird Cafe in Chapel Row. It’s the Duchess of Cambridge’s old stomping ground and its brunch offering is on the healthier side of indulgent, with a few naughty treats. Owner Lara, a former food stylist, is lactose and gluten intolerant, so she ensures her menu has something for everyone. Brunch is served on Saturdays, 9am-2.30pm and pop in for lunch during the week for a rainbow of salad options that are healthy and tastes of summer.
Eliane Smiles, Sunningdale and Hungerford
Jumping on the latest hipster food trend, hitting Veganuary hard or just embracing a post-Crimbo reboot, Eliane Smiles is your go-to place for a healthy, delicious brunch and lunch that caters for all. Yup veggies, vegans, raw foodists and allergy sufferers are all good here. With cafes in Sunningdale and Hungerford, soak up the glam and contemporary that would have Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP army salivating over the avocado on toast and lunch medleys.
The Newbury Pub, Newbury
Two gastropub courses for £16.50? I should coco. The Newbury’s express lunch menu is both delicious and light on the pocket. A steak Roquito salad, Mussels in Ricotta Gnocci and Eton mess are just a few of the dishes on this extensive menu for peeps who want fresh food… fast. You can upgrade to three courses for £22.50. For anyone avoiding Dry January, you must have the pub’s gin. Distilled on site, it’s seriously foxy.
The Flaming Cow, Eton
If you’re looking for quality fast food, fire up the grill and head to The Flaming Cow Eton. Aside from the cool graffiti wall and industrial vibe, there are 16 burgers on the menu, salads, rubs, wings, and that’s before you consider creating your own. You’ll gain cool credits from your teens, littlies will be in clover and carnivores will be giddy. Prices start at £6.50 for a veggie burger and there’s Big Lunch Deal (burger, side and soft drink) for a tenner.
The Taproom, Yattendon
Love somewhere off the beat track and totally different? West Berkshire Brewery Taproom is a brewery, shop and kitchen at an old dairy farm in Yattendon. The cool, laid-back vibe has attracted a crowd of beer-loving hipsters, locals and families. Yep, families. It doesn’t sound like the sort of place to hang out with the kids, but really it is. Expect snacks, salads, burgers and pizzas on the menu. Prices start at £4.50.
Make like the Bisto kid and follow your nose to the fresh goodies at Bakedd – you’ll find it in the new Chapel Arches development of Maidenhead at the bottom of the high street. An artisan bakery and cafe, Bakedd has a Mediterranean vibe selling the delicious fresh breads, pastries, cakes, awesome coffee and, er, wine. It’s a great spot for a light lunch or cake stop. Don’t just take our word for it, Michel Roux’s raved about Bakked too.
The White Oak, Cookham
No, I haven’t gone mad. this feature is all about economical eateries and, yes, this is a Michelin Bib Gourmand gastropub. BUT did did you know The White Oak in Cookham boasts one of the cheapest set lunch menus in Berks? Two courses £16 (three for £19) and the quality is phenomenal – seasonal, delicious with a White Oak twist. Think braised beef with truffled mash, followed by a treacle tart. Set menu is available Mon-Sat, lunch and dinner. Yum.
Yep, you heard it here first, in the chi chi town of Ascot there is a cheap eat! Better yet, it’s brunch – always a good option if you’re looking to save pennies. There’s loads of choices at Fego Ascot, almost all under £10, from smashed avo and poached eggs (hipsters rejoice!), Eggs Benedict, salads, wraps and a whole section of the menu devoted to clean eating – think Buddha and poke bowls. Whilst the café isn’t much to look at, it the food is good.
Giggling Squid, Windsor
Fancy Thai? Banish all thoughts of a greasy Saturday take-away – Giggling Squid offers an inventive tapas-style menu, meaning lighter, more varied dishes that force you out of your green curry comfort zone. A bright, light, botanical beauty packed with big, fresh flavours. It’s a busy, buzzy restaurant and the lunch menu is very good value. Prices range from £9.95 for tapas sets (four dishes); one big dish from £7.50 and two dish meal from £7.95. Vegan menu available if you’re doing veganuary.
Piccalo Arto, Wokingham
Authentic Italian for under a tenner, you say. Lead on. In the heart of Wokingham (squint and you could be in Milan… almost) Piccalo Arco offers a selection of light bites, pastas, salads and and antipasti starters, including bruschetta, meatballs and a delicious Arribbiata. Gluten free options across the whole menu too. The pesky roadworks have finally gone! Yippee, so reacquaint yourself with Wokingham. After you’ve eaten, pop over to Bush Walk and drool at the bling in Strange The Jewellers’. I’m thinking Valentine’s, Mother’s Day… its never too soon to drop a hint.