Herbies is a vegetarian café that has been in Exeter for as long as I remember. I use to visit with my mum back in the mid/late 1990s. Back then my mum and I usually opted for jacket potatoes, which were always huge! I have many memories of us coming away so full that we could barely move! We loved the food, but the service and surroundings weren’t the best. Eventually we stopped visiting due to the fact that one of the waitresses would always smoke inside the café (sat at one of the tables) in between serving customers! I think there were non-smoking and smoking portions of the café, but because the place was so tiny, the whole place would become smokey from only one cigarette. We couldn’t understand why the owners allowed this to happen! I have since moved to London, and haven’t visited Herbies for many years… until a visit to Exeter last month.
Many things have changed at Herbies in the last 10 years. Obviously there is no longer any smoking in the café. I don’t know if this change was brought about with the smoking ban, or if it happened a long time ago. Either way, it makes for a much nicer dining experience! The café seems slightly smarter than the old days, although the overall style remains the same. The furniture has been updated, and the crockery now looks more modern.
I visited Herbies on a mid-week evening in July with my husband and parents. My parents had also not visited the café since the late 1990s so like me, were unsure what to expect. My Dad didn’t use to be very keen on Herbies, however he was open to trying it again. We had a booked a table and upon arrival were swiftly seated and handed menus. We recognised a few things on the menu, but most dishes were new, and we no longer saw jacket potatoes on the menu (unless these are now only available at lunch). All vegan dishes are indicated on the menu by a V symbol.
I chose the Spinach and Mushroom Lasagne, and my family members chose the Spicy Vegetable Satay, the Broad Bean Thyme and Squash Risotto, and the Greek Vegetable Pie. Most of the dishes come with a choice of either salad or potato wedges. Ten years ago, there was only the option of salad so the potato wedges make a welcome new addition! The prices of these mains ranged from £8.75 – £8.95. When the food arrived, it looked very well-presented and appetizing – a little more restaurant-like than café-like. The lasagne was drier than I had expected (the sauces weren’t runny) but tasted very nice. The side salad was fresh and the potato wedges were very good. The waitress was happy to supply ketchup and other sauces. My family all seemed pleased with their mains and ate everything.
Even though we were feeling a little full, we couldn’t resist ordering dessert! Between us we ordered a Toffee and Banana Pie, a Fruit Crumble, a Chocolate Sponge Pudding and a Ginger and Citrus Tart (all £4.50 each). We enjoyed all of them except for the Fruit crumble, which contained lots of nuts (not mentioned on the menu) and unpeeled apples and pears. We didn’t really like the cooked fruit skins or the crumbly nut topping. However the other desserts were delicious, especially when served with clotted cream! All desserts could be served with a choice of either organic yoghurt, vanilla ice-cream, clotted cream or custard. The vegan options to accompany desserts were vegan ice, yofu, vegan custard or vegan pouring cream.
Overall, we were very pleased with our meal. The service was polite and efficient, and we enjoyed nearly everything we ordered. I’m pleased to report that my Dad has now changed his view of Herbies! We would definitely consider returning when we revisit Exeter.