If you’ve made a tonne of money-saving resolutions this month and are trying not to break the bank by splurging on eating out, it’s likely you’ll end up looking to the high street for an affordable meal or two. Now, the high street isn’t usually our first port of call for great design, inventive cocktails or great veggie and vegan options, however, you’d be surprised at how well some cafes and restaurants are doing at hanging dull dining out to dry.
There are now plenty of easy-to-come-by places that really embrace aesthetics, as well as unique, authentic and quality food and drink. So, if you’re trying to save your pennies, need a convenient spot to recharge and like your surroundings a little fancier and more architecturally impressive, these cafes, bars and restaurants are the ones to head to.
Found in galleries and cultural institutions all over the country, Benugo is a cafe synonymous with emerald-green subway tiles, parquet flooring and fine art. Perfect for a light bite when you’ve been traipsing around the likes of the V&A, Serpentine and Ashmolean Museum for the best part of a day, this spot offers up tea, cake, salads and sandwiches for much-needed nourishment. Always slick and modern, yet able to seamlessly blend into listed buildings filled with antiquities and treasures or look just like little oasis’s on grey London street corners, we’ve visited a Benugo or two in our time and have to say, it’s a high street winner.
Jamie’s has become quite the high street hit in recent years, and this is probably owed to its simplicity. With unique branches all over the UK, you’ll find time-honoured, rustic dishes with healthy twists on offer at every restaurant, plus, a decent array of veggie and vegan options too. A self-confessed lover of traditional home cooking, Jamie Oliver has ensured that each of these Italian-inspired joints are the ideal spot in which to share a meal with friends and family. Large tables, banquette seating and high, airy ceilings add to the original period features, cosy nooks and industrial elements of each individual restaurant. If clashing colours, jazzy tiling and affordable Italian fare that tastes like home sound like your idea of a winning evening out, give your nearest Jamie’s a go.
Big, bold murals, neon signs, giant mirror walls and indoor gardens; if it’s a few decent shots for your Instagram feed you’re after, Wahaca is your go-to. The Mexican market food restaurant boasts locations across the UK and offers a pretty comprehensive menu of dishes and drinks, from big burritos to tiny tostadas and tall mojitos. Veggie and vegan-friendly and easy to find, this colourful high street chain is equally as great for a low-key dinner as it is for a big blow-out celebration.
If you’ve a penchant for all things antique and period dramas are your jam, try Cosy Club for size. These brunch spots cum burger joints cum cocktail bars mix jazz age splendour with a post-war village fete aesthetic, and strangely enough, it all works. Decked out with an eclectic mix of furniture and artwork in unique buildings all over the UK, you’ll find Cosy Club pretty much everywhere, except for London. Add this one to your visit list if you’re heading out of the city, and expect kitch cocktails and vintage crockery a-plenty.
Since the original Bill’s in lovely Lewes opened its doors many years ago and its contemporary general store aesthetic stormed the rest of the UK, this restaurant and grocery has become a household name. Instantly recognisable thanks to signature hand-drawn fonts, rainbow raffia and branded jars of pickle and jam, this laid-back spot is a fuss-free way to enjoy satisfying design on the high street. Wooden farmhouse tables mix with exposed brick and well-stocked displays of house gin and dried chilis, so whether you’re stopping to eat or shopping for later, it’s worth taking a snap or two to share.
Words: Emily Beeson | @younggoldteeth