Review of 'Richard Booth's Bookshop Cafe'

Many would possibly not notice that tucked away in the back of the main floor of Richard Booth's Bookstore in Hay-on-Wye there is a small cafe. This hidden away gem is, however, frequented by people in the know that there is some very good food on offer in a slick modern eatery. The waiting list for a table on this (Easter) Saturday were more than an hour long so we put our name down and were told to come back. It is worth the wait.

The small cafe seats about 30 or 40 on the inside with four tables outside in a small courtyard with fountain in the middle. However, this was not the weather for eating outside so we were placed at a table against the window. The interior has a natural wood floor and accents with brick walls on which is a good selection of paintings by local artists. The modern tables and chairs are simple but functional and elegant.

The menu featuring all home-made dishes is on two sides of an A4 slip of paper and full of some wonderful, if slightly expensive, choices. This is not a place for dinner but really more for lunch so dishes are a bit smaller.

I went for the “kale and crayfish caesar salad, pine nuts, croutons and paramasan” (£9) then undid my good deed by ordering a side of “rustic hand-cut chips” (small £3.75 served with aioli or ketchup - I chose the former, £5.25 for large). My companion ordered the “welsh rarebit and chilli jam” (£6.50) that came with a small salad on the side of the plate. My salad was delicious with the kale slightly blanched to remove both the bitterness and crispiness you might normally expect, and all the better for it. The salad dressing was flavourful enough to make it's presence known but not so much to overpower the flavour of the tender, delicious, crayfish. The croutons added the requisite amount of crunch to round off the dish. My companions rarebit was, in her words, “devine” with a large amount of rarebit on the two soft bun halves provided - Extremely creamy and very cheesy. The chips were perfect - Crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and not in any way greasy. I might have a small complaint to make about the lack of flavour in the aioli dip.

Welsh Rarebit

The two dishes we ordered seemed to be the most popular of the day with many other tables choosing the same. The other menu options were equally tempting though: “buttermilk pancakes, vanilla yoghurt, and maple syrup” (£5.50 or £7 with bacon), “smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on sourdough toast, chive creme fraiche” (£9.50), “ham hock hash, garlic and mushroom sauce, spinach and crispy egg” (£9.50)…There is something here that will appeal to everyone despite it's short length.

Though we were satisfied our helpful server brought back with the desert menu (on the back of the A4 menu) so we decided to share a “carrot cake, lemon cream cheese” (a “bargain” at £3.75). This was a good sized portion with the delicious icing on top (though it could have been a bit tarter for my taste).

Carrot Cake

Despite being so busy the young staff were very friendly and helpful not hurrying us along in any way and always attentive at just the right time.

At £28.25 is a bit expensive for the area but it is really worth it - A wonderful respite from the bookshops of the town that serves up great food in a relaxing environment. Pay a visit, you won't regret it.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2017-04-15

Cuisine: American/British

Address: 44 Lion Street, Hay-on-Wye, Herefordshire HR3 3AA

Location: Powys (Wales) - Hay-on-Wye



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Telephone: +44 (0) 1497 820322