Eating in Exeter: A Budget Friendly Guide

As a university town, Exeter contains many restaurants with less expensive food, a variety of meal options, and great quality. This list reviews Exeter’s restaurants with many different styles of cuisine. If you're looking for an authentic English meal, this list contains quite a few options.

Here are some of the highlights of Exeter’s restaurants with pound notations for the cost of each location, adjusted to a student budget:

1) Tea on the Green ££ 

tea on the green

 This restaurant, located across from the Exeter Cathedral, is an excellent lunch option on a day you want to splurge a little more, and an even better place to have an afternoon tea. One of Devon’s signature foods is its clotted cream, and when combined with a rich, buttery scone, a pot of tea, and jam, it becomes a dish called Devon cream tea. Tea on the Green has a truly exceptional Devon cream tea, and is a good place to take someone who hasn’t experienced the dish before. 

 In addition to the cream teas, Tea on the Green also serves excellent paninis, salads, and pasties. Their website claims that the restaurant is willing to accommodate food allergies and other dietary restrictions, but their menu has few vegetarian options and no vegan options.

2) Brody’s Breakfast Bistro £

The morning after a long night out at one of Exeter’s clubs can often be a rough experience, but with the help of a substantial breakfast, the day always becomes much more enjoyable. My personal favorite restaurant for a hearty English breakfast is Brody’s, a chain restaurant that sports a menu of unlimited food for under £5. The Exeter location has two floors, so there is always seating available. Each table has its own toaster, and the food is always greasy and divine. The typical English breakfast included fried eggs, hash browns, beans on toast, fried mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, and bacon. For people with dietary restrictions, Brody’s offers several vegan options in its full English breakfast, and most foods are gluten free.

3) Boston Tea Party ££

Boston Tea Party, another chain restaurant in Exeter, also offers quality breakfast food, but with a little more sophistication and uptick in cost. Boston Tea Party is an excellent study space. It has two floors, a first floor where you can order your food and drinks, and a second with a spacious seating area. The employees at Boston Tea Party don’t mind when a student stays to work for a few hours, as long as you have ordered something within that time period. There’s always plenty of space, so you don’t have to worry about hogging tables. If you are planning on staying for a while, the upstairs seating area can get a bit drafty, so I would suggest bringing a jacket and eating relatively quickly if you have ordered hot food.  Boston Tea Party serves breakfast food all day, and it also has a snack menu with smaller items like smashed avocado on toast and Nutella sandwiches. As far as drinks go, Boston Tea Party has truly excellent tea, but their coffee is lacking. I would highly recommend that you don’t order an Americano, as the acidity in that drink is truly alarming. Boston Tea Party also has a plethora of choices for vegans, vegetarians, and people who are on a gluten-free diet.

4) The Exploding Bakery £

the exploding bakery 

 Exeter’s Exploding Bakery is first and foremost a wholesale cake bakery, but in addition they also happen to have some of the best coffee in Exeter. Their shop is small, sporting two long tables and one smaller table for seating, and it is generally a busy place. I find that it’s a bit quieter in the mornings, especially on weekends. It’s not somewhere to sit and do your reading or write a paper, but more of a place to sit and talk with friends over a cup of coffee and a fresh pastry. They also sell brownies and cakes that are to die for, and are so rich that they automatically come with a take away bag. Their offerings include some specialties specific to the isles, from Irish soda bread to Victoria sponge cake. The Exploding Bakery also caters to people with dietary restrictions. You can take your coffee with either soy or almond milk, and there are both vegan and gluten free cakes. Over all, the Exploding Bakery is a very relaxed space, with soft indie tracks on the speakers and a cozy atmosphere.

5) The Old Firehouse ££ 

Are you missing the size of American pizzas? Do you like cider? Do you like to eat local? Then the Old Firehouse may be for you! The Old Firehouse is a pub that is very popular with students, and is best known for its variety of pizzas that are incredibly large. I recommend that you purchase one pizza between 2-3 people. Also, for reference, when you order a plate of garlic bread in the UK, it generally resembles a pizza (or flatbread) topped with mozzarella and a buttery garlic sauce. It’s delicious, but not what American garlic bread looks or tastes like. For students with dietary restrictions, the Old Firehouse offers a few choices of vegan and vegetarian dishes, though it has no gluten free pizza options. 

For any Harry Potter fans, the Old Firehouse was JK Rowling’s inspiration for the fictional pub, the Leaky Cauldron. Rowling, an Exeter Uni grad, incorporated many aspects of the town into her books. The Old Firehouse, similar to the Leaky Cauldron, is always full to bursting with customers, but I’ve found luck with finding a table on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays.

6)  The Plant Cafe £

the plant cafe


The Plant Cafe is a smaller, family-run restaurant located by the Exeter Cathedral that caters to vegan and vegetarian students. Its menu features a wide variety of options, from an ordinary sandwich to falafel, and divine vegan cakes. It also boasts a variety of hot and cold drinks, including local juices and ciders. The Plant Cafe, which is already a pretty affordable restaurant, also offers a discount to students who are members of Exeter’s vegetarian and vegan society. The restaurant itself is on the smaller side, and has plenty of plants spread around the cafe. In the spring, the cafe also offers blankets for its customers to sit out on the Exeter Cathedral green. For vegetarian students craving anything other than the PB&J they packed for lunch, Herbies is a quick and delicious option. Over all, The Plant Cafe’s food is reliable, and for a vegetarian or a vegan, it has lots of options that are hard to recreate in your own kitchen and are most assuredly within your dietary restrictions.

 7) Pieminister £

Unlike the other restaurants on this list, the Pieminister is located on Exeter’s Streatham campus instead of in town. The Pieminister serves, as its name would suggest, pies, but instead of the stereotypical American sweet pies, this restaurant serves only savory pies. Their pies have names like moodog, which is a pie with British beef steak, smoked bacon, and a pale ale, and wild shroom, which consists of wild mushrooms, asparagus, cream, and white wine. The restaurant also serves salads, sides, and dessert puddings. If you’re looking for a quick, relatively inexpensive bite between classes, this would be an option to look into. The restaurant does serve its pies with wooden cutlery, so if the texture of wood in your mouth bothers you, I would suggest keeping a set of your own cutlery in your bag.

8) The Bike Shed ££

the bike shed

The Bike Shed is a little bar located in the cellar of the Bike Shed Theatre. The bar is unique due to its ambitious cocktail menu that utilized local ingredients to make the best drinks possible. The bar has events like pub quizzes and hosts dance music DJs on the weekends. On weeknights, customers are welcome to use the board games available on the shelves by the entrance. In the words of the Bike Shed’s website, “Our cellar bar isn’t your usual theatre bar. It’s wonderfully unique, a little bit wonky, and profoundly endearing. We like to think we’re a pretty fun and relaxed place." If you’re looking for a more low key evening out, this bar is the place for you. 

bike shed 2


9) The Imperial

the spoons


The Imperial (known as the Impy by the University of Exeter students) is one of a chain of pubs by JD Wetherspoon, which are located across the country. To learn more about the Wetherspoon phenomenon, check out Andrea’s article “What’s the Deal with ‘Spoons?’” Looking specifically to the Imperial, if you’re looking for typical British pub food at unbelievably low prices, this is the place for you. The food is consistently good, and the drinks are from both local and nationwide sources. The building itself was a hotel from 1923 to 1994, so even just exploring the grounds of the Impy is a worthwhile experience. The Imperial is also located close to the University of Exeter campus, so it is a favorite among the student population.

Photos © Molly Wyrsch 2016