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Eat out: Cafe Chai, Banstead

Food that's fresh and fabulously tasty plus some of the best coffee we've had the pleasure of sipping makes this Banstead cafe worth a visit (or 10).

THE LOWDOWN

Café Chai opened its doors in December 2019 and then just a few months later closed them again. Thanks Covid. But despite it’s turbulent start-stop-start, Chai has swiftly established itself as a busy and buzzy cafe. Already it’s become a favourite spot for locals, with a loyal band of regulars popping in for breakfast, brunch, lunch or just coffee.

Did someone say coffee? Ah, yes, let’s talk brews. They take their coffee seriously at Chai and when Cathy was setting up she was determined to get it right. And so after an extensive search, with much tasting and trialling of coffees, Chai has settled on Woking-based artisan roasters, Beanberry.

THE LOCATION

Perfectly position smack bang in the middle of Banstead High Street, Waitrose is just across the road and a bunch of lovely independent shops and boutiques surround the cafe.

THE VIBE

Café Chai, Banstead, Surrey

Rustic, cosy and relaxed with gorgeous vintage interiors. There’s a bit of the cool LA eaterie going on, spliced with imaginative and quirky English charm – a kayak suspended from the ceiling and filled with foliage and flowers, industrial oversized light fittings, fabulous mirrors and eclectic art positioned on distressed walls and a cosy vintage leather sofas lined with sheepskin rugs.

Outside there’s a lovely courtyard dining area and the vintage theme flows through to here with lanterns and terracotta pots adorning the space alongside a lovely collection of climbing plants including roses, jasmine and wisteria. In the cooler months, there are plans to install a pop-up igloo which will be kitted out with lanterns, fairy lights, blankets and cushions. With Cathy’s eye for interior styling, I have no doubt it’ll be a very special place indeed.

SCOFF & QUAFF

Café Chai, Banstead, Surrey - Chai This

Ahhh the food. While the interiors do a darned good job at trying to steal the show, it’s the food that really wins out. Fresh and mostly locally-sourced, it’s a small but perfectly formed brunch / lunch menu that’s imaginative and hugely tempting. Alongside the menu of these more substantial dishes with monthly specials, there’s a huge choice of cakes, pastries, biscuits and brownies with plenty of vegan and dairy-free options.

I popped in for brunch with my daughter and went for the Chai This – it’s the most popular dish on the menu, and I now know why. Smashed avocado on buttered sourdough toast with garlic, chilli, sweet cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, crispy fried chorizo, rocket and pomegranate seeds. I ordered it with a poached egg, but other options include bacon, sausage and halloumi. To say it was gorgeous is possibly and understatement.

Café Chai, Banstead, Surrey - brunch

My daughter chose the scrambled egg and sausage on sourdough toast – which also looked great. And we rounded things off with a chocolate tiffin biscuit and a chocolate brownie with white chocolate chunks which we shared. The coffee is worth a mention – I’ve heard people say it’s the best in Surrey and it really is that good.

There are also pancakes (including gluten free pancakes) on the menu, buns (sausage with caramelised onion, mustard mayo and wild rocket or bacon with melted cheese, tomato, rocket and mayo) and falafel wraps, plus salads, and savoury pastries and quiches. This is my kind of food – decadent, but also quite healthy.

Café Chai, Banstead, Surrey - cakes

And then there are the cakes! There’s also a extensive drinks menu which includes milkshakes, frappes, smoothies plus speciality teas and coffee, beer wine and sparkling wine. Yes, this could most definitely become a regular haunt.

KID-FRIENDLY?

Café Chai, Banstead, Surrey - cakes

Ever met a child who doesn’t love an oreo milkshake? No, me either. And I have it on very good authority that the ones at Chai are excellent. There’s also a special menu for little ones which I was super impressed with – avocado and hummus soldiers, scrambled eggs on toast, pancakes and fruit all feature. Simple, wholesome and yummy.

Furry friends are also welcome at Chai – both inside and in the rear courtyard garden – and there are treats for pooches too.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Café Chai, Banstead, Surrey

Oh yes. Did we not mention the Chai-cuterie pop-up evenings? (See what they did there!!) These pop-up events are held mid-week and as well as charcuterie boards, artisan beers and wines, there’s also live music.

Chai also host themed pop-up supper clubs. Keep an eye on their website for info about the next one, they sell out in minutes!

OUT & ABOUT

Banstead High Street is worth a wander with some lovely indie shops and boutiques. Just outside Banstead there are a couple of lavender farms which are worth a visit during their open season – Mayfield Lavender and Oak Tree Farm Lavender (which is sadly closed to the public in summer 2021). And if you’re inspired by the vintage interiors at Chai, you can visit Louisa Grace Interiors, also just outside Banstead, which is where quite a lot of the furniture was sourced.

Café Chai, Banstead, Surrey

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: brunch dates with or without children; a shopping pitstop or a solo coffee break; coffee lovers because it really is worth travelling for; food and interiors Instagrammers. It does get busy though, so we’d recommend you book first.

Not for: the temptation to eat cake is strong, so if you’re a carb-avoider this may not be the place for you.

The damage: Pancakes are £6-£7; buns are £7.50; eggs are £5.50 with £1.50 for the extras like bacon, halloumi or sausage; Chai this is £9.50. So good value.

Café Chai, 135 High Street, Banstead, Surrey, SM7 2NS cafechai.co.uk

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