Cool and urbane with a funky laid-back vibe and gloriously wholesome food - but cocktails too - Fego Banstead is my fave hangout.
THE LOWDOWN / LOCATION
You’ll find Fego right in the middle of Banstead High Street, diagonally across the road from the All Saints Church. It’s one of eight Fego restaurants – and I’m told on the QT that a ninth is in the offing, so watch this space. Fingers crossed it’s planned for Surrey (there are also branches in Cobham, Sunningdale (the original), Beaconsfield, Ascot, Marlow, Gerrard’s Cross and St John’s Wood).
South African in origin, the essence is wholly captured in the interiors of the newly-revamped Banstead bistro which has an overtly laid-back and relaxed ambience. Tribal motifs from the South African Ndebele people adorn the walls – and are a direct nod to the restaurant’s heritage. South African artists were commissioned to designed bespoke prints and patterns, and even the ceramics are a nod to SA, each with an authentic handmade feel.
It’s a funky and flexible space, sitting quite comfortably as a café by day but seamlessly shifting to restaurant and bar by night. On alternative Friday and Saturday nights, there’s live music, which only adds to the venue’s cool credentials.
It’s not a huge venue – long and narrow with a bar and semi-open kitchen along one side and a small urban courtyard out the back. But the laid-back vibe means you’d feel comfortable coming here for whatever desires – breaky, coffee, cocktails or a full-on celebratory dinner with friends. And that’s entirely the intention – anything goes at Fego. Bring your laptop, bring your buggy, or bring a board game if you like – they don’t believe in rules.
SCOFF & QUAFF
With such strong South African visual styling, you’d expect the menu to also be firmly rooted in South African cuisine. But really the food is of no fixed abode Middle Eastern, Italian, North African, Asian – even Australian. What it is though, is overwhelmingly healthy in gorgeously wholesome and nourishing sort of way. This is my kind of food!
The menu offers Small plates (basically starters), Big plates, Grills, Pizzas and Salads. And there are also a choice of sides, plus nibbles. And basically anything goes!
We opted to share two small plates for starters – the salt and pepper fried calamari with wasabi mayonnaise and the grilled goats cheese with raw apple, pecans, sakura cress and balsamic glaze. Two words. Yum and yummier.
Moving on to mains, I went all healthy and chose the Veggie Buddha bowl (green beans, shallots, mushrooms, lentils, tahini, aubergine, tenderstem broccoli, avocado, asparagus, beetroot, apples, olives, houmous and seeds) with baked salmon. It was the perfect combination of flavours and textures. I must say, though, I was also tempted by the Raw salmon poke bowl – as much because the name delighted me as the fact it’s contents also looked pretty scrummy (cucumber, mango, acocado, ginger, teriyaki, coriander). Next time!
My mate opted for the Harissa chicken salad with halloumi – and like the Buddha and the Poke bowls it was a wonderful selection of wholesome and fresh fruit, veg and salads. We weren’t entirely virtuous though – and washed our deliciously healthy dinners down with a large glass of Sauv Blanc each.
Moving onto puds – for if ever a sweet is justified its after such a wholesome main – and we went decadent. Hot cookie dough with salted caramel ice cream for Becky, and Lemon posset with raspberries for moi. One word this time: perfecto!
Most certainly. The main menu offers some pretty kid-friendly options, and while the Buddha bowl possibly won’t appeal to the majority of pip-squeaks, the pizza, pasta and burgers no doubt will. There’s also a kids’ menu with options to cover off even the most precious of tiny tastebuds. Plus there’s a fairly decent shakes menu. Who’s for a cookie nut shake with peanut butter and Oreo cookies?
OUT & ABOUT
The Mayfield Lavender Farm is just outside Banstead, and during the summer is a haze of purple blooms and a popular family photo opportunity. Oaks Park is also nearby, and it’s a lovely place to let the kids (or the dogs) run off some steam. Banstead village itself is also a great place for a mooch about with plenty of independent shops – gifts, interiors, women’s fashion plus the wonderful independent wine merchants Banstead Vintners.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Girlie lunches or drinkies, family get-togethers, home-workers seeking some outside interaction (stay as long as you like over that coffee). It’s also popular with mums – so you may have to weave through the maze of buggies if you arrive mid-morning.
Not for: Fego will appeal to most people, I’d say. But those who are staunch devotees to the traditional British meat and veg combos, may not be keen on the huge bowls of healthiness. And those looking for a fine dining experience should probably go elsewhere.
The damage: Starters £4.95-£7.50, mains from about £10-£16, puddings are around £5.
Fego Banstead, 89 High St, Banstead SM7 2NL. Tel: 01737 361711. hellofego.com