Mention Tontine Street to most Folkestone locals, and they’ll probably think of drug dealing, prostitution, sirens and street fights. They may also think of greasy spoons – there’s certainly enough of those here – but it’s doubtful they’d imagine there’s a lovely little vegetarian and vegan café tucked away next to the cheese-grater-esque Quarterhouse in Folkestone’s Creative Quarter.
Vegetarian cafés generally fall into two camps. They’re either shabby shacks with menus full of lentils with a side serving of worthiness and shelves heaving with campaigning leaflets, or they’re simply great cafés that happen to also be vegetarian. Beano’s is definitely in the latter category. It’s so popular with veggies and carnivores alike that one of the meat-eating friends I’m with today eats at Beano’s so often, the owner greets him by name. Other meat-eating friends who have been nervous about eating in a vegetarian place have left wondering what they’d been worried about, while another friend admitted she hadn’t known until I’d mentioned I’d be reviewing Beano’s that it’s a vegetarian café, despite her having eaten here several times.
Despite the weather – it’s a wild, wet and windy day – Beano’s is full. It’s not full of drug dealers or prostitutes, either; there’s an eclectic mix of middle-aged ladies who lunch, bohemian studenty types and couples canoodling over their nachos. Beano’s may be busy, but the chatter is low, the background music soft, and conversation with my lunch companions is easily achieved.
The 100% vegetarian and vegan menu, written on blackboards, clearly displays main meals, light bites and side dishes. There’s nothing here you won’t recognise, or anything to scare a carnivore. Chilli, burgers, and macaroni cheese are all on offer, or if you prefer something smaller, there’s a range of sandwiches, baguettes and panini. There’s also a large range of hot and cold drinks, including alcohol. The interior is as eclectic as the clientele, without being pretentious. The walls are painted a tasteful pale green and an electric guitar hangs next to a collection of modern and old photographs. On another wall is a stripped pine dresser brimming with bric-a-brac and cookbooks by famous chefs including Jamie Oliver and Yotam Ottolenghi. The fact Beano’s is willing to have books by *gasp* non-vegetarian chefs further exhibits Beano’s unpretentiousness – more snooty vegetarian establishments would stick firmly with displaying cookbooks by vegetarians only.
Jo, who runs Beano’s with her husband Pete (who’s in the tiny kitchen at the back, doing the cooking), seats us quickly, takes our drink order, then leaves us to look at the menu.
As I haven’t eaten yet today, the lentil, nut and quinoa burger with chips and coleslaw sounds suitably substantial. My companions declare they aren’t that hungry and order an eggy cheesy bagel each, along with a side of nachos to share.
Considering how busy Beano’s is today and everything is freshly made on the premises, our food arrives quickly.
My quinoa burger doesn’t disappoint. The bun is fresh, the burger is firm and topped with sweet caramelised onion chutney, along with creamy Emmenthal cheese and the homemade coleslaw is tangy and crisp.
I ask my friends how their bagels are. ‘Really nice’, ‘egg cooked just how I like it’, ‘the bagel is crisp and soft’, are their replies. Halfway through my meal, I put down my knife and fork, declare myself ‘stuffed’ and say I couldn’t eat another bite. A few seconds later, I pick back up my cutlery and eat the rest of it.
We’re in and out in an hour – satiated and just the right side of full. All for a reasonable sum, too. My hot chocolate, burger, chips and coleslaw came to £8.80.
I email Jo later, asking about her choice of location. She says, ‘There were a few considerations involved, one of them being cost. But, looking back on all the locations we viewed, I would still choose Tontine Street. The area is definitely on the up and there is a sense of community that I enjoy being part of.’ She says her main aim is to make customers feel welcome, well looked after and to serve lovely food and coffee.
I’d say she’s reached her aim.
Beano’s Vegetarian Café, 43 Tontine Street, Folkestone, Kent CT20 1JT
Tel: 01303 211817
Opening hours: Mon-Fri: 08:30-17:30 / Sat: 09:00-17:30
[Please note this review was originally written in 2014, therefore the menu may have changed by now. Please also excuse the blurry phone photos.]