New Exeter restaurant owner vows to continue 40 year legacy

The new owner of a popular Exeter restaurant has vowed to continue its legacy of around 40 years. He says he has "big boots to fill" but promises exciting new things are coming soon.

Mikey Betts took over Herbies, a cosy vegetarian restaurant tucked away on North Street, at the beginning of March. It's the first time the business has changed hands in 35 years, having been run by the same family since 1990.

It has built up quite a reputation with some customers remaining loyal for decades. Mikey admits this left "big boots to fill" but he is being supported by previous owner Tony and his daughter, who is staying on as a head chef.

He said: "I wanted to leave London, I'd worked in hospitality and personal training for a long time and as we were looking for places around Exeter, we were really lucky to find this at the right time.

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"Once we'd met Tony who was the old owner, we realised we had very big boots to fill. After chatting to him, it gave us a lot of peace of mind and he's actually decided to stay on and help us out, which is really lovely.

"It astounded me how many people have been coming here for so long. A chef has been coming here since she was about three years old and she's now 20. Even more impressively, we've had people who have been coming since before the old owner, which is about 40 years ago. One recipe, our nut burger, is the same recipe they've been having for 40 years so there's a lot of history.

"Tony has done such a good job of creating what it is. I just want to keep it going as it has been for the last 35 years. His daughter is staying on as our head chef and has a similar vision to me of where Herbies can go. It's the same Herbies and it always will be, which I hope all the people that have been coming for so long still really enjoy."

While many of the Herbies menu items are here to stay, Mikey says there are also new additions on the horizon. A new coffee machine has been installed and a Sunday brunch menu is on the way, as well as monthly roasts.

He said: "We've got a new coffee machine and really want to focus on the drinks because the food is already very good. We want to keep everything the same and kind of expand a little bit. We're going to start a brunch menu, which will be on Sundays. If it goes well, we might try and push it into the week as well. And then we're going to start roasts once a month.

Surprisingly, Mikey isn't vegetarian himself and he says it was somewhat "intimidating" to take on Exeter's first vegetarian restaurant. He says that he is passionate about vegetarian food and that the menu at Herbies is loved, even by meat-eaters.

He said: "We really focus on homemade, vegetarian food. It's not too niche so meat-eaters can enjoy it as well. We have a lot of people who come in, a lot of times get dragged in by their girlfriends or something, who are not vegetarian and at the end they say 'wow, we didn't miss a thing, didn't miss the meat at all'.

"I've done a lot of travelling and tried some amazing vegetarian food so we really want to champion that in Exeter. We're keeping the historic menu the same but adding in some stuff from around the world.

"It was a bit scary going into the realm of vegetarian food but it's what I'm most passionate about I think."