Khoollect Explores – A Food Tour of Hay On Wye

***Rachel Khoo would like to thank all the inspiring people who helped make the Khoollect studio a hive of creativity. Although the Khoollect studio’s doors have now closed, you can keep up with Rachel’s newest adventures on and on Rachel’s Instagram and Facebook pages – and, continue to enjoy the Khoollect website’s stories and recipes, which will remain available.***

When you think of Hay on Wye, food probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. It’d be the books – the thousands upon thousands of books.

The Hay Literary Festival essentially made Hay on Wye, a rural town on the border of Wales and England a hot-spot for the literary elite – along with everyone else – to descend upon at the start of each summer. And for good reason; with talks from writers, poets, politicians and musicians, daily events and pop-up restaurants from the likes of Burger Shop Hereford, it really is a week not to miss.

However, speaking as someone who’s never actually been to Hay during the festival, there’s plenty to do when the tents and people leave.

And when I say do, I mean eat… These are out best picks for Hay on Wye restaurants, cafes, and other eateries.


  • Richard Booths Bookstore & Cinema – The only thing this cafe misses out in their name is food. A good lot of it. Home to one of the most Instagrammed walls in Hay, Richard Booth’s is an institution. But part of the place that might go overlooked, is the cafe at the back of the store. Go in for a great brunch selection including Welsh Rarebit (photographed) alongside good coffee and more books then you’ll ever need – if that’s possible.
  • The Old Electric Shop – This is the kind of shop that you could happily pack a bag and move into as it is. Aside from the design of the place though, it has a great menu to sink your teeth into too. Including things like freshly made spinach, orange and wheatgrass juices of the day, lunches like North African sweet potato and peanut stew, buddha bowls. Along with Thursday evening sessions where you can eat and learn anything from poker playing to drawing, with a seriously good espresso martini in your hand.


  • St John’s Place  Of all the places in Hay, St John’s is probably the one with the greatest foodie credentials. With a menu of Smoked trout croquettes & dill salad cream, Beetroot canederli, hispi cabbage, carrots, mint & creme fraiche, lamb rum with aubergine green beans, lentils and harissa, you can see why. Plus, with £5 negronis on offer, we can’t see a reason to ever leave.
  • Tomatito – Tapas and books is our kind of combination. Try the pork & herb meatballs, patatas bravas, and anchovy fillets (and everything else) and you can’t go wrong.

hay on wye restaurants

Delis & street food 

  • Hay Deli  – A little travel tip: if you want to find the best food in a new area, always check out the local deli first. This one is a complete treat. Stocked with the best of Welsh local fair, including Alex Gooch bread, a cracking Welsh Barti Ddu Rum alongside so much more. Not content with being the best place to physically go to, they also deliver specially picked hampers straight to you.
  • Hay Cheese Market – Hay on Wye is by definition a market town and to this day, every Thursday the Memorial Square is bustling with traders. Saturday, however, it holds the weekly cheese festival. We repeat, cheese festival. Need we say more?
  • Castle Green Grocers – We don’t know what it is about experiencing locally farmed, fresh produce but living in a city, sometimes you can forget the pull of a local country grocer. Make sure you visit this one.

Other treats:

  • Shepherds Ice Cream – it wouldn’t be weekend break without an ice cream. All ice creams from Shepherd’s are made from local sheep’s milk – you get the name now don’t you. Go with the strawberries and cream.
  • Lucky Seven Beer Company – yes we know that this technically isn’t a place to visit but brewed in Hay on Wye, this pale ale is well worth a try.

Everything else:

I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning all of the other incredible things you can do in Hay.

Take a walk around the castle ruins. Head down to the Hay Cinema Bookshop with 200,000 books. Browse one of the many antiques shops. Pop into or check out one of the many art galleries like Table Art.


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Maria Bell

Maria Bell is a photographer and editor from the Isle of Wight. Talk to her about food and/or photog...


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Photography by Maria Bell.