Bebo has long been a favourite for locals in Welwyn Garden City; it is one of the true independents in the town centre, amid a sea of chain restaurants. If you haven’t found it yet, it is in a great location midway between John Lewis and The Howard Centre, so is a very useful place to stop when out shopping.
Bebos has an Italian feel with red awnings outside and exposed brickwork inside, with displays of panettone behind the counter. The focus is on ‘gourmet’ sandwiches and there is a huge menu on the wall, which would take many visits to read! Every time I go, the cafe is busy, the staff are welcoming and the service is chatty and quick. If you order food to eat in, you take a number and they bring the food to your table which is more relaxing than in the chains. If you just want a coffee, hover at the end to collect it; this is also where you find plenty of tap water, which I like to see in a cafe (I’d prefer real glasses to plastic disposable cups though).
There is the usual range of coffee and herbal teas at prices that compare well with the chains, and my Americano was good (1.90). Bebos are known for their cooked breakfasts, and there is a great selection including bagels and wraps with free-range eggs and smoked salmon, and plenty of vegetarian options too, including grilled tomatoes and hash browns. The toasted Panettone sounds delicious.
If you fancy a sandwich, you will find your favourite here: there is a huge selection including turkey, feta, falafel, bacon, roast vegetables as well as classic tuna, cheddar, ham etc. They do the Italian sandwiches best, and mozzarella, tomato, basil and pesto ciabatta is always good. I saw one of the team preparing an avocado sandwich with seeded bread, and it looked delicious, with generous amount of avocado. Sandwiches range in price from 2.50 to a hearty 12.99 for a ‘seafood sensation’ packed with smoked salmon, crayfish, prawns and avocado, but I am sure they will be fine if you share!
Away from the sandwiches, the menu can be less succesful; on one visit my halloumi, pear and walnut salad (7.99) was a little disappointing. The leaves and walnuts were fresh and generous, but the halloumi was not freshly grilled so was quite dry. I think the pear should be fresh, rather than canned; not having every ingredient is perhaps inevitable with such a long menu.
I was pleased to see some very reasonably priced children’s options on the menu, such as scrambled eggs on toast; a good healthy choice.
There is a small, but appealing selection of cakes, biscuits and scones, and Bebos is popular in the afternoons too, especially on a weekend. It was good to see Rodda’s clotted cream for sale, which is from Cornwall, and is delicious with scones.
Bebo has been in Welwyn Garden City for well over ten years now, and opened another in nearby Hertford about two years ago. They also do catering for parties and events and can deliver to your local venue. It is lovely to have a good independent in the town centre, with long-serving staff and lots of loyal customers. There is a useful community board where you can find out what is going on, and free newspapers to read while you have your coffee. I think the menu is a little ambitious and tries to offer everything to everyone, but, then again, that might be the secret for its continued success.
Bebo, Stonehills, Welwyn Garden City. Open every day.