Full Cafe ODE Review: A Sustainable Cafe in Shaldon, Devon?

Are you looking for a full Cafe ODE review when deciding on which restaurant to dine at in Shaldon? Read on, as I share all of my thoughts!

I really wanted to love Cafe ODE.

Sitting by Ness Cove Car Park, it’s a sustainably-minded cafe that uses local and seasonal products to make all of its dishes. 

Its menu changes weekly, depending on what is in season. 

On paper, it sounds incredible. Which is what I chose to visit when I was on a day trip checking out the best things to do in Teignmouth and Shaldon

However, while I really liked the concept, the atmosphere and the vibe, the food just didn’t meet the mark.

Here’s my full review. 

About Cafe ODE

View from Cafe Ode over some wooden tables, then the car park, then the blue water of the Teign River.

Running since 2006, Cafe ODE is operated by a couple who lived abroad for twelve years and then decided to move back to the West Country, setting up in Shaldon thanks to its proximity to the rest of Devon and its links to London. 

Firstly, they created a cafe in town, but later expanded to the current position at Ness Cove, thanks to its incredible views of the beach!

It really is in an incredible location, with breathtaking blue waters and views over to the town of Teignmouth. 

Although, I must say that when I was there, there were no cars in the car park as it was a quiet Thursday morning. In peak season, the view may be of rows of cars instead!

With Cafe ODE, the couple aimed to create ethically-sourced food in a family-friendly environment. 

In its first year, the cafe became the highest-rated sustainable restaurant in the country, a CATEY for sustainable business and has been listed in the Waitrose Good Food Guide, as well as collaborating with dozens of other companies. 

It’s an impressive portfolio of achievements!


A sustainable cafe in Shaldon, Devon? View of the the tables with the restaurant in the background.

I’m fully behind a lot of Cafe ODE’s sustainable initiatives.

Not only do they have a fair and inclusive work policy that commits to paying suppliers and staff a fair rate, but they also market responsibly and do what they can to support the community. 

When it comes to sourcing food, they carefully think about who their suppliers are, opting for farmers who boast a commitment to higher environmental standards.

Plus, they have a huge focus on local and seasonal food, supporting farmers from Devon first and only using what’s in season.

They also have policies in place for sustainable seafood and ethical meat and dairy – although I was unable to find information about exactly what these were.  

The space further tries to limit the water that they use, be energy efficient, and to source sustainable materials inside the workplace. 

I also noticed that they offer free charging for electric vehicles, which is a great incentive to both visit and drive a more sustainable car!

The space

The rustic interior of cafe ODE, with blue paneling and a wood burner.

The space at Cafe ODE is airy and bright.

As I mentioned, it’s right by the Smuggler’s Tunnel that leads to Ness Beach (one of my favourite beaches in Devon!), and it has some of the best views in town from its floor-to-ceiling windows. 

It only has a few tables inside, and the dining area is set apart from the kitchen.

But in the summer, you can choose to sit outside the cafe on long tables, where you can get even more up close and personal with the views. 

The food (limited veggie options)

Picture of beans and flatbread at Cafe ODE

As an eight-year-strong vegetarian (I also don’t eat eggs and only have very limited dairy), I’m always keen to try new veggie food on my travels, both in South West England and further afield. 

“Great”, I thought when I approached cafe ODE. “It’s a sustainably-minded cafe – it’ll definitely have something plant-based on the menu”. 

Unfortunately, there was only one veggie option that didn’t include eggs. 

It was an a “North African house-made spiced white beans and chickpeas with cumin bowl”, and it promised the pulses in a rich tomato sauce served with a flatbread on the side.

All things I like. 

But, while it was served with a smile and I enjoyed the coffee (a cappuccino with oat milk, although I was disappointed that the oat milk was from Wall Street enterprise Oatly rather than a small British business like PureOaty), the beans didn’t taste of much more than Heinz baked beans, and the bread was sparse. 

At £7.95 for a cup of elaborate baked beans, I wasn’t too happy with the culinary offerings. 

I understand that Cafe ODE uses local and sustainable ingredients, and I salute them for that.

But there are lots of ways that they could have made the vegan option a bit more exciting, like adding the hash brown that was part of the eggs option or some seasonal vegetables. 

And, in my humble opinion, any cafe that markets itself as sustainably-minded should have good veggie options; as eating less meat is by far one of the best things that we can do to help combat climate change.

I’m not saying that Cafe ODE should be an all-veggie cafe, or that vegetarianism is the be-all and end-all of sustainability, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around such a basic vegan affair being the only plant-based option in a restaurant that’s won awards for its sustainability.

Or the fact that, as someone who has chosen a particular diet largely due to sustainability, I couldn’t find much that suited it in the restaurant. 

However, the menu does change regularly, so there’s every chance that I could have caught the veggie menu on an off week, and other times it might be better (although, one week later, I checked the menu again and the vegan option was taken off the menu, with no replacement to be seen!). 

Single-use at Cafe ODE

My other gripe with Cafe ODE was the fact that everything, from the baked beans bowl to the coffee stirrer, was served in single-use paper. 

They do have a sophisticated recycling system and there is lots of information encouraging everybody to dispose of their materials effectively. 

However, the fact that it’s served with this single-use cutlery and crockery, to begin with, makes it immediately seem less sustainable to me – because not using single-use in the first place is always better than recycling, right?

While I do fully support many of the sustainable initiatives at Cafe ODE, I was personally left disappointed with its lack of veggie options for food.

If there was just one plant-based alternative and it was incredibly tasty, I would have left feeling pretty positive about the whole experience – but the meal I had was, unfortunately, very bland. 

I’d definitely be open to trying the restaurant again with a different menu, and I would recommend that non-veggies visit, as there were a few meaty sandwich options for them that looked like they could be tasty. 

And, of course, there are ways to be sustainable while still eating meat. My whole lifestyle is by no means perfectly sustainable – but eating mainly plant-based is a way that I do my bit.

There’s no denying that eating less meat can really reduce our carbon emissions, and it just surprised me that, in a sustainable cafe, this wasn’t really catered to.

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