This is an archive review. The Foundation Bakery has now closed. The Foundation Bakery is the latest venue to jostle for a place in...

This is an archive review. The Foundation Bakery has now closed.

The Foundation Bakery is the latest venue to jostle for a place in Newport’s crowded lunchtime market.

Poached eggs on Island Bakery toast

Just when things seemed to have reached a critical mass with the arrival of national coffee outlet Costa Coffee, and rumours of Subway’s imminent arrival finally confirmed, the bakery too has opened its doors to those seeking light refreshments.

The café has taken shape inside a disused furniture store on the periphery of Newport’s main drag. However, Matt and Cat aren’t necessarily seduced by a prime town centre location; some of the best places to eat are worth that extra step. Take the Isobel Centre; although it’s far from the beaten track in the heart of Pan, it’s well worth the diversion. Similarly the John Cheverton Centre provides a tranquil spot for a light lunch and delicious cake. But what have these venues and the Foundation Bakery got in common that may help them keep buoyant in these uncertain times?

Unlike Newport’s commercial lunchtime offers such as Matt and Cat’s favoured haunt the Blue Door Café, the Issy, JC and Foundation Bakery are supported by public money, charitable donations or philanthropy. Most businesses can benefit from a financial leg-up (some of the Island’s most prestigious venues have silent benefactors) and the charitable ones are, by their very nature, supported through the munificence of others. At both the Isobel and John Cheverton Centres, Matt and Cat have had the pleasure of being served homemade cake by charming volunteers in clean and pleasant surroundings. Would the Foundation Bakery be able to complete the hat trick?

Butternut squash and coconut soup

Cat first visited the Foundation Bakery on a typically spring day – squally, cold and miserable. As Matt was unavailable she went with a friend and they were pleased to take refuge in the bakery. Previously Dabell’s furniture warehouse, the vast space at least had some draught-excluding doors; the last time that Cat had seen into its cavernous interior was when the big shutters were open and the building was full of vans. It was still pretty cavernous but had been arranged Wagamama-style with communal refectory tables and, at the far end, the open kitchen.

Cat’s bill
Poached egg £2.50
Tea £1.50
Soup £3.75

As Cat and her friend approached the counter a friendly chap hailed them and another assistant said a warm hello. Cat peered into the glass display case at the sandwich fillings but fancied something a bit more warming. There were four homemade soups on the day’s menu: garlic and mushroom, sweet potato and butternut squash, leek and potato, and parsnip and apple. The chef explained that the soups were served with thickly-cut bread – white or multiseed – made that morning by Island Bakery. As he chatted to the pair and listed out the soups, he was also occupied kneading away; presumably dough for more bread. Cat made further enquiries about the day’s special, which was beef stew and dumplings and she knew that Matt would be kicking himself when he found out what he had missed. She got chatting with one of the other customers who had just finished a bowl of the stew; he couldn’t recommend it highly enough and said that he ate at the Foundation Bakery most days.

Cat’s friend chose the sweet potato and butternut squash while Cat herself decided to have free-range poached eggs. As regular readers will know, while Cat herself is a pretty indolent cook, her speciality is poached eggs – and a hard yolk will incur her rather feeble wrath. Taking their places at one of the benches, Cat and her friend took a look around. It’s probably not by chance that the bakery has a touch of the ecclesiastical about its interior; from rows of communal wooden tables and the high vaulted ceiling, to the raised sanctuary-like kitchen at the end opposite the door. Although this metaphor may be a bit laboured, it is here to make the link to the Foundation Bakery’s laudable ethos: a Christian-led social enterprise, with profits reinvested to deliver its mission to support and train those who may face challenges in the world of work.

At that particular moment, the employees’ main challenge – in her opinion – was to deliver Cat’s lunch. Two mugs of tea were duly presented (bag-in-the-mug style) shortly followed by the soup. It looked fabulous; a generous and attractive portion which was well-received. Cat’s eggs followed shortly after and her face lit up with glee. The brace of eggs quivered slightly as they settled, hinting at a decent runny yolk. A quick stab with a knife and the yolk spilled out over the lightly-buttered artisan bread – this was dear reader, the acme of the poached egg. Yours for £2.50.

So, the Foundation Bakery chef can cook a mean poached egg and, as Matt and Cat have subsequently discovered, a delicious bowl of butternut squash and coconut soup and a full English breakfast. The new bakery will provide training and support for vulnerable people such as former substance abusers, ex-prisoners and people with mental illness. These altruistic aims are to be applauded, and Matt and Cat are pleased to lead the cheers – however by themselves, they won’t make a successful café: Matt and Cat are interested in the food. And friends, it is good. So good that Cat took Matt there shortly after her first visit so he could stry the food for himself. The Foundation Bakery may hold its own against the likes of Costa and Subway, as it has a different product served at a different pace. The personal service, home-cooked food and local ingredients all add up to an enticing and unique offer which Matt and Cat are happy to recommend.

This is an archive review. The Foundation Bakery has now closed.