Years ago in St Thomas Square, Newport there was a great little Italian restaurant. It occupied the premises that had been vacated by the Niton Bakery (now a mobility shop). It was a super place for lunch; cheap pizzas and fresh tomato-based salads, pouring oil and steaming cups of Italian coffee.
Alas, following a spat with the council’s planning department, the venue closed much to the disappointment of Cat and her colleagues.
Cat was reminded of this excellent eatery when she and Matt visited Cafe Maya in Bembridge. OK, so it’s not Italian, it’s not in Newport and it presumably has all the relevant paperwork to satisfy the council. But there was something about the fresh ingredients and scrubbed tables that took The Cat back about 15 years…
Having worked up an appetite purchasing a 1984 ‘teach yourself breakdancing’ book and a sparkly brooch at the Steyne Road car boot sale, Matt and Cat stopped off at Café Maya. This brightly painted venue looked very inviting with its sunny al fresco seating and fresh herbs on the counter.
Matt and Cat took their seats at the solid-looking tables and peered around for a menu. Within a moment they were attended to by the jolly waitress who explained that the blackboards listed all of the dishes. A small but tasty-sounding selection of food was available including sandwiches, bagels and pancakes. The cafe also offered a pretty varied breakfast menu, continental pastries, fruit and yoghurt and the more traditional scrambled eggs and toast. Plus there are lunch specials and tapas.
Cat enquired about the Italian platter which some other patrons happened to be eating. “It’s very nice”, said a helpful chap who had just finished off a platter. Cat, always happy to let someone else make the decision, took this recommendation and ordered the dish. Matt twinned it with the Greek platter. A cup of tea and a glass of raspberry and pomegranate juice completed the order.
Although there were free magazines to read, Matt and Cat decided to bone up on instructions for the electric boogaloo in preparation for a hiphop dance-off (well, this is Bembridge – anything could happen!). In the meantime, drinks and cutlery were delivered.
The prices were on the high side for a café – but this is Bembridge, and actually, for what you get it’s excellent value. Matt and Cat might have expected that with the over-80’s market sewn up in Bembridge a nice cup of tea and a sit down was a given, but surprisingly, the only weak point at Cafe Maya was actually the cup of tea, which was a bag on a string supplied with a mug of hot water. At least the milk was fresh, but really, this was a surprising lapse in what was otherwise a very high-quality offering.
Matt, who was facing the counter, noticed that fresh basil leaves were harvested from the pots of herbs – you don’t get much more local than that! The salad platters arrived and pretty scrummy they looked. Cat’s meal contained a good heap of mozzarella, some salami, olives, piles of cherry tomatoes and a chunk of focaccia bread (or was it ciabatta?). The tomatoes were lovely and sweet and were simply garnished with olive oil and the torn basil. It was a very nutritious and tasty dish. Matthew’s platter was similarly loaded with a crunchy mixed salad, olives, cucumber and yoghurt tzatziki and hummus. It was all strikingly fresh and tasty – prepared right there in front of the diners, it really seemed like wholesome home cooking.
Once they’d eaten up, Matt and Cat sat in the sunny cafe window and simply enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere. Café Maya is a good place for a light lunch, with commendably fresh, simple and wholesome food.