The very first review written for this guide was for Sainsbury’s, Newport. It was short and to the point. This was before Matt and...
Marks and Spencer, Café Revive, Newport

The very first review written for this guide was for Sainsbury’s, Newport. It was short and to the point. This was before Matt and Cat even really had decided to do anything more than a single review… 170 reviews later and they’re still going. Now with this review, they’ve also tried the café in every major supermarket on the Island.

Supermarket cafés, why do they bother? It’s a mystery why some superstores, so careful of their image, seem happy to serve food in the cafe that wouldn’t be fit to sell at the tills. Typical meal on offer in the aisles: delicately flavored lamb and cous-cous salad with olive oil. For the same price in the café: microwave-nuked beans and dehydrated sausage on a grimy plate. Healthy? No. Good value. Hardly. Pleasant? You jest. But what if a supermarket wanted to buck that trend? Maybe the result wouldn’t be dissimilar to Marks & Spencer’s Café Revive.

Tomato soup

Matt and Cat stopped by at Café Revive after an interesting tour of the shop, wondering when they’d be old enough to start buying some of this stuff. The café is a relatively recent innovation, and is positioned in a nice sunny corner of the shop, looking out over the car park. It seems designed to be as different from the standard supermarket café as it could possibly be. Spacious, airily decorated in a retro style, and with hosts of smart, smiling staff on hand, the first impressions are favorable.

Perhaps the most interesting innovation is that there is no kitchen as such. Customers take pre-packed food from the shelves and if necessary the staff warm it up, and by the time your drinks are doled out and money taken, the food arrives on your tray. Matt chose a bacon and cheese sandwich, whilst Cat went for the soup of the day, which was tomato, with a soft white roll.

Commendably, Café Revive not only uses Fairtrade tea and coffee, but makes a big point of doing so and explaining why. It says proudly on the M&S corporate website:

The Fairtrade coffee and tea sold in our Café Revives have already helped fund new constructions such as health centres, roads and school facilities in third world countries such as Ethiopia, Honduras, Sumatra, Kenya and Peru, and enabled thousands of farmers worldwide a higher quality of life seeing additional income to allow children to attend schools, obtain medical services and improve housing conditions.

Perhaps they’ll be inspired to have other Fairtrade products too, or even local produce. That would be even better.

Whilst awaiting the food, Cat and Matt enjoyed listening to the other diners in the café. One young lad was so despondent that he slouched, head in hands, over his table whilst his mum bustled around with the tray. “Come along”, she said encouragingly, “We’ll get you some socks after this.” Oddly, this failed to revive him.

Cheese and bacon toastie

Cat enjoyed her piping hot and tasty soup. It had big chunks of real tomato in it, and was pleasingly herby. Matt was not expecting much of his toastie, which came wrapped in cellophane and was popped into the oven by the polite serving assistant. However when she brought it over to the table, he was pleasantly surprised. The hot sandwich was delicious. Crispy and not soggy, it was coated with cheese and bits of bacon – yes, even on the outside. Inside it was even better. Bacon there was, and it was all lavishly anointed with a mustardy rarebit-type cheese sauce, keeping the whole thing moist and wholesome. An unexpected treat.

Marks and Sparks make a point of drawing the distinction between themselves and other supermarkets. It seems, with Café Revive, that they have succeeded, at least as far as in-store eating is concerned. Matt and Cat were well revived, and will most likely go there again.
Marks and Spencer, Café Revive, Newport

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  • PAUL MULLERY

    11th March 2013 #1 Author

    I agree with Peter, I don’t know what it is with cafes in retail outlets. It is the same story in Sainsburys and Dunelm Mill. With only 4 people in front of me,I have waited to be served for over 20 minutes in these two places. The staff seem to find it difficult to serve a coffee and a slice of cake without much faffing about. Most odd.

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  • HungryPeter

    10th March 2013 #2 Author

    While I queued for my coffee……and queued…..I had ample chance to ogle the cakes and fare on display,and I thought the prices were astronomical. Carrot cake which required a mortgage,crisps with high prices,led me to think that I was in the wrong place.Does it taste better if one pays more for it? McDonalds service with Harrods prices.

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  • MICHAEL JOHN BARROW

    12th March 2008 #3 Author

    The enticing atmosphere of M&S is finally getting to our ‘young’ reviewers I see. It won’t be long before they make it their first port of call for all their shopping!-not.
    The larger ‘Revives’ have their soups in a large pot which tastes very fresh. Your correspondent and his wife frequently have light snacks in M&S and can particularly recommend their latte.
    At Hedge End they have opened a large new restaurant with waitress service which has a wide range of good meals although it is realised this is outside Matt and Cats geographical ambit.
    Mind you the prices reflect that extra bit of polish!
    Regards

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