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.
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.
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