UPDATE: The Chicago Rock Cafe has closed its doors. The building is now home to the William Coppin. The review below is for archive purposes only.
Well, another day, another food chain. Senses dulled by unsatisfactory experiences in many franchise eateries, Matt and Cat had low expectations when they ventured into the Chicago Rock Cafe, which, despite its name, is known as a kind of hangout for young folk ‘on the pull’ more than as a restaurant. But, splendidly, they were wrong. Very wrong. It was great. And here’s why.
It’s set out as a ‘vertical drinking’ establishment, without doubt. But that’s not a problem if you don’t want any of that. It’s open all day, and your reviewers went in the early evening, long before the place had any hardened teeny alco-pop swiggers in there. It was spacious, clean and inviting, and the staff were very attentive. Shown to a table, they were given a menu, and immediately had their attention drawn to the very reasonable 2-for-1 offer (valid until 7pm), which not only applies to food but also drink, so for the price of a pint of beer, you get (can you guess?) two pints. Matt, sadly, did not work this out and so ordered a pint, and got two pints. As he was to drive home shortly, he then had the agony of sending one brimming pint glass back. Such sacrifice. Don’t make his mistake – order a half pint and get a whole one.
The food soon arrived, and it was fresh and appetising. A very basic menu served well has to beat fancy food messed up any day. In the Rock Cafe you won’t find much to challenge the palette, but what there is you will be very happy to try – every dish on the menu looked eatable. Cat’s lasagne was hot and fresh, not microwaved until curled at the edges as is so often the case in pub grub, and Matt’s salad was freshly cut, with no dried edges or brown lettuce.
The ambience was slightly curious, with the venue set up to appear to be an 80’s themed nightclub, the staff seemed to be waiting around for the dancers to arrive. From the kitchen emerged the loud but irregular sound of BBC Radio 1 on a radio which competed uncomfortably with the pop videos playing on the main screens. Relaxing and intimate it was not.
At the end of the meal, the best part of all – the bill. It was so tiny Matt and Cat had to query it. It has to be said that they ate very well, and drank, for less then the cost of a takeaway at KFC, or indeed pretty much anywhere. For two dinners plus drinks it was less than the cost of a single dish with rice at the Balti King. This place is cheap – but only in price. The experience is better than the price might lead you to expect. If you can cope with the venue it provides some of the most outstanding eating out value for money in Newport.
Chicago Rock Cafe, Newport