Coffee republic has now closed, and reopened as Love Coffee.
Despite the looming presence of the brutalist-style Somerfield and its multi-storey car park, Newport’s Pyle Street is extraordinarily historic.
Many of the surrounding buildings date back centuries; the Wheatsheaf Hotel (allegedly 1693), God’s Providence House (at least 1701) and the relatively youthful Newport Minster (1854). Even Somerfield’s architecture attempts to replicate the brick-built houses that once stood on the site. And, respectfully, a plaque has been erected describing the candle factory (1650) and grocers, Upward and Rich (1703) which plied its trade there some considerable years ago.
Guys, another old business in Pyle Street, closed its doors for the last time this year. The naysayers shook their sage old heads and tutted about the demise of this historic market town. However, from the metaphorical ashes of Guys, rises a new kid on the block – franchise eatery Coffee Republic. Will it make its mark and prevail for years to come?
Thankfully, as the scaffolding was removed following the refurbishment, the shop front was revealed to be pretty much unchanged. Due, possibly, to robust planning laws or maybe sympathetic developers? Either way, it wasn’t long before Matt and Cat crossed the threshold.
Since it opened, Coffee Republic has appeared to have a pretty constant flow of customers, all eager for a nose around this new eatery. Hopefully they will also be stopping for coffee and a sarnie. As Matt grabbed a high table in the window (there’s additional seating upstairs if the ground floor is full), Cat pirouetted to the counter after a quick glance at the bill of fare. The menu gives only a very small selection of suggested snacks; and, with this in mind, Cat peered into the refrigerated counter to see what was on offer that day.
Brie and bacon panini £3.60
Brie and pastrami bagel £3.90
Fruit drink £1.95
Basically, there are several types of bread – bagel, ciabatta, granary bread, wrap and a selection of fillings, such as smoked salmon, pastrami, Brie, sausage. Just choose your bread and nominate its content, tell the counter staff and they will create your sandwich. Drinks are then ordered further along the counter with a different member of staff but it all gets reconciled at the till (similar to the system at French Franks).
Matt vacillated in the face of such choice before choosing Brie and bacon panini. Cat, going off-menu, chose her own fillings of Brie, pastrami and cranberry – each added to the bill so, at £3.90, the modest bagel ended up slightly more expensive than the panini. Cat’s drink was a bottle of some new-age fruit sludge, which was pleasant enough plus it ambitiously promised to save the planet, make you thin and empower the workers – all for £1.95. The label urged Cat to recycle the bottle which was slightly at odds with the disposable plastic beaker she was given to drink it out of and the flimsy single-use cutlery with which to eat the bagel. This was a matter of consternation for Cat. The venue must be geared up to wash up crockery as the drinks and food were served on China plates and mugs. So why the plastic beakers and cutlery? Not very sustainable.
Matt wanted a cappuccino, but became hopelessly confused by the terminology. In Coffee Republic you can’t have a ‘large’ or a ‘small’. You get a ‘tall’ and some other thing. Is a ‘tall’ cappuccino a big one or a small one? In normal parlance ‘tall’ implies big. But apparently not here. Or something. Anyway, Matt got one, and it cost £2.05. It was about medium-sized.
In due course the food was delivered to the table, where M & C could nibble away whilst watching the great and good of Newport stroll by. This they did, and lo, a friend sailed by and popped in for a chat. That’s one thing for Coffee Republic – it’s got location. But how about the food? Not bad, for deli stuff. It was warm, fresh, and a nice little side salad accompanied each sarnie. All was courteously served; one can ask for little more.
A quick lunchtime bite and sup in a reasonable and trendy-looking place, with a TV for those who cannot bear to be away from the one-eyed monster for a moment. Matt and Cat found Coffee Republic bland but pleasant – and even if it was a bit pricey, it was convenient.
Coffee Republic, Newport (Archive review)