In the week that Marvel comic book publisher Stan Lee died, we popped into Newport’s ComiCoffee to raise a toast to this creator of numerous fictional superheroes. For those who haven’t kept up with the county town’s game of musical venues, ComiCoffee is where Caffe Isola used to be, itself having relocated to the old Beavis premises in Node Hill – which was, as any local historian will tell you, a former chapel.
As its name suggests, the Comicoffee cafe has two strands: comics and coffee. In the noughties the portmanteau word was all the rage, tagging everything from celebrity pairings (the now-divorced Brangelina), bromances (such as the boy-bond between Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller), and emoticons (winky face). But let’s not turn this review into a listicle and get back to the matter in hand.
The venue has been refurbed with upcycled materials; its wooden booths, bench seating, scaffold poles and brick-effect wallpaper are de rigueur these days. More original are the graffiti mural and pages from comic books being used as wall coverings. With various action figures and, of course, comics distributed around the cafe, it has a slight hint of teenagers’ bedroom – without the unmistakable aromatic cocktail of Lynx and Red Bull.
In fact, the cafe is so attractive to the young ‘uns, that it feels like a place they can call their own. Unlike some of the other cafes in town which are habituated by middle-aged beardy hipsters and vintage punk creatives (yes, we are talking about ourselves), ComiCoffee regularly has young people enjoying its facilities and we’ve even seen them playing board games in the little booths. But it doesn’t feel like a youth club and the staff are equally as welcoming to us gubbers.
ComiCoffee is a popular lunch venue and, rather than compete with the crowded baguette and butty market, it’s gone for its own USP of waffles – savoury and sweet.
Matt had the all-day breakfast waffle which was a simple but splendid concoction – bacon, a single cloven sausage and fresh tomato, all on a hot waffle. Matt thought it would’ve been improved by a wiggle of mustard; but none was available, An inspired off-menu intervention from our waiter added a jug of warm maple syrup instead; an innovation we would urge the venue to adopt permanently.
Cat, in the interests of balance, chose from the panini menu; mozzarella, red pepper and hummus. Her unadorned roll was soft and warm; not exactly over-burdened with filling nor as spectacular-looking as the laden waffle, but it was good enough.
All day brekkie waffle £6
Hummus, red pepper and mozzarella panini £4.60
Berry and yoghurt waffle £5.20
The other reason Cat had gone light on her first course was to leave room for a pudding waffle. The mixed berry, yogurt and honey waffle did not disappoint. Its warm fluffy sponge was perfect for soaking up the sweet berry juice and honey. Natural yoghurt oozed slowly like lava carrying winter berries on its course over the waffle. Four of us (five, if you include Spiderman!) shared this vast dessert and we were almost defeated.
We artfully arranged both graphic novels and a model of Spiderman for our photos, so that was the comics sorted, but what about the coffee? It is, as to be expected, very good. Served in nicely-curated crockery with milk in one of those tiny bottles; hot or cold as is your preference. Caffeine-dodger Matt had his new favourite brew, chai tea (introduced to him by The Freshwater Coffee House barista Stefan). This spicy blend was delivered in a glass teapot and was a tasty rendition of this popular tea.
Despite the ubiquity of coffee shops in Newport, ComiCoffee has successfully added another facet to the genre, with its youth-friendly safespace – but which doesn’t exclude folks like us. The jolly staff are extremely friendly. It’s not just a matter of refreshment processing for them; there seems to be a genuine enthusiasm and interest in their product, which makes our (regular) visits a treat. The waffle menu is inspired; plenty of sweet options to make the cafe a good alternative to the coffee and cake circuit, with some savoury choices to satisfy those with not such a sweet tongue. Marvel-lous!
This is the full-length version of the review that appeared in the Isle of Wight County Press.