It can be a bit of a gamble, opening a cafe as a part of something else. Matt and Cat have had numerous experiences of such enterprises, especially here on the Island where a hopeful entrepreneur is opening a new tourist attraction almost daily, it seems, and every one relies upon a cafe to keep the business cash flow going. Excellent examples include Dimbola and Chessell Pottery. But for every such shining beacon of excellence, there is a salutary tale. Just because you have a yen to make your living inviting the public into your yoghurt-weaving co-operative, or you’ve just opened a museum with England’s largest collection of grommets, that doesn’t make you qualified to run a catering establishment. And although the excitement of that shiny new business plan will fool the bank manager, it doesn’t cut any ice with customers wanting food and drink. Oh, no. And not Matt and Cat either. Grotty food is not forgiven just because all the money goes towards the next acquisition in the mcguffin collection.
No, it’s a risky business going into a cafe attached to some other attraction, especially one that’s a bit quirky or specialist, and so Matt and Cat were on high alert when they walked into Studio, a long-standing Island nightclub in an old brewery, which in the daytime now passes as a chic cafe in an absolutely prime location right on the concourse of the newly rebuilt Newport Bus Station. Studio also doubles as an art gallery, curated by the Quay Arts Centre.
Thoroughly refurbished after the smoking ban, Studio now has a few outdoor seats and a large, low indoor area. On Matt and Cat’s entry, the solitary member of staff leapt to her feet from her seat at one of the tables and hurriedly put her magazine away. Not too busy then. Sadly, her eagerness to hide her magazine didn’t stretch to an eagerness to greet her customers, and so she stood mutely whilst they looked at the display of light lunchtime snacks and cakes, all well-laid out and with a comprehensive menu for guidance. Cat chose chargrilled Mediterranean vegetable panini, and Matt, inevitably, chose an ‘all day breakfast’ panini. Two teas were also ordered, and once she had begun speaking the waitress proved to be most courteous, and soon brought the tea over to Matt and Cat where they sat on the terrace overlooking the busy bus station. If the August day had been any more overcast, M and C would’ve sat inside the cool interior with its monochrome artwork and the relaxing trill of Classic FM wafting through the space.
The tea was average. Not that hot, with the dreaded UHT milk and teabags in mugs, it really was only just worth the fairly steep £1 per cup. However, there was plenty of time to enjoy it as despite the lack of custom, the food took a while to prepare. Matt and Cat were beginning to think that despite the stylish interior, the artfully displayed nudes and potted plants, Studio was still a nightclub trying a bit too hard.
These concerns were mercifully dispelled when the meals were delivered by the polite waitress. Very well presented, perfectly toasted, with generous fillings, both paninis looked the part. Alongside came some very fresh salad, with no onion, but an unusual and enjoyable garnish of fancy crisps. On digging in, both Matt and Cat found their lunches to be worth the wait, and decent value. So, despite a shaky start, Studio just about managed to persuade them that it was a proper cafe: they’ll be happy to have a snack there again whilst they’re next waiting for a bus.
Studio, Bowling Green Lane, Newport