The decision by Brains to turn Salt into one of their Coffee#1 shops has caused a little gnashing of teeth around town.
“Not another coffee shop!” grumbled some.
But the old Central Hotel is a lovely building – and they’ve done a great job sprucing up the outside – so we felt we had to pop along for a look.
If there are too many coffee shops in Aberystwyth, it wasn’t affecting trade on the Saturday afternoon we visited.
Our last two review meals – at Wiff-Waff and Irie’s – were very quiet, but Coffee#1 had most tables full and a long queue.
We went upstairs, and the room still looks as wonderful as ever.
It was flooded with natural light, warm and inviting, with the wonderful gap so you can see through to the ground floor.
The tables don’t have menus on them, so peering down is your best bet for seeing what you might want to eat.
It was Bethan’s turn to buy, so I sent her off for paninis and coffee.
It was a long wait.
I had the nephews with me for company, but 20 minutes is a long time to queue up to place your order.
Once she was at the front of the queue, the staff were speedy, efficient and friendly, and I suppose we can’t blame Coffee#1 for being so popular when newly-opened.
She returned with our drinks – a “Booster” Juice, a Deluxe Mocha, a black coffee (sorry, “Americano”) and a coke.
The juice was carrot, apple, orange and ginger. It was tasty, but there wasn’t much ginger.
My Americano was fine – nothing spectacular, and I grew more fond of it.
(Is the rule you have to call “black coffee” an “Americano” once the price goes above £2 the cup? And then “white coffee” becomes “latte”?)
The coke was a coke, but the happiest drinker was Nephew#2 with his “Deluxe Mocha”, as well he should be for £3.10.
Being 11 he’s not had much coffee, so having one with chocolate, whipped cream and MINI-MARSHMALLOWS blew his young mind.
He did raise an eyebrow when I said it was the cost of two pints of coke in Wetherspoons, and he’d drunk it in no time, but he did say “That was the standard I judge coffee by for the rest of my life”.
Our food wasn’t complicated and arrived speedily.
My panini was chicken, pastrami, olives and onion chutney.
Salad was fresh, crisps were excellent.
I was pleased with it, but £5.25 is a lot of money for a toastie.
Bethan felt the same.
Her Mediterranean panini featured roasted vegetables & mozzarella.
“This is very nice” she said “but I have a panini press and coffee machine at home.”
The nephews were less impressed with their kids’ sandwiches.
The website describes it as:
“Welsh cured honey roast ham & mature cheddar cheese on bloomer bread“.
Only £1.75, but we expected more than this:
It looked like someone had nicked the other side.
It’s nice to see Brains taking childhood obesity seriously, but I can’t say they saw it that way, and we had to give them our crisps
We finished with a pair of cakes.
The brownie was magnificent.
Its bottom meltingly soft and rich with chocolate, its top covered in a contrasting nuts.
The accompanying fridge cake was alright, but disappointing after the brownie.
Our bill was £27, which felt odd.
The individual elements seemed expensive (£3 drinks, £5 sandwiches) but £27 isn’t a lot for four people their lunch.
Not a big lunch, of course, but the upstairs is a beautiful room, and if fancied a lunch to put you on, this is a lovely place to spend an hour.
It was nice and warm, we had a pleasant time, and yet I won’t be in a rush to go back.
The paninis aren’t as interesting as Ultra Comida’s, and I don’t tend to buy many £2 coffees as I have one of these fancy coffee machines.
Personally, I wish Brains had opened one of these Pear Tree places like they have in Roath:
Pear Tree Website
It’s a coffee shop, but serves a wider range of food and some beer. Maybe the relative failure of Salt made them decide to stick to coffee.
And what does this mean for Aberystwyth?
I fear it means that people want to stick with what they know at lunchtime.
Coffee#1 was full, whereas Irie’s (Caribbean) & Wiff-Waff (burgers & ping pong) were empty.
At least Brains are a Welsh company who pay their tax, and they understand what the people of Aberystwyth want.
We’ve clearly not reached “Peak Coffee” – I can understand why people want to have a nice, cheaper, safer lunch like here, McG’s, Starbucks, etc.
Every time a coffee shop opens, it seems to be full.
Maybe Aberystwyth can manage with national or international chains competing with local companies, no matter what the pessimists in the Cambrian News think.
Aberystwyth SY23 2DX
Mon-Sat: 8am – 6pm
Sun: 9am – 5pm