The Arden Cafe in Kenilworth is a large two-storeyed cafe set in a pedestrian area close to Waitrose. It is quite traditional with the emphasis on beverages, cakes and sandwiches rather than meals or breakfasts.
If I am honest I don’t really know what to make of it.
It looks quite slick in a Costa kind of way but it is an independent. The company supplies cheese nibbles and the like to supermarkets and its a good local business. Its motto of “Purely for the Love” augurs well. It serves nice but not exceptional food. There is no claim to support local suppliers but they clearly want to serve good quality products. The website makes it clear that they search the globe for tasty food.
Starting with the basics, the tea and coffee is very good
Suki teas are served in proper little tea pots from loose ingredients. I tried the spicy citrus tea and it was full of flavour. The coffee is similarly good quality and made from a proper coffee making setup. Maybe there just isn’t enough made of this. Maybe I’m used to baristas flouncing around making a big deal of the whole preparation.
The food offerings are paninis, sandwiches, salads, jacket potatoes, soup of the day, cakes, and pastries. As I am writing this and checking the menu I am surprised at just how much they offer. I suppose an example of the modest and disengaged approach is that the pasties have their own table flyer. They are Proper Cornish pasties and the flyer explains where the ingredients come from and how much care goes in to a hand-crimped pastie. If this was in Cornwall I’d be all for it but quite honestly I’d prefer a Warwickshire pastie from one of the local bakeries. I’d certainly prefer it not served on a wooden board.
I am conscious that I am sounding negative about the place and I don’t mean to be. It is ridiculously modest about what it is good at. It serves the basics well, at good prices. Service is at the counter and food is brought to you when it is ready – always prompt and always hot. It has wifi and doesn’t hassle the people who want to spend their time with a laptop. It’s big enough that people can get in with buggies. There is comfortable seating and lots of it for all-comers. Maybe I am a marketing victim but I struggle to find the soul in Arden’s which would make me love it and be a regular. Loads of other people do like it – there is a steady stream of customers. There is no food on the menu which would make me make a beeline to it but it is a good solid, reliable performer that is maybe just a little too slick for its own good and maybe it is caught between being a retailer and a cafe.