Whole Foods Cafe
Whole Foods Cafe Cafe in UK branch of the US Supermarket Closed November 2017
The Longer Read Whole Foods (and therefore, obviously, Whole Foods Cafe) announced that it would close its Cheltenham operation in November 2017. The followed acquisition of the business by Amazon.
Firstly, Whole Foods Cafe is part of the US retailer’s UK operation. If you like American things (© Alan Partridge) you’ll certainly be familiar with Whole Foods, which in the US is synonymous with ‘organic’ and ‘healthy’.
Whole Foods is a bit of a new concept outside London. The Cheltenham branch is getting busier, but it’s fair to say that it had a slow start. In my humble opinion, the store didn’t do a great job in explaining locally what Whole Foods is all about. For example, some people I know still think that it’s a Holland and Barrett vitamins-and-health-food type operation. So if you are unfamiliar with Whole Foods, its basically an upmarket supermarket. It’s a big deal in the US, with over 400 stores and Cheltenham is lucky to have one – there are just 9 stores in the UK. Seven are in and around London. The Cheltenham shop is one of the largest.
Whole Foods Cafe is inside the store, with plenty of seats and probably the biggest, most unusual selection of food at any cafe in town. Coffee is pretty good and the cafe is a great place for people-watching. You don’t always arrive particularly hungry – due to the number of samples offered around the retail part of the store.
A quick note on the retail side of things; vegetables, fruit, cheese and wine are on the pricey end of the spectrum, although the quality is there. There’s a bakery, but (again in our view) not an especially brilliant one. On the other hand, the butchers is one of the best in Cheltenham in its own right and there are odd little pockets of excellence – a really good range of coffee, chocolate or coffee for example. A great spice section. Plus, if you need to stock up on myrrh resin, yoga blocks, organic coconut baking flour or chia seeds… well Whole Foods is for you.
Whole Foods Cafe
So, to Whole Foods Cafe. The way that it works is that you can choose from various food stations – take these to the till and order tea or coffee, self-service style. There are a lot of tables and turnover is pretty quick.
Food points offer soup at £2.99 or £3.99. Nearby salads are sold by weight (£1.79 for 100g). Pizza is made in house (£2.50 a slice). Sushi (around £6). A hot food bar serves things like Curry and Rice or a Pulled Pork Sandwich. Whole Food Cafe’s Texas origins kick in with a Tex/Mex style quesadillas/burrito/tostado bar (£4.99 – £6.95). There’s a thing called a Chef’s Case with an offering of cooked dishes and prepared salads. And there are scones, brownies, cakes, meringues (around £2) on a large stand by the coffee bar. Also (top tip) they offer a few things like shortbread for just .50p.
Whole Foods Cafe isn’t fine dining and, for example, the cakes don’t compare with a good tea room, but this is very much top of the tree compared to other supermarket cafes – much better and more stylish than the competition.
On this visit I had a pizza with beef slice. It was American style (that’s to say thick base, too much cheese) but the beef was a good idea – dried, thinly sliced. With coffee and shortbread that was lunch for £7. You can’t knock it.
In conclusion visiting Whole Foods is always fun – unfamiliar and wacky products alongside more familiar stuff and an interesting mix of punters. Staff are helpful and friendly, that’s the Whole Foods Way.