Cafe Zest Cavendish House
Food 1 / 10
Drink 2 /10
Atmos 2 / 10
We visit Cafe Zest, Cavendish House, perhaps so you don’t have to.
The Longer Read Cavendish House houses Cafe Zest. Cavendish House is the large department store on the Promenade in Cheltenham. It was/is something of a Cheltenham institution, although morale is down since John Lewis opened. The atmos here is postmodern Grace Brothers with a hint of Sports Direct. The cafe is called Cafe Zest, heavily trailed with posters inside and outside the store.
The Cafe is on the first floor (Women’s Fashion/Haberdashery… going up!). The seats at Cafe Zest looks over Windsmoor, Jacques Vert and Eastex stock. In keeping, the clientele on our visit was on the senior side. Perhaps with the wisdom of age, very few people ordered anything to eat with their tea or coffee. Cafe Zest is 90% cafe and 10% staff canteen. Miss Brahms from Fashions sits next to a couple of shoppers from Birmingham.
When thinking of dining in a smarter department store, you might have mental images of the experience at Selfridges or Fortnums. OK London is London – but hey ‘Regency’ Cheltenham has a bit of style too, right? Unfortunately we were disappointed.
Cafe Zest of Times
On our visit at 11am, the cakes sit pre-sliced, ready for the afternoon shift. They’re alongside the shelf that you slide your tray along, school lunch style. There are sandwiches in bags. And there are signs everywhere. Jackets! Soup!! Hot Sandwiches! 6 Item Breakfast!!!!
As a cafe, the core offer is made up of the 4 or 5 hot dishes that sit resentfully bubbling away under lamps. This an hour or so before lunchtime. Today, beef lasagne, veg curry with rice, vegetarian quiche. There is soup. Peas lurk in their bowl, those that have floated to the surface drying in the heat.
My cappuccino is watery, so much so that I ask for a second shot, which somehow only serves to make it taste even more watery (how?). Tea is fine.
On the positive side, Cafe Zest is clean and sofas are comfortable after a busy shop. There is an adapted table with games for kids. There’s a screen in one corner showing subtitled news, if you like that kind of thing. The tea china is from Churchill’s Alchemy range. And the staff were friendly.
A rescue plan for Cafe Zest
But there’s perhaps just too much going on for Cafe Zest to be good at any one thing. The potential is there, Cafe Zest should note the way that coffee standards have vastly improved almost everywhere else. It should double its prices and cook to order. It should offer the best afternoon tea in town. But for now, the best recommendation is that the tea is OK and there’s always a seat available. On the other hand best to leg it out of the back door and head for Coffee Dispensary and The Find.
Cafe Zest Cavendish House, Promenade, Cheltenham GL50 1HP