I’m a big believer in shopping locally where you can and supporting local coffee shopswhere you can.
In this post I write a little about the benefits to the local economy of shopping and eating in independently owned establishments.
So here’s a round up of six good independent coffee shops in Swindon and why you might want to go to them. There are many more I know. Old Town seems to have a coffee shop per capita of population. All of which I’m sure have their benefits and charms. But that’s a post on its own I feel. That said one Old Town establishment is on this list.
So, in no order of preference, simply independent coffee places I’ve visited and enjoyed:
Why go?: They sell great Italian coffee for £1. Yep – you heard that right – £1. And while you are there you can buy some delicious Italian wine, olives, biscuits, pasta…. you fill in the gaps.
2) @The Hub: Opened earlier this year, down on Fleet Street, this place is run by three ex-IT people.
@thehub coffee shop Swindon
Why go?: @theHub is not a mere coffee shop but a cycle retail and repair shop too. ““Whether you want a new bike, to fix or upgrade your bike or just want to meet with friends over a cup of excellent coffee, just call in for a warm welcome.” They have a big TV so you can have your coffee and watch the Tour De France in likeminded company and possibly wearing those cycling shorts that make you look like you didn’t get to the toilet in time.
I want to ride my bicycle!
3) Darkroom Espresso: We go to Faringdon Road for this speciality coffee shop. Now managed by the splendid @wozie_stevie (Twitter) previously of Chapters Coffee bar in the library, and Harris and Hoole in Tesco this is a popular hang-out for some of Swindon’s creative types – because the coffee shop has a great record for supporting local artists with displays of their work and what not.
Latte art Darkroom Espresso
Why go?: Apart from the coffee, they do good sandwiches, there’s a table you can chalk on, free WiFi I THINK and plenty of space to park a pushchair or bike.
Darkroom Espresso gaining ground.
4) Baila coffee and vinyl: In Old Town, this rather hipster joint buys and sells vinyl as well as coffee. It’s recently become a licensed premises though I suspect you won’t find a pint of Carling Black Label in there.
Why go? Other than the coffee? They do DJ vinyl-playing sessions on Sunday, ice-cream sandwiches in summer, and it’s licensed. Oh and there’s an upstairs play-area for the kids so no need to have your espresso, flat-white, moccachino enjoyment spoiled by a screaming toddler. And what IS a flat white anyway? Does that just mean a coffee with milk in it or what?
Get into the groove.
5) The 2Wins: This Portuguese establishment is down on Rodbourne Road next door to the racy lingerie shop. Whenever I’m in the proximity of the Outlet Village, from which it’s only a hundred yards, I try and visit.
Why go? As well as good Portuguese coffee they sell scrummy Portuguese cakes of several varieties – not just the natas. They also sell bread rolls stuffed with chorizo, and Portuguese beer. And it’s handy for the Outlet Centre. And lingerie…
6) Luso Cafe: On Havelock Street this is another Portuguese establishment. It used to be called the Piri Piri. The new owners of the place gave it a much-needed makeover and it looks much better now than it did. As well as cakes and chorizo-stuffed bread – love it – they do meals and are licensed. A pint of Sagres or Superbock can go down a treat.
Why go? Decent Portuguese coffee reasonably priced. They have an outdoor seating area which is unusual in that it actually gets the sun in the afternoons – most of the town centre is sun-deprived.
In my AA Editorial Servicescapacity I’ve been working with a client on web copy, press releases and marketing letters. My client’s business is called High Street Hero, the thrust of which is to give a superpower, or same-day delivery service, to independent retailers allowing them to offer a service that sets them apart on the high street.
When the client and I were working on the web copy we talked a lot about the whole shop local initiativeand how it fits in with what he is trying to achieve.
Everyone wants a vibrant high street that is a place for socialising as well as shopping. But that doesn’t happen by magic. We all have the choice between using independent retailers and food outlets or the national and global ‘big -boys’. Sometimes one has to go to the ‘big-boys’ – but if we always do that then we’ve only ourselves to blame for high streets full of pound stores and charity shops.
And of course, in shopping locally you are supporting British entrepreneurs in all manner of ways. As this article in The Guardian says: ‘Artisan markets help foster the talents of the next generation of British designers and retailers. “[They] are hotbeds of innovation,” says Mike Cooksedge, founder of SeeMyLocalMarket. “There is a constant turnover of new products, and sellers listen to customers’ demands. If a certain pie filling is popular, for example, a pie company will respond to that and quickly supply more of them – and you can suggest things too, so you can even have a bit of influence over the products on sale.”
So of late I’ve been trying to shop locally myself where ever possible and use Swindon’s many independent coffee shops every chance I get. In recent months I’ve bought gifts fromCatherine Jay and Pink & Green – two start-up artisan businesses in Swindon and even, to get to the main focus of this blog post – Da Paolo’s Eatalian delicatessen on Commercial Road in Swindon.
Exterior of Da Paolo
My favourite section
As well as being a lovely deli from where I purchase luscious olives and tasty cheeses among other things, they also serve the most delicious coffee and at a fantastic price – I visit quite a lot for that alone!
I’ve mentioned the place before in an overview post of Swindon’s coffee scenebut doing the research on shopping locally prompted me to put this post together as Da Paolo’s is an embodiment of many of the espoused benefits of supporting independents.
When using an independent you get specialist knowledge of their goods and you get personal service and a relaxed shopping experience. And you can even have a coffee while you do it. This past Christmas I decided to purchase a hamper of Italian goodies as a gift for a friend. So, with delicious coffee in hand, together with Debbie (partner of Paolo) I selected an assortment of goodies to fit my budget. Then, shortly before Christmas, I collected my hamper all beautifully arranged and packaged with red ribbon. Now THAT’S what I call shopping.
“The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.” ― Erma Bombeck
The odds of going into Paolo’s for a coffee and buying only a coffee are similarly slim!
One of the many benefits of shopping locally is that our custom enables the businesses that we patronise to support the community in which they are based in various ways.
Darkroom Espresso, one of Swindon’s fabulous independent coffee shops for example, supports local artists by holding exhibitions of their work. Da Paolo’s does what it can for charity. Its current charity of choice is Brighter Futures: http://www.gwh.nhs.uk/support-us/about-brighter-futures/ which which supports the staff, patients and families of Great Western Hospital and community health services across Wiltshire. So if the fab coffee and the delicious Italian groceries are not good enough reasons in themselves to hot foot it to Da Paolo’s then this surely is?
Thus I’m more than happy to give a shout-out to a new blog that is concerned with both those things: Bites & Bottles. The owner of the blog is @ThomasLittleUK on Twitter and he is looking for appropriate contributions to it. TWITTER HANDLE FOR THE BLOG: @BitesnBottles
The content of the blog is not necessarily Swindon-focused but of course it can be – and when I send some contributions to it – then it will be! 🙂
But as the blog is ‘owned’ in Swindon and can be about Swindon eateries and drinkeries I reckon it merits a slot on Born again Swindonian. So below is some information from Thomas about his new blog. He’s absolutely right that great food and drink doesn’t necessarily have to be fine dining. That very sentiment is the ethos behind Eggelicious and E2. Indeed, painted on the wall in E2 is a quote that sums up this very notion: “You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.” (Paul Prudhomme) And, in the case of E2 and Eggelicious, never was a truer word spoken.
Bites and Bottles blog @BitesnBottles
‘Bites & Bottles is a brand new blog dedicated to everything food and drink. Great food and drink might come from fine dining or out the side of a van, it doesn’t need to have a label or price tag, what it does need to do is to pass the lips and deliver amazing flavours that you won’t forget in a hurry.
Whether it’s world food, craft beer, fine wine or just a combination of food and drink that you would never have thought of, Bites & Bottles aims to cover it all. Glossy magazine and TV chefs are great at making people feel like they can’t cook or that certain ingredients only belong in pricey restaurants or are reserved for high days and holidays, Bites & Bottles is here to help dispel those assumptions. We’re actively looking for people to contribute to the blog on anything from restaurant reviews, recipes, articles on producers, photos and more! Just drop a line to: email@example.com
If you have something to submit please get in touch, if you love food and drink and want to know more or share what you’ve learned then Bites & Bottles is the place for you.’
It’s a funny old thing really. When I first came to Swindon – about twenty years ago – I used to bemoan the fact that eating choices here were largely limited to curry houses and Italian restaurants. In recent years that’s most certainly changed. Not only can Swindon proudly boast numerous independent coffee shops there are some great independent restaurants too such as Rio – the Brazilian place – my favourite Eggelicious and my favourite curry house (so far), Rangoli. And there are quite a few more worthy of your time and attention.
But to return to the subject of curry. My Indian born son-in-law has often complained about the lack of actual Indian restaurants – given that most curry houses in most places are actually Bangladeshi establishments. Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Bangladeshi food. Heaven forfend! It’s perfectly delicious and I’ve eaten my body weight and more in it over the years. It’s just that it’s not Indian. So when we discovered Rangoli – oh my – the smile on his face was wider than that of the Cheshire Cat. He was thrilled. And now in Swindon we have another restaurant of the actual Indian variety by the name of Pappadams down on Regent Circus – in what was La Dolce Vita. I was fortunate enough to attend the official opening a few days back and below are a few photographs of the occasion. It was a sparkling event in every way. There was a drop or two of very nice Prosecco, (and failing the presence of Bollinger I like a drop of Prosecco), a trio of tiaras, and an MP of the town. I’ve been trying to think of a good collective noun for the tiaras. A ‘glitter’ or a ‘shimmer’ perhaps? Madame Mayor was also present to cut the ribbon – the second time in a few days I’ve bumped into the lovely lady – the first being at the official opening of BunnyPumpkins and the Emporium of Loveliness. I’m not following her – honest!
Anyway, I wish Pappadams every success and look forward to trying the place out ‘properly’ before too long.
I recently published a post from and about the people @the Hubin the Swindon in Business section of this blog so there’s no need to say too much more about it. So this post is by way of sharing a few more photographs of it as I popped in today for a coffee.
I love the sit-up-and-beg red bicycle. It’s a great colour and style. I can ride a bike – though haven’t done for years – but like confidence these days.
Born again Swindonian strikes a pose! 🙂
A coffee shop with a twist, @The Hub you can watch sport on TV, drop your bike in for your repairs, pick up a puncture repair kit …. oh and have a coffee! It’s a place that’s full of beans!
It was back in October 2013 when I first posted about Rangoli – an Indian restaurant down on Groundwell Rd in Swindon. That was my first visit to the place, I’ve been many times since and, indeed, have not been to another curry house in Swindon since – so great is my love! 🙂
So the purpose of this post is to refresh my Rangoli postings as the place itself has been refreshed. The menu has been extended somewhat and the place has been redecorated and piffed up a bit with new tables and chairs. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s now plush and cosy but it’s definitely much less like a canteen than it was. And anyway, to heck with the decor – the food is the thing and in Rangoli the food really is the thing – being actually Indian food as opposed to the Bengali food that one usually gets in curry houses. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Bengali food, it’s perfectly tasty – it’s just that, it’s just that. Not Indian. The Indian Soul Tree wine (the website for Soul Tree) served in Rangoli is also a plus point – it’s very quaffable, very palatable and very, very reasonable. What’s not to like?
I was in on a Monday night in a party of six and it was notable I think that, in a fairly busy place, ours were the only non-Asian faces. I venture to suggest that, that speaks volumes about the food in itself.
Between us we had a veritable banquet consisting of about seven items off the starter menu to share between us, then our mains and two bowls of rice, two bottles of Soul Tree wine and 2/3 beers all of which averaged out at £20 per head. Jolly good value I feel. In Arnie’s immortal words: “I’ll be back.”
I very nearly opted for the Railway Curry – a dish with a history (see below) that is kinda cool to be on the menu in a town with such a rich railway history but in the end opted for Chicken Saagwalla a dish which, as its name implies, had lots of spinach in it and was an equally first class nosh.
“…..is a direct throw back to the days of the British Raj, when travelling by train was considered aristocratic. This very popular and slightly spicy dish was served in Railway Refreshment Rooms and on long distance trains, with Bread or Dinner Rolls. The curry was not too spicy keeping in mind the delicate palates of the British. It was also popular with the Railway staff who had to be on duty for long periods at a stretch.
The story goes that an English army officer found himself ravishingly hungry during his journey. He followed his nose to the kitchen car where spicy mutton curry was simmering. He was offered a taste and burnt his tongue because of the spices. The helpful cook reduced the heat with some coconut milk and served it up. Since then it has become a staple on all First Class Compartments of the train as First Class Railway Mutton Curry.”