Food & Drink

Café Central offers lunch with a purpose in Derry, helping Foyle Women’s Aid and building skills - Eating Out

Its purpose - supporting women into employment and helping women and children affected by domestic abuse - is reason to go, but it’s the good food on offer that will bring people back

Cafe Central in Derry. Picture Margaret McLaughlin  Please by-line  23-4-2024
Cafe Central is an inspiring new venture in Derry (MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN PHOTOGRAPHY )
Café Central,
7-9 Bishop Street,
BT48 6PL
028 7141 6800

Café Central is a project developed and run by Foyle Women’s Aid, a social enterprise that delivers an employment academy helping women in and around Derry to learn new skills and build a future for themselves.

It’s only been open a couple of weeks, so things are very much in the early stages, but there will be employment opportunities in the café for graduates of the academy, which has been funded through the council’s labour market programme.

Any and all profits from the café will go back into FWA’s services for women and children impacted by domestic abuse.

Cafe Central in Derry. Picture Margaret McLaughlin  Please by-line  23-4-2024
Cafe Central is a great addition to Derry (MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN PHOTOGRAPHY )

There can be no doubt this is a worthy cause, and that Café Central is providing an admirable service. But it’s still a café. It has to provide an admirable service to its customers. It has to hold its own against competition from the half dozen or more cafés within a couple of minutes’ walking distance of its Bishop Street premises.

Can it? Yes, I’d say it can. Okay, there were issues when my brother and I visited for lunch, but they were minor, and we left fully intending to come back often.

It’s a bright and welcoming café, tastefully decorated mainly in white, with a racing green accent wall, pale yellow circles like suns, stylish details, and a floor to ceiling window looking out over Bishop Street. It’s a fresh and cheery place, with a lovely lightness about it. On the day we visited, three of the women serving had just completed the classroom element of their academy training and were on their first day of work experience. You wouldn’t have guessed it. They knew what they were doing and their smiles were genuine.

Cafe Central in Derry. Picture Margaret McLaughlin  Please by-line  23-4-2024
Cafe Central supports the work of Foyle Women's Aid (MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN PHOTOGRAPHY )

As I said, there were issues. My brother’s eyes lit up when he saw the chicken curry on the menu but, when we were told the accompanying rice would take over 10 minutes, he changed his order to cottage pie. Then we found that they’d run out of cottage pie, so he settled for the pork tacos. By the time we’d gone through this slight palaver, the rice would have been ready.

To say he settled for the tacos does them a disservice, though. They were good – a couple of small flatbreads laden with soft, well-cooked pulled pork, nicely seasoned. With the addition of the pickled vegetables and chilli and mustard mayo, it all made for a lovely light lunch – sharp, hot, and full of flavour.

I’d had my eye on the tacos, and they only went to my brother because of the issues with the rice and cottage pie. Running out of things to choose, I went for the old staple, the soup and sandwich combo. The sandwich was egg and onion, which is pretty much all there is to say about it – perfectly acceptable, just standard fare.

The soup, however, was a real knockout. Most of the time, when you ask what soup is on, the answer is “vegetable”. Here, the answer was spiced carrot and potato. I loved it: sweetness from the carrots, body and earthiness from the potato, a hint of coconut, and a real, glowing heat from the spices, all giving a deep, lingering flavour.

We ordered a couple of salads and some traybakes to take home with us for later. We all raved about the salads. The butternut squash was a lovely addition to the crunch of the other vegetables – buttery, soft, and sweet – but the feta and pear salad was the one that really did it for me. The saltiness of the cheese went perfectly with the sweet pear, and the whole dish was coated in a sharp, well-balanced dressing.

The traybakes were something of a mixed bag. The brownie was a bit dry and the sticky toffee cake didn’t work for me – it should really be a cuddly pudding, and this lacked the sauce that makes it special. The scone was good, though, and I enjoyed the orange and almond cake.

Café Central is still finding its feet, but it’ll get there very soon. Its purpose is reason to go, but the good food and the lovely atmosphere are what will bring people back.

The bill

Feta salad - £9.00

Butternut squash salad - £8.50

Pork tacos - £9.00

Soup and sandwich - £8.00

Sticky toffee pudding cake - £4.00

Chocolate brownie - £4.00

Orange and almond cake - £4.00

Plain scone - £2.50

Total: £49.00

Cafe Central in Derry. Picture Margaret McLaughlin  Please by-line  23-4-2024