Regent Street’s first ever artisan cafe has opened today next to the University of Westminster, with displays of student art for sale.
Customers will be able to sip a cup of artisan coffee and try seasonal food at 309 Regent Street while viewing student work which is also available for purchase.
First conceived last September, the Gallery Coffee Shop opened on Thursday in the space previously occupied by the university’s internal cafe, and now looks straight out on to the iconic shopping street.
Pioneering the initiative was David Vacher, the university’s director of commercial services. He said: “Launching The Gallery Coffee Shop simultaneously as an art exhibition space and as the only independent coffee shop on Regent Street serving sustainably sourced artisan coffee and food, is an incredible opportunity.
“The university is passionate about engaging the public as well as coming up with creative ideas for supporting students both financially and through enhancing their employability and this project does all of that.”
The site will both provide financial support but also exposure for art students, with displays changing every two to three months.
The cafe showcases dozens of different pieces of art, from digital photography to recycled books. Course Leader Andre Pinkowski who selected the pieces on show said: “I am extremely happy to see such a wide spread of work in that space. It’s a testimony to our students, to their commitment and professionalism.”
He added: “I think it would be great if we find the confidence to showcase student work, not just in the university but maybe in other places. Our students produce amazing work and I think we need to be confident in showing that work wherever we can.”
University of Westminster Vice Chancellor Dr Peter Bonfield said he was immensely proud of the students. He told WT that if the gallery cafe was successful, the university would look at similar sites at its other campuses including on Marylebone Road and Fitzrovia.
Aside from art, the cafe will also have a unique food and drink offering, including sustainable coffee from independent farmers. The university has teamed up with Extract Coffee Roasters to source coffee from Peru and Honduras.
Speaking to WT, Martin and Joshua representing the coffee roasters explained that the Honduran coffee sold in the shop on Regent Street was from Liquidambar, an organic farm part owned by female activist Delmy Regalado to provide a safe environment for women. All coffee offered will be ‘speciality coffee’ – scoring over 80 out of 100 on the scale used by the Specialty Coffee Association, including Extract’s seasonally changing “Betty” blend.
Among the students to have their work recognised and for sale were BA students in Fashion Marketing and Promotion, Greta Lukoseviciute and Migle Vainauskaite. Greta’s piece is entitled “Consistent Changes” and based around sunset, while Migle’s. Both said it was a ‘great opportunity’ to have their work on display.
Visionary of the cafe Vacher described the opening as the pinnacle of his 18 year career at UoW. “I’ve been at working at UoW for 18 years. I’ve been involved with a lot of projects. I can tell you this is what I call Westminster at its best.”
He joked: “We’ve seen people from Caffe Nero, Starbucks popping their heads and saying ‘What on earth is that?'”
Main image: University of Westminster.