The Art & Soul Café in Port Stanley has a warm, welcoming vibe. Located at 291 Bridge Street – just east of the landmark King George VI Lift Bridge and across the street from the Port Stanley Festival Theatre – the restaurant is open from 8am to 4pm daily. One could describe the spot as quaint, elevated by bright paintings by local artists arranged on the walls.
How is the Setting?
Port Stanley is a community in transition. Once a busy working port, the village is shifting fully toward tourism. In 2010, the federal government divested the main harbour to the Municipality of Central Elgin, in which Port Stanley is located, and provided over $13.5M to assist with the clean-up and redevelopment of the area. Subsequently, the municipality has picked up additional properties and made improvements, including a new walking pier and park-space. Environmental remediation work has been undertaken as well. Now, the community has the opportunity to transform the waterfront area further, which should be a major catalyst for ongoing economic development. Restaurants like the Art & Soul Café should only benefit.
Atmosphere & Hygge-Factor
We are fans of the Danish concept of hygge! Basically, this is a word that refers to how we make ourselves comfortable and cosy. The Art & Soul Café has managed to achieve this by distributing wood tables neatly in the space, building a counter and menu board that draw staff and customers together, and allowing lots of natural light to illuminate the artwork on the walls. We also like the ‘Wishing Well’, a cool little design-hack in the centre of the room.
While the café closes daily at 4pm, one wonders how the space would look at night with candles on the tables and candlelight flickering over the paintings. Maybe in the future …
The Art & Soul Café focusses on simple breakfast and lunch offerings. During our visit, Maddie had an omelette and Andrew had the breakfast croissant — both were decent. Really, the genuine treats were the traditional British scones with butter, whipped cream and preserves, a lovely addition to the table and apparently one of the specialities of the owner, Sarah Lockhart.
Food & Drinks
The coffee is fine and there are some delicious strawberry-banana smoothies available, too! Along with breakfast and lunch items, there is an assortment of ‘pastries and sweet things’ to sample, including buttertarts, croissants, gluten-free chocolate brownies and cookies.
Customers walk up to the counter to order and servers bring the food to your table; in our experience, everything went smoothly, and everyone was friendly. Quick and fun …
Did We Feel at Home?
Our test of a restaurant is whether we felt at home during our visit. Why would we want to eat somewhere that makes us uncomfortable, or where the staff seems indifferent? Fortunately the setting, atmosphere, and service at the Art & Soul Café avoids these traps, which is why the place has quickly become a fixture in Port Stanley. Everything feels bright and cosy. Customers tend to linger a little, just to enjoy the ambiance a bit more. The Art & Soul Café feels like home.
Article by Andrew Gunn with contributions by Maddie King