A FORMER Masterchef contestant has taken over a Newport café based in an art gallery.

Barnabas Arts House, on New Ruperra Street in Newport, is a creative hub for the community – it has gallery space, performance space, office space, and a café which was previously run by gallery staff.

But now, former Masterchef contestant, Francesca Keirle – who made it into the top 12 in the eleventh series of the show in 2015 – has taken over the café (with help from her family) and given it a unique spin.

Francesca’s Café, based in Barnabas Arts House, offers a menu of vegetarian or vegan dishes, with the option of making vegetarian dishes vegan. To make this possible Ms Kierle has invested in plant-based products and tasted tested for quality.

Ms Kierle, who was formerly a teacher at Caerleon Comprehensive School, said: “Teaching is a joy, but it’s changed so much.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the food industry and it was a bit of a snap decision; there is already a kitchen and equipment, so no need to heavily invest.

"It was the opportunity I’d been looking for.”

Within an hour of the job being posted there were 13 serious applicants and – following a week of interviews – Ms Kierle was chosen to take over the café which officially opened on Tuesday, August 3.

South Wales Argus: Advertising boards for Barnabas Arts House and Francesca's CafeAdvertising boards for Barnabas Arts House and Francesca's Cafe

Ms Kierle admits that there were a “few hiccups” – along with a few nights of thinking ‘what am I doing?’ – but there is a “real buzz” at the café with her children earning money by helping out.

“On my first day I was worried I’d open up and nothing would happen, but lots of people have been here,” said Mr Kierle.

“I’d not been to Barnabas Arts House before, but it’s such a gem and the community here has a heart of gold.

“It’s been great and it’s really satisfying to see clean plates. I hope this place will become a destination for good food and a warm welcome.”

Along with vegetarian and vegan dishes there are gluten free options, with a focus on freshly made food – the bread is all freshly made and Ms Kierle uses ingredients she has grown herself including lettuce and beans.


"People seem to have an unlimited capacity to eat bread," joked Ms Kierle.

"Customers appreciate that I don’t want to feed them rubbish; if you use great ingredients and treat them well you don’t have to do a lot."

The menu includes breakfast and brunch, lunch – including soup of the day and daily specials – along with paninis, sandwiches and hot or cold drinks.

South Wales Argus: The menu includes soup of the day with a gluten-free bread (or regular) optionThe menu includes soup of the day with a gluten-free bread (or regular) option

The takeover of the café means that Jan Martin, who owns and runs Barnabas Arts House, has some extra energy to focus on re-opening one of her other ventures: The Phyllis Maud Performance Space.

The 25-capacity space, which was formerly a diused toilet block, opened in 2018 – selling out for performances in music, comedy, and more - but has been closed for more than a year due to lockdown restrictions in Wales.

Ms Martin said: “The café [at Bamabas Arts House] has been run by gallery staff – now that Francesca has taken over a lot of my energy which was focused on food can be used to help get the Phyllis Maud back up and and running.

“It has been a big step for me to let go of something, but Francesca is an excellent addition to Barnabas Arts House.

“Because of the beauty of the building it seemed wasteful not to bring excellent food along with excellent art. It’s a one stop place for culture, art, food, and company.”