An Interview with: Medina

In our August 2016 edition we caught up with Medina Rees on the  verge of her move to the site of the old Talbot Hotel on Market Street.
Eighteen months later Huw met up with her again to find out how life has been since the relocation.

So Medina, tell me a bit about yourself.
Well I’m a wife and a mother to two daughters, Ella 12 and Amali 7. I returned to my hometown in 2005 having done some exploring and having come to the conclusion that this is a lovely place to live. I’ve spent most of my life working in the catering industry and opened my own business, called Medina, in 2015. Most of the time I love being self-employed, but I do miss the
paid holidays! I love food, cooking and eating out. I spend a lot of time thinking about food. Otherwise, when I get time I love to travel, take long walks and go camping.

Now the last time we spoke you were on the verge of relocating here from your former base in Cambrian Place. Looking around it seems that the move was a success?
Thanks Huw, sometimes it’s hard to believe that it’s only just over a year and a half since we started trading here. We’ve evolved and matured a lot in that time. Cambrian Place was an ideal first step, but these premises have allowed us to achieve many of our original aims.

For those people who haven’t been here yet, what sort of thing do you offer and how would you describe your ‘style’?
We’re a cafe and food shop. We offer breakfast, lunch and dinner or you can come in at any time just for coffee and cake or a glass of wine. We make almost everything that we sell; there’s always something baking here and we have a shop where you can buy our bread and cakes, as well as lots of other essential stuff like fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, wine, beer, chocolate, coffee… Our style is fresh, Mediterranean food and we love the Middle Eastern flavours in particular. Mezze, grilled meats, salads, plenty of aromatic spices, pomegranate, yoghurt, fresh mint tea, honey, baklava - hopefully that gives a good picture!

It does indeed and that’s quite a selection! You must have a good team around you?
Twenty-two people work here now. Some part time, some full time but all play their part in keeping things rolling. Making and serving this much fresh food each day is quite a task and the people who work here are massively important to everything this place is about. Some of these guys have been with me since the beginning and Cheuk, who heads up the kitchen, is an old friend who only came to help me get started but is now my business partner. I’m very lucky.

I see you’ve even got a book shop here. How did that come about?
This is a big space and a huge jump from Cambrian Place. For it to succeed I felt it important to diversify as much as possible. It seemed logical to sublet the smaller room to give us one less area to worry about. The space within our space wouldn’t suit every kind of business, but we were fortunate that Martin of Ystwyth Books was interested. What we both offer works well together.

Last time we featured you in the EGO you mentioned that to some extent you welcomed the influx of chains into the town. After nearly a couple of years running a much bigger venue, do you still share that view?
Absolutely. I still have no problem with the chains so long as we don’t let ourselves become some carbon copy town. We have great independents in Aber and I hope to see more. In many ways, the chains cannot compete with an independent business. Support the local businesses wherever possible, use the chains when it suits.

What’s next for Medina’s? Could you ever foresee you becoming a bit of a chain yourselves?!
I don’t think so but never say never! There’s other things I’d rather do first but I’ll tell you more about that another day. Right now, it’s about getting better and better at what we’re doing, honing all areas and doing more. We always want to do more.

The sort of food you serve is very much on trend in far bigger towns and cities than here. What is it about Aberystwyth that has kept you here?
The people of Aberystwyth like good food as much as anywhere. We are very well supported on a local level and that is key to our success. Aberystwyth can offer quite a lot to its residents
and visitors, I’m proud to be a part of that.

If you could sum up the Medina brand in three words, what would they be?

Well it’s been a pleasure as always Medina but as a final cheeky request... could we have a nice EGO Token please?
Of course. I’d really like to let you all know about our afternoon tea having only started this recently. Please see the beautiful picture in this feature taken by Manon Houston! All homemade and just £20 per person for the stand and tea or £25 with a glass of Prosecco. To give you a taster we’d like to offer April 2018 EGO readers a token for a Scone with clotted cream & jam, a pot of tea and a shortbread biscuit for just £3.95.  Redeeming this voucher will also give you 10% off our full afternoon tea if booked and enjoyed before October 31st 2018. Please come and give us a try! (EGO Token Valid for April 2018 Only)