Archive for November, 2018

Afternoon in Guildford

November 30, 2018

Cold in the shade, pleasantly warm in the sun.

Adding insult to injury, former head of Network Fail awarded CBE, train companies try to justify a hike in rail fares in January.

What looks like a disgusting concoction on offer at Harris + Hoole, a Christmas filter coffee. Caffe Nero doing their best to destroy a once excellent coffee shop.

Organised crime, what appear to be Albanian beggars on the street, all with the same badly written card, please help me I am hungry. They are not the local homeless.

Lunch at Bamboo Shoots. Honey crunch chicken with brown rice. As always excellent. Today busy, but then I did arrive lunchtime, usually I am early afternoon.

I was tempted to try tea, but instead decide on coffee at Krema.

Guildford Rangers handing out a newsletters strictly speaking a news sheet, a single A4 page of zilch content. One in four kids have mental health problems, Experience Guildford encouraging taking of selfies. Car parks full to overflowing at Christmas, Experience Guildford offering free car parking. These are some of the many scams Experience Guildford dream up to waste public money.

Surrey Hills Coffee as always empty as I walk past. Literally no customers. I cannot see how they survive, always empty. Coffee not good, vegan cakes disgusting.

Caracoli surprisingly busy. I ask when are they closing? They look quite shocked when I say not time of day, when is the store closing? Appalling staff kept in the dark. Another member of staff, surprised I know, no one is supposed to know, admits they are closing some time in the New Year.

I am talking to a lady, and let her know closing sometime in the New Year. Whilst we are talking, what I assume to be a cappuccino passes us by on the way to a table. Cup size too large, looked disgusting, chocolate dumped on top.

That is one of their problems, poor quality coffee. Another is not knowing what they are. Are they a deli, a coffee shop? Exasperated by Vulture Capitalist wanting a return on their investment. It is not possible to creates a coffee chain, not unles aping Starbucks.

Sticking a large A-board outside obstructing the High Street falsely claiming serving best coffee in Guildford is asking for trouble, at the very least opening up to ridicule.

V60 at Krema.

Krema busy, I am hard pushed to find a table.

Each time I visit Krema, there are more people.

Instead of walking down the High Street or cutting through Tunsgate Quarter, I head off down Castle Street to the cheesemonger end of Chapel Street. They are gobsmacked when I tell then of a shop recently opened selling plastic wrapped cheese laced with ginger.

I query the seats outside. They tell me they now serve toasties.

Look in M&S. Olive oil spread healthy? Think again. Bulked out with palm oil, bad for planet, bad for health, high in saturated fats. Vegetables oils, including palm oil, highest content. Begs the question why not called palm oil spread or vegetable oil spread?

M&S not the only ones conning the public.

Bertolli olive oil spread, heavily promoted as healthy alternative, bulked out with palm oil.

Why are they allowed to advertise and yet Iceland Palm oil Christmas commercial banned?

To the Station.

FCB Coffee kiosk, guest coffee Costa Rica from Hundred House Coffee.

Empty Christmas boxes on FCB Coffee kiosk Guildford Station wrapped in red ribbon. Why not fill with bags of guest coffee, drop loyalty cards with e-mail address in a pot for a Christmas draw?

1730 Guildford to Ascot via Aldershot only running as far as Aldershot, where safety checks will be carried out on the train. The train then cancelled. No train until 1800. Yet another example of the failing rail network.

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Cold damp misty Friday afternoon in Guildford

November 28, 2018

Last week, cold, damp and misty Friday in Guildford.

Excellent lunch at Bamboo Shoots in Jeffries Passage. Hot, freshly prepared, good service, far better than Pho in Tunsgate.

Surrey Hills Coffee as always deserted. Well ok two customers. 10% off everything not pulling the punters in, if have Guildford book of offers. A different person serving the coffee. At least she was not stood there looking bored stiff. Once have a poor reputation for coffee, nigh impossible to recover.

Cappuccino, hot chocolate in Krema.

Walking through Tunsgate Quarter, as always deserted,

Failing tea and coffee shops in Lincoln

November 27, 2018

What could be a microcosm of anywhere, a tale of failing, closed and for sale tea and coffee shops in Lincoln.

Tickleberry Lane Bakery & Tea House opened over 18 months ago. It was doomed to failure as did everything possible that could be done wrong.

Poor quality tea and coffee. When prominently display serving teapigs, may as well run up a flag stating we know nothing about tea. The coffee over-roasted catering supply commodity coffee. On the other side of the street Coffee Aroma serving high quality tea and coffee.

The serving of lunch was upstairs via narrow steep stairs, but no menu on display outside the shop. No one is going to walk up steep narrow stairs with no idea what is on offer when they arrive.

Rather late in the day, a few months before they closed, they placed a couple of tables and chairs in the window. Too little, too late.

The writing was on the wall, firstly claimed closed as not busy, then claimed illness, finally a To Let sign. Other businesses that were ordering bread and cakes complained of unreliable delivery. The staff walked out complaining they had not been paid.

Two weeks or more after the To Let sign went up the useless local press reported it had closed, it had actually closed many months before, and regurgitated as news what had been written on facebook.

The Angel Coffee House is up for sale. A couple of years ago, it would have put some squats to shame. A major refit and yes has improved, but not the coffee.

The owner will give advice, if sold, but hopefully not on coffee. And has ideas on expansion. Which begs the question, why, if these are such good ideas, why were they not implemented?

Increasing takeaway, especially if using Deliveroo, is a retrograde step, not unless do not care about the environment, or exploitation of serfs working for an app.

We must reduce the grab it and go takeaway culture part of pointless consumerism, encourage relax with specialty coffee served in glass or ceramic.

Pimento Tea Rooms half way up Steep Hill has closed. Once excellent for tea and cakes, new owners took over and destroyed the business.

Steep Hill Tea Rooms, a tea shop at the top of Steep Hill one of many tea shops on Steep Hill has closed. When I passed by in September, the premises gutted, the name still on the window.

New tea shops have opened on The Strait and in Bailgate. All chasing the same tourist pound. When there is money to be made, for example AsylumX the recent steampunk festival, they still close early.

Coffee by the Arch is for sale. Catering supply coffee, service poor, tea supplied by tea pigs. Again one of many tea and coffee shops in Bailgate, Steep Hill and The Strait chasing the same tourist pound.

Coffee by the Arch was for sale, but the sale fell through early November when the buyer pulled out at the eleventh hour. Not clear if it is still on the market. At the time of writing it is still listed as cafe lease for sale. Owner has complained on their facebook page of inaccurate reporting by the media.

It is not helped by a tea shop of very similar name in Bailgate. Someone failed to do their homework.

For any new business the odds are stacked against success. 80% of new businesses fail within the first 18 months. And even if make it past 18 months it is not plain sailing, the chance of becoming a sustainable business is only 1 in 20.

Where once, maybe up to five years ago, could open a tea or coffee shop serving low quality tea in tea bags, catering supply coffee, not employ skilled baristas, not be prepared to invest in the required equipment, not any more. To do so is to be on a hiding to nothing.

For low quality tea and coffee, we have the corporate chains, why therefore open up in direct competition? This is like the fools and their money easily parted who take on the tenancy of a tied pub, the pubcos see you coming, another mug to relieve of their redundancy money or life savings.

Lincoln has three quality coffee shops, Coffee Aroma, Madame Waffle and Base Camp. Any one of these failing, failed or for sale businesses has the potential to be a quality coffee shop, serving specialty coffee in glass or ceramic. They will not be in competition, specialty coffee shops never are, they help to expand the market by introducing coffee drinkers to how coffee should be served, what it should look like, taste like.

There is never any point in entering a crowded market. Create the market, be the big fish in the pond because you have created the pond, then expand the pond.

In addition the focus has to be on quality, being the best. To try to compete on price, to lower quality, is to engage in a race to the bottom, as there will always be someone who can undercut you.

In Winchester, two years ago, Coffee Lab opened, spread by word of mouth, followed by Coffee Lab Academy, followed by The Square. In the meantime Flat White kiosk, followed by Flat White coffee shop. They are not in competition, they have grown the market for specialty coffee.

In Guildford, Krema serving specialty coffee, busy since it opened. Coffee shops serving poor quality coffee, pretentious coffee shops where the owner talks bollocks on focus groups, brands and marketing, are either empty or closed.

It is like a tied pub serving what masquerades as beer from a corporate chemical plant, competing in a shrinking market where pubs are closing every week. Open a coffee ship serving undrinkable catering supply coffee, in competition with the corporate coffee chains in a stagnant if not shrinking market.

The irony, far more likely to find quality craft beer, even decent wine, in a coffee shop than a pub, and far more convivial company. Little Tree, half a dozen craft beers from different Greek Islands. The Underdog, over twenty different craft beers. Warehouse, over 200 different wines.

And yet no one learns.

Ye Olde Mouse House, proclaimed to be a cheese cum coffee shop, a weird combination, has opened in the former Steep Hill Tea Rooms at the top of Steep Hill.

The name says it all. Maybe a better name, Ye Olde Tourist Trap.

They talk of cheese as a brand. Cheese is not a brand not unless talking of plastic wrapped Kraft plastic cheese.

And yes, their adulterated cheese is sold prepackaged in plastic, other cheese coated in wax.

In an Appendix to Reinventing the Wheel excellent advice by Bronwen Percival on buying cheese:

Buy unadulterated cheese … if a cheesemaker hides behind added ingredients, whether smoke, added fruits or spices … it is either a tragedy … or a sign their milk was devoid of character in the first place … Buy raw-milk cheese … Buy complex cheese … Buy from a cheesemonger … good cheesemongers are curators of good cheese.

Adulterating cheese is akin to adding syrups to coffee. Don’t. It either ruins a good coffee or is used to hide bad coffee.

And their use of social media to say the least perverse. A badly filmed video of their coffee shop located in a cellar. A picture of a dog tied up outside in the cold and wet(since deleted). Questions posted on their cheese and coffee, not only lack the courtesy to answer, the questions are deleted.

Footfall on Steep Hill has in recent years dramatically fallen. The only way to attract business, to offer quality, word of mouth.

For quality cheese in Lincoln, The Cheese Society, top of the High Street, bottom of The Strait. Or if in Bailgate next to the Post Office try Redhill Farm Shop which has a small selection of quality local cheeses. There is also local cheese on the monthly farmers market in Castle Square.

Cappuccino at CUP Reading Minster

November 26, 2018

CUP hidden behind Reading Minster is worth finding as always excellent coffee in a pleasant environment.

Today, a cold wintry afternoon in Reading was no exception, an excellent cappuccino.

Cold wintry late November afternoon in Reading

November 26, 2018

A cold wintry afternoon in Reading, but at least not raining.

As I am about to board the train to Reading, doors closed and train drives off. Half an hour wait for next train.

I go direct to Reading Town Hall from Reading Station.

As I expected to find, CUP Reading Town Hall empty.

Chicken noodle soup in Mum Mum, back to hard to find chicken.

I show the biodegradable cutlery I had picked up from Pure at Waterloo Station last week. Nothing to state who supplies.

I wander to phone shop alley to have a chat with one of the phone shops.

Walking down the alley leading to Reading Minster and CUP I do not see owner in Anonymous Coffee. It has always been empty when I pass by. What is the point on opening a coffee shop, not being there and employing someone who cannot make coffee?

I found Reading Minster open, wander in.

I did not notice times when open, but appears to close at dusk. At 3-30 a lady closed a side door.

CUP hidden behind Reading Minster is worth finding as always excellent coffee in a pleasant environment.

Today no exception, an excellent cappuccino.

I catch 4-30 train. Crowded, but not as crowded at five o’clock train. I could have caught a train at 4-50 but it probably would have been packed.

Lunch and cappuccino in Coffee at 33

November 25, 2018

On a cold misty mid-week in Brighton last week a little detour to Blend and Brew Brighton, then retrace my steps and down to the seafront.

It was then back to North Laine.

Infinity Foods Kitchen, I did not fancy, Iydea was not good either, and has not been good all year.

I looked in Magazine Brighton, then to Coffee at 33.

The filled rolls looked excellent, and as I was still hungry from my half eaten lunch at Iydea, it was a filled roll and a cappuccino.

Both were excellent.

My friend Georgia chose hot chocolate.

Coffee at 33 was where I would have eaten had I not walked down to and along the seafront.

Coffee at McDonald’s looks and tastes disgusting

November 24, 2018

This what is classed as news in Nottingham, takeaway coffee looks and tastes disgusting from McDonald’s.

For some perverse reason Nottingham Post decided to send one of their hacks out to taste the coffee at McDonald’s.

Column inch filling drivel which illustrates why our local papers are failing.

What did they expect to find, quality coffee?

Apart from being column inch filling drivel, this is little more than promotion for McDonald’s but without the obligatory warning at the top.

When a coffee shop adds syrups, it is to mask the taste of their awful coffee. When see a row of syrups, it is like flying a warning flag, we serve crap coffee.

Yuk: a large shot of delicious Arabica bean espresso, blended with a caramel biscuit flavour syrup and steamed organic milk from UK dairies. Topped with a swirl of chocolate cream and a caramel drizzle.

McDonald’s peddles junk food, we have an obesity crisis, which is why junk food adverts have been banned by London Mayor Sadiq Khan from the London Transport network. Nottingham should follow suit.

I would no more wish to eat at McDonald’s, let alone drink coffee. Nor would I wish to drink coffee in any of the corporate coffee chains. Nor would I wish to drink coffee out of a takeaway coffee cup.

What makes this article all the worse, is that it is possible to obtain great coffee in Nottingham from independent specialty coffee shops, local businesses that care about coffee, make a visit to Nottingham worth while, that give character and a sense of place, that recycle money within the local economy.

200 Degrees near Nottingham Station, roast their own coffee. Excellent for lunch. Coffee not great, but better than the corporate chains.

200 Degrees at Flying Horse Walk, dark and gloomy, lacking in ambience.

Cartwheel Coffee, roast their own coffee. Excellent cakes and coffee.

The Specialty Coffee Shop, excellent coffee, constantly rotating guest coffee.

Wired, excellent coffee and cakes, a wide ever changing selection of guest coffee.

Also visit Cobden Chambers opposite Wired, several independent businesses in a courtyard. A must visit Ideas on Paper.

Outpost Coffee, roast their own coffee. Excellent coffee and cakes.

Cold misty afternoon in Farnham

November 24, 2018

A cold misty afternoon in Farnham.

Robert Dyas hardware shop in Downing Street, 4,000 mA powebanks, were £9-99, now half price at £4-99. If buy, given a voucher, 15% off everything, apart from Black Friday, offer only valid until Monday.

Cappuccino in Krema.

Third week running, bananas rotting on the shelves in Waitrose.

Thai meal Maria’s Cafe

November 22, 2018

Waterloo Station, tired after trek to Dark Mountain Terra book launch, several minutes wait for a train and platform not yet showing on display board.

I decided to walk to Lower Marsh around the back of Waterloo Station and find something to eat in Maria’s Cafe.

It was packed and noisy. I nearly did not stay but a pleasant Thai girl found me a table.

Cashew nuts and pork stir fried served with rice was excellent.

The only problem, a nearby table full of noisy drunken yobs. I relocated to another table to get further away from them.

On leaving the restaurant, I said they had to deal with the problem, otherwise they would lose all their quality customers.

An Asian couple who left at the same time as I did, said they left as soon as they finished their meal because it was impossible to relax.

They were pleased when I said it was not usually like this as they had not been before and enjoyed their meal. They agreed, something had to be done about drunken yobs, either asked to quieten down or asked to leave as disturbing other diners.

 

Dark Mountain Terra book launch at Baldwin Gallery

November 22, 2018

Dark Mountain Terra book launch at Baldwin Gallery, a trek out to south east London, a nightmare to find.

Before setting off, I ask of the Baldwin Gallery, a fee, need to book, how to find?

Sadly clueless on the use of social media. No reply, by the time I do eventually receive a reply, too late, but they did have the courtesy to apologise.

  • broadcast —> one to many
  • social —> interaction
  • network – many to many

Social media is not broadcast, the clue is in the name, social network.

Train from Charing Cross to Dartford, alight at Lee.

Can I find Baldwin Gallery, no.

When in the vicinity and unable to find, I ask a passing local. No he has never heard of.

I pass by and find myself in Greenwich. I retrace my steps.

I find the venue, Baldwin Gallery, eventually.

I expect to find no one there, I am surprised to find quite a few have turned up, maybe twenty or more.

The original concept of Dark Mountain, thought provoking essays and short stories, art and poetry, was excellent. I was happy to support. But the reality, incomprehensible writing badly written, very little worth reading, the art badly reproduced. And then to be insulted with a poor quality paperback when had subscribed to what Dark Mountain describe as ‘Each issue takes the form of a beautifully-produced hardback.’

The evening was reading from Terra.

Nothing more boring than reading what has been written, I can do that myself. Public reading of poetry a different matter, it is meant to be read out loud. Far more interesting is for the contributors to talk about the subject they have written about.

Reading of a short story, a postman posted to back of beyond, I must have missed something, as the end was back at the beginning.

Reading of two essays, a native Indian massacre, the struggle of Palestinians, deserved deeper exploration, which would have been been possible had the contributors discussed their contribution not read from it. Worse still, it was a waste of there being present.

One of the criticisms of Dark Mountain, apart from too much pretentious badly written incomprehensible drivel, is the typeface, too small, not easy to read.

What was Terra?

I thought next volume, but when I saw a tiny slim volume, I thought no, must be a supplementary book, especially when I learnt this was the second book launch.

The topic was travel, a sense of place, how we interact with the landscape, how the landscape interacts with us.

Terra is the next volume, the typeface microscopic, needing a magnifying glass to read.

Copies of Terra were on sale. I did not see any sold. Nor did I see early volumes of Dark Mountain on sale.

At £20 for a slim volume, too pricey, especially when paid for by subscription, unlike most publications which go from publication to remainder to pulp.

It was only later when I checked the Dark Mountain website I learnt why no other volumes on sale, all sold out. Only available as a pdf file. I would recommend upload to leanpub and have in an e-format that flows as is more suited to reading on a tablet or e-reader or smartphone than pdf, though pdf would still be a format to select from.

Interesting exhibits at the Baldwin Gallery, strong Mexican influence, or at least Cenrtral America.