Archive for December, 2018

The Old Mouse House Cheese Shop & Coffee Bar

December 31, 2018

The Old Mouse House Cheese Shop & Coffee Bar is a weird set up, cheese and coffee.

If walk in, not obvious a coffee shop, as through the back, though a glimpse of their espresso machine from the cheese shop provides a hint of more beyond.

It took several visits over Christmas and New Year to find the coffee shop open, cheese shop not always open or closed early.

According to their own facebook page, coffee shop in the cellar they say downstairs, it is not it is a tiny room out the back, climb two steps. Cosy would be the word.

Also a little room upstairs reached by narrow steep stairs. No handrail.

It is also necessary to climb the steep narrow stairs to reach the toilets. Not accessible to those with physical disabilities or the frail and elderly.

The coffee Stokes, the tea tea pigs.

A bakery cum tea shop opposite Coffee Aroma in the town centre, Stokes coffee, tea pigs tea, lasted all of nine months. Clearly no lessons learnt.

It could though be worse, tea and coffee supplied by Lincoln Tea and Coffee.

A row of syrups on a back shelf. A sure sign of bad coffee.

One cappuccino ordered. Cup size too large the larger size.

Having explored upstairs, I found my cappuccino awaiting me on a table when I returned downstairs.

WTF, this a CAPPUCCINO. Dribbling down the side, spilt in the saucer.

What I assumed to be a chocolate melting in the saucer.

The coffee looked disgusting, chocolate sprinkled on top.

Not only looked disgusting, tasted disgusting, served scalding hot, undrinkable.

I took one sip and left untouched.

I asked of the cheese counter the cheese.

Dunno, replied the girl behind the cheese counter, ask her out back.

Her out back, who made the coffee, daughter of the cheesemaker, cannot tell you how we make our cheese, it is a secret, if we told you everyone would copy us.

This is the same bullshit I am fed in coffee shops serving bad coffee, cannot tell you who supplies the coffee as other coffee shops would copy us.

I politely tell them of transparency, direct trade, traceability through roasterie back to the farm.

I had visions of cows eating seaweed or the marram grass in Skegness.

They buy in the milk, pay a fair price, or so claimed.

The cheese Lymn Bank Cheese, the finest Skeggie adulterated fake cheddar 17 different flavours, including ginger, all identical size wrapped in plastic. Some of the cheese encased in wax.

The odds are stacked against any new business. 80% fail in the first 18 months.

Five years ago may have got away with opening a coffee shop serving bad coffee. Not today. You have two weeks to prove yourself. People will check you out. If they like your coffee they will return, bring their friends, if not, they will tell their friends not to bother.

A coffee shop has to have a quality espresso machine, quality grinder, skilled barista, buy quality coffee, coffee ground fresh for each shot, precise measurements, weigh the coffee, extraction time, temperature. And with repeat consistency from one cup to the next.

For bad coffee we have the chains. Every cafe in Lincoln serves badly made Stokes low quality catering supply cheap commodity coffee. Why join the list? And if wished to try Stokes they would visit Stokes.

Nor is there any excuse for using poor quality tea pigs. Even less excuse when on Steep Hill have Imperial Teas.

But a quality coffee roastery or tea merchant would need to be convinced you have the expertise else they get a bad name.

No outside seating. Essential these days for a coffee shop to have outside seating.

In Lincoln there are three excellent coffee shops, Coffee Aroma, Madame Waffle, Base Camp. In the spring 200 Degrees will open, coffee mediocre at best, but better than the corporate chains.

Low quality cheese can buy in a supermaket.

A cheese shop has to have quality cheese, rare breed cows out on pasture not the black and white bulk milk producers, unpasteurised milk.

Heed the advice of Bronwen Percival on buying cheese in the Appendix to Reinventing the Wheel.

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.

Their use of social media to say the least perverse. A badly filmed video of their coffee shop located out the back. 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.

And no, not the Rolls-Royce of coffee machines.

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

Who are the demographics? The tourist are nigh non-existent, and visitors from Europe are accustomed to quality cheese. Are German visitors going to wish to buy a waxed cheesed stamped with a Lancaster WWII bomber that may have atomised their grandparents?

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.

Earlier I had excellent lunch at The Cheese Society. Walking up The Strait and Steep Hill, passing many closed business, it was going from the sublime to the ridiculous.

On my back down I passed by The Cheese Society, still packed.

I passed Madame Waffle, it too was packed.

I later returned to Madame Waffle and had a cappuccino. A pleasure, as is always a well made coffee. The difference a skilled barista and quality coffee makes.

Quality, service, word-of-mouth, counts.

Attrition of indie businesses on The Strait and Steep Hill

December 31, 2018

Walking up The Strait and Steep Hill, quite shocking the number of closed, failing or for sale independent businesses. More what one would expect in a run down town centre than what was once named only a few years ago the No 1 street in the country.

Why, what has caused this collapse?

One factor is the reliance on tourists. The tourist footfall has collapsed. The principle cause of this apart from maybe fewer tourists, is the bus that takes people from the High Street to Castle Hill, depriving them of an interesting walk, and for the local businesses loss of opportunist footfall.

Many running the businesses are clueless.

Christmas and New Year is when there are a lot of tourists milling around. And what do the local businesses do, they close. They will reopen in the New Year when it will be dead until Easter.

Lincoln Castle closed. The Tourist Information Office closed.

And the excuse for being closed. It is Christmas and New Year.

It would be better to be open, then take a well earned January break relaxing in Tenerife.

Coffee Bobbins closed over Christmas New Year rumoured For Sale.

Undrinkable coffee from Lincoln Tea and Coffee, tea tea pigs tea owned by India conglomerate Tata, Tetley under any other name, a recipe for disaster.

Modern Classics, a greasy spoon cafe with Mod memorabilia, closed a couple of years ago. Has remained empty ever since.

Lincolnshire Live, claimed a mystery it was closed. Not really, lack of customers. Maybe hacks should get out and about a bit more.

Bird’s Yard junk shop, rarely open, odd hours when it is open.

Vintage Clothes shop, rarely open no surprise it has closed.

Base Camp, an excellent coffee shop, closed over Christmas and New Year. No indication when open. It is for sale, maybe has already changed hands.

Bunty’s tea room, not open Christmas New Year. Former owner sold changed tack to distilling gin.

Harlequin Bookshop. An excellent bookshop or was. Now sitting derelict. The bookshop driven out of business by a greedy developer.

The shop below Harlequin Bookshop sitting empty and gutted.

Bookstop Cafe closed over Christmas and New Year.

Imperial Teas, excellent for tea, also coffee and chocolate, tea and coffee making paraphernalia. The rare exception open over Christmas and New Year, as a result a steady stream of customers. The other big difference, focus on quality and service, the staff and owners know their tea and coffee.

Pimento tea rooms. Once an excellent tea shop, served tea from Imperial Teas. New owners took over and destroyed within six months. Yet more new owners have taken over, but will remain closed until sometime in the New Year, thus missing the Christmas New Year trade. An unhelpful notice on the window tells passers by to check social media for when open, but looks no time soon.

Widow Cullens Well Closed. Premises gutted.

The Old Mouse House Cheese Shop & Coffee Bar, previous tea shop closed and gutted. Fake cheddar cheese, tea pigs, Stokes coffee. How long will it survive?

If pass through into Bailagate, Bailgate Deli serving undrinkable coffee supplied by Lincoln Tea and Coffee illustrating why we need a latte levy. Customers sat outside drinking from takeaway cups. Not open part of the Christmas New Year season or closed early.

Pass through Bailgate to Coffee by the Arch, was for sale, sale agreed, buyer pulled a dirty trick, offered half the agreed price as contracts were due to be signed.

Down in the town centre, Sincil Street has fared even worse. Once, busier than the High Street between ten in the morning and four in the afternoon. A street lined with indie businesses in Victorian buildings, trashed by the local council in bed with the local Coop.

Each time a local businesses collapses, there is less reason to visit a street, more businesses collapse, a domino effect. And this collapse can destroy a street, as we have seen in Sincil Street and are now starting to see in The Strait and on Steep Hill.

It does not have to be, poor town centre planning, lack of understanding of how local economies function, clueless individuals.

Internet and on-line shopping get the blame.

It is not why High Street chains are failing, they are failing due to piss-poor service. Their answer to on-line, cut service, treat customers with contempt, and enter a death spiral.

We have seen HMV collapse, the first casualty of the New Year. And yet indie record stores, for example Ben’s Records in Guildford, Resident in North Laine in Brighton, are doing well.

But, as one young lady running a business on Steep Hill told me, she never enters a shop, buys everything on-line, she added the same was true of all her friends.

Indy businesses cannot compete on price, they can only remain in business on quality and service, something many on The Strait and Steep Hill fail to comprehend, and thus do not remain in business for long.

If you open a coffee shop serving poor quality coffee worse than the corporate chains, cut corners, buy cheap catering supply coffee, do not invest in equipment or people, open a cheese shop selling poor quality cheese will find in the Coop, are rarely open or keep irregular hours, then on hiding to nothing and will not survive for long, and will join the 80% of businesses that fail within their first 18 months.

It does not though have to be. North Laine in Brighton, three long streets similar to Sincil Street, side streets, quirky indie businesses, bookshops, coffee shops, fashion shops, music shops, little restaurants, always busy, not a chain in sight.

Indie businesses provide a sense of place, they recycle money within a local economy, employ people, but no help or support from local council.

Lunch at The Cheese Society

December 31, 2018

Today was a weird day.  Friday before Christmas Lincoln was gridlocked, Christmas Eve the town centre full of drunks, today no traffic, the roads empty, though the town centre was busy.

New Year Sales in full swing, plenty of people about, and yet I passed at least half a dozen or more eating places, every single one closed.

County Restaurant closed, a little vegetarian restaurant I thought I would try closed until 7 January.

The Cheese Society is somewhere I often buy cheese, but I have never had lunch, it is always busy when I pass by.

Today was no exception, it was busy, whether because many places closed or the norm I do not know.

I was in luck, I found a seat at the long shared table.

I ordered avocado on sourdough toast.

Apart from initial disappointment the toast was cold it was excellent.

Sourdough ask, and no one knows what it is.

The latest edition of Ambrosia, issue 5 the San Francisco Bay edition, has an interesting article on sourdough bakeries in the area.

Sourdough is made with wild yeast not cultivated yeast.

I did not order a dessert, but what was served to my neighbours looked mouth watering delicious.  As did what I assumed was the cheese platter.

Something I had not seen before, a metal contraption sitting over candles, the heat used to melt the cheese. Though I think I would prefer not to melt.

The one thing I noticed, the love and care, everything freshly prepared, served with grace, not dumped on the plate, no one cares, as would find in too many places.

Interesting reading material on the end of the shared table. 

They say print is dead, the rubbish yes, but there is now a new generation of high quality print magazines, though often more like volumes of softback large format books, high quality articles, stunning imagery. 

I suggested they add to their collection, Ambrosia, Om Nom, Standart and Drift.

For anyone looking to buy cheese, I would highly recommend The Cheese Society, real cheese, unpasteurised milk, cheese with character and flavour, not what passes as cheese in a supermarket.

The Cheese Society is located at the bottom of The Strait, at the top of the High Street a little way off to the left if walking uphill.

V60 and Om Nom at Outpost Coffee

December 27, 2018

In indie coffee shops, not only excellent coffee very often interesting reading material.

I came across Om Nom in Magazine Brighton. Then when I came across again later in the day in Infinity Foods I decided to pick up a copy, On Nom issue 3.

Issue no 2, long sold out.

The day after the longest day, the Saturday before Christmas, I decided to try my luck in Ideas on Paper in Nottingham, as always keeps back issues. I was out of luck, issue 3 but no earlier issues.

They did though have latest issue of Standart and Ambrosia.

Then another idea, Outpost Coffee. I had seen Om Nom on display on a previous visit. I may be in luck. And I would have as always an excellent V60 from one of their single origin coffees.

At first I thought I was out of luck, not on display, then I noticed more reading material tucked away on a shelf. I was in luck, not only a copy, they kindly gave me their copy.

As always an excellent V60 served in ceramic.

The ceramic cup, Åoomi dust ceramic coffee mug, is on sale at Outpost Coffee.

Good Taste Lincolnshire

December 26, 2018

Lincolnshire is an agricultural county, the second largest county in the country. One would expect quality producers.

Lincoln is the County Town. Odd then, a market town with no market. Odd then, a farmers market in the High Street with less than half a dozen stalls.

When wandering around it can be helpful to have a guide, though I prefer to go where my legs take me and discover not be led.

Good Taste Lincolnshire is a magazine which one assumes promotes the best the county has to offer. Only it does not.

It also hands out Taste of Excellence awards. Which only serves to emphasise what I have been saying for some time, so many awards that can get an award for almost anything these days, that the awards have become worthless, marketing scams nothing more.

One of the worst examples of awards is the Great Taste Awards. A meaningless award, not to say that what is is stuck on is not quality, but no guarantee it is.

Looking through the listings of Good Taste Lincolnshire, many many omissions that should be there, many many inclusions that should not be there.

Lincoln has three excellent coffee shops, Coffee Aroma, Madame Waffle and Makushi aka Base Camp on Steep Hill. Only one gets a listing, and yet several other coffee shops listed.

Redhill Farm Shop a quality butcher in Bailgate (they also have a stall on the Lincoln farmers market in the High Street) get a listing but not Andersons an excellent butcher in Heighington, one of the best in the country.

Elite fish restaurant, excellent fish n chips, again one of the best in the country, and yet no listing.

Many chains are listed. Utterly bizarre a promotional piece for Cosy Club, a chain, a fake 1930s bar so fake it is a Monty Python parody of fake.

White Hart serves excellent food and yes, deserves a mention.

On the other hand, The Cheese Society, the place for high quality cheese, with staff who know their cheese, not a  mention. Though Cote Hill Cheese which they sell does have a mention.

Nor a mention of the excellent fishmonger in Lincoln Central Market.

Food and Drinks Awards are presented if not hosted by Taste of Excellence.

One of the sponsors Lincoln Tea and Coffee. One of the recipients of an award, for Tea or Coffee Shop of the Year, Coffee Bobbins, a mere coincidence is supplied by Lincoln Tea and Coffee. What beggars belief, Lincoln Tea and Coffee awarded Wholesaler of the Year. Oh, and just when you think it could not get any worse, Lincoln Tea and Coffee supplied the tea and coffee for the fifty quid a head award ceremony.

The coffee supplied to Coffee Bobbins, which according to the their website, is an exclusive blend for Bailgate Deli, which they describe as a speciality coffee shop. They claim to only supply the best quality products.

At The Lincoln Tea and Coffee Company, our philosophy has always been that we only supply the best quality products and service to our customers.

We supply a wide range of fabulous teas and coffees of the highest quality, as well as creating bespoke blends for that added wow factor! We make our coffee and tea just for our clients.

Our coffee is roasted and packaged to a very high standard.

We constantly receive comments on how fresh our coffee is when bags are opened. This places us at the top of our industry.

We were approached by Barry when he was at the initial stages of setting up a specialised coffee shop in spring 2016. After initial discussions and listening to his business plan, we quickly started to get a picture of Barry’s vision for the Bailgate Deli, a vegan and vegetarian café/deli in Lincoln’s Cathedral Quarter.

We worked together to come up with the right espresso coffee blend and range of fine leaf teas and discussed the coffee equipment and skills that would be needed. In one day of Barista training, Barry quickly picked up coffee making skills he could start to build on and he soon discovered he had a fine palate for tasting when a coffee was just right.

You could not make up this bullshit if you tried. The coffee supplied to Bailgate Deli and Coffee Bobbins, Sweet Brazil Blend, neither has exclusivity as claimed, is some of the worst coffee I have encountered, over roasted to the point of being burnt, broken beans. Coffee usually has a pleasant aroma, this coffee smells disgusting. Far from being quality freshly roasted coffee, the bags had no roast date, this coffee is is low grade commodity coffee. They are not even coffee roasters, they buy in and bag. And no, they are not top of the industry, bottom of yes, top of no. One day of training does not a barista make (and if in any doubt visit Bailgate Deli and order a coffee, though I recommend not). Bailgate Deli is not a speciality coffee shop. No surprise then, the coffee served in Bailgate Deli and Coffee Bobbins undrinkable.

We have a host of bandwagons people jumping on, craft beer, coffee shops, coffee roasting and now gin.

Carol of the Bells

December 25, 2018

Carol of the Bells performed by Lindsey Stirling.

Hallelujah

December 25, 2018

Lindsey Stirling performs Leonard Cohen classic Hallelujah.

Merry Christmas

December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas to all my friends.

Image courtesy of my talented Japanese friend Ken Crane.

Music courtesy of my talented Romanian friend Jewelia.

Christmas tale courtesy of my good friend Paulo Coelho.

Christmas is not how much we binge spend on stuff we do not need, though could be forgiven for believing so from news reports.

Christmas is a child born in a stable.

Christmas is a child born in a stable in an occupied land.

Christmas today is homeless living on our streets.

Christmas today is Palestine an occupied land.

Christmas today is the murderous corrupt House of Saud waging a war of genocide in Yemen.

Day after shortest day in Nottingham

December 22, 2018

Sunny morning, tempted to go to York, but thought trains will be busy, people heading for Christmas Holidays, had not checked train times. Luckily I did not as Northern Fail were on strike, as were Southern Railways.

Was not sure if would even make the train, as yesterday Lincoln grid-locked.

1140 two-coach East Midlands train Lincoln to Nottingham, packed, standing room only, drunken yobs. More people pile on at Newark.

I usually avoid town centres on a Saturday, as seem to attract every idiot around. What was I doing travelling to Nottingham on a Saturday a couple of days before Christmas?

I looked in H Hopkinson next to the station. Amazing building full of junk.

Hops Coffee House and Bar appear to have upped their game since my last visit. Now using sunset espresso Stewarts of Trent Bridge but whether any good I do not know. They now need to up their game still further, employ a barista, someone who knows coffee, cappuccino served in too large a cup with chocolate dumped in top. They also need to ditch the output of chemical factories on tap and serve only craft beer.

Hops Coffee House and Bar appear to have expanded since my last visit, and were busy. Live train times displayed on the wall a good idea. But has this been at the expense of The Wonderland Cafe, a surreal, Alice in Wonderland tea shop which was hidden in the basement which sadly is no more?

To 200 Degrees around the corner from Nottingham Station overlooking Nottingham Canal for lunch.

Parsnip and honey soup a strange combination. Parsnip already sweet, why add honey? I could not though detect honey had been added.

200 Degrees was unusually quiet for lunchtime, maybe because weekend, though did fill up as I was leaving.

200 Degrees is excellent for lunch, but not for coffee, the coffee at best mediocre. The coffee on sale last few visits has always been old coffee, today they had upped their game and recent roast date. The espresso blend has robusta.

In the town centre, an ice skating rink and Christmas sheds selling tat and disgusting junk food.

An insult to cheesemakers, cheese claiming to be Great British Cheese, the smell was off putting.

To Ideas on Paper, my only reason for visiting Nottingham. I had hoped he had Om Nom issue 2, as he always keeps back copies of everything. Sadly not.

Outside I found a lady. I know not why I dragged her in. To my surprise, Ideas on Paper busy. I am usually the only visitor. The owner looked out of his depth.

As the lady had asked me about coffee shops, I recommended Cartwheel Coffee, The Speciality Coffee Shop, Wired and Outpost Coffee, I mentioned Standart and Drift. I also found for her Om Nom and Ambrosia. She was suitably impressed and thanked me especially as at a stroke I had solved Christmas presents for her.

I picked up latest Ambrosia and latest Standart.

Before Ideas on Paper I had looked in Think in Cobden Chambers. Pop up shops, or at least a few tables. Better quality tat than in the Christmas sheds.

Every time I pass by Wired, I pop in to say hello. Today, I decided to have a coffee. As on my last visit who I wished to see not there.

Cappuccuno ok, but not great.

Second good deed of the day. I helped someone looking for coffee.

I noticed James Hoffman has second edition of The World Atlas of Coffee.

To Outpost Coffee for V60.

My other reason for visiting Outpost Coffee, Om Nom issue No 2. Not on display. More hidden on a shelf. Could I buy? Had it been Drift or Standart, the answer would have been no. They kindly gave it to me.

It was then time to catch 1621 train, earlier than I usually leave, which I just made.

Luckily, train not crowded.

At Lincoln, gridlock at the barriers.

Borough Cheese Company cheese stall

December 20, 2018

When passing through King’s Cross, always worth giving extra time to visit the King’s Cross street food market, especially to visit the Borough Cheese Company cheese stall.

Excellent Comté and Tome cheese.

The stall used to only sell Comté cheese, and whilst that is still their main cheese, they compliment with a couple of other cheeses, which have been different each time I pass through.

And add a little extra time for a coffee off Craft Coffee.