Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Vegan quasi-religious fundamentalists target Hisbe

January 14, 2019

An act of unbelievable crass stupidity when vegan quasi-religious fundamentalists target Hisbe, an ethical food store.

Where next, Infinity Foods, a workers cooperative? Maybe not, Infinity Foods bake vegan cakes and where would we be without vegan cakes?

Maybe do something useful, target and shut down McDonald’s or a halal kebab shop.

Or try targeting M&S or Waitrose for wrapping fresh produce in plastic.

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Sausage and mash County Restaurant

January 8, 2019

County Restaurant for many years was an excellent place to eat. It then went downhill, picked up, sadly seems to have gone rapidly downhill again.

Very poor choice today, bangers and mash or bangers and mash. There was a choice of sausage or fake vegan sausage.

And a choice of a flavoured chicken.

The bangers and mash were served with (at extra cost) unappetising looking mash potatoes, under-cooked beans and overcooked greens, served in a bowl formed by a Yorkshire pudding that required a saw to cut, plus gravy if desired.

The sausages cheapest disgusting sausages they could find, though not as bad as found in a Coop or M&S bangers and mash ready meal.  The sausages under-cooked.

The mash tasted better than looked.

Vegan sausages to pander to the vegan lobby. I do not know why anyone wishes to eat fake sausages or fake meat, anymore than from Greggs a fake sausage roll or even why eat from Greggs,  I would rather have an excellent vegetarian dish, though the vegan sausages could not have been worse than the half cooked real sausages.

Served in a Yorkshire pudding a gimmick.

They need to concentrate on quality not gimmicks.

They used to have two good chefs. No sign of them. Maybe they have left.

Water, plastic, not glass.

On sale, Quad Restaurant reusable coffee cups, ugly not barista friendly plastic reusable cups. No surprise low take up.

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.

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.

King’s Cross Street Food Market

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.

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

Keep

December 15, 2018

Passing by vegan cafe Okomoko I noticed a board saying zero waste and on display in the window an ecoffee bamboo coffee cup.

I walked in to inquire, I was curious to learn how they achieved zero waste. Whilst waiting, I noticed a sign pointing upstairs to a zero waste shop. Curious and curiouser. I climbed the stairs. I was expecting to maybe find a counter selling off old stock.

What I found was a little shop in a room, an Aladdin’s cave of delights.

Keep, a tiny version of Hisbe in Brighton. Two pleasant and helpful young women. They told me they rented the room.

Quite a clever idea and not the first time I have come across this arrangement, Anonymous Coffee in Reading, down an alley leading from Broad Street to Reading Minster, has a similar arrangement, rent space in a wine shop.

By renting space, in this case a room, overheads are low, for Okomoko, assuming they are not busy, it helps share the rent and puts to use unused space.

What is the alternative, a pop up shop, a market stall?

On offer, grains, cereals, nuts, dried fruit weigh and buy what you want. At the back, large containers of liquids, for example detergents, buy what you need.

Even ecoffee bamboo coffee cups on sale.

What would be a clever idea if Okomoko and Keep crowdfunded a joint glass KeepCup.

As I explained, a similar concept to Hisbe in Brighton. I recommended they visit.

If we are to aim for zero waste, there is much that coffee shops and restaurants can do.

  • eliminaate takeaway coffee
  • on sale reusable coffee cups and offer discount for use
  • compostable takeaway coffee cups
  • leave coffee grounds to be taken away
  • use food waste in cakes and soups
  • compost food waste

Reusable coffee cups and compostable coffee cup are a step in the right direction but what we must do, is eliminate grab it and go takeaway, encourage relax with speciality coffee served in glass or ceramic.

Keep is open Monday to Friday morning to lunchtime, Saturday until five, Sunday morning.

 

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.

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.

 

Neal’s Yard Dairy

November 22, 2018

Neal’s Yard Dairy is a mecca for cheese lovers.

I look in, but no time to do justice.

They ask me to try a cheese, Doddington. It is excellent, I buy a piece.