Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Banquet at Diwali

August 26, 2015


I had not intended to eat at Diwali, I was actually on my way to the Coop to get something to eat, but as I passed by Diwali, I saw it was banquet night (also Sunday night) and decided to give it a try.

Nicely laid out, starched white table clothes, folded napkins on the tables.

I was shown to a table.

Then began a very long wait.

Eventually my order was taken, then another very long wait.

I was brought a starter, but no appetiser had preceded it. I let them know when they took away my cleaned plate.

It was probably around half past eight when I finally got my main course. I had walked in not long after seven o’clock.

During my long wait, I noticed wrong meals and drinks being delivered to the wrong tables.

Around the time I got my main course, the couple on the next table got their main course (I learnt later they had been there since seven o’clock). The lady had to repeatedly ask for items that were missing that she had ordered or had asked for.

The food was so so, nothing special. Better than the Indian food served at The Queen Hotel in Aldershot which looks disgusting and is disgusting, but not in the same league as Zaffron in Farnborough.

Presentation was fine.

Portion size was large.

When I got my bill, there was something wrong with it. It showed VAT at zero, which could not possibly be correct.

I paid, the bill and my money was taken away. No change was returned to my table. My drinks and the free chocolate that had been delivered with my bill, were also taken away.

Service was unbelievably  bad. It was as though they had only opened that night, as the staff did not have a clue.

Not somewhere I would recommend.

Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor is becoming meaningless. Diwali has a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor, which is not deserved.

Ranked No 5 on TripAdvisor. What does that say for the other restaurants in the locality?

Jeremy Corbyn and Mexican organic FairTrade coffee beans

August 18, 2015
Cafe Mam - coffee and acrylic on canvas -- Derek Hobbs

Cafe Mam – coffee and acrylic on canvas — Derek Hobbs

Just finished this one for a fair trade coffee company in Oregon. Cafe Mam was kind enough to supply me some fresh beans to paint with. Very impressed with the french roasts’ robust color and flavor. — Derek Hobbs

The corporate owned and controlled media has had a lot of free time on its hands of late, no need to attack Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party Establishment can be relied upon each day to wheel out yet another has-been politician to launch an attack on Jermy Corbyn. The latest to be given a soap box was clown Neil Kinnock.

The best the Daily Mail can do is call him a throwback Marxist,

Karl Marx tried to explain why we have cycles, boom and bust, commentated on the appalling social conditions at the time, as did Charles Dickens.

The only throwback, is what the Tories are doing, turning the clock back to Victorian working conditions.

On Sunday, the Mail on Sunday decided to smear Laura Alvarez, wife of Jeremy Corbyn.

Apparently she is selling at £10 per 500g bags coffee from exploited Mexican coffee workers. The beans FairTrade, organic.

Now one would assume she is directly exploiting these workers, but not so. They work in cooperatives, the beans are sold to a company in the US, from who she buys and distributes.

The coffee is certified FairTrade. If not FairTrade, as Mail on Sunday claims, then surely the people to take it up with are FairTrade if they are incorrectly certifying, and the company in Oregon that  imports the coffee beans from Chiapas, an autonomous region of Mexico.

Café Mam beans are Fair Trade Certified by Fair Trade USA.

Royal Blue Organics (RBO) is a family-owned and operated business located in Eugene, Oregon. RBO started as an organic blueberry farm called Royal Blueberries, which grows  blueberries that are sold and consumed locally. RBO expanded and blossomed into the coffee business of Café Mam. RBO seeks to encourage indigenous farmers to better their social and physical environment by paying a fair trade or better rate for a high-quality product, to offer this high-quality product to consumers across the globe for a reasonable price, and to provide a right livelihood to the wonderful folks who work here.

Royal Blue Organics donates two percent of Café Mam sales (over $700 thousand donated since  inception) to nonprofit organizations dedicated to organic, social justice, and environmental causes.

When you dig, the story has all the hallmarks of a non-story. For the perceptive reader, it will sound strangely familiar. Substitute t-shirts for beans, Russell Brand for Laura Alvarez, and we have the same story.

Has the Mail found a new found concern for the rights of exploited workers?

Guildford farmers market

August 4, 2015
Celtic Baker

Celtic Baker



Old Town Hall

Old Town Hall

Peakes Pond in Castle Grounds

Peakes Pond in Castle Grounds

Alighting at Guildford Station, I started my day with a cappuccino off the FCB Artisan Coffee kiosk. I am at a loss why anyone has disgusting coffee from Costa, when the best coffee in Guildford is available from a kiosk on Platform 2.

I learnt the bad news that Tolleys have pulled out although they retain their 51% stake in Harris + Hoole. Were they pushed? This can mean several things. Will Tesco sell their stake?  Will Harris + Hoole will go rapidly downhill to become another Costa or Starbucks or Caffe Nero on the High Street?

It is a pity the Tolleys did not offer their 51% to staff and customers, or better still give the opportunity to coffee shops like the one in Guildford, to do a buy out by staff and customers and trade as  open co-ops, or a network of open co-ops. But I do not supposed they cared so long as they made money out of the deal.

Last year, Harris + Hoole recorded a loss of nearly £13 million on sales of £6.6 million. Massive coffee shop expansion, two-thirds of which in Tesco stores. They were also closing coffee shops, even though only opened first coffee shop in 2012. Tesco store location bad positioning. In Guildford it went from that excellent coffee shop in North Street, to the coffee shop in Tesco.  A sad tale of massive expansion, greed writ large.

Along the River Wey and up the High Street to the farmers market.

Many of the stalls had sold out. I bought a lot more than I usually do.

Wholemeal bread off Celtic Baker.

Fish cakes off one of the stalls, lunch for tomorrow.

Pie stall, had sold out of their Cornish pasties, actually better than Cornish pasties. They had sliced one for show, and as a regular, gave it to me.

Off Secretts Farm, quality cucumber.

Jam off the apple fruit juice stall at the top of the High Street. It is interesting to see how they have diversified. Apple juice, then apples, then various fruits, now jam. I had hoped they might have plums. They had, but sold out. I tried a jar of strawberry and rhubarb. Their jam is proving so popular, that they have opened an office as kitchen and are buying in fruit from neighbouring growers.

I tried the jam, spread on toast. Yes, very very good jam.

Lunch was sausage in a bap off one of the stalls.

Unbelievably expensive muesli off one of the stalls. More than double the price of quality muesli from Lidl. I asked them to justify the high price. I was not convinced.

For dessert, blackcurrant ice cream off Dylan’s Ice Cream.

Card boxes for food, cups that can go on the compost heap, lids for cups made from plant-based cellulose, paper bags, wooden forks, are now mainstream, can be sourced from catering suppliers. There is absolutely no excuse for use of plastic or even worse polystyrene cups and burger-style boxes. Music festivals set high standards, it is long overdue Guildford set the same high standards for the stalls on the farmers market.

Occasionally in the past, Guildford has had a stall to encourage recycling. Height of hypocrisy when they do not set high recycling standards for their own markets. At the very least, lack of joined up thinking.

There is a need for a quality coffee van on the market. Invite Jimmy Bean or HoBo Co. It is embarrassing when you see stallholders with coffee from Costa or tax dodging Starbucks or Caffe Nero. On the one hand they want us to buy local, on the other hand failing to do so themselves.

Guildford farmers market first Tuesday of the month in the High Street.

Lunch at Thai restaurant

July 31, 2015
lunch at Thai restaurant

lunch at Thai restaurant

Excellent lunch at Thai restaurant in Jeffries Passage.

They have opened a takeaway higher up the High Street a little way past the Oxfam Bookshop on the opposite side of the road.

As McDonald’s has closed, yippee, I suggested to the boss they stuck a poster on the boarded-up shop front, Thai Takeaway with a big arrow.

Boss said help yourself and gave me a duck wrap to take away. I had it for my tea.

They had a reasonable choice, including what looked like Thai green curry.

I will have to inquire of the containers. They looked like card that can be recycled. But plastic forks. I will suggest they buy wood.

If Guildford Council wishes to see higher recycling rates, why are they not advising takeaways?

Lunch at Italian coffee shop Bottega dei Sapori

July 29, 2015


Excellent lunch at the little Italian coffee shop Bottega dei Sapori. Courgette soup with garlic,  followed by sea bass served with  new potatoes and beans.

The soup not quite piping hot. The sea bass delicious.

Started outside in the garden, then had to rush indoors when it rained.

On last visit, the service was awful, today exemplary. Why the service was so bad on the last visit, I do not know, as not the norm. At a guess, maybe  a new girl who had only started and did not know what she was doing.

Breakfast at The Tilly Shilling

July 20, 2015
traditional English breakfast

traditional English breakfast

OK, but not great.

Wishing no egg, I asked for extra toast, not realising I got toast.

Butter was dumped on the plate in the middle of my breakfast, bacon was dried up.

Maybe I should have gone to The Triangle. But the food there is not great, I did not know what time they finished serving breakfast and if too late, would have been too late for The Tilly Shilling.

£2-99 for breakfast. With a glass of fresh orange and a mug of tea, a little over a fiver.

I was quite surprised at the number of people having breakfast. Or maybe they get in before midday and it is an early lunch. What did shock me, and shocked me some weeks ago when I had breakfast, the number of people late morning drinking alcohol and some already drunk. Should pubs be serving alcohol before midday?

After my breakfast, I tried the filter coffee. Disgusting, undrinkable. I left it after one sip. Then I thought, add milk. I tried, it was even more disgusting.

Breakfast superior at Wetherspoon Gatwick.

Interesting article in Wetherspoon News (summer 2015) by Tim Martin demolishing the euro. Makes a change from his special pleading for VAT exemptions, or his latest on hike in minimum wage. If Wetherspoon cannot afford to pay its staff a decent wage they do not deserve to remain in business.

Dinner at O’Connor’s Secret Garden

July 18, 2015
O'Connor's Secret Garden

O’Connor’s Secret Garden

pork medallions

pork medallions

selection of vegetables

selection of vegetables

I looked in on Peter O’Connor in O’Connor’s Secret Garden.

Peter offered me a drink.

I mentioned Brock’s being closed, Mog’s Deli closed and the general state of Alton. He said Brock’s had closed several months ago. A shock as an excellent butcher. Peter said the lease due for renewal, therefore at a guess another local business driven out of business by rent hikes.

Alton a few years ago had an excellent food festival. That was where I first met Peter giving a cookery demonstration. What happened? Sponsorship by Costa one year,  Iceland another year, which somewhat lost the plot for a celebration of local food. Then taken over by Hampshire farmers markets, which killed it.

What is Alton Town Council doing? Godalming Town Council is very proactive. Maybe the example of Frome should be followed, a Flatpack Democracy revolution, ordinary  citizens take over the Town Hall.

I decided to stay and eat, even though it was turning cool and looked like rain. I was though a little disappointed to learn Peter was not cooking, but I need not have worried. The meal was excellent.

A lovely garden out the back, but as it was getting cool, I sat inside.

Pork medallions, covered in a sauce, served with vegetables.

The pork medallions, were more like slices of pork. I do not know what the sauce was, but delicious. the vegetables cooked to perfection, not overcooked, not undercooked, piping hot and served in a piping hot dish.

The potatoes, a choice of new potatoes, chips or colcannon potatoes (an Irish dish and a speciality of O’Connor’s Secret Garden). I chose colcannon potatoes as not something you get elsewhere.

A stunning blonde waitress, charming and competent.  Peter has a knack of choosing good staff.

I complimented Peter on the meal, adding that I had been worried that he was not in the kitchen.  He told me that the two of them had worked together elsewhere in the past, and yes, he had a good chef in the kitchen.

A few years ago O’Connor’s Secret Garden had very nasty fake reviews on TripAdvisor. It was therefore pleasing to see he had received a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor. He said it came in  the post.

O’Connor’s Secret Garden is not simply the best restaurant in Alton, it is the best in the area.

On leaving, it was, as I had feared, raining.

Lunch at Italian coffee shop Bottega dei Sapori

July 18, 2015
roasted red pepper soup with goats cheese

roasted red pepper soup with goats cheese





Excellent roasted red pepper soup, followed by tortellini in the Italian coffee shop Bottega dei Sapori. Service was appalling. Why, I do not know, as they were not busy and service is not usually a problem.

A pleasant afternoon, I sat out in the garden. No Smoking, which is excellent, as too many places allow smoking in gardens. Last year there was a rambling rose along the wall. Sadly no more. The garden though has been spoilt by umbrellas. Not even necessary as shade cast by a beech tree.

I waited and waited. No one came. Only one table occupied inside, one outside (two counting my table).

After waiting sometime, I went to the front of the shop and ordered.

I waited some more. Eventually my soup came. No utensils. I asked the girl. Instead of going and getting she went to two other tables to take their orders. I went to help myself, she handed me a fork and spoon. Not sure what the fork was for.

Bread with the soup, but no butter. When the girl came back, I asked for butter. She went off and got butter, but no knife.

My soup finished, she came and asked was I ready for my next course.

Learning they did not close until 5-30, I decided to get what I needed in Alton, then either go to Mog’s Deli, or pop back.

Mog’s Deli, where I would have liked to have tried their coffee, had closed. It only opened last year.

Back to Bottega dei Sapori, where I had a pot of tea and a tart. It was with reluctance I had tea, as teapigs, and teapigs is not quality tea.

I wish they would get better tea. They pride themselves on sourcing quality ingredients, then serve teapigs, not only serve but have on sale. Teapigs is not quality tea. Marketing hype does not make quality tea.

The Tea Shop Around the Corner

July 18, 2015
The Tea Shop Around the Corner

The Tea Shop Around the Corner

The Tea Shop Around the Corner is located in what was the North Camp Post Office, which was forced to relocate, to the detriment of businesses in North Camp.

From appearance, a tea shop one might expect in a  market town.

I popped in for a coffee.

It did not look too great, and looks generally also indicate deeper problems. It had a rather unpleasant bitter taste.  Why I do not know, but I suspect made too hot, though could also be lack of skill of coffee maker (I would hesitate to call a barista), poor quality coffee, coffee beans not being ground fresh for each coffee.

I had not intended to stay long, but as I was hungry, I had a salmon and cheese sandwich. Choice of bread. I chose wholemeal. Very tasty. I did not though like the unpleasant flavoured crisps.

Ambience pleasant, but very noisy.

Sonos streaming audio from the net a huge mistake. Awful music, interspersed with ads. And how much do the musicians get? Probably as bad as spotify.

Far better, to select music from bandcamp if wish to lives steam music from the net.

Better still silence.

Poor choice of reading. Daily Mail and the magazines you’d expect to find in a waiting room. Or maybe reflects their intellect. By all means have the Daily Mail, but at least compliment with a quality newspaper such as The Independent or The Guardian.

Free wifi. It died whilst I was there, or at least internet access died. It probably needed the router re-booting. But at least Sonos died too, which was a relief.

Seating outside. On top of the rubbish bins.

They need to exercise better control over the seating outside. When I walked by later, mothers with buggies blocking the footpath. I could squeeze past, but it would not have been possible  for a disability scooter.

Though this raises a wider issue.  Is it not long overdue the street was pedestrianised, creating a far better environment?

Curious why the coffee was not good, I popped back a couple of days later. I asked that it not be made hot. I was told that was how they were instructed to make coffee. All that says is someone does not know how to make coffee. My wishes were heeded, and the coffee lacked the unpleasant bitter taste of my visit a couple of days earlier.

You cannot train barsistas, or at least training is not sufficient. If you want to serve quality coffee, you have to employ skilled baristas. And those lacking the skill, learn by working alongside skilled baristas.

Appalling treatment of elderly lady by Lidl manager

July 17, 2015
Lidll Aldershot pack of six rashers of bacon reduced

Lidll Aldershot pack of six rashers of bacon reduced

Yesterday evening (Thursday) the usual piss poor service in Lidl Aldershot, but that was not the half of it.

An elderly lady two before me in the queue, was querying why she was being charged full price for a pack of bacon that was reduced. She knew it was reduced, as that was why she had chosen it. No reduction sticker, but as she carefully explained, it must have fallen off. Store manager intervened, called her a liar, told the trainee cashier to charge her full price. Lady quite rightly refused to pay.

The customer should be given the benefit of the doubt, if there is a doubt, then check. The manager should have sent a runner to check, but instead called the lady a liar, and then walked off.  There were long queues at the check-outs, but instead of manning one, the manager walked away.

I knew the lady was correct. The reason why I knew, was because their were two different  packs of bacon on the shelves alongside each other, six rashers and twelve rashers, and  they had bright orange stickers 30% off on the front of each pack. I also knew because I had one in my hand.

I draw this to the attention of the cashier, waved it in the air,and said the lady was correct. The cashier apologised, said there was nothing he could do, as the manager had overruled him and then walked off.

I tried to catch up with the lady on leaving the store, but she was nowhere in sight.

Lidl should apologise to this lady, and give a her £100 as a  goodwill gesture. It will not be difficult to identify her, My till receipt shows a time of 1816, she was two in front of me, and she paid by card.

This is not a one off with this manager. She has a bad reputation with customers. I have had problems with her, I know others who have had problems with her.

The service in this store is appalling. Always long queues at the check-outs, not uncommon to find one till, a queue half way down the store, not attempt to open additional tills.

It is long overdue for Lidl and this manager to part company.

This lunchtime I checked my pack of six rashers of bacon. Half the sticker was no longer there, which backs up what the lady had said, her sticker must have fallen off.


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