Archive for the ‘Guildford’ Category

Coffee Culture

May 5, 2017

I occasionally walk past Coffee Culture as I walk through the courtyard of The Angel Hotel. I have never popped in, as it is off putting the smokers hanging around outside.

Today I thought I would give it a try.

The decor is ok, but that is as good as it gets.

Everything they did, screamed they know nothing about coffee

I was offered coffee in normal size cup or an outlandishly large cup.

Never use a large cup.

I ordered a cappuccino.

It looked disgusting, and did not taste much better. But at least I was asked, did I want chocolate, it was not dumped on top.

Never use chocolate, use cocoa.

The coffee was a on a par with the free coffee out of the machine in Waitrose in Farnham.

A tad too hot, milky, watery, barely drinkable.

The best that could be said of my cappuccino, was served in an attractive cup, the same cups used by Harris + Hoole.

I walked out and left it.

Outside a board telling me an award winning coffee shop.

This once again emphasises the point, awards have become meaningless.

I do not know which award they are referring to, they are not one of the best coffee shops in Guildford, not by a long way, nor for that matter is Caracoli which has a board outside making that ridiculous claim. ¬†It is like awarding Costa the nation’s favourite coffee shop brand, completely and utterly meaningless.

Whoever drew up the short list of coffee shops for Surrey, clueless on coffee.

The coffee beans used, catering supply for the trade, no roast date.

Why bother? There is no excuse these days for using poor quality coffee, other than cutting corners and do not care what you serve.

The notice also says, locally sourced. Since when has Scotland been local? There are plenty of coffee roasters locally or in London they could have used, could have used if they cared and knew anything about coffee.

And no, tea pigs is not quality tea.

Coffee Culture is not a coffee shop, it is a cafe that serves coffee masquerading as a coffee shop.

Afternoon in Guildford

May 5, 2017

Morning cold, or at least a very cold wind blowing. Afternoon warm in the sun out of the wind, cold in the shade in the wind.

The intention had been, lunch in Thai restaurant in Jeffries Passage, and had I gone straight there, it would have been possible.

Looked at coffee beans in Surrey Hills. A wide range of coffee beans, which maybe explains why they were all too old. They should know better.

A coffee in Coffee Culture. A big mistake, coffee not good and too late for lunch at Thai restaurant.

Usually on a  Friday, Thai restaurant open all day. Not anymore. I arrived to find too late for lunch.

Lunch at their takeaway shop. Green Thai curry. Not good. Usually very good but not today. The chef had screwed up, overdosed with spices. I told the guy behind the counter it was awful and he must throw it away.

Food for Thought is a  little wholefood shop tucked down a side street off North Street. I occasionally pop in to see what they are offering.

Today, Hummus Chips. I enjoyed munching as I had a look around the same. On my way out bought a bag.

Coffee in Harris+ Hoole. A marked contrast to Coffee Culture.

Cappuccino in Harris + Hoole

May 2, 2017

Shock horror, Harris + Hoole sold to tax dodging Caffè Nero.

Shock horror, Harris + Hoole no longer source their coffee beans from Union hand-roasted coffee, now source from tax dodging Caffè Nero.

Damning reviews on TripAdvisor.

Not good news.

Does this now mean, coffee in H+H no different to tax dodging Caffè Nero?

It was with trepidation I set foot in Harris + Hoole. Was I to be disappointed, never to cross the threshold again?

Same friendly staff. Always good sign.

Quiet downstairs, which was a big improvement.

Upstairs very busy, more like a working office, even a  couple holding a business meeting.

But first set the record straight.

Tax dodging Caffè Nero have not bought Harris + Hoole. They have bought the minority Tesco stake, which always was an anomaly.

Were¬†Caff√® Nero¬†to buy the company, I can see they would find difficult to not resist the temptation to turn into¬†Caff√® Nero¬†Plus. ¬†At the moment¬†Caff√® Nero¬†are operating at arms length, and let’s hope it remains that way.

Harris + Hoole have set up there own roastery in Neal Street in Covent Garden, the beans single origin, direct trade.  I was told today, the beans from Peru.

My cappuccino was excellent. I expect no less from the team at Harris + Hoole.

The damning reviews on TripAdvisor are complete and utter garbage.

Usually fake reviews are easily detected, no resemblance to reality, usually the only review. These are different, several reviews, which makes me curious.

The negative comments on the staff are not true. Nor on the quality of the coffee.

The staff are always friendly, time permitting, willing to inform the clientele about the coffee, but most importantly, they take huge pride in the coffee they serve.

The cakes are not the factory cakes found elsewhere.

Yes at times, dirty dishes are piling up on the tables. This is a management issue, too few staff. Two busy floors, only two staff, one taking orders, one serving the coffee, who clears the tables?

It merely serves to once again emphasise, reviews on TripAdvisor are worthless.

If you think they serve coffee in Costa, then do not review coffee shops, as you know nothing about coffee.

Similarity, if you eat in McDonald’s or KFC, then do not review restaurants.

As soon as they are able, H+H should get get rid of all their coffee shops in Tesco.

Wherever possible, transfer all the Caff√® Nero¬†coffee shops in Waterstone’s to Harris + Hoole.

Waterstone’s is kicking Costa out of their bookshops. In Lincoln, Costa has gone, to be replaced by W, their own in-house coffee shop. Same in Brighton, now W. In Lincoln, one bookshop has¬†Caff√® Nero. This could change to Harris + Hoole.

Maybe sell Standart. Though its sale may be restricted to indie coffee shops, certainly the top end of the coffee market.

I mentioned to the guys free coffee books and that James Hoffmann is crowdfunding his writings, to be published as The Best of Jim Seven.

 

Guildford farmers market

May 2, 2017

After a chilly start, the afternoon was quite pleasant. A marked contrast to the wintry weather yesterday.

Reserved my bread and flapjacks at Celtic Baker to collect later.

Excellent dosa from the chutney stall. Far superior to the dosa I had at the South Bank Street Food Market yesterday.  Ollo Foods is an absolute must for Godalming Food Festival and Staycation Live.

At least one new stall. A man selling quality pork pies. That was all he was selling, pork pies.

The farmers market is turning into Alcoholics Alley. Too many stalls selling alcoholic drinks. One fruit and vegetable stall I never buy from, poor standard, rarely fresh produce, high prices. Today they had sunk to a new low. Bags of plastic wrapped apples, the apples rotten.

Does the market not exact any standards, as other markets do?

It is not acceptable anyone selling produce that is packaged in a way that is not compostable or recyclable. This should be a condition to be on the market.

When did Environmental Health last do a check on this market? Have they ever carried out checks? Or is there a conflict of interest at play?

Why is there no quality coffee stall on the market?

Two ladies were giving away cakes. Not sure why, but the cakes were excellent. They were from a group that discusses dying. I mentioned death cafes, and referred them to an article in Standart issue 7.  They were aware of death cafes.

It was then a coffee in Harris + Hoole. Tax dodging Caffè Nero has taken a stake. Does this mean H+H now serve the same low quality coffee? Fortunately not.

Appalling piss-poor service in M&S

November 4, 2016

The service in M&S Guildford in their food hall is a disgrace.

Customers pay premier prices and receive piss-poor service.

With Waitrose opening, one would have expected the service to improve, but if anything it has got worse.

Queues at both tills, the only two tills open, trolleys piled up.

I tried the information counter. They refused to serve.

I asked that more tills be opened. They refused. They told me to go to the self service.

The lady there was helpful, operated the self-service. She had problems. It kept going wrong, and she had to keep resetting the machine and scanning everything again. She apologised for being slow. Not her fault, the fault lies with M&S useless management.

Where the bread is baked, overwhelming stench of disinfectant. If someone had thrown up on the floor, this would have been understandable. but no, they were cleaning the ovens. Could they not have waited until the store was closed? And it also raises questions of chemical contamination of their foodstuffs.

Is it any wonder M&S is a failing retail chain when they have this level of contempt for their customers?

Lunch at Debenham’s

November 4, 2016
roast turkey and all the trimmings

roast turkey and all the trimmings

Once again turkey. I looked Tuesday, it was turkey. Every time I have looked it has been turkey.

Debenham’s used to serve excellent roast pork, even worth a visit to Debenham’s. But now all they serve is turkey.

It is bad enough Christmas when all they serve is turkey.

It is like the Monty Python sketch, spam, spam, spam, only in Debenham’s, it is turkey, turkey, turkey.

What is the use of customer service if no one is listening?

Not the fault of the staff, the fault lies with head office who issue diktats on what must be served.

This is appalling bad management, someone at head office trying to justify their own worthless existence.

Unless the local store is doing something wrong, let locally decide what is served, they know their customers, head office does not.

It was raining, turkey it was.

The vegetables were stone cold. The kitchen, kindly hotted up, but now not fit to eat. The turkey was awful. I left the meal half eaten.

I regretted not eating elsewhere, and would have done but for the rain.

A pot of tea and a cake. ¬†Few places in Guildford serve decent cakes. Debenham’s is one of those rare places.

cheesecake and a pot of tea

cheesecake and a pot of tea

Cappuccino in Harris + Hoole

November 1, 2016
cappuccino in Harris Hoole

cappuccino in Harris + Hoole

cappuccino in Harris + Hoole

cappuccino in Harris + Hoole

After a cold grey day at Guildford farmers market, I visited Harris + Hoole for a cappuccino.

Why no indie coffee stall on the farmers market, maybe with Surrey Hills Coffee providing and selling the beans? They are a local coffee roaster thus eligible to be on the market.

It is not acceptable that Costa and tax-dodging Starbucks serving undrinkable disgusting coffee are allowed to dictate what happens on the High Street.

Cappuccino in Harris + Hoole. I could have popped in one of the indie coffee shops, sadly Harris + Hoole now owned by Cafe Nero, but they all close early, and in Harris + Hoole I am guaranteed a constantly good coffee.  Unlike Caracoli, where the manager knows nothing about coffee and makes himself a laughing stock.  It is a tragedy the indie coffee shops close early, as in the summer they are turning away a constant flow of customers.

I was served an excellent cappuccino, but then barista said no, you deserve better.

Then when I left, served another two coffees.

Very impressed.  A barista who takes a pride in his work.

Two coffee places vie for No 1, depends who is serving, FCB kiosk on Platform 2 at Guildford Station and Harris + Hoole. Surrey Hills Coffee comes in at No 3.

Which again begs the question, why oh why, no quality coffee stall on the market, other than objections from Costa and Starbucks?

Guildford farmers market

November 1, 2016
Secrett's Farm cauliflowers

Secrett’s Farm cauliflowers

A cold, grey, misty day.

No surprise not many people around, although the Celtic Baker stall had almost sold out.

Last week I visited a new shop in Guildford, a cheese shop cum deli, in Chapel Street. Knowledgeable staff, excellent choice of cheese. I suggested a few stalls on the farmers market whose produce they may wish to stock. I also said, as I knew them, I would have a word.

This I did. Chutney no, can barely meet demand. Little Beer Corporation and apple stall with fruit juices, yes, were interested.

It also helps with delivery, on market once a month, can drop off supplies.

Ollo Foods

Ollo Foods

Excellent dosa off chutney stall, Ollo Foods. Absolute must for Staycation Live.

A couple of stalls, maybe more, have dropped out since the car park fiasco whilst the setts were being relaid in the High Street. The excellent pie stall will be much missed, and the paella stall.

I did not check what the new paella stall was serving in, already packing up.

Low environmental standards on the market.

If London South Bank Street Food Market and many if not all music festivals can set high environmental standards, then why not Guildford for its own farmers market? Only one word, hypocrisy.

When Godalming, and many other places, have a street food market, some  like Godalming  once a year, some like Winchester every week on a Wednesday, then why not Guildford?

August or September would be ideal.

And why no coffee stall serving high quality coffee? It is not acceptable that Costa and tax-dodging Starbucks serving undrinkable disgusting coffee are allowed to dictate what happens on the High Street.

And shame on any producer who gets their coffee from these chains when Guildford has indie coffee shops, including Surrey Hills Coffee, just off the High Street in Chapel Lane. When on the one hand they expect us to support local producers, maybe time to practice what they preach.  Again one word to describe this behaviour, hypocrisy. Though I could add, stupidity.

And where are the Environmental Heath Inspectors? No problem on a cold day, but when I see meat and poultry in the sun when 30C in the shade, then there is cause to worry, as it says the stalls have not a clue how to handle food. If this is what I see in public gaze, what happens behind the scenes?

Looked in on Ben in Ben’s Records. Nothing by Agnes Obel. I suggested check her out.

cheese cum deli in Chapel Street

cheese cum deli in Chapel Street

Walked down Castle Street, popped in cheese shop cum deli. Let them know I had spoke as promised to a  few stalls.

For the last hour, getting very cold, cold mist making it worse.

cappuccino in Harris Hoole

cappuccino in Harris Hoole

Cappuccino in Harris + Hoole. I could have popped in one of the indie coffee shops, sadly Harris + Hoole now owned by Cafe Nero, but they all close early, and in Harris + Hoole I am guaranteed a constantly good coffee.  Unlike Caracoli, where the manager knows nothing about coffee and makes himself a laughing stock.  It is a tragedy the indie coffee shops close early, as in the summer they are turning away a constant flow of customers.

I was served an excellent cappuccino, but then barista said no, you deserve better.

Then when I left, served another two coffees.

Very impressed.  A barista who takes a pride in his work.

Two coffee places vie for No 1, depends who is serving, FCB kiosk on Platform 2 at Guildford Station and Harris + Hoole. Surrey Hills Coffee comes in at No 3.

Which again begs the question, why oh why, no quality coffee stall on the market, other than objections from Costa and Starbucks?

Nightmare of weekend rail works gets worse

October 30, 2016
North Camp rail works

North Camp rail works

The nightmare of weekend rail works, travelling down to Brighton last Sunday, could not get worse, could it? Unfortunately yes.

This Sunday, rail works on the line Reading to Gatwick and a repeat of last weekend’s nightmare with rail works Gatwick to Brighton.

Bus Reading to Guildford, then train to Gatwick.

As the clocks had gone back to GMT, and it gets dark an hour earlier, I set off an hour earlier, plus twenty minutes because bus was twenty minutes earlier.

A journey to Gatwick, that would take an hour, now an hour and a half.

I arrived ten minutes early for the bus. Road to station closed. Where to pick up the bus? No information at the station, nor an amended timetable or where to pick up the bus.

Displays on the platforms were not showing amended times, merely rail works and a bus service in operation.

No bus. The bus failed to turn up.

A bus for Reading arrived. The driver was asked to either contact the driver or his office. The driver refused on the grounds that he did not know the number of his own office.

Passenger decided to walk to another station and get to Guildford that way. Either way, train from Guildford to Gatwicks missed, an hour until next train.

Tough job passengers with a  plane to catch.

Not possible to cross the line due to rail works.

A detour to cross via a road bridge.  Dangerous to walk along, no footpath

On crossing the road bridge, bus turns up. Flagged down, and passengers get on the bus.

Now twenty minutes late.  No explanation or apology from driver as to why twenty minutes late.

For some perverse reason, driver decided to drive down the closed road. For what? There are no passenger to pick up, we are the passengers.

We tell him one passenger for Gatwick is on the other side, but not possible to cross due to rail works.

Driver decides to pick up passenger, even though pointless exercise, train missed at Guildford.

Driver, instead of going to car park, drives to another station.

Bus then stuck, as not possible to turn around the bus.

Eventually after much manoeuvring, bus turned around. Bus now running 40-50 minutes late.

He then goes to another station to pick passengers up. No passengers to be picked up.

Arrive at Guildford, train for Gatwick long gone.

Had though the bus been on time, sufficient time to walk through the station and catch the train, insufficient time to buy a ticket.

Any passenger coming by bus without a ticket should be allowed through to catch their train.

At Gatwick, no announcement how to get to Brighton.

I saw a train leaving in five minutes for Havant, stopping at Three Bridges, nipped across to Platform 7, and caught it.

At Three Bridges, unlike last Sunday, no announcements. I assumed as last week, walk through car park and catch a bus.

Very efficient, as soon as a bus full, dispatched.

Double-decker buses, as last week.

As soon as bus pulled out, luggage rolling around, nowhere to safely stow. Area for wheelchairs and buggies doubled as luggage space

French girl on the bus, said she had no idea what to do on arrival at Three Bridges as no announcements. She said trains in France do not provide this appalling service nor are they expensive.

Return from Brighton as efficient, as  soon as  a bus full, dispatched.

At Three Bridges, choice of two trains, one for St Pancras, the other for Victoria, both stopped at Gatwick.

Train to Guildford, then bus.

As train pulled into Guildford, announcement where to catch the train, and again at the station.

Bus driver appeared to know the route, in contrast to the driver in the morning who did not seem to have a clue where he was going.