Archive for the ‘Guildford’ Category

Guildford farmers market

December 4, 2018

Hazy sun, frost first thing, a cold day around 7C.

Market very busy but also a lot of overpriced tat.

Celtic Baker had sold out of most bread.

Apple stall sold out of small apples, and brought extra lot.

The stall that occupies where once Secretts Farm had a stall, I learnt was the former head grower at Secretts Farm. He had managed to find a plot of land and has started up his own business. The quality of the produce always high.

A cake stall got shirty when I took a picture of the stall, wanted to know what I was doing. I would have thought obvious. I wish people would learn, it is ok to take pictures in public space.

The market is due to go plastic free next year. No information on this and news to the stall holders.

Interesting conversation with Riverford, suppliers of veg boxes, on their moves to go plastic free by 2020.

Ever wondered why never see any Police? Half a dozen Police at the Experience Guildford stall, who now have a presence to try and justify their squandering of public funds, like for example offering free car parking on the lead up to Christmas, the one time of the year the car parks full to overflowing and delivering a one sheet newsletter devoid of content that is treated as junk mail and goes straight in the bin.

And what were the Police doing, a farmer branching out into illicit poppies? I have no idea.

Last market everyone thought the turkey stall had been kicked off the market. Sadly not, they are back, with turkeys siting on their stall, plus their usual turkey sausages. At least not covered in flies. And who buys turkeys three weeks before Christmas?

Fresh meat and poultry should be kept in a fridge at  between 0-5C. Today, although a cold day, 7C. Last few days not far off 15C. Next few days hovering above and below 10C. Or in other words not the temperature inside a fridge.

During the summer poultry sat on their stall at plus 25C if not above 30C.

And where were Environmental Heath? They claim to regularly patrol the market. Strange how no one ever sees them. Maybe they would care to give dates and times, stalls inspected, and why the turkey stall is still on the market.

Why would anyone wish to buy turkeys three weeks before Christmas?

If wish to buy a turkey, buy from a reputable local butcher.

Excellent local butcher in Downing Street in Farnham.

Mushroom stall had oyster mushrooms growing. I commented could grow on coffee grounds. He said no, alien species could grow. He uses a mix of sawdust and straw. Those using coffee grounds would beg to differ, they also add straw. Coffee grounds are sterilised but could subsequently become contaminated.

One thing one learns from coffee roasteries, even if nothing else, is respect for the coffee bean. Not so Cupsmith. During the hot summer, roasted coffee beans in open hessian sacks. Cold damp winter days, roasted coffee beans in open hessian sacks.

There are two places to obtain quality coffee beans in Guildford, and two places only. FCB Coffee kiosk on Guildford Station has occasional guest coffee on sale. Krema in Tungate has coffee from Horsham Coffee Roasters on sale.

When buying cheese, things to look for, rare breed cows, cows pastured on grass, unpasteurised milk, traditional cheesemaking. What you do not want is pasteurised milk from black and white bulk milk producers, and cheese made on the farm where  simply replicating an industrialised process on a smaller scale including adding cultures. And never vacuum packed adulterated fake Cheddar in 17 flavours or waxed cheese with a picture of a Lancaster bomber.

But do not take my word for it, heed what Bronwen Percival has to say on buying cheese in an 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.

For quality cheese in Guildford spoilt for choice in the cheesemonger end of Chapel Street.

Farmers markets are synonymous with quality, or so they would like us to think, but do not be fooled, that something is produced locally, does not make it quality.

I will buy bread off Celtic Bakers, eat a dosa off the dosa stall, fresh produce off the stall that has taken the place of Secretts Farm, apples and apple juice off the apple stall, meat from the farm cooking the roast pork.

I noticed many of the stalls were stickered with little black Great Taste Awards maybe half, maybe more than half. Do not be fooled, these stickers mean absolutely nothing, and are certainly no indication of quality.

A dosa off the Indian stall, as always excellent.

Excellent honey crunch chicken with brown rice in Bamboo Shoots.

Passing Surrey Hills Coffee to and from Bamboo Shoots, as always empty, ok one customer. On my second pass, a girl I have not seen before. Pleasant and helpful. I commented that one of the bags of coffee grounds sat outside had been picked up. Did I want she asked, more behind the counter. No, as wrong time of year.

As always, excellent coffee at Krema.

I was greeted by an ex-barista from Harris + Hoole. Since the takeover by caffe Nero and death by a thousand cuts, Harris + Hoole have lost all their good staff.

There will be an extra market in two weeks time, a special Christmas market. If there was any information or publicity, I did not see. I only know thanks to a  couple of the stalls telling me.

The market needs to up its game, better environmental standards, emphasis on quality having priority over local, though ideally both.

A must for the Christmas market, Hidden Curiosities Gin and Chimney Fire Coffee, local producers of exceptional quality.

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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.

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,

Nightmare GWR trains from Reading to Redhill and Gatwick

November 19, 2018

At every location on a visit to Reading, I stay far longer than intended. I will not make 4-30 train. Not even 6-30. I go for 1902 to find cancelled.

Then the nightmare begins, no trains, no announcements, no explanation, no apology.

Next train for Gatwick, showing twenty minutes late.

Next train an hour later, comes into wrong platform.

As by now frozen decide to catch this train, even if later, as appears to be on time, as at least I can sit on a warm train out of the cold.

During this time no announcements.

Train does not leave on time. Train does not leave, told to catch earlier train which has now arrived and is sitting at the station. It does not leave either. After a long delay, it pulls out of the station, only to stop 100m from the station, where its sits.

Arrive North Camp Station at 2115. If trains running normally, approximately 30 minutes from Reading depending upon fast or slow train.

A man got off the train at North Camp, hoping to pick up stopping train to Ash. Only problem, there were no stopping trains. Whilst on the train, passengers to Ash should have been advised to continue to Guildford, then pick yo a train back to Ash, either on Reading or Aldershot line. I advised he walked to Ash Vale, caught train to Aldershot then to Ash.

There were no announcements to advise passengers what was happening, no apology.

There should have been a bus running to Gatwick.

And this was not a one off.

In September, on at least two Fridays in a row, no Gatwick trains were running. No announcements, no advice to catch Redhill train, then change.

On the last day of October, last train from Gatwick cancelleld. No information at Gatwick on replacement bus or from where to catch.

Train indicator at North Camp has not worked since June. GWR refusing to pay the £5000 to repair.

Not only GWR.

South West Railways too.

During the morning, no trains to and from Waterloo.

A couple of weeks ago, no trains at Guildford, apparently broken down train at Clapham Junction.

Last week in the evening no trains at Alton. Broken down train at Clapham Junction.

September, train from Portsmouth Harbour cancelled.

Every Saturday, no trains due to guards on strike.

Other rail companies as bad.

Three times in September on East Coast Mainline, now run by LNER following disastrous performance by Virgin, trains delayed, connections missed.

Then there is Southern Fail and Northern Fail, appalling service during the summer, missed connections, delays of hours.

Trains with no working toilets.

We have a Third World train service with extortionate fares.

Beginning of January we will see train fares hiked double the rate of inflation, with rail companies telling us service has improved.

Rail fares must be frozen for the foreseeable future.

Rail must be taken back into pubic ownership, the gravy train of HS2 scrapped.

It will cost nothing as default at end of franchise.

Failing companies must be stripped of their franchise.

Note: There were no trains from Farnborough North for fours hours.

Note: GWR consider a delay of two hours to be acceptable.

Appalling meal at Pho Guildford

November 16, 2018

Pho is a fake Vietnamese street food restaurant in Tunsgate.

I went twice when Pho Guildford first opened in the summer when half price, then returned a few weeks later.

Each time, the food had deteriorated from previous visit, never saw the same staff twice, poor service their trademark.

Today I met up with a friend. As Bamboo Shoots closed, we went to Pho.

Pho was packed, very noisy, not pleasant, but luckily we got a table by the window. On previous visits, apart from the day it opened, empty.

Loud music, lots of noise, does not make for a pleasant environment to relax and eat, but Pho clueless and do not understand this or care.

Menu came promptly, not the food we ordered. A long wait, a very long wait, easily half an hour or more. Most of the people had left before our food came. A man sitting next to us was served promptly, even though he arrived some time after us.

When the food finally came it was cold. It was fairly obvious, cooked, left, before delivered to the table. The bowls were stone cold.

Prawns on a bed of bean shoots and noodles. Some of the prawns lukewarm, others cold as though out of a fridge. Bean shoots warm. Noodles cold as though out of a fridge.

Disgusting that food can be served like this.

We requested something else.

Only I ate as it was getting late. It was not good either.

Char-grilled pork, only it bore no resemblance to what have had before either in Pho Guildford or Pho Reading last week. Previously thin slices of pork, these were chunks of pork. Previously crunchy white rice slightly aromatic. This was neither and had had something unpleasant poured over half the rice.

I left half eaten.

When we complained, a tall black guy came to the table. Whether manager or serving staff he did not say.

He apologised and offered something else and said we did not have to pay. I would not have paid anyway.

He then asked did we live in Guildford and said he would bring us something.

When he returned we assumed it was to give us a voucher to eat again another day.

No, it was a book of special offers, available in every participating venue.

Could we use to to pay the bill? No. Only for their Christmas dinner.

When something is this bad, and it was bad. The meal should have been free with an invite to return at their expense.

But Pho is a chain, they do not care, poor service is their trademark.

Although in Tunsgate, Pho is part of Tunsgate Quarter, the latest Guildford White Elephant. A sterile artificial shopping centre, boarded-up units, crap chains like Cosy Club a fake 1930s bar, so fake a parody of fake and devoid of people. The only use of Tunsgate Quarter to provide a useful short cut when raining.

Afternoon in Guildford

November 16, 2018

A damp wet drizzly day in Guildford, though mild.

FCB kiosk on Guildford Station always has a guest coffee. I have often asked, why not have the beans on sale?

A first, Beanpress coffee the beans on sale in tins.

Last week I inquired the price. £18. This could not be right, I inquired of Beanpress, they would not say. Their website not working. I suggested put price of beans and description in a pdf file which can be downloaded or sent out on request.

I was told to e-mail. This I did last week. I finally got a reply this evening. Prices of beans, not the beans I inquired of.

Today I learnt £7-50. Reasonable. Unlike Coffee Lab not ripping customers off on the sale of guest beans. What not acceptable, old beans, roasted August 2018.

Bamboo Shoots closed today. I looked in Debenhams.

Debenhams used to have their own coffee shop. Then became Costa. I was shocked to find it has expanded on the ground floor, and busy, Debenhams customer obviously no taste in coffee.

Debenhams used to have excellent roast dinners, excellent roast pork. Today turkey, always turkey.

Looked in Food for Thought, sometimes freebies, not today. Ever changing coffee, Eat Your Hat, never heard of, no roast date, and looking at their website, marketing hype for the gullible.

I met up with a friend, Bamboo Shoots closed, we went to Pho.

Passing by Surrey Hills Coffee, not a single customer. The norm these days. No surprise when poor quality coffee. How long before they close?

Caracoli is closing or has closed.

I am surprised Canopy Coffee still in business.

Pho was packed, very noisy, not pleasant, but luckily we got a table by the window. On previous visits, apart from the day it opened, empty.

Menu came promptly, not the food we ordered. A long wait, a very long wait, easily half an hour or more. When the food finally came it was cold. It was fairly obvious, cooked, left, before delivered to the table. The bowls were stone cold. We requested something else. Only I ate as it was getting late. It was not good either.

Krema packed. I returned a little later still busy, but not packed. A cappuccino, then a V60 pour over.

Guildford farmers market

November 6, 2018

A grey wet day for Guildford farmers market.

This time of year usually a dreary affair, fewer stalls, but not today. Many new stalls I had not seen before. The downside is fewer and fewer growers and farmers.

I was pleased to see the turkey sausage stall had gone. Whether kicked off I do not know.

The scandal was not only the turkey sausages sitting on their stall in a heatwave and the manner in which they handled raw meat. The scandal was also the manner in which the market manager and environmental heath handled the situation, or more to the point failed to handle. They simply turned a blind eye. What were they waiting for, a mass outbreak of food poisoning?

This also raises question of oversight of officials who fail to diligently carry out the responsibility of their office.

The market manager should have kicked the stall off the market, environmental health should have seized the stock, closed the stall down and mounted a prosecution.

It also begs the question of why during the hot weather environmental health were not out patrolling the market?

But then when the council locks an elderly infirm couple in Tunsgate then blatantly lies about it, maybe we should not be surprised.

Or the major cock up at the expense of local taxpayers of the market in shipping containers.

The use of plastic on the market is not acceptable. There should be minimum standards. If music festivals, South Bank Street Food Market, Hisbe rebel supermarket can set minimum standards, why not a council-run farmers market?

Roasted coffee should be kept in the absence of air, in a cool, dry, dark place.

Cupsmith during the summer in open hessian sacks in temperatures in excess of 30C. Today 15C very damp, in open hessian sacks.

Freshly roasted coffee is meaningless. Yes, is should be freshly roasted, but need to know the roast date.

And who wants coffee beans left in the heat, left in the damp absorbing moisture and oxidising in open hessian sacks?

Jamie Oliver knows nothing about coffee. Try drinking his disgusting Italian corporate brand coffee at Gatwick Airport. Italy is infamous for bad coffee.

No country of origin. Single origin coffee will at the very least show country of origin, if direct trade, the farm, the variety, the Q grade.

When a coffee roastery is this clueless on coffee, has this lack of respect for their coffee, go elsewhere.

Krema in Tunsgate has a choice of coffee from Horsham Coffee. Not yet but soon, FCB Coffee kiosk on Guildford Station will be roasting their own coffee. Whether also coffee beans for sale I do not know.

Excellent lunch as always in Bamboo Shoots, honey crunch chicken.

Passing to and fro Surrey Hills Coffee as always empty, well ok three people, as near as empty.

Cappuccino and hot chocolate in Krema. Hot chocolate for a friend. As always Krema busy.

From Krema we wandered through Tunsgate Quarter, as always deserted, boarded-up units and ghastly chains such as Cosy Club, a fake 1930s bar so fake it is a Monty Python parody of fake.

Assuming the few retailers within Tunsgate Quarter are paying full rents and businesses rates, they must be regretting their decision to move into this sterile shopping centre. They must be haemorrhaging money. How long before they pull out?

Guildford farmers market is held first Tuesday of the month. There will be an extra Christmas market in December. There is no market in January.

Failure of British bookstore chains to display or stock Hippie

November 2, 2018

Hippie, a major international best seller by Paulo Coelho, yet noticeable by its absence in WHSmith or Waterstone’ s, two British bookstore chains.

I checked in Guildford High Street, a few weeks after publication.

WHSmith. No Hippie. Not on display, not in stock. Talking to a helpful guy he said he cannot recall ever seeing in the store let alone on display.

Waterstone’s across the street no better. Hippie not on display. I did eventually find, spine only, on the bottom shelf next to the floor with new books. A little direct action. When I left,  on display on table by the entrance.

I inquired the week published. No one knew what I was talking about. WHSmith not only not in stock, not even shown on their system.

I had hoped to find at Gatwick Airport. Not there either.

Contrast with Athens, Hippie in window display of all major bookstores, one even had a display poster on the door.

Afternoon in Guildford

November 2, 2018

Cold afternoon in Guildford.

I arrived in Guildford nearly an hour later than I wished, as missed a train as unable to cross the line with barriers down. Had I not bought a ticket, I could have crossed the line and caught the train.

A coffee off FCB kiosk. I tried the guest coffee from Bean Press Coffee (I have never heard of). To me weak and insipid. Spoilt by two weeks of excellent coffee in Athens.

I am pleased to see FCB kiosk now using compostable cups. But begs the question, what to do with the cup? Unless facilities to compost the cups, will go straight into the general waste stream.  As I was going to the market in North Street, I saved mine for the compost heap.

In the sun pleasant, very cold walking along the river in the shade.

Spitfire No 85 WHSmith.

No Hippie. Not on display, not in stock. Talking to a helpful guy he said he cannot recall ever seeing in the store let alone on display.

Waterstone’s across the street no better. Hippie not on display. I did eventually find, spine only, on the bottom shelf next to the floor with new books. A little direct action, now on display on table by the entrance.

Contrast with Athens, Hippie in window display of all major bookstores, one even had a display poster on the door.

Last time I passed through the street market some weeks ago I was shocked by how much smaller it was since my last visit.  Today, beginning of November, smaller still. The cheese stall and the coffee stall have gone.  Loss of the coffee stall no great loss, cheese can be obtained everyday from the excellent cheesemonger in Chapel Street.  Fruit and vegetable stall at the top, was two stalls, now only one stall.

It will be a shame to see this once excellent market collapse. But once the number of stalls goes down, and fewer visitors,  on a vicious downward spiral,

As always excellent lunch at Bamboo Shoots.

Interesting conversation with attractive young woman sat next to me.

Leaving Bamboo Shoots, the temperature had plumeted, now very cold.

As always, Surrey Hills Coffee empty. OK, two people, but as near as empty.  Last few times I have passed by it has been quite literally empty, not a single customer. But if serve poor quality coffee, disgusting vegan cakes, then no surprise always empty.

By contrast, Krema busy.

My cappuccino weak and insipid. Culture shock after the excellent coffee in Athens.

Autumn Equinox in Guildford

September 21, 2018

Autumn Equinox when length of day and night are equal, following days are shorter the nights longer. It felt like winter solstice.

Train to Gatwick cancelled, next train running several minutes late. No announcement on station what passengers should do to get to Gatwick. Display on platform not working, has not been working for months. Help machine on platform not working. I was the one who advised passengers to catch next train to Redhill, then change for Gatwick. No announcement on train. Neither wifi nor usb charging points working.

Shocked to find the North Street market has shrunk. Fruit and vegetable stall at the top was two stalls, one for vegetables the other fruit, now only one stall. Cake and bread stall gone. Cheese stall gone. A new stall, Syrians selling falafel, but not a street food market, they will not do well. Not good news market is collapsing. I have no idea why.

Excellent lunch as always at Bamboo Shoots.

Passing by Surrey Hills Coffee, as always empty, three women sat at a table. The last time I was in Guildford and passed by, not a single customer.

No one happy at the laughable video produced by Guildford Tourist Information Office, come to Guildford, we too have Costa and Starbucks, two grotty shopping centres with same crap chains as every other grotty shopping centre, a department store on the verge of bankruptcy.

Ben’s Records does a better job promoting Guildford than either the Tourist Information Office or Experience Guildford.

As always excellent cappuccino at Krema.