Archive for the ‘NotoCosta’ Category

Waterstone’s the J D Wetherspoon of the book trade

March 22, 2020

Boss of J D Wetherspoon Tim Martin was more than happy to put staff and clientele at risk by forcing sick staff into work under threat of no sick pay.

The same irresponsible attitude, encouraging going to the pub, failure to heed advice on social distancing.

Waterstone’s are showing the same contempt for staff and customers during coronavirus crisis. No ban on cash, no hand sanitiser, no social distancing. Office staff sent home, staff in book shops forced to carry on working.

Waterstone’s where greed rules ok. There should be hand sanitiser by the door, everyone walking in required to use. Contactless card only. Close early at three every day. This was the norm in Sheffield last week.

Contrast last week with Steam Yard coffee shop in Sheffield. Hand sanitiser by the door, close at three.

Or contrast with fish n chip restaurant Elite on the Bail, restaurant closed takeaway at the back, social distancing, hand sanitiser on offer to use.

Waterstone’s destroyed Ottakar’s. I had hoped James Daunt may improve, but no. Still the rubbish dumped by publishers piled on tables, staff treated badly.

Why is it always the big corporate chains that treat their staff badly?

Indie coffee shops as always leading the way. Coffee served in takeaway cups, no reusable cups, hand sanitiser by the door.

Talking to an employee of 200 Degrees a small coffee shop chain before they were forced to close, she said refusal to put hand sanitiser by the door, no interest in health and safety of staff or customers.

When the ban on pubs, bars, coffee shops came in, I walked down Lincoln High Street, indie coffee shops closed, Caffe Nero and Starbucks open.

Use contactless card. I prefer cash, cash is anonymous, cards are traced and tracked, inflate profits of banks, but these are not normal times, cash is dirty. Similarly, good coffee is to be appreciated, sit and relax with coffee served in ceramic or glass, but not normal times, takeaway protects staff and customers, minimises contamination.

Support your local indie bookshop

  • P&G Wells – Winchester
  • Lindum Books – Lincoln
  • Blue Bear Bookshop – Farnham
  • Ideas on Paper – Nottingham

and indie coffee shops

  • Marmadukes – Sheffield
  • Steam Yard – Sheffield
  • The Specialty Coffee Shop – Nottingham
  • Cartwheel Coffee – Nottingham
  • Outpost Coffee – Nottingham
  • Madame Waffle – Lincoln
  • Coffee Aroma – Lincoln
  • Krema – Farnham and Guildford
  • Coffee Lab – Winchester

By no means an exhaustive list.

Tuesday of last week, UK was two weeks behind Italy, one week behind Spain, with one big difference, Italy and Spain already had measures in place before they introduced ever tighter measures. In UK, too little, too late.

If you wish for something to read, stuck at home, read an e-book.

Paulo Coelho has made available several of his books for free download.

Something other writers and filmmakers could do.

Mark Thomas has made available for almost free download one of his shows (he asks make a donation to a food bank).

When Primark, McDonald’s announced they are closing, we know it is game up.

Waterstone’s announced they were closing. But will staff get paid. Staff who were off sick, suspected covid-19, told to take out of their annual leave.

James Daunt the Tim Martin of the book trade. Shops closed but more likely no one on the streets, no one buying books, shops losing money, than consideration for the well being of staff and customers. Plus with shops closed staff on furlough government will pay 80% of their salary

But what does this say of Pepsi Trump? China gave us time, we squandered it. Tuesday of last week UK was two weeks behind Italy, one week behind Spain. With one big difference, both countries had measures in place, and have since tightened those measures. It was sporting bodies which decided to close, led the way. Now it is shops closing, taking the initiative. Still no lockdown of London. Bars and pubs serving drinks.

Cappuccino Stokes at The lawn

March 3, 2020

Usually I take coffee in for Mike to try, but today raining, I let Mike select a coffee.

Try this Colombian.

Aroma was that of chocolate, milk chocolate, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.

OK I know it is not chocolate, fat and sugar. Read the label if do not believe me. Cadbury’s do not claim it to be chocolate.

A moot point Stokes at The Lawn. Please stock quality bean-to-bar chocolate.

Bullion and Luisa’s would be good starting point, maybe add Bare Bones.

I digress.

Mike brewed a cappuccino.

Fruity, very different to the aroma.

And not usual for a cappuccino, improved as it cooled, more akin to behaviour of a V60.

The roast less a light roast, though was a light roast, but instead of lowering roast temperature reduced the length of roast.

Happy Coffee Bike

February 22, 2020

Spend fours hours travelling up from Kent, pay £400 for a pitch to stand in the cold to serve LavAzza coffee at a junk food travelling circus in Lincoln.


To say the least I felt very sorry for the young Romanian lady whose stall it was, her very first outing with her coffee trike.

I doubt she covered her travel costs, let alone cost of the pitch, cost of overnight stay.

Who conned her into this ridiculous venture?

She had not worked in coffee, knew nothing about coffee.

Why serve LavAzza when High Street lined with coffee shops serving bad coffee?

She was frozen. I offered to take her for a coffee to have the chance to warm up and drink a decent coffee.  But she could not leave her stall.

I advised she checked out coffee roasteries in Sussex, and to attend the Brighton Coffee Festival in August.

Coffee by the Arch revisited

February 19, 2020

Since my last visit some time ago, Coffee by the Arch has changed owners. It had been for sale for some time. New owners took over 20 days ago.

On my last visit, service was so bad, I gave up waiting and walked out. And what I saw of coffee served not worth waiting. The coffee sourced not good.

Very little has changed, and not improved.

Service still bad, clueless on coffee.

Long wait before served with a cappuccino carpet bombed with chocolate.

I took it back. Second attempt not much better. All I can say in its favour is that I have had worse.

The coffee supplied by Limini, suppliers of catering supply coffee to the trade. Says all need to know about Limini when they supply syrups.

There is no excuse for sourcing cheap low quality coffee, or for not employing skilled baristas.

Local try Seven Districts. But would need to employ a barista to get the best out of their coffee.

I have never understood why anyone opens or buys a coffee shop when knows nothing about coffee.

Depressing, in a good location and could be an excellent little coffee shop.

Lunch at Marmadukes

February 7, 2020

Most towns have two or three places worth eating.

For Sheffield, South Street Kitchen,  ShuJu Kitchen Taiwanese pop up kitchen at Union St and Marmadukes opposite Sheffield Cathedral.

South Street Kitchen coffee, cakes and vegetarian food at the foot of the Park Hill Flats, cross the tram lines out the back of Sheffield Railway Station and follow the path leading up the slope. Stunning views over Sheffield city centre.

Union St, not far from Winter Garden, a pop up kitchen, each day different. For ShuJu Kitchen advisable to check as may otherwise be disappointed.

Marmadukes, old Georgian town house opposite Sheffield Cathedral, excellent lunch and coffee.

Union St no Shuju Kitchen, therefore Marmadukes it was, head straight down the street, past Sheffield Town Hall, turn into side street Norfolk Row where Marmadukes is located in a beautiful old Georgian town house opposite Sheffield Cathedral.

Excellent burger and chips. Very filling. I struggled to finish.

Followed by an excellent cappuccino.

Marmadukes have recently opened a second coffee shop in Cambridge Street (near John Lewis).

Marmadukes is featured in Coffee Shop North.  Available to browse but not to buy.

Saw Grinders Union

February 6, 2020

Saw Grinders Union a coffee shop and bar located in Globe Works on Kelham Island.

A few minutes walk from Cutlery Works, if know the way.

Down a muddy alley running alongside the River Don, twists and turns down the deserted cobbled backstreets of Kelham Island.

On offer Extract Coffee. I have never been impressed with Extract, I chose one of the guest coffees, an espresso roast from Workshop as a cappuccino. The other guest coffee was Grumpy Mule.

My cappuccino not great somewhat weak and insipid.

Saw Grinders Union only been open a few months, still finding their way.

Knowledgeable barista, knew her coffee and coffee shops. Previously had worked in Australia and Upshot Coffee.

She asked of my favourite coffee shops in Sheffield. Marmadukes and Steam Yard, also Upshot Coffee.

I suggested she visit Coffee Aroma and Madame Waffle in Lincoln,  The Perky Peacock and Kiosk in York.  I could have added Cartwheel Coffee, Outpost Coffee and The Specialty Coffee Shop in Nottingham.

She then kindly walked outside with me and pointed me the way to catch the tram back into the city centre and to the train station.

Foundry Coffee Roasters

February 6, 2020

Wandering around Cutlery Works at Kelham Island I stopped and had a coffee at Foundry Coffee Roasters to see what their coffee was like.

Two bored looking people behind a long counter,  otherwise engaged on either laptop or smart phone.

I ordered a cappuccino. It was not good.

Cutlery Works

February 6, 2020

Cutlery Works, a bus ride away from Sheffield city centre on Kelham Island, occupies two floors, claims to be the largest food hall in the North. Whether claim true or not I do not know.

Imagine the worst street food collected together in one building? OK, not that bad but get my drift. At least no hot dogs, kebabs or German sausages. Pies, a couple of bars, Vietnamese, a coffee roastery, pizza and a chocolate maker.

It was all but deserted as I had a wander around, but the smell of cooking lingered, not pleasant and I hate to think what it is like when busy and all the stalls cooking.

I had eaten earlier at Marmadukes and was pleased that I had from the choice on offer.

No atmosphere, lacking in ambience. Made worse by widescreen TV screens dotted around.

I tried a coffee from Foundry Coffee Roasters. It was not great, not worth trekking out from Sheffield city centre for.

Only business worth making a trip out from Sheffield city centre, Bullion bean to bar artisan craft chocolate.

Not acceptable, card only, do not take cash. This is discrimination. Hands money to banks, enables tracking, more data collected. Not the choice of the individual businesses. Imposed on the businesses by the management of Cutlery Works. They collect rent as a cut from turnover, hence card payment only to enable the management to keep track of all the businesses. This should be seen for what it is, sharp businesses practice.

Nor acceptable wifi that not only is not secure, is a crude scam to obtain and abuse personal data. Visitors who use the wifi will then start receiving junk e-mail.

There are better places to eat in Sheffield city centre, South Street Kitchen, ShuJu Kitchen pop up Taiwanese kitchen at Union St, Marmadukes.

Apart from Bullion, Cutlery Works not worth a trip to Kelham Island.

Stray’s Newark

January 29, 2020

Serving the best coffee in Newark since 2003. — Stray’s Newark

The business is built on the mantra that we’ll make you “the best coffee you’ll have today” and we’ve been doing that since 2003.  — Stray’s Newark

When a coffee shop claims to be serving the best coffee in town, it as a rule means they are serving crap coffee. Good coffee speaks for itself. World class coffee shops never make such ludicrous claims.

What I found, a greasy spoon cafe serving very bad coffee.

I asked for burger, claimed to be homemade. Did not have. Offered chicken burger. Yuk, No thanks.

Luckily I had had excellent mushroom soup and a bread roll earlier at The Soup Dwagon in Chain Lane.

Menu says locally sourced, but without saying from where meaningless. Contrast with Stokes on High Bridge, locally sourced and they say who supplies.

I ordered a coffee. Service abysmal. A long wait.

When it arrived, looked disgusting, cappuccino carpet bombed with chocolate. A tiny sip, scalding hot, tasted disgusting.

I took it back. Then had an argument, told I should have said if I did not want chocolate, the till said chocolate.

Begs the question how was I to know what the till says?  It is not for me to contradict the till, it is for whoever is serving to ask. And a good coffee shop would never dream of offering chocolate. The only reason chocolate dumped on a cappuccino to mask that it is cheap crap coffee.

I asked of the coffee they use. No one knew. The bags of coffee on sale, appeared to be catering supply coffee, no roast date. If we take the best by date July 2020 which for coffee is meaningless the coffee was probably roasted July 2019. In other words old coffee long past its best.

And what does Rich Roast Beans mean? Absolutely nothing. Looking at the beans, dark over-roasted to hide that cheap rubbish coffee, a standardised product requires no skill of the person brewing the coffee.

The coffee supplied by Caffe Moko suppliers of catering supply coffee.

Note: I have asked of Caffe Moko suppliers of the catering supply coffee the roast date for coffee with a meaningless best before date of July 2020. They have lacked the courtesy to reply.

Note: Coffee is at its best within three weeks of roast date. Coffee shops that care about coffee, do not use beyond three weeks. Always check roast date.

Stray’s clueless on use of social media. I had asked from where they source their coffee. Lacked the courtesy of a reply.  But, if cheap catering supply coffee easy to see why Stray’s keep quiet.

Second cappuccino arrived a little quicker. It too looked disgusting, a quarter of an inch of froth and foam sitting above the cup. I dipped my spoon in. There may have been coffee somewhere in the bottom of my cup if plumbed the depths my spoon came back up with a slight brown tinge.

A tiny sip, scalding hot, tasted disgusting.

The cookie I had ordered came later. It was not good, sugary and sweet, cheap chocolate, sugar held together with starch with a few crumbs of cheap chocolate added. Not a quality cookie.

I was pleased I did not have anything to eat. Not going by the coffee or the cookie.

I was also pleased I did not have anything to eat, the vile stomach churning stench emanating from the kitchen, I was tempted to ask but thought best not to know.

I asked for a bag for remnants of my cookie. To my surprise a brown paper carrier bag. Surprise turns to shock when I look inside and see my cookie sitting in a plastic box.

Care for the environment, plastic pollution, must have passed Stray’s by.

I walked out, my disgusting cappuccino left untouched. I should have demanded a refund.

I hold no great store with TripAdvisor trolls and fake reviews to ever consider as a reliable source, therefore I merely note in passing with no further comment that Stray’s is ranked at No 20 for Cafes, No 2 tea and coffee shops.


Stray’s claim to serve the best coffee in Newark, the board outside says so, the best coffee will drink all day. Putting to one side demonstrably not true, ranks as some of the worst coffee I have been served, with a service to match, and I have tried to some very bad coffee.

If this is the best coffee in Newark, how bad must be coffee in the other coffee shops?

It turns out, not only are Stray’s serving one of the worst coffees I have tried, served by clueless staff, I only had to walk a few metres down the street to find the claim demonstrably not true.

I popped in Balmforth & Co Coffee House housed in a beautiful old building. Ordered a cappuccino. It was reasonable, in another league to what I had been served at Stray’s.  I showed the staff what I had been served at Stray’s. They started laughing.

Stray’s are expanding. Opening in Oakham, Stamford and Lincoln.

Lincoln is saturated with greasy spoon cafes serving bad coffee and corporate coffee chains serving bad coffee.

What seems like a bad joke, Stray’s is offering barista training.

Newark lies half way between Lincoln and Nottingham, hop on a train and spoilt for choice. In Lincoln Coffee Aroma and Madame Waffle. In Nottingham, Cartwheel Coffee, Wired, Outpost Coffee and The Speciality Coffee Shop.

The following day a coffee at Madame Waffle served by a young lady who had only started a few days  previous in the month and still learning. She made a coffee that was in another league to what Stray’s are serving.

— to be continued —

Lincoln Pier Cafe revisited

January 27, 2020

One cannot develop taste from what is of average quality but only from the very best. — Goethe

It is not often I revisit a coffee shop where I have a bad experience, occasionally I do, maybe I am a glutton for punishment.

The last time I visited Lincoln Pier Cafe a month and half ago, it was not a good experience, it was like walking into a morgue and the coffee was not good.

Then it was early afternoon, today late morning.

It was still like walking into a morgue, today the sun shining through the windows improved the atmosphere a little.

And the coffee?

The coffee was worse than my previous visit, and then it was not good. A vile taste, and even worse it left a vile aftertaste.

I do not blame the baristas, far from it, it is the cheap catering supply coffee the baristas are being asked to work with. No matter how hard one tries, it is impossible to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

The blame lies squarely with whoever is responsible for buying this cheap catering supply coffee. Either they are cutting corners and buying the cheapest coffee they can find or they have no sense of taste. Probably both.

There is absolutely no excuse these days for buying cheap catering supply coffee not when spoilt for choice with roasteries who deliver coffee to be proud of.

Dark Woods for example. I do not care for their basic blends, but even these are better than the rubbish currently buying, their singe origins are excellent. Then there is The Blending Room in Hull. Though do not even have to look that far, on their doorstep Seven Districts, support local businesses.

Ripping out the widescreen TVs would improve the ambience.

I would not wish to invite a guest to share a cup of coffee at Lincoln Pier Cafe as to do so would be to insult them.

For staff and students, venture off campus, take a walk to Coffee Aroma, it is not far, where you will be served excellent coffee, and they serve food.

Walk a little further, Madame Waffle. Also renowned locally for their Belgian waffles.

If wish to buy a bag of coffee beans, then either Coffee Aroma or Madame Waffle, Coffee Aroma has Has Bean, Madame Waffle Square Mile, two highly recommended coffee roasteries.

Staff, students and visitors deserve better, though compared with tax-dodging corporate chains serving vile disgusting undrinkable coffee a small step in the right direction. But need to try harder, showcase what good coffee should be like, have guest coffees, but please do not cut corners with cheap catering supply coffee from a food and drinks company.

What is depressing, is that this could be an excellent coffee shop, employ skilled baristas invested in quality equipment, then cut corners sourcing poor quality commodity coffee.