Posts Tagged ‘Steep Hill’

Vine’s Bakery

April 6, 2019

Vine’s Bakery opened on Friday at the foot of Steep Hill.

Although they only opened on Friday, and selection currently poor, it was as though Lincoln had never seen a bread shop before, maybe have not, as a steady stream of people passing through the door into the shop.

I thought with them being open on a Sunday, they were open seven days a week, but no, closed Monday and Tuesday.

The location is not good, bottom of Steep Hill. Either have to walk up the High Street and The Strait or down Steep Hill.

Ideal location would have been Bailgate where they wished to open, but were blocked by shortsighted businesses in the Bail.

High minimum order for wholesale, too high. No one is going to take a chance on an unknown entity, unknown quality, unknown quality. There should be no minimum. This gives the opportunity to slowly grow the business.

I wished for a wholemeal loaf. No wholemeal. I settled for a seeded brown. OK but not great.

I have also tried a white loaf. It was not good.

Serving coffee is not a good idea. Who wants a bad coffee when there is excellent coffee to be had from Coffee Aroma and Madame Waffle? Focus on bread and cakes. Begs the question planning consent for a cafe?

Ludicrous reporting by hack on the local rag, they had a tour of the bread shop. Tour? A counter and shelves with bread.

Crystal merchant atop a hill

January 24, 2019

The crystal merchant knew all there was to know about crystal, from where to buy, the quality, at what price to sell.

He used to be busy, but times had changed, few people climbed the hill, the crystal on display was collecting dust, but after 30 years it was too late to change, crystal was all he knew.

One day, just as he was about to shut up shop to go for his lunch, he saw a boy looking at his display. He had sufficient experience to appraise the boy to know he had no money and was not going to buy anything. He nevertheless delayed closing his shop until the boy walked on.

The boy walked in, offered to clean the dusty crystal on display if the merchant bought his lunch.

The merchant agreed, as the boy was cleaning the crystal two customers walked in.

Over lunch, the merchant told the boy he had no need to clean the crystal, he would have taken him for lunch, it was an obligation in the Koran.

The merchant seeing that he has already sold crystal that day, saw the arrival of the boy as a good omen and asked the boy if he wished to work for him.

The boy agreed, he would work for the day as he wished to raise enough money to travel to the Pyramids in Egypt.

The boy was crestfallen to learn the Pyramids were far away and he would have to work for at least a year to raise the money to travel that far.

He abandoned his dream.

He would work long enough to buy a ticket back home and buy sheep, he was a shepherd and sheep was all he knew.

The boy cleaned the stock, was good with the customers, and businesses once again picked up.

 

Two months on, the boy asked could he build a cabinet at the bottom of the hill to display the crystal, as this would tempt visitors to climb the hill to the shop.

The merchant was reluctant, business was picking up, the crystal would get broken, and anyway he did not like change.

But he saw the boy was correct and agreed.

One day the boy overheard from those who climbed the hill how tired and thirsty they were and would it not be a nice idea a drink of tea.

The boy suggested to the merchant they should serve tea in crystal.

The merchant was reluctant, more change, and what did he know about tea, but he agreed.

Business again picked up, word got around, tea was being served in crystal. Many of the men said how their wives would love to serve tea in crystal and bought crystal as a gift for their wives.

In less than a year, the boy bid farewell to the crystal merchant, he had saved enough money to buy a ticket, buy 120 sheep, knew about crystal, could speak Arabic, obtain an import licence for Spain.

The crystal merchant reminded him of his dream, that a caravan was about to depart, that he should follow his dream, that was his destiny.

Steep Hill follows the route of an old Roman Road, it used to be lined with shops, many people walking up the hill to the Castle and Cathedral, stopping part way en route to visit one of the many tea shops.

Now there are few visitors, a bus carries visitors to the top of the hill, many shops have closed, when there are holidays the tea and coffee shops are closed, we too deserve a break they say, then reopen when few visitors are around and bemoan their lack of customers.

There are few businesses of quality, little to draw people back.

At the top of the hill there used to be a tea shop, it closed, premises gutted. Now a cheese shop and coffee shop, the cheese shop selling plastic-wrapped adulterated fake cheddar cheese, the coffee shop serving undrinkable coffee.

The story of the crystal merchant and the boy is taken from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The boy is the shepherd boy Santiago who follows his dreams.

The illustration by Jesús Cisneros from the illustrated Folio Society edition of The Alchemist.

Steep Hill is the tale of a real street in terminal decline.

 

Steep Hill another one bites the dust

January 11, 2019

A soap shop at the top of Steep Hill is to close.

According to the Lincolnite, regurgitating what they find on facebook, a popular soap shop is to close due to lack of customers.

Er, spot the oxymoron.

I never knew there was a soap shop.

I was told adjacent to the Russian Doll shop.

I decided to investigate.

Yes, between the Russian Doll shop and a clock shop. A clock shop that is never open.

A tiny nondescript shop, easy to see why I had missed it before.

I found it to be in darkness, closed, which at least explains why no customers.

As I was looking, a lady popped out of the Russian Doll shop with a key in her hand offered to open for me.

I declined, but said I may look on my way down.

On my way down, I again found to be closed.

The Strait and Steep Hill no tourists tea and coffee shops open

January 8, 2019

It beggars belief, over the Christmas New Year vacation many tourists milling around, up The Strait and Steep Hill, in Castle Hill and Bailgate, tea and coffee shops were either closed or closed early.

Now the holiday season over, no one around, the streets deserted, the tea and coffee shops open.

This would be like a business in the tourist area of Cyprus closing during the peak summer season then opening in the winter when no one about.

To say the least, bizarre.

Although not all were open, and a few closed early.

The Rest rarely found open. Today no exception. Rumoured to be for sale

Bunty’s tea room, closed or closed early when tourists around, now no tourists tea room open.

Bookstop Cafe, closed or closed early when tourists around, now no tourists open.

Imperial Teas, a rarity, open over Christmas New Year.

Pimento tea rooms, once excellent, new owners took over and destroyed with six months.

Changed hands yet again. Closed over Christmas New Year, does not reopen until no tourists outside.

Since my last visit, interior has changed and not for the better.

A board outside promises specialty tea and coffee, new menu.

No menu, no espresso machine.

It takes more than a sign to serve specialty tea and coffee.

I said I may pop back later. When I did, a little after three, I found to be closed.

When queried, told closed early today. When asked when usually close, told between three and four.

The Old Mouse House Cheese Shop & Coffee Bar

December 31, 2018

The Old Mouse House Cheese Shop & Coffee Bar is a weird set up, cheese and coffee.

If walk in, not obvious a coffee shop, as through the back, though a glimpse of their espresso machine from the cheese shop provides a hint of more beyond.

It took several visits over Christmas and New Year to find the coffee shop open, cheese shop not always open or closed early.

According to their own facebook page, coffee shop in the cellar they say downstairs, it is not it is a tiny room out the back, climb two steps. Cosy would be the word.

Also a little room upstairs reached by narrow steep stairs. No handrail.

It is also necessary to climb the steep narrow stairs to reach the toilets. Not accessible to those with physical disabilities or the frail and elderly.

The coffee Stokes, the tea tea pigs.

A bakery cum tea shop opposite Coffee Aroma in the town centre, Stokes coffee, tea pigs tea, lasted all of nine months. Clearly no lessons learnt.

It could though be worse, tea and coffee supplied by Lincoln Tea and Coffee.

A row of syrups on a back shelf. A sure sign of bad coffee.

One cappuccino ordered. Cup size too large the larger size.

Having explored upstairs, I found my cappuccino awaiting me on a table when I returned downstairs.

WTF, this a CAPPUCCINO. Dribbling down the side, spilt in the saucer.

What I assumed to be a chocolate melting in the saucer.

The coffee looked disgusting, chocolate sprinkled on top.

Not only looked disgusting, tasted disgusting, served scalding hot, undrinkable.

I took one sip and left untouched.

I asked of the cheese counter the cheese.

Dunno, replied the girl behind the cheese counter, ask her out back.

Her out back, who made the coffee, daughter of the cheesemaker, cannot tell you how we make our cheese, it is a secret, if we told you everyone would copy us.

This is the same bullshit I am fed in coffee shops serving bad coffee, cannot tell you who supplies the coffee as other coffee shops would copy us.

I politely tell them of transparency, direct trade, traceability through roasterie back to the farm.

I had visions of cows eating seaweed or the marram grass in Skegness.

They buy in the milk, pay a fair price, or so claimed.

The cheese Lymn Bank Cheese, the finest Skeggie adulterated fake cheddar 17 different flavours, including ginger, all identical size wrapped in plastic. Some of the cheese encased in wax.

The odds are stacked against any new business. 80% fail in the first 18 months.

Five years ago may have got away with opening a coffee shop serving bad coffee. Not today. You have two weeks to prove yourself. People will check you out. If they like your coffee they will return, bring their friends, if not, they will tell their friends not to bother.

A coffee shop has to have a quality espresso machine, quality grinder, skilled barista, buy quality coffee, coffee ground fresh for each shot, precise measurements, weigh the coffee, extraction time, temperature. And with repeat consistency from one cup to the next.

For bad coffee we have the chains. Every cafe in Lincoln serves badly made Stokes low quality catering supply cheap commodity coffee. Why join the list? And if wished to try Stokes they would visit Stokes.

Nor is there any excuse for using poor quality tea pigs. Even less excuse when on Steep Hill have Imperial Teas.

But a quality coffee roastery or tea merchant would need to be convinced you have the expertise else they get a bad name.

No outside seating. Essential these days for a coffee shop to have outside seating.

In Lincoln there are three excellent coffee shops, Coffee Aroma, Madame Waffle, Base Camp. In the spring 200 Degrees will open, coffee mediocre at best, but better than the corporate chains.

Low quality cheese can buy in a supermaket.

A cheese shop has to have quality cheese, rare breed cows out on pasture not the black and white bulk milk producers, unpasteurised milk.

Heed the advice of Bronwen Percival on buying cheese in the 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.

Their use of social media to say the least perverse. A badly filmed video of their coffee shop located out the back. 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.

And no, not the Rolls-Royce of coffee machines.

Footfall on Steep Hill has in recent years dramatically fallen. The only way to attract business, to offer quality, word of mouth.

Who are the demographics? The tourist are nigh non-existent, and visitors from Europe are accustomed to quality cheese. Are German visitors going to wish to buy a waxed cheesed stamped with a Lancaster WWII bomber that may have atomised their grandparents?

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.

Earlier I had excellent lunch at The Cheese Society. Walking up The Strait and Steep Hill, passing many closed business, it was going from the sublime to the ridiculous.

On my back down I passed by The Cheese Society, still packed.

I passed Madame Waffle, it too was packed.

I later returned to Madame Waffle and had a cappuccino. A pleasure, as is always a well made coffee. The difference a skilled barista and quality coffee makes.

Quality, service, word-of-mouth, counts.

Attrition of indie businesses on The Strait and Steep Hill

December 31, 2018

Walking up The Strait and Steep Hill, quite shocking the number of closed, failing or for sale independent businesses. More what one would expect in a run down town centre than what was once named only a few years ago the No 1 street in the country.

Why, what has caused this collapse?

One factor is the reliance on tourists. The tourist footfall has collapsed. The principle cause of this apart from maybe fewer tourists, is the bus that takes people from the High Street to Castle Hill, depriving them of an interesting walk, and for the local businesses loss of opportunist footfall.

Many running the businesses are clueless.

Christmas and New Year is when there are a lot of tourists milling around. And what do the local businesses do, they close. They will reopen in the New Year when it will be dead until Easter.

Lincoln Castle closed. The Tourist Information Office closed.

And the excuse for being closed. It is Christmas and New Year.

It would be better to be open, then take a well earned January break relaxing in Tenerife.

Coffee Bobbins closed over Christmas New Year rumoured For Sale.

Undrinkable coffee from Lincoln Tea and Coffee, tea tea pigs tea owned by India conglomerate Tata, Tetley under any other name, a recipe for disaster.

Modern Classics, a greasy spoon cafe with Mod memorabilia, closed a couple of years ago. Has remained empty ever since.

Lincolnshire Live, claimed a mystery it was closed. Not really, lack of customers. Maybe hacks should get out and about a bit more.

Bird’s Yard junk shop, rarely open, odd hours when it is open.

Vintage Clothes shop, rarely open no surprise it has closed.

Base Camp, an excellent coffee shop, closed over Christmas and New Year. No indication when open. It is for sale, maybe has already changed hands.

Bunty’s tea room, not open Christmas New Year. Former owner sold changed tack to distilling gin.

Harlequin Bookshop. An excellent bookshop or was. Now sitting derelict. The bookshop driven out of business by a greedy developer.

The shop below Harlequin Bookshop sitting empty and gutted.

Bookstop Cafe closed over Christmas and New Year.

Imperial Teas, excellent for tea, also coffee and chocolate, tea and coffee making paraphernalia. The rare exception open over Christmas and New Year, as a result a steady stream of customers. The other big difference, focus on quality and service, the staff and owners know their tea and coffee.

Pimento tea rooms. Once an excellent tea shop, served tea from Imperial Teas. New owners took over and destroyed within six months. Yet more new owners have taken over, but will remain closed until sometime in the New Year, thus missing the Christmas New Year trade. An unhelpful notice on the window tells passers by to check social media for when open, but looks no time soon.

Widow Cullens Well Closed. Premises gutted.

The Old Mouse House Cheese Shop & Coffee Bar, previous tea shop closed and gutted. Fake cheddar cheese, tea pigs, Stokes coffee. How long will it survive?

If pass through into Bailagate, Bailgate Deli serving undrinkable coffee supplied by Lincoln Tea and Coffee illustrating why we need a latte levy. Customers sat outside drinking from takeaway cups. Not open part of the Christmas New Year season or closed early.

Pass through Bailgate to Coffee by the Arch, was for sale, sale agreed, buyer pulled a dirty trick, offered half the agreed price as contracts were due to be signed.

Down in the town centre, Sincil Street has fared even worse. Once, busier than the High Street between ten in the morning and four in the afternoon. A street lined with indie businesses in Victorian buildings, trashed by the local council in bed with the local Coop.

Each time a local businesses collapses, there is less reason to visit a street, more businesses collapse, a domino effect. And this collapse can destroy a street, as we have seen in Sincil Street and are now starting to see in The Strait and on Steep Hill.

It does not have to be, poor town centre planning, lack of understanding of how local economies function, clueless individuals.

Internet and on-line shopping get the blame.

It is not why High Street chains are failing, they are failing due to piss-poor service. Their answer to on-line, cut service, treat customers with contempt, and enter a death spiral.

We have seen HMV collapse, the first casualty of the New Year. And yet indie record stores, for example Ben’s Records in Guildford, Resident in North Laine in Brighton, are doing well.

But, as one young lady running a business on Steep Hill told me, she never enters a shop, buys everything on-line, she added the same was true of all her friends.

Indy businesses cannot compete on price, they can only remain in business on quality and service, something many on The Strait and Steep Hill fail to comprehend, and thus do not remain in business for long.

If you open a coffee shop serving poor quality coffee worse than the corporate chains, cut corners, buy cheap catering supply coffee, do not invest in equipment or people, open a cheese shop selling poor quality cheese will find in the Coop, are rarely open or keep irregular hours, then on hiding to nothing and will not survive for long, and will join the 80% of businesses that fail within their first 18 months.

It does not though have to be. North Laine in Brighton, three long streets similar to Sincil Street, side streets, quirky indie businesses, bookshops, coffee shops, fashion shops, music shops, little restaurants, always busy, not a chain in sight.

Indie businesses provide a sense of place, they recycle money within a local economy, employ people, but no help or support from local council.

Coffee Bobbins

April 4, 2018

Coffee Bobbins an award winning coffee shop opened a year ago Easter at the bottom of The Strait.

I must be a glutton for punishment, award winning yes but the award by Good Taste Lincolnshire, compounded by the fact they serve tea pigs and coffee supplied by Lincoln Tea and Coffee.

In their defence Coffee Bobbins may say we are a cake shop, and it is true a display of scrumptious looking cakes, though limited choice and I did not try. They do though call themselves a coffee shop not a cake shop, and I was there to try their coffee.

When I see a coffee or tea shop displaying tea pigs it immediately tells me they are clueless on tea.

The coffee supplied by Lincoln Tea and Coffee again not a good sign as it is not good coffee. I have tried before at Bailgate Deli. It was not good. When I asked to look at the beans I found to be cheap over-roasted coffee with defective beans and a very unpleasant aroma.

The same Brazilian blend that Lincoln Tea and Coffee claim they supply as an exclusive blend for Bailgate Deli, a speciality coffee shop. Not then exclusive, neither is Bailgate Deli a speciality coffee shop, if it was, it would employ skilled baristas and source better quality coffee beans. Not that Bailgate Deli has ever claimed to be a speciality coffee shop, they are a deli specialising in vegan food.

Lincoln Tea and Coffee claim their beans are fresh. They do not roast, merely buy and bag and on the bags no roast date thus no way of knowing how fresh.

The decor is reasonable, though lacking in ambience.

The entrance very badly designed, and forced to push past people blocking the way.

My coffee not good, too hot, chocolate dumped on top.

I asked for a coffee without chocolate. It was not good either, again scalding hot and undrinkable. After one sip I left it.

I asked for water. I am used to Athens, water is always brought without asking or is on the counter.

Toilets are out the back in a yard. Not good if raining.

If as appears, Coffee Bobbins care about their cakes, then why not care about the coffee? I can visit a chain if I want to drink bad coffee, Costa or tax dodging Starbucks or Caffé Nero. And the price not cheap, at £2-80 expect quality coffee.

They also need to employ skilled baristas. Though the best barista would be hard pushed to make a decent cup of coffee with the beans they are using no matter how hard they tried.

There is absolutely no excuse for this. If they have not a clue on coffee, begs the question why open a coffee shop, but if not a clue, then pick up a copy of The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide where will find listed speciality coffee shops and coffee roasteries. A hint, try 200 degrees, or better still Hasbean or Dark Woods.

It is commendable to buy local, but never at the expense of quality. And how local is local, Hasbean and Dark Woods are regional.

Similarly if they are serious about tea cannot get more local than Imperial Tea half way up Steep Hill, which is served in Pimento Tea Rooms.

The one good point was the two girls serving, polite, pleasant, helpful, and in conversation knowledgeable about coffee.

Lunch at White Hart Hotel

March 23, 2018

Today decided to dine in style.

Lunch at the White Hart Hotel in Bailgate.

For starters, wild mushroom risotto with truffle oil.

The starter was a meal in itself.

Followed by rib-eye pork steak. A very impressive steak knife, an implement of quality.

Ingredients sourced locally, with a list where sourced from. A pity more do not follow this excellent example.

The rib-eye pork steak  was sourced from the butcher in Bailgate. Redhill Farm Shop, from where I obtain their excellent ham and Lincolnshire sausages.

Compliments to the chef, the food was excellent. The vegetables, at least the cauliflower, could have been cooked a tad longer.

I was warned the  rib-eye pork steak would be slightly pink. Fine for steak, but not pork, I asked that it be cooked a little longer.

I noticed an adjacent table had Lincolnshire sausages, sourced from Fosters, not the butcher in Bailgate.  These were under cooked.

I would recommend if The White Hart Hotel wish to serve the best quality Lincolnshire sausages, either source from the butcher in Heighington or from Redhill Farm Shop in Bailgate.

I later popped into the butcher and asked of rib-eye pork steak as not something I had come across before.

The offer of a coffee was declined. There are far better places for a coffee in Lincoln, Makushi aka Base Camp on Steep Hill, Madame Waffle in the High Street and Coffee Aroma just off the High Street near The Stonebow.

I had a window seat. I would not have liked to be in the main body of the restaurant as too much like a chain restaurant.

I was very impressed by the steak knife. An implement of quality.

Cappuccino in Makushi

September 17, 2017

In between the very heavy showers, with water running down Steep Hill, I made it to Makushi without getting wet.

As always, an excellent cappuccino.

Two baristas have left, I was therefore wary. I was pleased to see, still high quality coffee.

Having just picked up The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide on sale in Madame Waffle, I was surprised to find Makushi not listed. A major omission by the contributors. Something they need to correct for the next edition.

Lunch at Pimento tea rooms

September 9, 2017

Pimento tea rooms is somewhere that is excellent for afternoon tea, but not somewhere I can recommend to eat.

I had intended to eat at Bailgate Deli, but too late.  Having walked up Steep Hill, I retraced my steps to Pimento tea rooms and was in time for something to eat.

The lentil soup was reasonable, a meal in itself, but apart from the name, no resemblance to Thai.

I then had a spicy bean burger and salad. It was not good, dry.

Many years ago, I used to have bean burgers in Neal’s Yard Bakery. I have never had anything comparable. These were a mixture of beans, not something made to resemble a beef burger, which was what I was served at Pimento tea rooms.

I have eaten once beforeeaten once before at Pimento tea rooms. It was a disappointment then, and it has not improved.  Pimento tea rooms is sadly not in the same league as a good vegetarian restaurant.

Service not great, though staff pleasant. My soup arrived promptly, my second course did not, I had a long wait.

Last time I was here, only one girl who was able to cope. Today half a dozen who seemed unable to cope.

Quirky rooms, each one different. Since my last visit, they have added a room at ground level, and one at the top.

There used to be occasional live music. I saw nothing to indicate live music.