Monday, 28 September 2009

Council wants to ban Henley A boards

Lorraine Hillier, a Tory councillor who owns a coffee shop in Henley, is leading a fight against the local council against the banning of A boards. Most of the businesses in downtown Henley use A boards to attract customers, but the Council reckons there are too many of them and that they are making life difficult for the disabled – especially blind people.

Lisa McLaughlin, proprietor of Jam for Tea said that her A board was vital for business and Rafael Fernandez, owner of The Henley Tea Rooms, said that his business wouldn't survive without its A board.
For further details, click here.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Aussie town bans bottled water

If there are any environmentally conscious café proprietors out there, perhaps they might look at their supplies of bottled mineral waters differently now that a small town two hours south of Sydney in Australia – called Bundanoon – has decided to ban the stuff from the entire town and rely upon tap water fountains instead.

It's all because a bottled water company tapped into a local acquifer in order to retrieve and bottle water – and that's just a bridge too far for Bundanoon residents.

In 2006 a New South Wales study found that the bottled water industry was responsible for releasing 60,000 tonnes of harmful gases into the atmosphere? It's true and it's all to do with the use of plastics in the bottling process and the fuel burned to transport the bottles.

Should similar action be taken in the UK?

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Museum teashop plan worries local traders

A scene from Hawes in Yorkshire.

The Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes, Yorkshire, is considering the addition of a teashop on its premises, but local traders in town fear it will keep tourists away from the rest of the town and are opposing plans by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA). The teashop is being considered by the YDNPA as a means of celebrating the museum's 30th birthday.

Hockney blasts smoking ban after visit to local caff

David Hockney, the artist, (pictured above) has said how much he loathes the Labour Government for introducing the smoking ban and effectively interfering with his life. He was appalled, recently, when he went to his local caff in East Yorkshire and was told that he couldn't even smoke outside because the management feared that smoke would waft inside the café and breach the law.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Starbucks ruffles the cushions

Starbucks UK, it seems, has finally woken up to the fact that 'globalisation' might be something detrimental to its future success. It seems as if stores that look exactly the same whether they are in Aberdeen or Barnstaple is kind of grating with the coffee-drinking public. In short, people don't like uniformity these days and they don't want to enjoy a coffee or tea or millionaire's shortbread in an environment that screams 'corporate identity'. And why should they?

McDonald's sort of wised up to this a few years ago and started toning down the fact that it was McDonald's, the biggest hamburger chain in the world – only a small, golden arches logo lets you in on the secret. Now, Starbuck's has realised that uniformity and sameyness is not the way ahead, thanks to Mr Darcy. "Ooh! Mr Darcy!" Well, Mr Darcy Willson-Rymer to be precise, Starbucks' UK and Ireland managing director. He probably leaves his riding boots and breeches at home.

Willson-Rymer has admitted that the company had put too much 'process' in its stores and has now set about changing things, toning down that Starbucks logo and, I guess, trying to give customers the impression that they are sitting in an independent coffee shop. There, of course, is the big paradox of branding. Sometimes brand reassurance gets a bit too much. How many times have you travelled to the other side of the world only to find the same high street brands. How many times have you heard somebody say, "Ooh, they've got a Claire's Accessories!" As if having a Claire's Accessories in, say, North Western Canada is a cause to be proud. Familiarity breeds contempt.

The quality of the products sold in Starbucks will not change, which means that the whole 'brand reassurance' thing – the backbone of branding as a philosophy – remains intact. What will change is the interior: mis-matched and possibly secondhand furniture, perhaps, and local artefacts to make the stores more 'local'.

Teashopandcaff welcomes the idea of less homogenous Starbucks. As Willson-Rymer points out, the homogenisation thing was merely 'setting a standard'. Fairplay, but now we all get the picture, ruffle the cushions a bit, Darcy.

For the full story, click here.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Urban Pie – what a great idea!

If ever you find yourself, like I did, on Birmingham Moor Street station with an hour to kill, go take a walk. Cross the road directly opposite the station and then follow the walkway across the street up towards the rather swish pedestrianised area where all the big brand name shops are located. There you will find not only an impressive-looking church but also a range of eateries.

Virtually directly across the street from a Café Rouge is an amazing place called Urban Pie. What a place! It sells a range of deep-filled, hand-made pies and it sells them with accompaniments like mushy peas and mashed potato. Fantastic! It's licensed too, meaning you can wash the lot down with a bottle of Stella or Peroni.

There are no plates, everything's disposable, the vibe is good, the name is amazing and the pies, well, they're the tops. I went for a minced beef and new potatoes pie and had mushy peas, mash and gravy and a bottle of Stella, although, to be honest, I didn't really need the Stella. I'd been drinking real ale at a club in Halesowen during the afternoon so lager was a bit superfluous.

But let's talk about Urban Pie. There's an outside seating area, it's licensed, it sells pies (all for £3.95), there are junior pies for £2.95 (ideal if you've got kids or people who are not big eaters), there are sweet pies (try apple and cinnamon or cherry and apple for just £2.65), there's wine, beer, soft drinks, milkshakes – Urban Pie has it all!

Back to those classic pies: there's steak & kidney, steak & mushroom, steak & Stilton, chicken and gammon, chicken and asparagus, chicken balti (well, this is Birmingham!), and a Halal chicken and mushroom pie. Hold on, there's more. How about Thai green chicken, lamb and rosemary, lamb, potato and fresh mint, wild mushroom and asparagus, mature Cheddar and red onion, seasonal vegetable, a breakfast pie or even a Sunday dinner pie.

"At Urban Pie our passion is to create gourmet, handmade pies, deep filled with the finest ingredients."What a statement!

They bake throughout the day, there are no additives, the recipes are simple and the pies can be eaten in or taken out.

Judging by the menu I have there are two Urban Pies in existence: one in Birmingham (0121-643 0040) and one at Highcross in Leicester, call 0116 262 2572. And if you're out there wondering what to do with your life, how about being an Urban Pie franchisee? Interested? Then call on 0870 334 4910 or email

You might like to take a look at the company's website, which is

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Microwaveable fish fingers! A giant step for caffkind...

Actually, the fish finger sandwich above looks a bit problematic when it comes to tucking in. That toasted bread looks hard, those beans look as if they'll fall all over your lap and I bet you'll need a knife and fork. You don't need to toast the bread and surely baked beans are a bridge too far.

We've managed to get a man on the moon, there are various cures for major diseases, we can travel at twice the speed of sound but guess what? When it comes to fish fingers, the food manufacturing industry has only just announced, ie this week, that it can now make microwaveable fish fingers that won't go soggy.

Up until this week, the culinary wisdom on fish fingers was that they could only be baked or fried. But now, thanks to Young's, there are Micro Fish Fingers. What does this mean for fish fingers? Well, according to Young's marketing controller, Charlotte Broughton, it means they can compete in the quick snack market.

Now this is GOOD news? Why? Well, a few years ago I spent the day on the road with a Unilever rep in the UK and he introduced me to the wonders of a fish finger and Hellmann's Mayonnaise sandwich. It's simple: three fish fingers laid on a slice of bread, the mayonnaise liberally applied on top, followed by another slice of bread and hey presto!

Once the microwaveable fish fingers are launched, look out for a fish finger and Hellmann's mayonnaise sandwich on caff menus.

Captain Birdseye is a bit cheesed off that he didn't get in on the act, but hey ho, you can't win 'em all.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Boston Tea Party, a small chain of seven family run cafés based in the West Country, will shortly be opening a unit in Worcester, much to the delight of residents, according to a report in Berrow's Worcester Journal.

The chain prides itself on its freshly roasted, 100 per cent Arabica beans, which are never more than 10 days old and its teas, which are all loose leaf and chosen by locally based tea tasting specialists.

Around 80 per cent of the chain's suppliers are based in the West Country and there's a strong ethical bias to the company's procurement policy.

Most Boston Tea Party units are in Bristol but there are stores in Honiton and Exeter and the Worcester store, earmarked for 18 Broad Street, will open in November.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Central Perk? In Manchester? It's true!

Top shot shows the interior of Manchester's Central Perk. Shot above is my breakfast. Those sausages might look alright, but they were rubbish, and that tea cup could have held a little more tea.

Here is teashopandcaff doing the closest it can, under the circumstances, to a live broadcast. Okay, it could be a little bit more live if we were on-line and writing direct on to the blog, but there’s no WiFi so sitting in the caff, this one being Central Perk in Manchester, writing on a laptop, is the closest we’re going to get on this occasion.

I was attracted by the name, of course; my daughter is an avid fan of Friends so when I passed the sign on the window, I had to take a peek inside. Where, I wondered, was the juice bar operation that used to occupy this site? Apparently, it left some time ago and then somebody else came along and now it’s a young couple running the place. Out front handling the till is Sarah and the chef – her other half – is behind the scenes making the food.

Central Perk is one of those schizoid places that doesn’t quite add up: is it a trendy coffee bar, as its name suggests, or is it a ‘caff’ as the illuminated menu behind the counter indicates? Who knows and, quite frankly, who cares? All I cared about was something to eat and at 11.30am in the morning I was told that breakfast was still an option.

I had noticed the credit card sign on the door but sadly the card reader wasn’t working so I would have to walk to the nearest cashpoint, down the road at the Co-op, draw out £20 and pay with cash. Not a problem.

I ordered the Full Monty, a full English breakfast consisting of two slices of toast, two sub-standard (in my opinion) sausages, two fried eggs, two rashers of bacon, a grilled tomato, baked beans and mushrooms (£6). It came with a cup of tea too.

The sausages let the meal down and I was not alone in thinking this; Sarah said that the chef had tried them and found them wanting. She offered me two higher spec products but I had already eaten one of the original sausages and half of the other one. Four sausages would have been greedy. I did order another tea and was given it on the house because of those awful sausages. Fair play, I thought.

I got chatting with Sarah, as you do when you’re up north; people talk, and it turns out she has two young kids, one at nursery, the other just starting school this week. Her other half is the chef by trade and they both used to run a bar in the Algarve. Nice work. Anyway, it’s a harder slog than you think, running a caff like this one, but they both intend to persevere. They have an excellent location, on the road leading up to Manchester’s Piccadilly station. I like this place, but I wish I hadn’t ordered that full English breakfast – it was too much when a bagel would have been sufficient.

Central Perk Manchester is nice caff but it needs to sort out better suppliers in my opinion. If I was running this place, I’d source my sausages from a decent butcher, possibly even offer customers a choice of different varieties, speciality sausages even, but I wouldn’t go for the typical ‘caff’ sausage that you see quite often in British caffs.

Coming out of Central Perk and heading up towards the station, I noticed that next door there was a very similar sort of caff. This got me thinking. If Central Perk is going to make any serious money it can’t afford to have a similar style of operation next door, it needs to differentiate itself. I would get rid of the illuminated menu behind the counter and replace it with a blackboard and produce a smaller menu based on locally sourced ingredients. By all means offer hearty breakfasts, but go for decent ingredients, limit the menu and go for quality. That would give the place a USP (Unique Selling Point) and hopefully make some money for Sarah and her family.


The Deli Café, Sheen Road, Richmond, London – one of the best caffs in the world!

Pictured above is my breast of chicken with fresh tomatoes and green pesto, not forgetting a mug of tea and a white chocolate slice – the perfect lunch! The shot at the top is of the Deli Café's exterior looking down the Sheen Road. Just out of shot to the right is the Red Cow, a decent Young's pub.

The Deli Café on the Sheen Road in Richmond is up there with the super caffs. Why? Quite simply it has everything. There are, or rather were, two excellent women working there. They were both very friendly and welcoming and always put themselves out to make you feel at home and give you the best possible service. Today, one has gone but the woman who runs the place remains.
The café is located opposite a Young’s pub called the Red Cow and is one of a row of shops that includes another café, a tobacconist, hairdresser, chemist, dry cleaner and an antique shop, plus others I cannot recall from memory. Further down the Sheen Road, there is another row of shops including a decent bike shop, an off licence and a Chinese restaurant, not forgetting a chiropractor.
The other café I mentioned earlier is virtually next door to the Deli Café, but the reason I stumbled upon the Deli Café was because I didn’t go in the other place, the Nano Café. People have told me that the Nano is quite good and that it has a downstairs eating area; it’s slightly bigger than the Deli Café but, to be honest, for me to go in there now would be tantamount to blasphemy as I’ve got to know the people in the Deli Café and, for some reason, I wouldn’t want them thinking I’d chosen another café over theirs.
And why visit the Nano when the food at the Deli Café is so fantastic? There is a range of baguettes, sandwiches and Panini breads, and even hot meals cooked by ‘the ladies’, as I often refered to them both, and put on as specials. Dishes like homemade lasagne, roast chicken with roasted potatoes and salad and, I have to say, all extremely tasty. There are home-baked cookies, fresh fruit, caramel squares, chocolate bars, pastries, cakes, breakfast items, soft drinks and an espresso machine offering a range of decent hot beverages. This, is the bee’s knees, the dog’s bollocks, the cat’s pyjamas: it’s brilliant.
Whenever I go there I always engage in a friendly chit chat with the ‘Brazilian ladies’, as I call them and then await my order, which they bring over automatically. They now know my order. I don’t even have to say anything. I always have the breast of chicken with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes, a cup of tea (it’s PG Tips, but for some reason it’s one of the best cuppas ever) and a ‘slice’. I put the word ‘slice’ in inverted commas for good reason. Why? Because while I started off with a caramel slice (the usual milk chocolate affair you associate with caffs and teashops) I moved on to a white chocolate version with nuts and the same biscuit base. My baguette has changed a bit too as I’ve substituted the sun-dried tomatoes with real tomatoes.
I love the Deli Café and it was made even more appealing recently when I noticed that Jarvis Cocker was there (apparently there’s a recording studio a short walk away). Jarvis being there was a little spooky as, weeks leading up to spotting him, I had been enjoying the Pulp track and video for Babies. For years I had a bass line in my head but I had no idea where it came from other than it accompanied sketches on a television comedy show. Then I heard a track on the radio and had to know what it was: “It’s Babies by Pulp,” said a work colleague, so I found it on YouTube and haven't stopped listening to it. Fantastic. One of those pieces of music that is so inspiring it almost brings a tear to my eye whenever I hear it.
Imagine, therefore, how strange it was to see the great man himself in the Deli Café ordering a sandwich. I was tempted to go over and shake his hand and tell him how much I liked Babies (and his other work), but somehow that was just too naff for words. It’s not the first time I’ve seen Jarvis Cocker out and about. Perhaps he’s following me around. Once, while in Noble Rot, a restaurant in London, I spied him walking past, his lanky form disappearing into the crowded streets. Cocker is tall, probably 6’4” and nowadays he sports a full beard, giving him a distinguished, university lecturer appearance.
That bass line from Babies has inspired me to take up the bass guitar, it’s that good – although I’ve yet to get around to buying a guitar! If you go on YouTube and key in Babies by Pulp you can scroll down and find a live version from Glastonbury in 1994. You can hear the crowds screaming “Babies!!!!” and Jarvis teasing the audience a little before launching into the track to rapturous applause and cheering. Brilliant.
I’m a regular at the Deli Café. I try and sit by the window where I can watch the world go by while I enjoy my food and read the Sun. There’s nothing better. A takeaway menu is available too, but where’s the fun in that? The Deli Café should be enjoyed there and then, on the premises.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Caff guide for Americans visiting London

Texans considering a trip to the UK would be well advised to check out the Dallas Morning News website this morning as there is a helpful guide to some excellent caffs.

Maria's Market Café in Borough Market, the River Café near Putney railway station (1a Station Approach Road), the Med Kitchen near Gloucester Road underground station (23-25 Gloucester Road), Tom's Café (27 Cale Street near Sloane Square tube), El Vergel (8 Lant Street near Borough underground station) and Brick Lane Bagel Bake (159 Brick Lane, near Aldgate tube station) are all given a mention and can all expect obese Americans in shorts to trundle into their establishments shortly.

For more details on what these caffs are offering, click here.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Hard Boiled Egg Café in Bristol aims for Irish brekkie world record!!!

Photograph, courtesy of The Anglo-Celt, shows local businessman Farrell Grogan attempting the Full Irish at the Hard Boiled Egg Café – and what a great name for a caff!

How do you fancy a Full Irish Breakfast? Well, why not nip down to the Hard Boiled Egg Café in Cavan town in Bristol where a breakfast costing 19.95 Euros is looking to break a Guinness world record for being the largest Irish breakfast in the world. If you eat the whole thing in half an hour you get it for free.

Some have called the breakfast a 'heart attack on a plate' but teashopandcaff reckons it's not impossible to get the meal for free. Now there's a challenge!

What constitutes a record-breaking Irish breakfast? Ten of everything by the looks of it. Ten rashers of bacon, ten sausages, ten eggs, five pieces of pudding, five hash browns, chips, tomatoes, mushrooms, beans, ten slices of toast and loads of tea. 

"It's a huge, huge breakfast," said Hard Boiled Egg Café owner John Gaughan.

For the full story, click here!