The Caffe Gusto unit in the Pallisades shopping centre in Birmingham. Notice the excellent mug of tea that only cost £1.20!
Wandering around Birmingham in early December, the Christmas markets in full swing and I'm feeling a little weary after a late night at a club in King's Heath. A good cure for weariness is a decent caff and I found one in a shopping centre on top of New Street railway station. Not that I wasn't spoilt for choice: there was a Starbuck's just opposite.
I chose Caffe Gusto for a number of reasons. One, it was small and cosy; two there were some great meal deals (Cheese & Bacon Toastie plus coffee for £2.50); three, because it offered free wi-fi; and four because it was billed as the British Sandwich Association's Coffee and Sandwich Bar Retailer of the Year 2009. I had images of a stage and the managing director of the chain, in a dress suit, collecting his trophy from some sponsor or other at a 'gala dinner' in London.
There were decent breakfast offers too so I opted for scrambled eggs on toast with the option of either beans (which I chose), mushroom or bacon (£3.95). That and a large mug of tea (£1.20) and I was sorted for the day. It was Saturday December 6th, the day after the world cup draw – the reason why I was in the club the night before. I'd spent the night in a dreary Travelodge in a place called Maypole where, at around 4am, I was awoken by the shouts of drunken revellers in the corridor outside my room. There was no decent breakfast offer at the Travelodge, hence my quest to find a decent caff.
Caffe Gusto was packed for early Saturday morning. I love shopping centre caffs with 'alfresco eating areas', ie not really al fresco because they're in a shopping centre, but there you have it, I still had that feeling that I was sitting outside.
The Wi-Fi didn't work for some reason. I think it clashed with the nearby Starbuck's, which I think offered Wi-Fi but not for free. Why the hell would anybody visit a Starbuck's when there's a Caffe Gusto nearby?
Bristol-based Caffe Gusto has 11 outlets there, two in Birmingham and one in Staines, Middlesex, in London (which is a franchised store).
For more information on Caffe Gusto, click here.