Thursday, 25 March 2010

Camden Coffee House – Croydon Whitgift Centre

Former PC accessories shop now a stunning new coffee house – free wi fi and the prices are reasonable too.

Occupying what used to be a rather lairy-looking PC accessories shop (somehow they lack the finesse of Apple stockists) is the relatively new Camden Coffee House, an independent operation offering free wifi in trendy, modern surroundings.

Camden Coffee House can be found at the top of the escalators near the High Street entrance to Croydon's Whitgift Centre. The company's mission is to develop a chain of stores – or rather 'unique coffee houses' – offering a wide selection of premium speciality beverages.

The Camden Coffee House brand was established in April 2009 in, you guessed it, Camden in North London. In fact, the Croydon store is Camden-themed.

What's on offer? How about luxury fair-trade coffees, worldwide exotic teas (supplied by Tea Pig), hot chocolate, iced coffees and teas, pure fruit smoothies, chocolate bar milkshakes (sounds interesting) and cold soft drinks.

On the food front there are freshly baked pastries and home-made cakes, toasted sarnies, bagels, soup of the day, muffins and cup cakes.

Luxury coffees range in price from £1.30 (small) to £1.95 (large); there are speciality coffees costing from £1.95 to £2.20 (white chocolate moccha, Amaretto coffee and even Gingerbread coffee); there are iced coffees and then a range of exotic teas with iced options available (Chai tea, Mao Feng Green tea, Yerba Mate, Super Fruit and Jasmine Pearl) all ranging in price from £1.25 to £1.50. Smoothies are £3.00.

Want to find out more? There is a website. Click here!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Stop Press! Former Lobster Pot owner sets up B&B!

The simply amazing beachfront at Felpham, a great place to go on England's South Coast and even better when you realise that The Lobster Pot Café is there on the beach too – and now the former owners have set up a B&B!

This is great news! The former owners of the amazing Lobster Pot Café on the seafront in Felpham have turned their home into a guest house offering rooms for between £40 and £60 per night. The reason this is great news is because the Lobster Pot Café, while still a great place to eat, was, shall we say, at its height of fame and fortune when the person I have referred to as the 'larger than life lady' was in charge. I can only assume that it is she who runs the guest house, which means you'll be in safe hands. In short, she's brilliant: just the sort of person to be running either a guest house or a caff. I bet Christmas lunch round at her's is to die for, she's a proper 'mum' type, that's for sure.

I was unaware that the Lobster Pot, many years ago known as Perdido's, had a website, but it does and it was on the site that I noticed the new bed and breakfast business.

Check out both websites.

For the Lobster Pot Café, click here.

For the bed & breakfast, click here.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Kohlberg, Kravis Roberts' Indian coffee investment...

The New York, USA, based Kohlberg Kravis Roberts company has announced plans to invest in Coffee Day Resorts, an Indian company that owns the Cafe Coffee Day brand. The coffee chain opened its first outlet in Bangalore, Southern India in 1996.

For more information, click here.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Camden Food Co, Birmingham New Street Station

I managed to grab this image of the Camden food co. in a short break of the rush hour crowds.

En route to Liverpool Lime Street from Bristol Templemeads means one of two options: change at Stafford or Birmingham New Street. I'd opted for the latter and arrived just before 5pm with half an hour to kill before my connection. Time for 'dinner'. I put the word in inverted commas because this was not going to be a sit-down affair, more a case of 'eating on the go', something I don't particularly enjoy.

Having said that, I found that the Camden Food Co outlet on the ticketed side of the concourse to be reasonably pleasant. I'd passed it many times before but never ventured in, mainly because there was something about the lighting and the seating area that put me off; it was all a bit transient and not that welcoming.

On this occasion, however, I figured it would be my only chance of food as the Liverpool club I would be attending that night didn't offer anythng – apart from crisps and peanuts – so in I bowled to check out what was on offer. Food and drink is laid out in display units or on the counter. All the customer has to do is select his or her food and pay at the counter (where they can also order hot beverages).

I opted for chicken and pesto foccacia, a banana and a cup of tea. The panini was toasted on the counter top and the tea provided in a large paper cup with a lid. I then found a table and sat there watching the commuters before making my way to platform 4c and my train to Lime Street.

The foccacia cost £3.79, the tea (which was organic) set me back a staggering £1.79 and the banana was 59p, although she did offer me two bananas for 99p but I declined.

The service here was good – friendly and efficient.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Otford Tea Shop, Otford, Kent

Not a million miles from Dunton Green in Kent, near Sevenoaks, Otford is a quaint village full of antique shops and places like the Otford Tea Shop.

The teashop doubles as a Hospices of Hope charity shop, selling some excellent stuff including secondhand books, small toys for kids, secondhand videos and DVDs and everything you might expect from such a place. The teashop is real Miss Marple territory and needless to say there are some tremendous home-made cakes on offer too.

We had a pot of tea, a mug of hot chocolate and a slice of carrot cake and then drove home.

Where Dunton Green is concerned, readers are seriously advised to click here for more information.

Bank Quay House Coffee Shop, Warrington, Cheshire

Exterior shot of Bank Quay House Coffee Shop (top) and the gates bound for Buckingham Palace that were rejected by Queen Victoria.

Part of an office block called Bank Quay House, the eponymous Coffee Shop is on ground floor level and, while a little stark, it's fairly pleasant and ideal for anybody working in the building. It's about 10 minutes' walk to Warrington's Bank Quay railway station and just across the road from the impressive town hall gates.

The gates were, apparently, originally destined for Buckingham Palace during the reign of Queen Victoria, but when she found out that the foundry commissioned to make the gates had also been responsible for a statue of Oliver Cromwell, she didn't want them and that is why they remain in Warrington at the top of Winmarleigh Street.

There are plans to knock down a wall at the Bank Quay House Coffee Shop and make room for an art gallery. Light snacks are also sold here, there's an espresso machine too and an outside catering company linked to the café.

I had a small pot of tea before heading off to Bank Quay railway station and a non-stop train to London Euston.

Rhode Island Coffee, Warrington, Cheshire

Yes, these pix were taken on my new iPhone. They show an interior shot of Rhode Island Coffee (taken early in the morning as by 11am, those tables outside were all taken). The other shot is my mug of tea.

If you're looking for a spot of breakfast while in Warrington in Cheshire, you won't go far wrong with Rhode Island Coffee, a chain operation with five units in Altrincham, Burnley, Bolton, Stockport and, of course, Warrington.

The company claims that all of its units are at the heart of their local communities; as a result, there's a lot going on: open mic nights, DJing, poetry reading and a few charity fundraising events too.

I enjoyed a cheese and ham panini and a large mug of tea and then, because the environment was right, I stayed on and worked on my laptop while watching the place get steadily more crowded. To be honest, I could have sat there all day, not only because of the decent food and drink and the friendly, bustling environment but also because I had a new iPhone to play with!

It wasn't warm outside, but Rhode Island Coffee was not only full inside; it's tables outside were all taken by mid-morning.

To find out more about this excellent chain operation, click here.

Café on the Square, Grove Avenue, Bristol

Internal and external shots of the Café on the Square, Grove Avenue, Bristol.

The Café on the Square in Grove Avenue, Bristol is a fantastic place for the simple reason that it has that added something that elevates its status from 'caff' to small restaurant – although it is not open at night. I liked the place the moment I peered through the window and noticed the brightly coloured tablecloths – they were enough to draw me inside where I found a friendly environment and helpful staff too.

Another good thing about this place was that it took credit cards, unlike most places of this sort. It would have been even better, of course, if I hadn't lost my credit card – or rather I had, unknowingly at the moment I entered the restaurant, left it on the floor in my hotel room. Naturally, as soon as I had confirmed that I could pay by card, I started to fumble around in my wallet to find it, only to discover (after emptying all my pockets and turning my wallet inside out) that I didn't have it. I began to panic, ordered my food anyway and paid cash and then sat there fretting.

I won't bore you with all the details, but it turned out that I had inadvertently left it on the floor in my hotel room – all was right with the world again, but it still managed to ruin my meal at the café – Napoli chicken in a rich savoury tomato and basil sauce with red onions and peppers (£5.25) – plus a cup of tea for £1. The total bill was £6.25.

Blackboards on the wall offered grilled paninis (£3.90); a range of home-made pasta dishes (£5.25); jacket potatoes (£3.80 to £5.25); full English breakfast (£5.50); a vegetarian breakast and a Mega breakfast (£5.50 and £6.50 respectively). There were some interesting specials too: chicken rogan josh at £5.50, a home-made beefburger (£5.25) and field mushrooms stuffed with goat's cheese (£4.90).

Oddly, the café sold a range of 'gourmet' potato chips (or crisps) rather than just one variety. Customers have the choice between Real, Tyrell's and Kettle – what is known in the potato processing industry as 'gourmet' potato chips as opposed to more standard products from the bigger brand names we all know and love.

Fortunately, I left the café more elated than when I walked in; my credit card was safe and all I had to do was walk back to the hotel to retrieve it; this done I headed for Templemeads and a train to Liverpool Lime Street via Birmingham New Street.

Café on the Square is well worth a visit if you happen to be in Bristol, not only because of the excellent food but also the friendly staff and the pleasant environment.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Enjoying breakfast at Hunger's End, Merstham, Surrey

Just thought I'd throw in this shot of a very enjoyable breakfast in Hunger's End, a caff in Merstham, Surrey.

My Teashop, London Bridge

My Tea Shop, virtually opposite Evan's Cycles in London Bridge, where I mooched about afterwards (see Notice my copy of Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road on the small round table outside; great book and I heartily recommend other Yates' novels too, especially Disturbing the Peace.

Easy to miss as it's crammed into a small space underneath the railway tracks, but if you come out on to Tooley Street and turn left, as if you're walking up towards London Bridge itself, then you will find My Tea Shop, tucked away on the left. This could win the award for the smallest teashop ever visited by yours truly. It has a curved ceiling, like a train carriage and has no more than four tables with a servery at the far end. The place is run by Eastern Europeans and it sells standard caff fayre.

I opted for a cheese and ham omelette with chips and beans (£4.80) plus two mugs of tea and just sat there reading first The Sun and then Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, which I had nearly finished. There were three other people in there, making it very crowded, but the ambience was good and I just liked the quaintness of the size and its location under the railway line. Well worth a visit if you've missed your train.