Saturday, 25 May 2013

Le Metropole, 24 Place Rihour, Lille

Le Metropole, Lille.
I was really looking forward to finding a cosy café in which to settle down with a book for half an hour or so, but despite wandering around a grey and rain-soaked Lille looking for an ideal spot, I couldn't find anything and settled for Le Metropole.

Le Metropole doesn't really fit the bill, but it had to do. There was an old man sitting under an awning outside and behind him the darkened interior and the diner-style seating made me feel that it was the closest I'd get to luxury – although I was disappointed on so many levels. It just wasn't cosy enough. There were banknotes stuck to the walls and it was licensed, which means it doesn't strictly follow TeaShopandCaff guidelines.

I was in for breakfast – or rather a pre-breakfast as my official breakfast at the hotel beckoned. Having said that, had Le Metropole offered a decent breakfast, I might have settled in for half an hour or so before making tracks to work.

A teapot without a proper lid containing hot water – it just isn't cricket!
The French, I've discovered, just don't understand tea. If you order tea, they never provide milk and you have to ask for it, which is a bit of nuisance. And this time, I ordered my tea and a croissant too. The teapot didn't have a lid, but instead a small plate. There was hot water, not tea, in the pot and I was provided with a tea bag in a sachet, a wrapped biscuit that one normally gets with after-dinner coffee and the croissant, served as is, with no butter. I had to ask for milk and was given a small jug so I poured in a little dash of milk and returned the jug to the bar.

There were two other customers inside and they didn't seem very happy. One, in fact, seemed positively irritated with me for ordering tea and then having the audacity to ask for milk.

I drank my tea, finished my croissant and left having paid the EUR5.10 bill.

Not an ideal place, I thought, wondering if I would ever find the perfect cosy café. Later, I found a bar and enjoyed a medium-sized Chimay prior to catching the EuroStar to London. The Moulin D'or (31-33 Place du Theatre, 59000 Lille) was the perfect place and, if the truth be known, I probably could have ordered a pot of tea there, but it was early evening and a beer fitted the bill nicely.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Rosi's Sit Down Café, near The Moor, Sheffield City Centre

Ignore the graffiti, this is a great caff and worth a visit
The sun was shining and I had a little time to kill based on the fact that I'd risen early and was ready for a bit of fresh air at 7.30am. My hotel was in the city centre so I headed out for walk through Sheffield, following the tram lines as I was told by the hotel receptionist.

It goes without saying that I was on the look-out for an independent café, but all I could see was the well-known brands: Costa, Café Nero, Starbucks and Gregg's. I walked for what seemed like a fair bit of time, but was only 15 minutes, when I reached a sign saying The Moor. Looking ahead, it was a dead end, but I walked towards a strange-looking sculpture and had no option other than to turn left.

My journey had taken in plenty of closed down shops, which was depressing, but even more depressing was the lack of a decent 'caff'. But then I spotted Rosi's. It was open and I peered through the window to see what it looked like on the inside. It looked great: linoleum floorings, tubular steel chairs, tables covered with plastic tablecloths – tasteful ones.

Food was frying on the griddle and there was a friendly woman in charge, although she wasn't Rosi. Or was it Rosie? She told me that everybody calls it Rosie's, meaning that a letter 'e' might be missing from the name (although no space for it must mean that it's Rosi's).

The bright and cheery interior of Rosi's
I was the only customer, but then it was only 0745hrs. After a short while two young girls, probably on their way to school, came in and ordered something, bringing the total number of customers to three.

I liked the name of Rosi's Sit Down Café. It was the 'sit-down' bit I liked, something you don't hear 'down south'. Aren't all cafés 'sit-down'?

I ordered two slices of toast and a mug of tea and took a seat at the back of the restaurant where I perused the laminated menu. This was my sort of place: roast dinners, omelettes, snacks, they did everything here, even home-made pies (with gravy and fresh vegetables).
My mug of tea and two slices of toast – lovely!

In fact, let's take a look at some of Rosi's fine fayre: the aforementioned roast dinners are £5.00 (£4.50 for pensioners); the home-made pies range from £4.10 to £5.10 and there's one option with free tea or coffee. There's home-made quiche (from £3.10 to £4.10) a wide range of omelettes, jacket potatoes and pasta dishes. I mean, this is a caff's caff. If you live in Sheffield, go there today.

The toast was good and so was the tea, but I decided not to have a big fried breakfast and instead, after about fifteen minutes, I left and walked back to my hotel, past the branded coffee shops and bakeries, the shuttered shops and the Peace Gardens where water cascaded and fountains forced frothy water out of the ground.

I'm so glad I found Rosi's. The bill, incidentally, for two toasts and a mug of tea was a respectable £2.10p. What more could you ask for, I thought, picking up a newspaper and reading how Ken Barlow had been charged over 1960s rape allegations. What, I wondered, is the world coming to? I later read that veteran broadcaster Stuart Hall played his joker and owned up to various distressing crimes. He gets sentenced in June and is now branded a 'sexual predator'. Whatever next! Well, there's plenty more 'veteran broadcasters' coming up in front of the courts...