Friday, 20 December 2013

Costa Coffee, Tesco, Purley, Surrey, UK

Another bit of rule breaking. Normally I don't cover chains on this blog, but here I am about to bleat positively about a Costa Coffee outlet – although Costa has been covered before, when I travelled to Glasgow in early 2012 and raved about the lemon drizzle cake. The Costa in question was inside a Waterstone's bookshop. Anyway, I'm writing about Costa because of that great phrase 'value for money' something one doesn't normally associate with this international coffee chain where tea and a bun costs a small fortune.
A pot of tea for just £1 in a Costa Coffee in Purley

I was out early and in need of some kind of relaxation prior to a 40-minute walk home along slippery roads. I knew that Tesco in Purley – one of those huge outlets on two floors – had a Costa Coffee on the first floor and headed there after buying a newspaper.

What surprised me was the price of a cup of tea. Normally it's £1.75 or £1.85, but here in the Costa at Tesco's it was just £1... and that's why it deserves a mention. A nice pot of tea, in a Costa, for a quid and all because the coffee brand is located inside a Tesco store.

I can only assume that Tesco knew how Costa charges an extortionate price for its hot beverages and said to them: 'you can have a store here, but your prices must come down'. And Costa obliged on the basis that it would score on volume sales.

I'd say 'well done' to Costa, but I think the credit should all go to Tesco as I'd imagine Costa bosses quietly seethed about such a deal. "Tea for just £1 a pot?"

Don't forget, folks, it costs no more than 5p to make a cup of tea – or thereabouts – meaning that if tea was sold for, say, 30p a cup, Costa would still be making a huge profit!

One piece of criticism...

In fact, one piece of criticism that has to be levelled at the coffee chains – all of them – is the amount of time it takes to get served, normally because some nob cheese has ordered a complicated coffee drink that requires somebody wearing a shirt with the word 'barista' on the back to make it. Every time I've ever visited a Costa Coffee outlet, there's always been a queue of people at the front of which can be found the 'barista' concocting some complex coffee-based drink on the espresso machine. Sort it out!

Café Brood, London Bridge, UK

Paella and a Catalan meatball stew plus a glass of Tempranillo. Lovely!
It wasn't easy finding a decent caff in London Bridge, although I'm guessing that's my fault as I'm not familiar with the terrain. I was in town to attend a meeting at 2pm, meaning that lunch was out of the question as I'd be travelling when I should, by rights, be eating. So I left the office early in order to find somewhere to grab a snack.

My dilemma was this: should I venture over London Bridge – where the meeting was to be held – and find a caff there, or would I better finding something south of the river, bearing in mind that Borough Market was on the south side and there were more shops. I opted to staying south and, fortunately, stumbled across Café Brood at the foot of the bridge and down a few steps. Quite a secret as it's pretty much concealed from view. I spied the signage: Café Brood and decided to give it a whirl.

A giant paella – wonderful!
In all honesty, it doesn't qualify for Teashop and Caff as it's licenced, but I was desperate for food and decided to break my own rule. But this was an amazing place with a strong Spanish theme to it and freshly cooked food. There was a giant paella cooking outside as well as a giant Catalan meatball stew and it was possible, I was told, to have a bit of I did along with a glass of Tempranillo.

What else was on offer? Rib Eye steak for £6.50; Café Brood burger for £6.00; Grilled Chorizo at £5.95; Marguez Sausage, £5.95; Lamb Kofte at £5.95; a hot dog for £3.65 and a vegetarian option too (Mediterranean salad, £6.50).

Well worth a visit, but better on a warm day. My advice to these people would be 'build a wall and add a door' and that way you'll keep the bad weather out of the customers' faces.

Top notch establishment offering quality food at reasonable prices.

Café Piazza, Redhill, Surrey, UK

Shopping mall cafés leave a lot to be desired, especially when they have chairs 'outside' as if al fresco is ever an option.

Café Piazza, The Belfry Centre, Redhill, Surrey.
The Café Piazza is located on the first floor level of the Belfry Centre, a smallish shopping mall in Redhill, which is kind of half way between London and Brighton on the southern outskirts of Surrey.

Redhill is best described as 'a funny old place' full of a sizeable contingent of the sort of people you might see in the movie The Hills Have Eyes. It is, if you like, the poor relation of toffee-nosed Reigate, which is just up the road.

Not that the Café Piazza reflects anything; it is, after all, just a shopping mall caff that could be viewed as a little pricey until you think hard about it and realise that it's alright in terms of value for money. I spent £8.15 on cottage pie and beans plus a cookie and a pot of tea (which came with extra hot water).
Cottage pie, beans, a cookie and a pot of tea with hot water.

The big question: is it value for money? The answer is 'just'. Why? Because there were free newspapers, that extra hot water meant more than one cup of tea and the food quality ain't bad either. I've been here before and I've enjoyed it, they take plastic and overall, that's all fine with me.

The cottage pie was piping hot and by that I mean it was too hot, thanks to being microwaved and it did have a slushy texture to it, but it was filling and just what the doctor ordered so I wasn't complaining.

The service was straightforward and friendly too – a fast food/cafeteria set up with display counters, a hot servery area and a till point at the end of the process. A good selection of food and pastries too so all in all, top marks to the place.

Inside Café Piazza – note servery in foreground.