Friday, 10 October 2014

Taking tea on Paveletsky Square, Moscow

I think it says 'coffee', not sure...
I am sitting in what must be Moscow's answer to Starbucks. There's plenty of these places around town. In fact, there's more of these than there are Starbucks, which is understandable, and I've only seen one outlet of the American coffee brand since I've been here and that was adjacent to the Paveletsky Square railway station. Here passengers can pick up the Aero Express to Domededovo airport. In fact, as I write this, I'm literally around the corner from the very same railway station so there's no more than 50 yards between Moscow's answer to Starbucks and Starbucks itself.

It's a bright place with wood-effect floors and cream-coloured tables. The clientele consists of mainly young people, some with laptops. There's roughly an equivalent number of men to women and it's clear that this place (and the chain's other outlets, which are scattered liberally around Moscow) is popular with Muscovites.

The menu is pretty extensive, offering a range of excellent cakes (all the well-known favourites including carrot cake, a range of delicious-looking cheesecakes and tiramisu desserts). I'll admit I was tempted by the tiramisu, but instead I opted for a more sober lemon cake and, of course, a pot of black tea served, I hasten to add, with milk (rare outside the UK). This is good news as avid readers of this blog will know how difficult it is to get a decent cup of tea outside of the UK. In fact, it's worth emphasising that the milk, served in a jug, was warm and the tea was served in a pot (enough for two and a half cups).

Lemon cake and a pot of tea...excellent stuff!
The lemon cake was pleasant enough – nice and moist with a thin layer of icing on top – and that, in my book, was perfect.

In addition to the cake there was a wide range of snacks and hot meals.

There's a flat screen television over the door (the sound turned down) and music playing in the background. In other words, there's a good hubbub going on and when blended with the general chit-chat of the customers, a decent vibe is created. Oh, I wish I'd brought my book along with me (Robert Tressell's The Ragged Trousered Philantropists) but I didn't, which is just as well as this excellent caff might not have made it to the blog if I'd been otherwise occupied.

Last but not least, the service was good, which is very important. Although perhaps it would be fair to say it was good up until the point when I asked for the bill. The waiter ambled over after I'd attracted his attention (not the same person who initially took my order). I asked him for the bill. He consulted another man and that was it – nothing more was done, and I was forced to ask again. This time, the girl who originally took my order arrived – actually, I caught her attention as she passed by – and my bill followed swiftly. It was 400 rubles.

There's a Starbucks just around the corner...
For more information on Moscow, click here.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Café Sinn & Sinnlichkeit, Augsburger Strasse, Berlin.

I decided to wander around the back of my hotel and found myself on Augsburger Strasse, a quiet street where I found this rather pleasant café with a friendly owner who was baking croissants when I arrived. The smell was fantastic so I ordered one and he brought it to my table outside along with a black tea – or rather a cup of hot water and a sachet containing a teabag, which is the way they tend to do things in Europe. No, it's not cricket, but when in Rome and all that. Well, alright, Berlin.

Café Sinn & Sinnlichkeit, Augsburger Strasse, Berlin – great croissants!
I took the teabag out of the sachet and placed it in the hot water and left it to brew. Then, a few minutes later I put the teabag on the small plate provided and enjoyed my tea. A hot croissant arrived on a quirkily designed white plate. It was hot so I left it a few minutes.

Tea and a croissant – perfect, and only 3 Euros.
A group of five men arrived and also decided to sit outside. There was seating inside, but it was warm so they, like me, chose to sit outside in the bright sunshine.

The blackboards carried menu information, but it was all in German, but this is a German café – and a very pleasant one, across the street from the Alsterhof Hotel.

I could see that the café offered a range of teas and coffees and there was a phrase, 'Das Leben ist zu kurz...fur schlecten Kaffee.' I assume this meant something like a wide selection of coffees were available.

The bill was a cool 3 Euros – very good value considering the quality of the croissant. Think how much that would have cost in any UK café – a bloody fortune! Let's think now: a cup of tea would have set me back £1.80 and the bakery item, I'd say about £2.10, that's £3.90. Probably double the price. And Berlin's so much nicer than London.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Corner Bakery, Wells Street, Chicago, Illinois, USA

I took the CTA into downtown and it rattled its way from Cumberland all the way until I jumped off at Clark and Lake, an area of the city that seemed closed. There were hardly any people on the street, there were no restaurants, just snack bars, and they were all shut. I moseyed around for a while before realising that I would get bored if I stayed there any longer, but being hungry I dived into the Corner Bakery for lunch.
The Corner Bakery, conveniently on a street corner

"You click. We Cater." said a sign, referring to the store's online service, but it was too late for that. I ordered from the counter – chicken carbonara and a cup of tea, served in a paper mug. I wasn't expecting great things, but in many ways I got great things. The food was good and was accompanied by garlic bread. The tea was just tea, but overall, I was quite pleased with my $10.80 meal, although a glass of wine would have been nice, but the Corner Bakery wasn't licensed.

There was nothing special about the Corner Bakery – and there were other branches elsewhere in the city – but it was a pleasant joint with wooden tables and mosaic Linoleum floors. One wall of the restaurant offered framed photographs of bakers, presumably from the Corner Bakery's past. The ceiling showed exposed air conditioning and outside there were cream and black awnings.

In addition to being able to order food online, Corner Bakery offered both eat-in and take-out food. For on-line orders there was a specific pick-up point.

One of many meal options was the Garden Gate Scrambler (eggs scrambled to order, diced chicken apple sausage, fresh spinach, red bell peppers, mushroom and Cheddar). In many ways I wished I ordered this dish, but I didn't.

Chicken carbonara and garlic bread
Also on offer was a range of panini breads, breakfasts, salads, soups, chilli, a kid's menu, oatmeal and yoghurts.

The Corner Bakery was good and while I could have done with more, it was sufficient and I took a cab back towards O'Hare rather than sit on the CTA. Click here for more details.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Bob Evans, East Washington Street, Indianapolis, USA

My 'Be Fit' breakfast at Bob Evans on East Washington
Being as I'm staying on the outskirts of town and not a million miles from what is generally regarded as a bad neighbourhood, I've spent most of my week here in Indianapolis in the downtown area of the city. This morning, however, I felt it wrong not to visit the Bob Evans restaurant across the parking lot from the hotel in which I'm staying.

Bob Evans is good ole American food and the chain, which, apparently, is all over the USA, would like it's customers to think that the food is cooked by somebody called Martha and that she's also skilled in the art of making a good apple pie. Well, they're not far wrong. This really is a homely sort of place and it's quite large and airy. It's not licensed, which is good, and I thought I'd go there and have my breakfast. All week I've been surviving on Rice Krispies and tea back at the hotel, so I figured I could push the boat out a little bit.

There's a big counter up front offering cookies and cakes and Hershey bars and I was directed to a window seat from where I could look out on East Washington Street and the Richard Skirling car dealership on the other side of it.

Traffic roared past in both directions and it started to rain. Storms are promised after a week of summery weather full of bright sunshine and temperatures well into their 80s (fahrenheit). It's been great so what better way to end the week than with a 'hearty' breakfast. Except that I didn't want to go ruin my reasonably good diet over the past six days. Despite being in America I've managed to avoid heavy food on all but one day when I enjoyed a pizza on Massachussets Avenue – or 'Mass Ave' as its known over here. That aside I've been eating salmon and halibut and trout and keeping my weight in order. At least I hope I have.

So, here I am in Bob Evans on East Washington expecting some nutters from the hood to burst in with guns and rob the customers. It didn't happen, fortunately, although I was reading that Indianapolis is way up there in terms of the number of homicides it's had this year. While in 2013 Chicago was voted the murder capital, that honour is likely to be bestowed upon Indianapolis in 2014 and it's in my neighbourhood – certainly no more than a mile from the Bob Evans restaurant – that most of the crime seems to be taking place.

There were a lot of unhealthy breakfasts but I chose the 'Be Fit' Breakfast, which set me back a cool $5.99. Hot tea was $1.99 but not served with milk, proving once again that you can only get a decent cup of tea in the United Kingdom, and a large orange juice cost me $2.69. All in all the bill was $11.63 and I added $5 as a tip for my waitress who, by all rights, should have been called Martha but was, in fact, called Joni. I liked Joni because she was homely and, in many ways, just the sort of person that old Bob Evans himself would have employed as a waitress in his home cookin' restaurant chain.

The Be Fit Breakfast didn't pay that much attention to being fit. Alright there was the orange juice and there was a slab of tomato on the plate, but in addition to an omelette there were two pancakes and some maple syrup. Still, it was as healthy as it was going to get and I loved it.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Hanushka Coffee House, George Street, Hastings, East Sussex

The Hanushka Coffee House, George Street, Hastings – amazing!
The first thing that attracted me to the Hanushka Coffee House was that model yacht you can see in the window on the right, although I must say I was already enjoying the mildly bohemian delights of George Street, Hastings.

My tea and you can see the biscuit wrapper too. Lovely!
This place is a cut above your average seaside tearoom or coffee house. It has a bit of class and a load of books adorning the walls inside. This is an arty sort of place with a serving counter at the far end and the pleasant sound of jazzy music. I loved it because it was full of Hastings' literary types. For all I know, the author Christopher Priest, who wrote The Prestige and Inverted World to name just two of his novels, pops in for a cuppa when writer's block kicks in, it's that sort of place and there's a more well-to-do clientele than you might expect, considering that Hastings is, well, it's a bit run down here and there, although, in reality, it's a proper seaside town.

Inspired by what I was experiencing, I made a few notes about the place on my iphone. "And then in Hastings we found a wonderful coffee shop full of books and round wooden tables. Jazz played softly in the background and I found a copy of Steven Berkoff's A Prisoner in Rio.

"The menu on the blackboard at the rear offered coffee, tea, soft drinks and alcohol. We ordered tea and apple juice and I spied cakes of all sorts for sale, not forgetting savoury items such as panini breads with various fillings.

"My tea was accompanied by a small biscuit to stave off my hunger ahead of the drive home. This really was the place to chill out and there's no way that its ambience could ever be replicated by, say, a Costa, Starbucks or Caffé Nero.

"We sat on one of two red sofas and I didn't want to leave."

Mrs Burton's Tearooms, Battle, East Sussex – is this the best ever Victoria sponge cake?

Well, here's a challenge to tearooms and cafés around the world: who can make the best Victoria sponge cake?
This is the best Victoria sponge cake in the world – or is it? You decide!
On a recent visit to the East Sussex coast, I dropped in on Mrs Burton's Tearooms in Battle for a pot of tea and some cake. While I didn't order any cake myself, I had a fair chunk of my daughter's Victoria sponge cake and can honestly say that it was the best one I've ever tasted.
Now that's what I call tea for one...
First, it was a fair size – hence my getting involved in the eating process – but once I'd sampled a bit I wanted more and more. I almost ordered one for myself, but managed to resist.

Why was it so amazing? Size for a start. It was a huge slab of sponge cake. But I think the winning ingredient was the icing in the centre. Whatever it was, this, in my opinion, was the best Victoria sponge cake I'd ever tasted so if you're in the Battle area, pop in to this excellent, traditional tearoom which, in addition to offering the best Victoria sponge cake in the country (if not the world) also offers the usual quaint stuff you might expect from a top notch tearoom.
Mrs Burton's Tearooms in Battle, East Sussex
Pleasant, fast and efficient service and right next door to the abbey where, apparently, King Harold fell when William the Conqueror invaded the country.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

U Cerného Beránka Café, Mostecká, Malá Strana - Praha 1

At last I find a cosy café! Some of those accents above aren't right, I know, but U Cerného Beránka Café in Prague is just a few yards from the Charles Bridge on the Hradcany side of the city (where Prague Castle can be found). The castle, incidentally, is the official residence and office of the president of the Czech Republic.
A haven of cosy.

But that's enough tourism, let's get back to the caff. Indeed, the word 'caff' does this place no justice at all as it's a haven of cosy, for cosy people. I'd walked all the way from the other side of town as the light was beginning to fade, crossing the main square and then the famous Charles Bridge and, after some mooching about, decided to investigate.

Inside, there were sofas and normal wooden tables and chairs, the lighting was dark, almost festive as, indeed, is the whole of Prague, and there were half a dozen people relaxing. The serving counter was towards the back where I found a small display of cakes: chocolate cake, carrot cake, cheesecake and and a rather excellent-looking honey cake. The service was friendly and efficient.

I could have ordered a cup of English breakfast tea but was tempted instead by the fresh ginger tea and ordered that plus a slice of the honey cake.

The tea was wonderful, consisting of sliced chunks of fresh ginger and hot water (what else?). The ginger sat at the bottom of the cup and I gave it enough time to infuse with the water, making a perfect and very warming/comforting drink – something I must remember for when I get home. The combination of the ginger tea and the honey cake was perfect and I sat there looking out on the world. If only I'd had a book to read or a newspaper.

View from across the street. The Charles Bridge is to the right of the café.

The bill was a respectable 175 Czech Crowns, which is nothing at all, let's see, something like £3.50, no more.

Fresh ginger tea with a slice of honey cake – absolutely fantastic.

Feeling relaxed and chilled I headed back over the Charles Bridge and followed the cobbled streets to the square and beyond. The light was fading fast as I passed a busker playing Strauss on a collection of wine glasses filled with water. You wouldn't get such a cultured busker in chavvy England.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Safa Kahvesi, Gulhane, Istanbul, Turkey

There are plenty of caffs in Istanbul, but I was hoping to find one that was cosy and welcoming. It proved to be quite difficult.
Safa Kahvesi – a bit boring and not that friendly. It certainly wasn't cosy!

Sitting on a tram en route to a place called Kabatas (pronounced Kabatash) I was intrigued by an area of Istanbul (well, a tram stop to be more precise) call Gulhane. I say I was intrigued, it was only that there appeared to be some cosy-looking venues worthy of investigation so, when I had some free time, I walked to Gulhane from my hotel and checked out a couple of places.

The first place I stumbled across – the place I'd seen from the tram – didn't really fit the bill (it was licensed and it was a restaurant). The second was Safa Kahvesi, which, from the outside, looked cosy. It could have been cosy too, but there was something not quite right: it wasn't friendly. It wasn't unfriendly either, but there was something miserable about it that lingered and that meant that I wasn't going to stay too long.
Turkish tea – no milk, horrible.

Turkish tea. Something needs to be said. For a start is it really Turkish tea or is it just that the Turks drink their tea in a kind of egg timer glass without milk, but served with a couple of sugar cubes? In other words, is the tea inside the cup Lipton's or PG Tips? It would have been pointless asking anybody this question.

Anyway, I chose Safa Kahvesi, bowled in, took a pew and ordered some tea. Sure enough it arrived in one of those egg timer glasses and it was black tea, which, without milk, is terribly bitter and dries out the mouth. I can't say I was happy. There was little in the way of food available and when I asked for some they said I couldn't have any. Perhaps it was the wrong time of day, I don't know.

There were other customers but none of them appeared to be enjoying themselves or relaxing into their environment: this was a case of coming in, ordering, drinking and going.

There was a pleasant-looking display of Turkish sweets and delicacies and the woman behind the counter said it was alright when I asked if I could take a photograph, but there ended the experience.
Safa Kahvesi's sweets selection – I didn't buy any.

On offer was various coffees, espresso, cappuccino and tea, served as described above. The tea, it must be said, took a while to cool sufficiently before I could drink it (another bummer when you're in a hurry to escape). I suppose I could have just left it, but that would have been a waste of money.

Snacks were available, but not to me for some reason. They included kurabiye tabagi (translated to 'cookie plate') in small and large sizes.

Verdict? Not impressed. Unfriendly staff, I couldn't order food, the Turkish tea was bitter, there was no milk (and I knew that if I asked for milk they would have problems understanding me). It was time to leave, which I did, promptly.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Puro Gusto, Milano, Italy

Come out of the Melia Milano Hotel – which is fantastic – turn left, then left again, and on your left you'll find Puro Gusto, a light and airy and colourful place offering everything you might expect from a decent bakery and caff operation.
Inside Puro Gusto. The great thing about this shot is that you can see me
taking this photograph in that television screen top left of the shot.
I was there for a quick cappuccino and a mini Danish pastry and the whole lot, including the same order for my pal Ken came to just EUR3.90. Not bad. As we were there for a brief pitstop (I had enjoyed a rather healthy breakfast back at the hotel) the cappuccinos were served in paper cups, Normally I have tea, but I couldn't see it mentioned anywhere on the menu board behind the counter so I opted for a coffee – rare for me, being a creature of habit.
Look at those pastries! Fantastic aren't they?
Had I known that this place existed yards from the hotel I would have saved myself the EUR35 charged for breakfast and eaten here instead – if there's a next time, that's what I'll do, although I might take a wander around the locality as there were quite a few little caffs dotted here and there.

The Puro Gusto logo – hopefully, I'll be back!
The servery counter – but I couldn't see tea advertised anywhere.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

McDermott's Fish & Chip Restaurant, Forestdale, Croydon, UK

I can't remember the last time I saw people queue for fish & chips. I think it was in Aldeburgh, Suffolk many years ago when I myself was in the queue, waiting for cod and chips. There's nothing better than fish and chips, especially if there's plenty of salt and vinegar at hand. And while it could be argued that fish and chips has been replaced by chicken tikka masala as the traditional British dish, I'll always enjoy it, albeit not very often.
It might look pretty standard, but that's a decent fish & chips, believe me.

Fish, chips and mushy peas. Why not? Quite nutritional as it goes and, believe it not, it tastes even better when wrapped in newspaper, although that practice has been obselete for a long time.

In Europe they have mayo with their chips instead of ketchup and that's never really caught on here; there was a time when fish and chips were served in newspaper print patterned paper cones. These are probablystill is used in some places – but I prefer mine being wrapped up after the salt and vinegar smothering.

One thing I really like is the fish and chip restaurant as it brings back memories of childhood holidays on the south coast where you'll always find a decent fish and chip restaurant – and, in the old days, crinkle-cut chips (whatever happened to them?). Remember fish knives? You rarely see them today, but if ever you do see them, it's likely to be in a fish and chip restaurant, a 'plaice' where you can enjoy fish and chips sitting down.
A local Croydon brew – fantastic!

Having said that, I didn't see any fish knives in McDermott's fish and chip restaurant, located in what looked like a seventies-built shopping precinct on the outskirts of the Forestdale housing estate near Addington in Surrey. I'd walked over to the precinct while killing time waiting to escort my wife home along the mean streets of this part of Croydon after dark and was amazed – and elated – to find people queuing for their fish and chips. It was a Friday night and the queue was at least 30-strong, if not more.

McDermott's has a good reputation for quality fish and chips and I thought they were based in central Croydon, on Crown Hill, but here they were plying a very good trade. Not only was the takeaway crammed with people queuing for their Friday night meal, the adjoining restaurant next door was heaving.

Later I decided that I had to be a part of it so we opted not for a takeaway – which would have meant standing at a windswept bus stop in the rain with greasy fingers – but a full-blown meal. But that didn't mean we avoided queuing. We walked in to a bar area (yes, the bar area) and had to wait to be seated and were eventually escorted to a table by the window looking out on the aforementioned small precinct.

McDermott's is licensed and it sells locally brewed Cronx beer. Needless to say one was ordered along with cod and chips (not cheap at £12.50) but the portion size was good and the quality of the fish and chips second to none. My wife ordered, foolishly in my opinion, a vegetarian meal. Service was second to none and the hubbub of the crowded restaurant – full with people from all walks of life and certainly not in any way 'poncy' – made the experience worthwhile. I loved it and felt glad that I'd taken a wander and found it.

A brief mention of the desserts menu. With the exception of 'various ice creams' (all £3.10) there were three proper desserts in the shape of sticky toffee pudding, chocolate fudge cake and apple pie served hot or cold and with a choice of cream, custard or vanilla ice cream. We opted for apple pie and custard but they'd sold out and I was a little disappointed with the other two desserts on offer and wished there had been greater choice available. Running out of apple pie is a cardinal sin in my book.
Queuing for takeaway fish & chips – a rare sight!

The total bill for two was just over £26, but well worth it and I'll definitely return. It was great to see the place crowded out and with people queuing for takeaways next door. It was one of those moments when I felt that my faith in human nature had been restored – and I'll forgive them the lack of apple pie (but only just).

And let's not forget that a cup of tea costs only £1 – a rarity these days. Take note coffee retailers, especially Café Nero where a pot of tea will set you back £2 as opposed to Costa's £1.75. Café Nero might be a little cosier than Costa, but the tea is 25p more expensive and, as you'll see shortly when I post about a Nero unit in Croydon, milk is rather sloppily served in a paper cup (Costa tea is cheaper and the milk is served in a small, white, jug.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Café Montmartre, Paris, France

If you find yourself wandering around Paris, take a hike – and I mean a hike – to the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur in the Montmartre area of the city and, after recovering from the steep uphill climb (unless, of course, you chicken out and take the funicular railway) and having admired the view of Paris, take a stroll around and you'll find there are many different restaurants and cafés in which to indulge yourself.
Café Montmartre, Paris, France - very pleasant.

My two colleagues and I were not interested in a full-blown meal. All we wanted was a ham roll and a cup of tea or coffee, having enjoyed an amazing meal the night before. Lo and behold we stumbled across the Café Montmartre, a quaint little place offering an array of different food and beverage items. It was, in essence, a 'caff' but a caff with a touch of French class.

The sandwich selection was good: Le Norvins: poulet, crudités (chicken, tomato and salad) along with Le Parisien: Jambon, emmental (ham, cheese, tomato and salad) were both EUR6.50; also on offer at just EUR5.50 were Le Jurassien: Jambon de Paris, Emmental (ham and cheese) and Le Paysan: Jambon cru, beurre (country ham and butter). For EUR6.00 was Le Montmartre: Fromage, crudités (cheese, tomato and salad) and also Le Méditerranéen: Thon, crudités (tuna, tomato and salad). The most expensive sandwich was the Le Nordique: Saumon fumé, aneth (or smoked salmon and dill) at EUR7.20.

We ordered the Le Paysan and the Le Lyonnais (EUR5.00), the latter being French salami in a buttered roll plus a tea (always served as hot water in a cup with a sachet containing a tea bag); a can of Coke and a cappuccino. Tea was EUR4.20 and cappuccino EUR4.00. The can of Coke was EUR3.20. We also ordered a can of fruit juice (EUR3.50) and an eclair (EUR3.50). The total bill was EUR29.40.

Just a word on the way Europeans serve tea: I can't stand being given a sachet containing a teabag and a cup of hot water. I want a teapot with leaf tea, a small jug of milk and hell! I want a tea cosy too and, perhaps, some extra water to make the teabag go further. The way the Europeans treat tea drinkers – as second class citizens to coffee lovers – is simply not cricket. However, I'll forgive the Café Montmartre because it was such a nice place.

The experience overall was good as was the conversation with my pals Paul and Ken. The general vibe of the café, which was licensed, was good and it was all very conducive to spending the afternoon there, possibly with more tea, but also, perhaps, a glass or two of wine, the broadsheets and a decent paperback, like Mike Carter's Uneasy Rider, which I'm reading at the time of writing this report.
Inside the Café Montmartre, Paris – perfect!

Various Viennoiseries and Patisseries were on offer ranging in price from EUR1.50 for a croissant up to EUR5.70 for a variety if pastries including a fig tart and an apple tart.

I could have stayed longer and eaten more, but I had to walk down to the Moulin Rouge to pick up a bus back towards the Arc de Triomphe and, ultimately, a Eurostar back to the UK.

I've reported from Paris a couple of times before, but this visit was by far the best in terms of finding decent caffs and boulangeries in which to enjoy a brew and some friendly chit chat. I'll be returning again soon – possibly later this week – and reporting back with some more eateries to tempt your tastebuds, so watch this space.

Prior to arriving at the Café Montmartre, I had walked extensively around Paris from my hotel to the Arc de Triomphe and then to the Eifel Tower and then back to the Champs Elysees before walking over to Montmartre. When I reached the café I really enjoyed the ham roll, even if it did have a rather pretentious French name, which made is sound even tastier than it actually was. In all honesty a glass or two of red wine and a decent book would have bolstered the experience, but time was against us and that Eurostar to the UK beckoned.

The Arc de Triomphe – I'd rather walk around it.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Coffee Bay, Purley, Surrey.

There's nothing better than value for money, especially when it comes to a coffee shop and you can't beat £1 for a mug of tea.
Coffee Bay – tea at £1 per mug and a friendly and chatty proprietor.

I'd missed my connection at Purley Oaks so I walked to Purley – rather than wait for the next train – and found myself with 20 minutes to spare.

I nipped in to Coffee Bay, having noticed a sign in the window stating that all major credit cards were accepted (I had no change, bar a £1 coin). But then, to my surprise, I noticed that a mug of tea was just £1.

The woman serving, who was also the proprietor, told me that any more for a cup of tea was daylight robbery. Not her exact words, but she was clearly taking a swipe at the extortionate prices charged by the coffee retailers (even if the Costa in the Purley Tesco's a few yards away was also charging just £1).

In the course of the brief conversation that followed I discovered that she used to work in the city, until the 1987 crash and then decided to get into the caff business. She set up Coffee Bay in 1992 and hasn't looked back.

It's a great place with a few seats inside and a couple outside for good measure.

There's free WiFi, wraps from £3.80, panini breads from £3.80 and homemade soup for £3.

In short, a worthy establishment and very convenient as it's located right next door to Purley railway station. Nothing could be finer than sitting in Coffee Bay sipping tea while waiting for a train.

I will return.