Saturday, 16 July 2016

Robertsons Coffee Shop, Oxted, Surrey, UK

There's nothing worse than the smell of babies, if you get my drift, with your cherry Bakewell – or any other cake for that matter. There's nowt worse than the smell of babies answering the call of nature, full stop, especially when you've ordered a toasted teacake with cinnamon honey and a pot of tea, and there's nothing worse than a running commentary from the baby's mother as she goes through the process of changing her baby's nappy. Actually, there's more. There's nothing worse than the sound a baby makes prior to having its nappy changed – especially if you're eating.

I was in Robertsons Coffee Shop in Oxted, Surrey, on a Saturday afternoon. I'd nipped in for a quick cuppa and something to eat, having enjoyed a cheese and pickle sandwich and a bowl of soup in the same establishment the previous Saturday. I've been here before, a few years ago, and there's now a sign outside exclaiming 'under new management'. Look, it's quite simple, I don't have a problem with women breast-feeding in public, but when it comes to changing a baby's nappy, surely that's why they invented baby changing facilities in the restrooms.

It's a good place, but we happened to experience a nappy changing moment.
My companions and I ordered two teas, a hot chocolate, two toasted teacakes with cinnamon honey and two scones – very dry scones – and, all-in-all, we weren't over the moon. Cue a nasty aroma drifiting in from the other corner of the room where a baby was enjoying answering the call of nature, twice, in the space of about 10 minutes, accompanied by some stunningly realistic sound effects – realistic because they were real, not fake. The sounds certainly affected my attitude towards the food I had ordered. And let's not overlook the running commentary from the mum, something like, "Ooh! Look at that!" as she admired the contents of the baby's nappy, which, like a museum, had opened to the public, in this case the clientele of Robertsons Coffee Shop.

There was an awning outside, it wasn't cold, but the weather was changeable: one minute sunshine, the next rain. Why didn't the manager point the woman in the direction of the fresh air, thereby allowing the aroma, if that's the word, to travel the length of Oxted's quaint high street and disappear into the atmosphere rather than mix with the more pleasing aroma of freshly ground coffee?

Robertsons is one of those quaint places that sells teapots and biscuits and different teas, not forgetting chocolates and cups and saucers and coffee beans. The teashop or 'caff' element of the business is through some doors at the back of the shop. It's an enclosed space, not ideal if you're baby's in the mood to pick up the phone to Mother Nature. Windows were good and it wasn't good for the nostrils, put it that way – or the appetite.

But let's take a look at the bill. There were four of us and the bill was just short of £18. A pot of tea for one was £2.50 (we had two pots) – more expensive than in a Costa. A hot chocolate was £3.25, those dry scones were £2.25 each and the toasted tea cakes were £2.50 each! The smell of a baby being changed? That was complimentary – on the house!

We left Robertsons Coffee Shop almost £18 lighter and let me make one last observation: the cakes on display were not exactly a welcoming selection. Most had been sold, but not replenished. There were small chunks of three different cakes under one of those clear plastic containers. It could be that the cakes were so good they had all sold out, bar what was left, but when I visit a coffee or teashop and there's a paltry display of cakes, it's always a little bit depressing, even more so if there's the unmistakable smell of babies.

Look, where the baby was concerned, these things happen and I'm sure Robertsons Coffee Shop isn't always choc-a-bloc with babies desperate to lighten their loads by answering the call of nature – twice. For that reason, we won't rule it out in future if ever we're in Oxted – and we will be – but I'll check the price of a cuppa in Costa first, although I'm sure there will be babies misbehaving in there too.

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