Saturday, 14 October 2017

West Country Food Company, Winchester

West Cornwall Food Co, Winchester
I love Cornish pasties and I'm so glad that somebody had the good sense to develop a foodservice brand around them. Today there's a handful of operators and most of the time they're kiosks on railway station concourses or part of a shopping mall food court. Fine, but make no mistake, the pasty is one of those difficult-to-eat products, especially on the move. Countless times I've dropped chunks of meat on myself while trying to take a bite out of something that really needs a knife, fork and, of course, a plate and a table.

Imagine, then, my delight when I found myself in Winchester looking for something to eat for lunch and spying a West Cornwall Food Company outlet bang in the middle of town – and what's more there was an upstairs seating area! Coffee and a pasty! What could be better? Well, a table and some knives and forks made the whole experience that little bit better as I left the place without gravy stains on my trousers.

If you're hungry, you can't beat a pasty; they're very filling and will keep you going until dinner time, which is all I really want. So, hats off to West Cornwall Food Company for a great traditional pasty and a decent cup of coffee.

The only negative point about the Winchester West Country Food Co. outlet was that they were slow clearing the tables. I had to move somebody else's debris to another table and I noticed that other tables needed clearing too. This, of course, is basics, and needs to be addressed, but other than that, there's not much to say about a pasty and a cup of coffee, they're not exactly the height of culinary excellence by any stretch of the imagination, but they fill a hole and they're fantastic.

As for Winchester, in all honesty I found it a bit boring. Alright, there's the cathedral (yawn!) and a Turner exhibition (yawn!) but outside of that, for me at any rate, the pasty was the highlight of my day.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Muffin Break, Belfry Centre, Redhill, Surrey – it's okay...

I've paid about four visits to Muffin Break in Redhill since it arrived a year or so ago, probably longer, not exactly sure. Four visits. It's not a regular haunt, put it that way, as there are plenty of other offerings in Redhill, such as the M&S Café, which is always a safe bet, or Café Piazza at the opposite end of the centre on the first floor level. There's also a coffee shop on ground floor level opposite Waterstone's, Ho Sete, which is fine if you don't mind being 'exposed' to passing shoppers.

But let's get back to Muffin Break, so-called because it sells, among other things, muffins. You could say that muffins are the 'signature dish' of the place. Which is fine if you like muffins, but I don't. I hate them with a vengeance. They're too doughy for my liking and no amount of convincing me otherwise will change my mind. I have a similar aversion to scones, but I'd eat one if the only other choice was a muffin. If muffins were the only choice, I'd starve.
Muffin Break, Belfry Centre, Redhill, Surrey

I was in Muffin Break this week. It's a bright place with a fast foody air to it; there's a counter with a menu on the wall behind it and, in essence, the range of food on offer includes various filled ciabatta breads, toasted sandwiches, and a few other hot snacks plus the aforementioned muffins and a few cakes. There's the usual array of hot and cold drinks (tea, coffee, hot chocolate etc) and that's about it.

My companions chose a cheese and pickle sandwich each plus hot chocolate and a mug of tea and I chose a cheese and jalapeno ciabatta sandwich with a medium-sized black coffee (that's an Americano in pretentious speak).

The cheese sandwiches were fine, the tea was good, the hot chocolate fine and the Americano was good too, and so was the jalapeno and cheese ciabatta There's nothing wrong with the cuisine, the service is pretty good (although the man forgot my ciabatta and I had to get up and ask for it again) but other than that it was fine. But it's a little pricey for what it is, I find. Some might beg to differ, but my bill hovered around the £20 mark and while that's probably the norm these days, there's something lacking for me that means I'm not a regular customer at Muffin Break. Perhaps the reason I think it's not good value for money is simply that I can't seem to relax there, it's not cosy, and while one could argue that the M&S café isn't cosy either (it's also a brightly lit cafeteria style operation with the menu displayed behind the counter like a fast food outlet) it has something, possibly the banter with the 'dinner ladies' who run the place. Similarly Café Piazza, although I would argue that the Piazza is cosy because it's darker and the food is more hearty, even the 'meal deals' which include a drink.

Out of 10 I'd give Muffin Break a five and I would rate the M&S café and Café Piazza both around seven.