Monday 25 April 2011

Cafe Zest @ House of Fraser - Norwich

Lower ground floor
Chapelfield Shopping Centre

Parking available in Chapelfield Shopping Centre

Walk into Chapelfield Mall at any entrance and keep walking, you will get there eventually and it can be accessed on both levels.

Cafe Zest can be found on the 2nd floor of House of Fraser.

Queue up here and wait patiently, you will get served eventually.

The cakes looked lovely and I wanted one.

Im not sure what the lady was saying to him but he was possibly not too interested.

A good pot of tea for about £1.60 and a flag so your food arrives where it should.

No ketchup but fear not as it is available on request.

After the square plate shocker I focused on the food.

It looked nice but was it hot though???

Having tried many of Norwich's cafe's I decided to focus on some of the supermarkets and department stores. I was reminded about House of Fraser, to be honest I rarely go in and had never seen a cafe in there. I was walking through Chapelfield Mall recently and decided to search for the cafe inside House of Fraser and eat some breakfast..

Upon entering - The store guide made it clear that Cafe Zest was on 2nd floor so I jumped on the escalator and saw it straight away as I stepped off. It looked well lit, spacious and pretty empty but it was mid morning on a Friday, a number of tables overlooked Chapelfield Mall. There are no menus on the tables just some sugar, salt and pepper. Make your choice from the menus by the counter and queue up. 6/10

Service - I was behind one person in the queue and it seemed to take that person forever to get served and once they had been I was left waiting whilst some glasses were stacked on a shelf. When I did eventually get served the person serving me was polite, friendly and ensured I had everything I needed when they bought the food over. 6/10

Contents - 1 sausage, 2 bacon, 2 hash browns, fried egg, mushrooms, baked beans, half a grilled tomato and a slice of toast. 7/10

Presentation - When the food arrived the fact it was on a square plate did trouble me quite a lot as it always does. I took a big breath and looked beyond the square plate and decided the layout was not too bad though. 6/10

The food - At the centre of this breakfast was the unbuttered piece of toast with the rather nice fried egg on top, I got round the dry toast situation by popping some of the lovely hot baked beans on top. The bacon was really nice and cooked just right as were the hash browns. The problems started when I bit into the sausage, mushroom, and tomato... All had been cooked properly but were barely warm, it was almost as if they had sat on the plate waiting for everything else to cook. 4/10

Value for money - £6.60 for a cooked breakfast with hash browns and a pot of tea is a fair price if it is served hot, on this occasion some things were not hot though so.. 4/10

Veggie option - Yes

Overall - The place is light, airy and a great place to people spot. My expectations were high and I did walk away feeling disappointed. I honestly think on another day I could have visited, been served swiftly and hot food would have arrived. I will return to see if that is the case in the future but I have to base my score on this visit so.. 5/10

Thursday 14 April 2011

Town House Hotel - Norwich

18 - 22 Yarmouth Road
Thorpe St Andrew

Breakfast Opening Times

Monday to Saturday
7am till 11am

9am till 11am

A short drive from the city and near the river on Thorpe Road is where you can find the Townhouse Hotel.

With an offer like this I couldn't resist!

Sit by the window and you get a great view of the river Wensum.

On the far wall is the Continental selection but im guessing you are not here to read about that.

The chef serves the sausages and bacon and you help yourself to the rest.

Crunchy hash browns and under the foil was scrambled eggs.

Tea with the bag left in just how I like it.

The toast was nice and hot when it arrived.

Its been a while since I had fried and scrambled eggs.

I could have placed everything better on the plate but I was a tad side-tracked by the fact I could put on as much as I wanted!! That said as I am trying to watch my weight at the moment so I just put a sensible amount on.

A few weeks back I had seen an ad for the Town House hotel online offering a fry up from £2.99. I didn't need much persuading to pop along and find out more, on this occasion I decided to go along before work at 7.15...

Upon entering - Walk down the steps and straight through the doors into the restaurant. There is a huge choice of places to sit and even a small outside terrace for the summer months. Everything seemed clean and the process of ordering was not going to confuse anyone with plenty of signs and helpful staff at hand. 7/10

Service - It did feel a bit strange walking into a hotel just for breakfast but I was made immediately welcome as soon as I walked through the door. "Sit anywhere you like and I will bring you a menu over" I was told as I entered, I was then talked through the different breakfast options available. The breakfast buffet was very similar to a carvery, you decide how big a breakfast you want and the chef pops the sausages and bacon on the plate, you then add the other items yourself. The chef informed me he had put a fried egg in the pan for me which was ready in perfect time. By the time I returned to my table the toast and tea had just arrived too. When you have finished you simply pay and off you go. 8/10

Contents - A bit tricky to score as this is a help yourself buffet and you can put as much as you want on your plate, you decide on how much meat you are having when ordering. The items available are sausages, bacon, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, hash browns, baked beans, tinned tomatoes and mushrooms. You can also order toast and butter as extras. 8/10

Presentation - I will not focus on how the food looked on the plate as I served it myself and if im honest I didn't present it as good as I would have liked as I was so focused on "I can have as much as I want!!" Instead I will look at how everything was presented where you serve yourself. Well... The sausage and bacon was bought to me from the kitchen by the chef and was looking great on the plate, as was the fried egg he had just cooked me. All the other items sat in large oval containers with big serving spoons, it all looked delicious and there was no mess anywhere. The breakfast started at 7am and I arrived at 7.15am so whether it would look as appetizing at 10.30am remains to be seen but it looked good when I was there so.. 8/10

The food - I was a bit concerned initially that at such a cheap price the quality of the ingredients may suffer, how wrong I was though! Really nice jumbo pork sausage with herbs and nice chunky bacon. The fried egg was cooked just right and the scrambled was fluffy and tasty. Crunchy but fluffy in the middle hash browns, nice juicy baked beans and tinned tomatoes that were still intact. The mushrooms were small but tasted really nice and the white toast was served hot with real butter. 8/10

Value for money - Traditional breakfast is £2.99, I paid £4.79 for breakfast meal deal, this consisted of Traditional breakfast, 2 slices of toast and your choice of tea, coffee or orange juice. If you go for the Ultimate kingsize option for £4.49 you get 4 rashers of bacon and 2 sausages, then help yourself to as many fried or scrambled eggs, baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and hash browns as you like. You can view the menu on the website link at the top of the page to see all the different offers. Great value for money though!! 9/10

Veggie option - Yes, with Quorn sausages for just £2.99.

Overall - I was curious to see how good a £2.99 breakfast could really be and came away really impressed! It may be slightly off the beaten track but great service and nice food at an incredible price make this place well worth a visit. 8/10

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Bill's Cafe, Restaurant and Store - Brighton

The Depot
100 North Road

Breakfast times
Monday - Friday: 8am - Midday
Saturday and Sunday: 9am - Midday

Behind those large black doors is a hive of activity and some delicious things are being cooked up.

People clearly love spending time chatting and eating at Bill's, the place has a real buzz and a great atmosphere.

Blackboards hang from the ceiling and above the counter tempting you to the many delicious things on offer.

The cakes looked amazing but I was after something a bit more savoury.

Bill's all day breakfast with extra baked beans and bubble & squeak it was then!

Posh sugar lumps, cutlery in a can and tiny salt & pepper pots sat on each table.

There are lots of tables on the ground floor and a few on the 1st floor too.

A truly delicious coffee served with warm milk cost just under £2.

The people queuing were waiting for a free table to appear, this place is really popular and people seem quite prepared to wait, sometimes queuing out of the front door.

The food arrived stacked on top of toast and the beans were in a separate tin ready to be spilled onto your chosen spot.

The egg yolk was so close to popping but it hung on in there till it was cut into.

If you are after a large hearty banger then these small, almost egg shaped sausages may leave you feeling a tad disappointed, pop a piece in your mouth though and you will soon discover they are rather tasty!

Hidden underneath a fried egg I found a small gathering of fried mushrooms.

The bubble & squeak arrived a few minutes after the rest of the food and was the best I have tasted so far with a quite heavy hint of mustard.

The most expensive fry up I have eaten so far and as "up market" fry-ups go this was best in that genre so far.

Square plates generally irritate me but this rectangular plate seemed to frame the work of art that was placed on it perfectly.

A trip to Brighton for a friends 30th birthday party had arrived, we were staying in the campervan at Sheepcote Valley campsite quite close to Kemp Town about 30 minutes walk away from Brighton Pier. My blog has rarely taken me out of Norwich so I knew this weekend was going to offer a rare chance to sample a fry-up on the south coast, the only question was where? A number of friends had recommended places to try but we were meeting two friends who live in Brighton and they had somewhere lined up weeks ago so we decided to give it a try. My iphone 3g seems to get more unreliable everyday and with "maps" struggling to update the sudden sight of Bill's Cafe was the only thing stopping me from throwing Apple's unsupported and forgotten iphone 3g on the floor. I managed to take my exterior shot and headed to the entrance...

Upon entering - As you approach the entrance it is hard to picture what is going on inside, you almost feel yourself thinking "this can't be the right place." You part the plastic fly screens and step into an instantly appealing world, a hive of activity, the place is really busy and colourful and an instant feeling of "I love this place" hits you. There is so much going on around you, with many delicious plates of food being bought to the tables before your very eyes you hardly spot the smiling waitress greeting you. There are a lot of tables in the main ground floor cafe area, each one has cutlery, condiments and menus in the centre, there are also a few tables on the 1st floor balcony area. A huge wall of Bill's own produce runs the whole length of the Cafe, you can buy a huge selection of jams, grains, mustards etc. Just put a tick next to the items you would like on the flyer and hand it to your waiter or waitress. They will bring your groceries back to your table and the cost will be added to your bill. There is so much to look at in Bill's, everything looks impressive from the amazing cakes and juices to the stacked up breakfasts being bought out 4 at a time. 9/10

Service - The small army of waiters/waitresses swarm around the tables efficiently, balancing plates of food amazingly well. They may take a while to get to your table, as I said earlier this place is always busy. But rest assured as soon as your food is ready they will bring it straight to over to you and make time to pop back later checking everything is ok. 9/10

Contents - 2 small sausages, bacon, fried eggs, half a grilled tomato, mushrooms, toast and butter. I ordered baked beans and bubble & squeak as extras. 8/10

Presentation - Toast is usually served separately as people like to choose where to place it and what to do with it. I always put my eggs on top of my toast so was delighted to see this had already been done for me. Quite frankly I loved the way everything was presented balancing precariously on top of the toast. Hidden underneath the fried eggs were the tomato and mushrooms, perhaps they should have been visible but what the hell, on this occasion the presentation was spot on and suited the place perfectly. 9/10

The food - The very strangely shaped sausages did taste great but were not amazing. The bacon was high quality and quite well cooked, a real pleasure to eat. Fried eggs that at a glance looked a tad undercooked, they were however cooked just right but hadn't been flipped or had the yolks splashed with oil. On top of the really nice thick cut toast and butter was a small serving of fried mushrooms and possibly the tastiest "real" tomato I have tasted in a long time. Homemade bubble and squeak that had a fairly strong mustard taste went well with a nice stodgy serving of baked beans. 8/10

Value for money - The standard all day breakfast was £7.95 but I payed £10.45 as I had the extra's, this did seem a lot to spend on a fry-up but this place is about more than just the food, was special and stood out from the crowd so money well spent in my opinion. 8/10

Veggie option - Yes and finally a veggie option to get excited about!

Bill`s vegetarian breakfast - £7.95
Poached eggs, tomatoes, hummus, mushrooms, guacamole,
sweet chilli sauce & toast
with baked beans 1.00 with bubble and squeak 1.50

Overall - There are greasy spoons and cafe/bars all over the place but Bill's stood out as being a really unique experience, they have found a winning formula and are sticking to it. People clearly come here as it is a great place to hang out, spend time with friends and eat good food. If you are in Brighton then give it a try but be prepared to queue as this place is popular. 8.5/10