Saturday 31 December 2011

Highlights of 2011

In 2011 I visited nearly 50 establishments on my search for the perfect fry up experience. Most of these places were in Norwich but I also visited places in Brighton, London, Northampton, Cambridge and Madrid. Some places stick in my mind for various reasons, these places are...

Best looking Cafe - Regency Cafe, London
Established in 1946 Regency Cafe in Pimlico remains stunning with its Art Deco exterior and traditional interior, Read more about it here.

Best service - The Street Cafe, Norwich
I love this place and keep coming back, the waitress service here is spot on.
Read more about it here.

Biggest shock - National Hotel, London
Nothing could prepare me for the shock when this was placed before me, Gobsmacked!
Read more about it here.

Best Relaunch - Birchy's Diner, Norwich
Having been disappointed many years ago I reluctantly returned after they had relaunched and I was so impressed it became my 2nd favourite in Norwich. Read more about it here.

Best Improvements - Posh Nosh Internet Cafe, Norwich
I visited Posh Nosh Cafe not long after it had opened and they were well and truly on the right track to success. What really impressed me though was how shortly after my visit a few key additions had been made to the menu (Veggie option, Gut buster & fried bread.) Additions that I'm sure will prove very popular, read more about it here.

Best value for money - The Orange Tree, Norwich
If all this cost £4 then you would be getting a nice deal, but it also included orange juice and a hot drink, what a bargain! Read more about it here.

Best breakfast - Harty's Diner, Norwich
Many have come close but this is still the best breakfast I have ever eaten, well done Harty's! Read more about it here.

Happy New Year and thanks for looking!
The search continues... See you in 2012!!

Thursday 29 December 2011

Guest Review by Simon Sadler

Cafe Kitale
St Nicholas Court
North Walsham

Guest Review by Simon Sadler, Bass guitarist in Norfolk punk band Hotwired

A new café has opened in North Walsham, right on my doorstep (I literary only have to cross the road to get there) so I thought I would go check it out...

The Café Kitale has taken over what used to be CST bar/grill in the precinct, they’ve made a few changes inside and it very spacious, clean and modern.

The staff are very friendly and helpful , it said to place your order at the counter but they came over and took our order at the table. The menu was a bit limited but we later found out the reason for this was that they are waiting for an extractor fan to be fitted so they can cook a wider choice of foods. On offer were All day breakfasts, a selection of hot/cold sandwiches, jacket potatoes deserts and various drinks.

There were various breakfasts to choose from and being a little greedy I chose the Jumbo Breakfast, with a coffee. The coffee was brought over within a couple of minutes after placing my order, somewhere around 10 minutes later my food arrived. Sauces and cutlery were brought over by the staff too, on my plate was three fat butchers sausages which were some of the best I've ever tasted, six thick cut rashes of bacon which was very nice but slightly too salty, two fried eggs with lovely runny yolks, baked beans, half a fried tomato, mushrooms and doorstep of fresh bread toasted.

The food on the whole was delicious and worth every penny at £6.50, my only disappointment was there was no hash browns . I would certainly recommend this café to anyone visiting North Walsham because in my opinion its by far the best breakfast I've tasted in the area. As soon as the extractor fan has been fitted I shall popping back to see the updated menu and update the review.

Overall score - 8/10

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Bristol Bar - Madrid, Spain

Calle Almirante, 20
28004 Madrid

Full English Breakfast served Saturday only
Between 11.30am - 3.00pm

Trying to find a Full English in Madrid is no easy task, luckily I had read about Bristol Bar whilst planning the trip.

An up-market slice of the UK in central Madrid.

The plush seating area continues towards the rear.

It is also famous for it's vast selection of Gin's on offer.

Breakfast didn't come cheap but...

Standards are high.

A great selection of sauces are on offer.

The coffee came with the breakfast and was delicious.

The toast and jams arrived at the table despite not being mentioned on the menu as being part of the English breakfast, no extra was charged so a bit of a bonus really!

It cost a small fortune but tasted delicious and was incredibly filling!

I do really enjoy eating the local food whenever visiting another country but that said it has also become a perfect opportunity to sample another fry up if I can find anywhere serving them. I had found out about Bristol Bar in Madrid a week or so before I was due to arrive and knew that I just had to pop in and sample their English breakfast. The night before we had found some great places, a Tiki bar, an American diner and a Mexican restaurant (Hmm. maybe not strictly local food but well nice anyway!). So the next day we were off to visit Toledo (south of Madrid) for the day, first though we wanted to sample the breakfast at Bristol Bar...

Upon entering - The first thing you notice before even walking through the door is how up-market this place is, a lot of time and money must have been used to create it. There is a bar in the area at the front and some fairly high tables and chairs which we decided to sit at, by the front window are also some comfy looking sofas, softer black and red tables and chairs can be found towards the back of the bar. Menu's can be found on each table where your order will be taken. 8/10

Service - We seemed to have much more of a problem communicating in Madrid with our Spanish being understood than we had in Barcelona, the lady serving us who may have been the owner was English so we were able to order what we wanted without a problem. Once our order was placed everything arrived soon after at the table, drinks, sauces, toast and finally the cooked breakfast. The people serving us seemed friendly enough and very efficient. 7/10

Contents - 1 sausage, 3 bacon, 2 fried eggs, half a grilled tomato, mushrooms with onion, beans, toast served with butter & jams and a hot drink. 7/10

Presentation - Everything that arrived on the table looked fantastic, even the sauces were top brands. 8/10

The food - The sausage was top quality and cooked nicely, the bacon tasted really nice but was really small and thin rashers that were a bit overcooked for my liking. The fried eggs were cooked nicely in olive oil so tasted quite rich and went perfectly on top of the toast and butter. You can never go wrong with Spanish tomatoes and this grilled beauty was no exception, full of flavour and a real joy to eat! The mushrooms were cooked beautifully with a few onions. There was a very small amount of beans that were a tad overcooked but a welcome addition. Chives were sprinkled lightly over everything. 8/10

Value for money - Hmm.. This is the most I have ever spent on a breakfast. It tasted great, the place is nice, it came with a drink and the toast was a nice surprise we weren't expecting... 14 euros though! With so many places in Madrid offering a starter, main course, dessert, bread and glass of wine for 9 euros it did feel a bit overpriced for what it was. 5/10

Veggie option - No (cheddar and curried scrambled eggs is the only alternative on the menu)

Overall - To be honest up-market and expensive is not really what I am looking for on my search for the perfect fry up experience. This visit was a bit of an exception really though as I was just determined to find a fry up in Madrid that I could add to my blog. The place is amazing and no expense has been spared in making it look so good, the food was delicious and although it may not look like masses on the plate I did leave incredibly full up. I didn't see anywhere else in Madrid offering a full English breakfast so if you don't mind spending 14 euros and simply must have one then Bristol Bar is worth a look. 7/10

Wednesday 7 December 2011

So what is my perfect fry up experience?

The fry up is quite a difficult meal to get right mainly because every individual likes each item cooked or presented a specific way. For me if the perfect fry up was placed before me but the environment wasn't right or I didn't like the service then I would most likely not enjoy the experience. For this reason I score each establishment on 6 different section that make up the overall score. So what things do I look for on my perfect fry up experience then? Here goes..

Upon entering - I want the place to be warm, friendly, traditional and generally somewhere I feel comfortable as soon as I walk through the door. I want to be able to clearly see a menu be it on a wall or on the table and know where the cutlery and condiments are placed, a good example of this can be found at The Street Cafe.

Service - I'm looking for friendly, helpful and efficient staff who take the time to chat but leave you alone whilst eating, if you want to swap a few items around or switch from toast to fried bread it is not a problem. A good example of this can be found at Buttercross Tearooms.

Contents - Sausage, bacon, black pudding, fried egg, hash brown, fried bread, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and bubble & squeak are what I want. I am not interested in chips and toast or bread and butter is welcome but not essential to me. Many places offer most of these items but one place that got it badly wrong has to be Lindens Guesthouse my inspiration for starting this blog.

Presentation - I want to see a nicely cooked work of art placed before me that has been cooked and presented by somebody who is passionate about what they serve to their customers. I don't have a problem with beans touching the eggs but make sure those yolks are intact. Harty's Diner are the kings of presentation so far.

The food - I'm looking for a good quality butchers sausage that is cooked evenly all the way round and not split, good quality smokey bacon that is not over crispy but also not under cooked. Black pudding with a nice coarse texture that is crispy around the edge and soft but not too dry in the middle. I want to see perfect fried eggs with a nice runny yolk intact but not snotty on the outside. Fried bread needs to be golden in colour, crisp and shatter when you cut through it, not dripping with oil though. Hash browns should be golden crisp on the outside and soft inside but never overcooked and spongy. I much prefer tinned tomatoes that are intact and not surrounded by a sea of juice, real tomatoes are ok but only if they taste nice, there is nothing worse than a hard tasteless tomato. Mushrooms can be small or portobello but juicy and full of flavour please and definitely not tinned. I want my beans served nice, hot and stodgy. A nice homemade bubble & squeak is always a welcome addition too. If toast or bread is served it needs to be white and buttered to the edges. Harty's Diner again demonstrate this perfectly!

Value for money - I'm not looking for the cheapest price in this category, if I spend £8 on a fry up a place can still score highly here. It is all about finding good service in a great environment and being served a well presented fry up with the quality of the ingredients being reflected in the price. So although not a fan of economy sausages if i pay around £4 for the fry up I will most likely expect them to appear, if however I am paying over £6 then I will be expecting a decent butchers sausage. Some places do really well in this section though as you end up getting a lot of decent food at a much cheaper price than you would expect as The Orange Tree demonstrated.

Overall - Everything above is taken into account and the average of all the scores becomes the final score.

Friday 2 December 2011

Posh Nosh Internet Cafe - Norwich

(Now Closed)

76E Catton Grove Road

Opening times

Monday - Friday
7am - 3.30pm

8am - 3pm

10am - 1.30pm

Posh Nosh Internet Cafe on Catton Grove Road opened fairly recently.

Inside it is spacious, clean and bright with larger tables in the middle and..

Smaller tables to the side.

Great sauce bottles!

Nice milky coffee and...

A decent fry up!

I was delighted to hear about Posh Nosh Internet Cafe the other week as I was fast running out of places in Norwich to try. Before popping along there for breakfast I read an article from the local paper about how Chantelle Schlomann had opened the cafe after getting a grant from The Princes Trust (click here to read article). I wasted no time in popping along to see what she had created and of course to try the fry up!...

Upon entering - The counter and kitchen is at the back of the cafe, there are a couple of large tables running down the middle, smaller and higher tables to the side and a couple of tables outside too. Each table has a menu, salt, pepper and those fantastic sauce bottles. It is a pleasant environment to sit and spend some time in, well lit, clean and spacious. Place your order at the counter and everything is bought over to you at the table. 7/10

Service - The staff were friendly and efficient taking my order and bringing my food over when it was ready. 7/10

Contents - I went for the deluxe breakfast, It consisted of - 2 sausages, 2 bacon, 2 fried eggs, 2 hash browns, mushrooms, half a tomato, beans and a slice of toast & butter. 8/10

Presentation - Everything looked good when it arrived, plenty of colour and nicely presented. 7/10

The food - I was happy to see that the sausages were good quality and these along with the bacon were nicely cooked and tasted really good. The pair of fried eggs were also really good with nice runny yolks and went perfectly with the toast and butter. The hash browns were crisp and delicious, the tomatoes were full of flavour as were the nicely fried mushrooms. I love beans when they are quite stodgy so these for me were perfect. 8/10

Value for money - Not a huge fry up but certainly filling enough and at £5.25 it seemed a fair enough price, good quality sausages are used, all the key items were there and it was a pleasure to eat. 7/10

Veggie option - Yes, sausages can be swapped for veggie sausages.

Overall - It's still early days for Posh Nosh but from what I could see they are doing a great job and are well and truly on the right track in making the cafe a real success for many years to come. The decision to use quality sausages is a great move in my opinion and will ensure people will come back wanting more. Perhaps a large menu display and a veggie breakfast option would be a nice touch but so early in the cafe's life this may well be on the cards anyway. Posh Nosh is well worth a visit and I wish it every success for the future. 7.5/10

* Update *
Fried bread now available.

Gut buster now available for £6.50
3 sausages, 3 egg, 3 bacon, 3 hash brown, mushrooms, tomatoes & beans
served with fried bread, toast or bread & butter