Sunday 29 April 2012

Cafe Zest @ UEA - Norwich

University of East Anglia

Breakfast served
Monday to Friday  
7.30am - 11.00am

Saturday & Sunday  
10.30am - 4.30pm

Paid parking available in UEA

Cafe Zest can be found close to the shops within the UEA campus.

Regular customers can take advantage of the loyalty card scheme.

The seating area is really big so plenty of places to sit.

This looked like the best place to sit, I wish I had spotted it on the way in.

Get your hot drink before queuing up for food as you need to be eating that food as soon after it has been served as possible and you will encounter many obstacles preventing you from doing this.

This A4 sign is the only breakfast offer menu inside this huge cafe, it says..
5 items £3.50
9 items £4.50
12 items £5.50
All with free toast and a tea or coffee

Help yourself to as many items as you want.

Take your pick from economy catering sausages and veggie sausages or have both if you want!

Slowly move along the queue watching the temperature of your food slowly decrease.

Wait a further 5 minutes as you wait to use the toaster wondering if your food could still possibly be at least luke warm.

Everything on the tray cost me just £4.50.

Presentation was pretty good but that was down to my serving skills .

It was nice having scrambled and fried eggs and I love tinned tomatoes, a shame about the tinned mushrooms though..

A few months back I had spotted Cafe Zest whilst walking through the UEA grounds, shortly after that people were suggesting I visit. I had heard some positive but mainly negative comments about it so was keen to go along and see exactly what was going on there. Wet weather had prevented us from going to the VW Big Bang @ Santa Pod so I had a free weekend and decided to go along on Sunday morning and visit...

Upon entering - The seating area is vast, modern and clean. Everything is spaced out nicely giving you plenty of room to move around but as a first time visitor there was a serious lack of direction, I will explain why. When I enter a place for the first time it is always nice to clearly see what I am supposed to do next  or at least have a sign telling me, inside Cafe Zest I felt quite lost so just made it up as I went along and hoped for the best. There is a poster in the window advertising the "breakfast loyalty card scheme" but when I searched for a simple menu informing me how much the breakfast was going to cost me I couldn't find one anywhere. After I had eaten I searched again high and low for a breakfast price list as it was bugging so me much, eventually I found the one A4 sized copy on the counter. As soon as I noticed it was the "serve yourself, pay and find a table" system I realised I was most likely going to be eating a breakfast that had gone cold. I slowly moved along the counter placing items on my plate then the queue would stop moving as there was delays at the till, by the time I had got to the toaster I knew the hot food was going to be barely warm still if I was lucky. Next there was a student at the till having a dilemma with her credit card, I gazed down at my once hot food in frustration... 4/10

Service - The staff seemed friendly enough but as you do everything yourself the only person you will speak to is the person on the till. 6/10

Contents - Available items are - Sausages, bacon, veggie sausages, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, hash browns, tinned tomatoes, tinned mushrooms, beans and toast. 7/10

Presentation - I did a fantastic job of placing the items on a plate, a bit gutted I dripped bean juice on the edge though.. N/A

The food - The sausages were the squidgy economy type that were ok but nothing to write home about, the bacon was ok but not outstanding either. The fried egg was nice enough and I quite enjoyed the scrambled egg too. The hash browns were ok but not so nice once they had gone cold. The beans and tinned tomatos were nice enough and stayed hot the longest. I am not a fan of tinned mushrooms and these slimy little fellas left me wondering why do places serve tinned when they are as expensive as the real thing that tastes so much better. The toast and butter was ok but suffered as everything else had with the fact it had gone almost cold before I had the chance to eat it. 4/10

Value for money - £4.50 for a 9 item (I actually had 12 items but didn't get charged more) breakfast, toast and a hot drink seems like fantastic value for money. You may change your mind as you sit down and tuck into your luke warm bargain though. 4/10 

Veggie option - Yes, veggie sausages and plenty of other items to choose from.

Overall - It is clear that the cafe needs to serve vast amounts of people and self service works better for them but as soon as a queue forms everything goes pear shaped and hot food goes cold. I think if you went in when there was no queue at all and run very quickly between serving the food, condiments, paying and getting to your seat then you may be able to eat the food whilst it was still fairly hot. You can certainly fill yourself up here for a reasonable price and if you don't mind eating food that has is luke warm then you may well like this place, I would rather eat a hot breakfast myself though. 5/10


  1. HAHA. Back in the 90s it was called 'The Bowl' and pretty much the same system! Mind you, pretty much the same prices so at least that's a good thing.

  2. Back in the 80s it was still known by its original name, 'Billings' (after the original catering manager, I believe).

    Believe it or not, you got an above-average breakfast. I treat it as a last resort as it's usually dried out before I even get my tray to the counter, never mind serving it. It would be difficult to emulate a small cafe at this scale, but nonetheless they do seem to have made wrong choices..

  3. The "self service" style kind of reminded me of being in a hotel in Spain. I can imagine some of the breakfast items must get in a very sorry looking state after they have sat for a while under those lights! I am tempted to return one day at a different time to find out!

  4. I went to UEA. Zest used to cost £2.50 - that was a great deal. The food self-service element is new since I was there - I guess to cut costs. You're right about things getting cold though - preparing your drink first is a good call.

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  6. Visiting friends there a few years ago I would call in their for something to eat.
    I was told by a member of staff that as I wasn't a student I shouldn't be there. Are
    you sure non-students are welcome? Phil.

  7. Re Billings many long years ago, a student decided to take his visiting parents for lunch there. Mum asked the lady behind the counter, "What's the soup of the day?" The lady lifted the lid on the tureen to reveal a steaming liquid concoction. After peering at it quizzically she answered, "Brown."