Friday 31 May 2013

Fry up inspectors New York food adventure - Day 1

Day 1 - Norwich to Brooklyn

Back in 2009 I visited New York City with my wife and loved the place declaring it my favourite city ever visited. As a kid I had seen it on tv so many times and being there for the first time made me realise it is just like being on a film set where steam really does pour out the man hole covers, there really is a hot dog seller on most street corners and almost every other car is a yellow taxi cab.

I have wanted to return to New York City ever since and it was a money saving pot given to us on our wedding day and a conversation over a drink at the Playhouse in Norwich last July that made this return trip possible. My wife and I decided we would save either £20 or £40 a week in the money pot and by May 2013 we would have saved enough to return to New York City again, thankfully the only way into the money pot was to smash it open so we were able to save up £1000 quite easily. On our 2009 trip we saw most of the popular Manhattan sights and attractions and stayed in Long Island City. We didn't want an identical trip this time so decided to look at stuff we had missed last time, visit Coney Island and stay in Brooklyn.

Initially I had planned to search for full English breakfasts in New York but soon realised it would be a wasted opportunity and searching for classic New York food would be a much better idea. This is a story of places we visited and the food we discovered on the way, day one didn't really involve any New York food but its part of the trip so here goes.. 

A wet Friday morning in coach H on the 9am Greater Anglia service to London, the trip to New York has finally started!

When in coach H it is difficult to resist the bacon roll and hot drink deal for £4.70, read more about it here. On the train I noticed on Twitter that both runways at Heathrow had been closed due to an emergency landing of a BA flight with an engine fire. I didn't mention this to my wife who is terrified of flying.

I ended up telling my wife on the tube to terminal 5 about the airport closure (I said a plane had had to return to collect suitcases left behind, she didn't believe me though so I had to tell her the truth!) and fearing the worst we headed to the departure board. All European flights had been cancelled but with one runway open again all long haul flights were still scheduled, so relieved!!

Whilst waiting to check our bags in we decided to be relatively healthy and drink a smoothy, I went for the vanilla bean & honey dairy, incredibly nice flavour with a thick creamy texture 9/10. Once through security we decided to eat and headed to Giraffe, they were serving all day breakfasts and we couldn't resist so let me talk you through it in the way I know best!

Departure Lounge
Terminal 5
Heathrow Airport

Breakfast served all day

Open 7 days a week
5.15am - 9.30pm

The seating area was huge and although quite chaotic still a pleasant enough place to dine.

There was all the standard sauces and hot chilli sauce, tabasco and mustard.

My wife chose the veggie breakfast plate special at £8.65.

I went for the breakfast plate special at £9.75.

I am not usually a huge fan of potato wedges on breakfast but they did taste great as did the sausages and bacon despite its slightly undercooked appearance.

The eggs were perfect and the tomatoes tasted great.

Upon entering - This huge restaurant found on the first floor of terminal 5 departure lounge looks down onto the ground floor and has 3 huge giraffes towering high in the centre so is hard to miss. The tables have enough space for any hand luggage to be stored beside them and have a huge selection of sauces. As you enter you are shown to a table and presented with a menu, a full table service means you won't need to leave the table until the end. Although very busy and quite noisy it was a nice enough environment to sit down for a meal before your flight. 7/10

Service - They seem to want you in and out as quickly as possible and this is made very obvious, great if you are in a hurry but not so good if you are relaxing over a meal with time to spare. We were given menus straight away and within minutes our order was taken, the food and drinks arrived very quickly. During the meal a waiter placed some cutlery into the cutlery containers on our table twice, both times his arm was literally almost touching my face as he reached right across me! My wife was still eating her breakfast when I had finished mine and my plate was whipped away from me the second the cutlery had landed on the plate. Quick and efficient is ok but rushed and rude is not! 4/10

Contents - 2 sausages, 2 bacon, 2 fried eggs, potato wedges, tomatoes and beans. 6/10

Presentation - It filled the large oval plate quite nicely and there was plenty of it, my first thought was that it looked like it had been sitting for some time, it was nice and hot though. The eggs looked very fresh with a green garnish finishing them off nicely. 7/10

The food - Despite looking a bit undercooked the sausages and bacon were both really tasty, the potato wedges were nicely crispy with a soft fluffy centre and a delicious seasoning. The Heinz beans were great, the slightly seasoned tomatoes full of flavour and the fried eggs perfect. 8/10

Value for money - I was at an expensive London airport eating a large plate of delicious food for less than £10, I was happy enough with the price! 7/10

Veggie option - 2 veggie sausages, roasted mushroom, tomatoes, potato wedges, 2 fried eggs and beans for £8.65. It looked slightly better presented than the meat version and the veggie sausage was really tasty.

Overall - This place served its purpose quite nicely and if you are in a hurry you will love the service, we were not in a hurry though and found the staff to be way too keen in clearing the table. The food was tasty and there was plenty on the plate for your money. A fairly good option if you want to squeeze one more full English in before heading abroad. 6.5/10

The flight ended up being slightly delayed but almost time to board, my thoughts now were on the onboard meal.

The economy class pillow, blanket and head phones were waiting on the seat.

The rain was getting heavier when the plane started to taxi, this was our first time flying on a 747 jumbo jet, I was excited about the take off but my wife was terrified.

About an hour after take off the meal arrived: A very solid bread roll and a quite frothy spread, a reasonably nice cold pasta salad, the chicken tikka massala was pretty nice and the red chillis almost made my head explode! The real shock was the dessert, a chocolate mousse with caramel base that tasted bloody amazing. Everything was washed down with white wine, water and a cup of coffee 6/10

My wife chose the tortellini, quite a nice pasta dish.

Throughout the flight drinks were served including alcohol if you wanted it. Before landing a fairly nice and well filled chicken caesar sandwich, mini kit kat and coffee was served 7/10

The touchscreen needed a lot of poking to get it to respond and despite a huge selection of films on offer I chose to watch the journey map screen for hours watching excitedly as we slowly got closer to New York.

After a really long wait to get through customs we were finally on the Manhattan bound express A train. I love the New York subway with its wide rickety trains and "Please stand clear of the closing doors" message announced in a Buzz Lightyear voice at every stop.

At Nostrand Avenue we changed trains and headed downstairs to catch the local train. This platform was really eerie and it felt like we were moments away from being mugged and it is so difficult to not look like a tourist with suitcases.

We were staying a Bibi's Garden B&B in Brooklyn, the area was lovely as was the house and we were happy with our room when we saw it.

The real selling point of Bibi's Garden B&B was the friendly and helpful owners we had read about that run it. We had met Stephanie the daughter when we arrived who didn't seem particularly friendly and was keen for our payment to be made straight away. It was late though so in the morning we were looking forward to meeting Bibi who so many people had praised in reviews for her charm and friendliness.

Click here for..
Day 2 - A walk around Manhattan and Brooklyn

Sunday 19 May 2013

City Corner Snack Bar - London

- Now closed -

133 Middlesex Street
EC2 M4

Breakfast served all day

Nearest tube: Liverpool Street

A great article on the cafe here

City Corner Snack Bar is a few minutes walk from Liverpool Street Station on Middlesex Street.

There's a hatch outside where you can by take away food and drinks if you don't have time to stop.

The interior is very classic and has remained the same for decades.

The breakfast menu is quite basic and available all day.

A sugar pourer is always a nice sight.

The coffee was great and is included with the breakfast.

The breakfast was ok but not particularly big.

 I am not a fan of chips on breakfasts but I did quite enjoy them, the best part was the sausage which initially looked cheap but was delicious.

 The mushrooms were nice enough but the bacon was tough.

The egg wasn't looking too good.

 I did eventually discover it had a good runny yolk though.

The ketchup was quite thin and almost glowing.

The veggie breakfast was an interesting mix, the chips and cheese were an unexpected extra.

One slice of toast came with all breakfasts except the full monty, very strange?

Another month had passed and we found ourselves back at Liverpool Street Station ready to spend the day on my wife's stall at Spitalfields Market. A perfect excuse for another inspection before heading to the market. I had been meaning to visit City Corner Snack Bar for sometime now but as they didn't open until 9am had on two other occasions headed to places opening a bit earlier. This time though we killed time at the station first and they were open when we finally arrived so in we went..

Upon entering - The first thing I noticed was just how small it is inside, they have been quite clever with the space though fitting quite a few tables in, there are also some outside. The decor is excellent remaining unchanged for many years, it is liking walking back into the 1960's. Classic fixed tables and chairs, wood paneled walls and a tiled floor look fantasic and is becoming a rare sight these days. There is a small kitchen which is a hive of activity complete with a beautiful vintage chrome coffee machine. Pick a table and the waitress will bring a menu over, cutlery, sugar and sauces are on each table. The waitress will bring everything including the bill to your table when it is ready. 9/10

Service - As soon as we arrived we were shown a free space to store our suitcases and a menu was brought over. Everyone here seemed friendly and efficient, the chef asked if everything was ok once the food had arrived. 7/10

Contents - 1 sausage, 2 bacon, 1 fried egg, tomatoes, mushrooms, chips, beans and a tea or coffee. 6/10

Presentation - Ok but the beans were quite hard to spot hiding under the chips, the egg was upside down with no visable yolk and there were a few drips of oil on the plate. 4/10

The food - The bacon was the toughest I have ever eaten and was quite difficult to cut through, thankfully the pork sausage was really nice with a great taste and meaty texture. The fried egg once flipped over revealed an excellent runny yolk and the mushrooms were very nice. I am never fussed about having chips on a breakfast but they were nice and crispy with a fluffy centre and I did really enjoy them. The tomatoes were packed full of flavour but the beans were not very hot. So although some parts disappointed other parts of the breakfast were really good. 6/10

Value for money - The full monty cost £7.50 and included a hot drink but not any toast like the other breakfasts did. It wasn't particularly big though so you will soon be thinking about what to have for lunch. 6/10

Veggie option - Yes, as seen in photo above and includes a hot drink and slice of toast for £5. 

Overall - Worth visiting to experience the classic interior but the food wasn't particularly special. I do hope it survives for many more years to come though as cafe's like this are becoming a rarer sight these days. 6.5/10

Friday 17 May 2013

Full English burger @ The Woolpack - Norwich

- Special Feature -

Full English Burger 

The Woolpack
Golden Ball Street 

In need of some lunch we discovered this Full English Burger on the menu at The Woolpack.

 This is how it looked on the menu, it certainly looked as impressive when it arrived!

 It was packed full of breakfast items, was well worth £7.49 and you will struggle to finish it.

2 quarter pound burgers, bacon, sausage, fried egg, mushrooms, beans and lettuce in a bun topped with 3 onion rings and served on top of a bed of chunky chips with a pot of bbq sauce.

Everything was cooked nicely and the Heinz BBQ sauce made a great dip. A nice twist on the Full English breakfast and you will have fun trying to eat the burger without making a mess! I spotted an all day breakfast on the menu too so expect a fry up inspection soon..

Saturday 11 May 2013

Guest review by Jonathan Wilson

Café on the Green
Alice Holt Forest

Breakfast served until Midday
Parking available at Alice Holt Forest - £4 for 3 hours
 You can find Café on the Green near the car park in Alice Holt Forest.

There are plenty of places to sit either outside under cover, and there’s some further decking for if the weather is decent.

 Inside there are plenty of tables but it is still spacious. Collect your drinks when you order, your food is brought to you.

 Not an award winning selection of condiments, but jugs of milk do beat a tiny carton any day! There are also facilities for looking after any baby food and bottles.

 The breakfast menu does the job, and is clear. Not really any vegetarian breakfasts advertised but if there are supplies I’m sure the staff would be happy to exchange items.

 The tea is good and strong! I don’t know how much it costs as I didn’t look, and the total price got rounded down!

Here is the Lumberjack’s Breakfast which cost £6.95. Presentation was better when it arrived; I upset the fried bread stack!


Quality meats used in the sausages and bacon, the hash browns were perfectly crisped!

The fried bread had puffed out a little but was delicious to eat! The eggs were a bit undercooked though.

I've done a good few Parkrun events and we normally as a group look forward to a post-Parkrun fry-up at a cafe or somewhere nearby. I'd been hearing several good things about the breakfast they do at Alice Holt Forest, from quality to quantity to value for money. This in mind, I dragged myself up there for 9am with the family to see what the run and more importantly the breakfast, was all about.

Upon Entering
It will probably be hard to focus on the café itself and not on the surroundings as the forest really is a great place to be! The first thing you will notice is all of the outside seating available which cater for all kinds of weather, with a covered area if you catch the place on a bad day and a large decking to enjoy the sun. Inside the café it is spacious but also can cater for a lot of people. Each table has a menu and there is also a large board to look at before you queue if you think your table may be nicked. Order and pay at the till, this is made nice and clear inside. Collect your drinks and then help yourself to condiments from the trays, as they do not have them on the tables. 8/10
The woman serving was very friendly and efficient, making sure we had ordered what we wanted clearly. Drinks were made on the spot and were to be collected but even during a post Parkrun time, there was never much of a queue forming. There’s a 10% discount for any Parkrunners ordering anything but even with that included, the price still got rounded down at the till! In total, 2 Lumberjack breakfasts, a bacon bap, and 3 drinks came to just £20. Collect a wooden spoon with an order number, and your food is brought to you about 15 minutes later. 9/10

2 Cumberland sausages, 2 rashers of smoked bacon, 2 fried eggs, 2 hash browns, tomato and 2 slices of toast or fried bread (The fried bread I believe is one slice cut into 4 but I can’t eat 2!) 8/10

The Food
An excellent quality pair of pork sausages with a rich meaty texture accompanied the best bacon I have eaten, perfectly salted and browned with a wonderful smoky taste. Standard beans which accompanied the perfect hash browns, nicely crisped outside but not at all chewy. The fried bread was puffed out and didn’t look too golden, but fear not the consistency was very good and it went down a treat. The tomato I didn’t eat as I don’t like them so won’t judge. The only thing that could have done with improving would be the eggs, these were a little too undercooked and had a slightly slimy top to the white and the yolk. 8/10

Value for Money
6.95 for a breakfast seems like a good price considering the good quality ingredients used, better still if you get the 10% discount for participating in the Parkrun, and even better when they round down to the nearest pound on the till even after the discount! 9/10

Vegetarian Option
Forgot to check extensively. Most of the menu caters for meat-eaters however I believe if they have the right stuff to make exchanges eg from meat to veggie sausages, they probably will do.

The talk I was hearing was right, the fry-up served here will not leave you disappointed! The value for money is excellent and the service is very decent too. I would happily pay another pound or two for the breakfast if I saw some mushrooms and didn’t have to choose between toast and fried bread. If you’re in a group there’s no problem to mix about but on your own it might be more difficult. Still, don’t let that put you off visiting when you’re in the forest, the meats especially are some of the best I’ve tasted and the surroundings you won’t find in many other places! Remember though, parking is £4 for 3 hours which is a bit steep, so best off paying for and visiting the whole forest for the day and including the breakfast at the start to get your money’s worth from the meter.  8.5/10