Sunday 29 December 2013

Highlights of 2013

I wasted no time once 2013 was upon us inspecting Glenlyn Hotel in North London on New Years day with its fairly impressive buffet style breakfast. Back in Norwich I tried two pub breakfasts and discovered the Compleat Angler offered a reasonable breakfast at an amazing £3.29 and The Unthank Arms served me a surprisingly disappointing breakfast (great Archers sausages though!) for £8.50. There was worse to come though when I went along to Patisserie Valerie and sampled their incredibly bland and boring breakfast reminding me why independent cafe's are always the better choice.

January's highlight was the utterly excellent Knife Fork & Spoon Cafe on Catton Grove Road. One of the best breakfasts I had ever eaten at less than £5! Sadly it closed after just a few months..

I discovered that The Cottage on Silver Road were serving a decent breakfast on Saturdays, sadly this only lasted a few weeks though. KO's Sports Diner opened in the premises that had formely been home to Pat's Cafe for decades on Hall Road, this boxing themed diner served a great breakfast that certainly packed a punch! Another gem was also found at the Lemon Tree Cafe in Wymondham. 

Februarys highlight was visiting another classic London cafe, this time Jamie Olivers personal favourite The Shepherdess Cafe. It was certainly a classic greasy spoon with heaps of character but having recently won the "best builders breakfast in Britain" award I was left wondering why, I had eaten far better breakfasts on my search for perfection!

The Waffle House in Norwich had a breakfast themed waffle on the menu, it was really nice but I later discovered I was a bigger fan of the sweet waffle menu. As the number of inspections on the blog continued to increase I added a new RIP section to inform readers of cafes that had sadly closed their doors for the last time. I made it to London again in March but my plans to visit another classic cafe didn't quite work out due to a late opening time so I ended up in a Wetherspoons, Hamilton Hall. It was by far the worse Wetherspoons breakfast I had yet experienced.
 March's highlight was the amazing Pandora's Kitchen that had recently opened on London Street in Norwich. The black pudding was forgotten on my first visit but with such excellent food, service and dining areas I really didn't mind and it was the perfect excuse to return and eat it all over again. I got mentioned on the blackboard outside for my review and chef Jeff was coming up with a great idea that was soon to be launched.

I was determined to find The Boho open for business and on my third attempt it was, an impessive stacked breakfast left me feeling glad that I had perservered. I decided to look at breakfast on a budget, I compared Greggs and Wetherspoons hot drink and bacon roll offers. Both cost less than £3, neither were amazing but Greggs seemed the best choice with their freshly baked buns. Later in the month I featured Greater Anglia's bacon roll and hot drink offer, a microwaved bacon roll had never tasted so good! I had high hopes for The Green Grocers but badly cooked, over priced food and a ridiculously placed menu left me feeling disappointed. The curse of disappointment followed me to London where I sampled a lousy tourist breakfast at The Daily Grind in Spitalfields. Thankfully Ally Hadden's great guest review of Dundee's Bridgeview Station ensured April ended on a high!

April's highlight was the idea of Pandora's Kitchen chef Jeff, "Fry Up Inspector Recommended" window stickers! I loved the idea and with the help of my lovely wife who kindly designed them for me, I placed an order at the printers. I decided to award a sticker to any establishment with an overall score of at least 8.5/10. Most places loved the idea of a window sticker and before long they started appearing in some of the top breakfast spots in and around Norwich.  

May started with a visit to Primo Cafe and Chez Denis in Norwich, the service in both was great but the food was quite a let down. Next up a trip to Brighton for a friends wedding, the perfect excuse to visit Rock Ola 1950's cafe. The interior was amazing but the breakfast looked a tad incomplete. It was guest review time again as Jonathan Wilson shared his thoughts on his recent breakfast experience at Cafe on the green in Surrey. The Woolpack in Norwich left me impressed with their stacked high and delicious full english burger. I found myself back in London visiting The Corner Snack Bar near Liverpool Street, the classic 1960's interior will always stick in my mind but the chip based breakfast was soon forgotten but May was about to end on a massive high!!

May (and indeed 2013's) highlight was my New York food adventure. From Katz's Deli's amazing sandwich's to Nathan's not so amazing hot dogs, everything I ate on those five days I featured on the blog. Suddenly there was more to life than the full english breakfast and searching for classic street food had never been so much fun!

The early part of June was spent writing last months New York food adventure. By mid June I found myself eating a great breakfast at Breckland Lodge on the A11, we had been to see Blondie in Thetford Forest the night before and a breakfast was needed on the journey home to help deal with the hangover. As June was drawing to a close Sergeant Sausage offered to investigate a number of breakfast establishments starting with The Lifeboat in Fowey. I found myself in Wetherspoons again, this time Norwich's Glasshouse where a lukewarm offering didn't really surprise me. Finally Neil Hall guest reviewed Terry's Cafe in London which looked amazing leaving me keen to visit it myself. June was also the month that I declared my favourite Norwich breakfast is House Cafe!

 June's highlight was the sheer volume of visitors to the blog, over 22.000 per month! A re-vamp of the recommended section was needed as I realised that I was giving a lot of coverage to some cafes that had simply thrown their recommended sticker in the bin. This of course was their choice but I was keen to spread the word on the cafes that were supporting the blog. From now on only places displaying the recommended window sticker would feature in the recommended section of the blog. 

I started July in Aylsham at Food Lovers, certainly not one of Aylsham's better breakfast spots. Sergeant Sausage had a very busy month reporting on the Lord Mayors International Food Fayre, hospital food, Cafe Metro, Linda's Pantry and he even went for afternoon tea in Manchester! As I was in London again I couldn't resist visiting Terry's Cafe for myself, I declared it a recommended place to visit, the owner responded by telling me a recommended sticker wouldn't fit in with the look of his cafe..

July's highlight was another food adventure, this time in sunny Spain. I was at a music festival and also spending some time in Barcelona, the Spanish Food Adventure focused not just on food but vodka measures too! 

Sergeant Sausage started the month on the trail in West London, he then investigated Kenny's Cafe in Norwich which had improved vastly since my visit back in 2012. He also investigated the slightly disappointing eat all you can breakfast at West Thurrock Premier Inn. The service at Posh Pigs in Beccles wasn't up to much but thankfully the breakfast got the thumbs up from Sergeant Sausage. I spotted a new cafe had opened in Norwich and wasted no time in visiting The Teapot Cafe on St Gregory's Alley, a lovely breakfast and great service. Birchy's Diner had been a favourite on my recommended list for sometime and recently changed name to Hall Road Diner. I decided to visit to check the breakfast was still up to recommended standard, sadly the fried bread had lost its crunch and the sausage was disappointing. I ended the month with a trip to Gorleston, eating at Maggies was not the wisest decision I have ever made..

 August's highlight was the excellent Boomtown Fair in Winchester. It was my 4th time at Boomtown, the city had grown even bigger and I went looking at the best festival food on offer.

Early in the month there was a battle about to commence outside the Forum in Norwich, it was time for battle of the bangers! Whilst I was busy judging, Sergeant Sausage was busy tasting and taking notes outside the forum for his excellent report. This years winner was Archers, Sergeant sausage later went along to the take away section of their shop to try one of their incredible sausage baguettes. Archers later invited me to take a look around their premises, it was great to meet the staff team and also to try the amazing sausage baguette! With Archers in mind I decided to re-write the review for The Street Cafe in Norwich who were now serving the amazing Archers sausages on their delicious breakfasts. Sergeant Sausage visited Hooray Henrys on a trip to Great Yarmouth, it looked good on the surface but disappointment soon set in. On a trip to Northampton I made the mistake of eating breakfast at Jenny's Cafe, the air filled economy sausages left me wishing I had gone elsewhere. As the month drew to an end I discovered a hidden gem on Catton Grove Road in Norwich, Ivy's had opened it's doors and they became the latest place to feature on the recommended list for their impressive breakfast.

My highlight of September was a trip to Italy where I tried some stunning pizza's cooked right in front of me by Paolo. 

 Sergeant Sausage discovered a stunning breakfast at The Earlham Arms in Norwich. Shortly after this I joined Sergeant Sausage for an evening at The Stanley in Norwich where we judged a chilli cook-off. There were some delicious entries but one stood out straight away and went on to win. Ed's Easy Diner had opened in Chapelfield, Norwich. Nice food and great service made this a 1950's breakfast experience that was well worth trying. Wiveton Hall near Holt on the north Norfolk coast looked really promising but when the food arrived I soon remembered how timing is everything when cooking a breakfast. 

October's highlight was discovering the delicious breakfast at Saint's Coffee Bar in Norwich, all this and buttered toast for less than £6. Saints became the latest place to display a recommended sticker. 

Stepping Stones Cafe beside Norwich bus station were offering an all day breakfast with a hot drink for £4.50, I went along to try it and left feeling very happy indeed, this was incredible value for money! I was back in London again but heavy rain forced me to eat at Cafe 1001 off Brick Lane, bloody weather!! A visit to the Assembly House in Norwich was a reminder of why good service is so important. I also noticed a number of recommended stickers were being displayed upside down, very strange!

 November's highlight was the discovery of Flaming Galah's amazing pies. The shop on Ber Street in Norwich was given a well deserved recommended sticker for their delicious selection of deep filled pies topped with mash, peas and gravy.

A quiet month with the first inspection happening at Kings on King Street in Norwich. I had never been served fruit loaf with a breakfast before but the excellent service shone through. With christmas around the corner I headed to Polo bar in London to try their festive breakfast, a tasty combination that worked nicely! 

December's highlight was the excellent breakfast experience I discovered at Smiths of Smithfield in London. This huge four storey restaurant with open plan kitchen, delicious food and great service was the latest place to make it onto the recommended list.

Monday 23 December 2013

Smiths of Smithfield - London

67-77 Charterhouse Street

Opening Hours
Monday to Friday  7am - 5pm
Saturday and Sunday  9.30am - 5pm

Nearest Tube - Farringdon

Smiths is directly opposite Smithfield market on Charterhouse Street.

It is a few minutes walk from Farringdon station.

 Smiths is a grade II listed building that covers four floors.

The ground floor is where the breakfast is served, it looks stunning and is really spacious.

The bar runs along the back wall.

Beside the bar is the open plan kitchen which looks out onto the dining area.

The entire menu can be seen here.

 An impressive condiment rack with quality brand sauces.

Nice chunky cutlery.

 A really nice mug of cappuccino cost £2.50

 A good selection of delicious items filled the plate nicely.

It was nice to see a breakfast that came with black pudding and bubble.

I liked the egg being served on top of the toast, it saved me putting it there myself.

 The quality sausage tasted amazing with a great texure.

 This is the veggie breakfast which costs £7

We were off to London to see some bands at the Garage in Highbury which was the perfect excuse to arrive in London nice and early for breakfast. Smiths of Smithfield had been recommended to me back in the summer so I was keen to give it a look myself..

Upon entering - Smiths is a four storey restaurant inside a huge grade II listed building, it is very spacious inside with a number of seating options available. Choose from square or round tables that seat up to four or much longer tables with benches which are perfect for larger groups to dine together. The modern interior is beautifully designed with a distinct industrial feel, with exposed brickwork, iron girders and overhead pipework. The menu is simple and beautifully designed and the condiment rack contains everything your need, both are found on each table. There is full table service here so once seated just sit back and enjoy. The light levels vary depending on where you sit, we sat in quite a dark area which ordinarily would be fine, for taking photos though it wasn't ideal. I had to lighten the photos afterwards which I felt didn't do the food justice. 9/10

Service - We were delighted with the service here, very efficent, helpful and friendly. We were greeted when we first arrived and told to sit wherever we wanted, shortly afterwards our drink order was taken with a smile. We placed our food order and we were asked how we wanted our eggs. When we asked for more butter it arrived very quickly and when I asked the nearest way back to the station the nice person serving us went to find out for me. The service couldn't have been any better, it is always so nice to be made to feel this welcome. 10/10

Contents - 1 sausage, 1 bacon, black pudding, 1 fried egg, bubble, mushrooms, half a grilled tomato, beans and a slice of toast. 9/10

Presentation - The food arrived with an impressive and varied selection of items neatly filling the large round plate. The bacon and sausage sat together on one side of the plate and the other side contained a circular trio of tomato, black pudding and bubble. The fried egg lay nicely on top of a whole slice of toast with a generous serving of mushrooms below merging into a sea of beans. 9/10

The food - The chunky sausage was good quality with excellent texture and the bacon nice and smokey, both tasted sensational. The black pudding was fairly standard and complimented the flavoursome tomato nicely. The egg had a nice runny yolk but the toast I felt did need some butter, I am not certain if it was already buttered but I added some more. I really liked the bubble with its smooth centre and golden crisp outer edge. The beans were piping hot and the mushrooms tasted great. 9/10

Value for money - Breakfast "Number two" cost £9 and contains all of the essential breakfast items. Tea and coffee costs between £2 - £2.50. So fairly expensive for a breakfast but considering how nice it was and the great service I felt it was money spent wisely. 7/10

Veggie option - Egg, tomato, beans, bubble, spinach, mushrooms and toast for £7

Overall - A fantastic spacious environment to enjoy a delicious breakfast, combine this with the excellent service and you know this is somewhere you will want to visit again. It was nice to see the items that are often overlooked on a breakfast; bubble and black pudding. The only thing I would have loved to have seen was a slice of fried bread but with so many other boxes being ticked here I left a very happy customer. 9/10

Sunday 15 December 2013

Kings - Norwich

27 - 29 King Street

 I hadn't been inside here since it was "Tusk" back in the late 90's

There was a long bar with plenty of standing space

 Towards the back I spotted some tables

Not a huge choice of places to sit but at least there was somewhere to eat

 This was the biggest table but it was quite dark in this corner so I headed closer to the window

 Origami birds hovered overhead

The garden is probably a good option in the hotter weather

A decent filter coffee with refills (or tea if you prefer) comes with the Full English breakfast

Heinz ketchup, nice!

The breakfast looked great when it arrived!

Upon closer inspection I spotted raisins in the toasted bread..

 Then I spotted a homemade patty instead of sausages, it tasted great!

The hash browns were crispy and the eggs looked nicely cooked

 The lovely runny yolks poured onto the raisin below

The bacon tasted excellent but was well cooked and quite tough in places

Three weeks had passed since my last fry up inspection, this was mainly down to me saving hard for our trip to Japan next year. The blog needed a new update though and I needed some breakfast so I decided to head to Kings on King's Street..

Upon entering - The door was open but nobody was inside this quite bare looking pub which at first glance appeared to have no tables. I thought about giving up as there seemed to be nobody about and I didn't fancy eating at the bar. Somebody did appear though at about the same time that I spotted a corner with some tables to sit at. There was no breakfast menu but I was informed a full English was available, I placed my order and paid before leaving. The interior looked quite tired and worn but I was informed that the pub had recently been taken over and was in the process of being refurbished. 4/10

Service - The chap behind the bar was really friendly, chatty and welcoming, he took my order offering me a choice of how I wanted my eggs cooked and later offered me a coffee refill. He ensured I had everything I wanted including ketchup and returned to check everything was ok. It's always so nice to encounter service this good and friendly which in turn makes you feel welcome and valued as a customer. 9/10

Contents - 1 sausage patty, 2 slices of bacon, 2 fried eggs, 2 hash browns, beans and toasted fruit loaf with butter! Coffee or tea with refills. 5/10

Presentation - The breakfast was nicely presented on the plate but as soon as I noticed the raisins in the bread I could think nothing else but why? 7/10

The food - The homemade sausage patty was juicy and delicious making a nice change from sausages, the bacon was equally delicious but quite tough in places as it was well cooked. The fried eggs were nicely cooked with intact runny yolks and the beans nice and hot. The hash browns were piping hot with a nice crisp outer edge as you would expect. I can only imagine the standard bread had run out and this is why I was served toasted fruit loaf. It may have been ok served on a separate plate and eaten before or after the cooked breakfast but having sat on top of the bacon with bean juice absorbed into the sides was just all a bit strange and not particularly a taste sensation I could recommend! 6/10

Value for money - On Kings facebook page the Full English was listed as being £8 however I was charged £8.95 and with no menu at hand I couldn't really question this. The food was nice, the service was excellent and coffee refills (included in the price) a nice touch. However with no menu to look at you never really know what the breakfast will or should include. 6/10

Veggie option - Yes, veggie sausages available with eggs, hashbrowns, beans and buttered toast.

Overall - The great service and friendly staff at Kings was their strong point and the food tasted great too. A breakfast menu would make a great addition so you can see at a glance what the breakfast consists of. Some mushrooms and tomatoes would have been nice as would standard toasted bread. I am always happy to try something different but the toasted fruit loaf for me didn't work with a full English breakfast, the sausage patty made a nice change though. 6/10