Monday 31 March 2014

Bowthorpe shopping centre cafe - Norwich

(Now Closed)

11a Bowthorpe Main Centre

The cafe is opposite Roys in Bowthorpe shopping centre.

Inside it felt quite depressing and lacked any atmosphere.

The one menu I eventually found contained a selection of breakfasts served all day.

Economy ketchup and an almost empty salt pot didn't exactly fill me with much hope!

A little jar on the table containing what looked like coffee beans, perhaps things were looking up and they served a decent coffee here!

Sadly not though, a really cheap instant coffee cost £1.20 and didn't taste of much at all.

Oh dear.. Not a pretty sight.

The crunchy hash brown was probably the highlight of this breakfast, the portion of beans on this gutbuster breakfast was tiny.

 A gutbusting one cherry tomato cut in half and around two mushrooms sliced.

Burnt fried bread and eggs covered in black stuff from the griddle.

The cheap economy sausage sunk in despair as I cut through it..

Bowthorpe shopping centre cafe had been on my "places to visit soon" list for a long time, with a morning to spare I headed out to Bowthorpe to finally see what the breakfast being served there was like..

Upon entering - There were lots of people sitting outside by the door when I arrived, inside was empty though. It is a fairly large cafe with an open plan kitchen in the corner by the door and a good number of tables to choose from. I thought it felt quite a depressing place to sit and dine laking any real character, everything was looking a bit tired and worn. There didn't seem to be any menus anywhere but I did eventually spot one on a table by the window. The menu itself felt quite sticky to touch and was in need of a clean. There was a small pot containing what looked like coffee beans on each table but don't be under any illusion that the coffee served here is going to be special, £1.20 buys you a mug of cheap instant with very little taste. The condiments and sauces were on a table by the door along with cutlery and serviettes, almost empty salt pots and value ketchup will further depress you. Place your order at the counter and pay, drinks and food are brought over when they are ready. 3/10

Service - I couldn't see a menu anywhere at first so asked the lady behind the counter about breakfasts, she told me what was available and I chose the gutbuster. The group of people sitting outside where occasionally ordering drinks which were served between making my breakfast. My drink arrived first and a bit later the breakfast was being plated up in the kitchen, at this point a customer from outside popped his head in the door asking where his coffee was. As my breakfast was being brought over to me the lady said to me "who does he think he is? F***ing royalty" (referring to the customer requesting his coffee) This was the first time ever a breakfast had been served with an f word, quite shocking! 2/10

Contents - 2 sausages, 2 bacon, 2 hash browns, 2 fried eggs, 2 slices of fried bread, mushrooms, 1 cherry tomato and  a tiny serving of beans. 6/10

Presentation - Any breakfast served with economy sausages is never a pretty sight but combine this with slightly burnt fried bread and black stuff from the griddle coating the bacon and eggs and you find yourself looking at a breakfast that has clearly not been cooked with pride. Visually it reminded me of the kind of breakfast served from a mobile catering van at a music festival. 3/10

The food - The bacon although black in places tasted ok but the overcooked economy sausages were far from special releasing air as I cut into them revealing their cheap spongy insides. The hash browns were crispy and the tiny portions of mushrooms and beans were fairly standard. The tiny cherry tomato seemed out of place on a breakfast named "gutbuster" but did taste ok. The fried bread was burnt in places and was more like dry toast. The eggs did have runny yolks and tasted ok but the black bits covering them didn't make them look too good. 3/10

Value for money - The gutbuster cost £5.75 and the instant coffee £1.20. Neither were enjoyable so £6.95 wasted. 3/10

Veggie option - Vegetarian sausage, 1 egg, 1 hash brown, mushrooms, beans, tomato and toast/bread or fried slice. £4.75

Overall - I had not discovered breakfast heaven here, with a shabby looking breakfast thrown together using cheap ingredients I had got close to entering breakfast hell. On a positive note everything was served piping hot but when it is presented so badly the enjoyment factor is no longer there anyway. 3.5/10

Sunday 23 March 2014

Pig & Whistle - Norwich

2-8 All Saints Green

Breakfast served all day
Monday to Wednesday
10am - 9pm

Thursday, Friday & Saturday
10am - 11pm

10am - 9pm

 Back in 2012 I visited when it was "Westlegate Bar & Bistro" and I was really impressed, read the review here.  

The best cooked breakfasts in the city? I wasted no time in going along to find out more.

A bright and spacious interior.

The coffee was instant but refills were available.

You had to help yourself to hot drinks though.

Cutlery, condiments and quality brand sauces are on each table.

A nicely presented breakfast arrived at the table.

Fairly nice sausages and crispy hash browns.

 Delicious bacon and beautifully fried eggs.

I placed an egg onto the toast and discovered more mushrooms hiding underneath.

Upon entering - It looked very similar to how it was when it was Westlegate Bar & Bistro, this was good as I liked the layout back then and it continues to work well now. A spacious and traditional looking dining area offering many places to sit, the area is well lit by the natural light that floods in through the windows. There is a breakfast menu outside and more can be found on each table along with condiments, cutlery and sauces. The breakfast menu offers three different sized breakfasts, each with pig related name, there is also a veggie option and breakfast baps. The breakfasts include unlimited tea or instant coffee which is great but you do have to help yourself to the drinks at the bar where there is a hot water urn alongside all the tea/coffee making facilities. I found this a bit strange but on the plus side you can return to the bar for as many hot drinks as you want at a time that suits you. I am informed that as many builders currently working opposite on Westlegate Tower are arriving at once for breakfast this system is working best to prevent delays. Anyway, order and pay at the bar, get yourself a drink and the food is brought over when it is ready. With this being a sports bar I can imagine it gets quite busy at times, when I visited it was very peacful though and a nice spot to sit and eat breakfast in. 7/10

Service - The couple running the pub were friendly and welcoming, I placed my order at the bar and was offered self service hot drinks. The food arrived in good time and everything else I needed was on the table. 7/10

Contents - 2 sausages, 2 bacon, 2 hash browns, 2 fried eggs, mushrooms, beans, 1 slice of buttered toast and unlimited tea/instant coffee. 8/10

Presentation - An impressive and tidy plate of food was put before me with a pair of fried eggs that visually stole the show! 9/10

The food - The bacon was really tasty and nicely browned, the sausages were also cooked nicely and were fairly enjoyable with a quite good texture. The hash browns were golden and crispy but not too oily and the mushrooms tasted great. The toast was evenly browned and ready spread and the beans were nice and hot. The highlight of this breakfast though was the impressive pair of fried eggs, beautifully cooked with nice runny yolks. 8/10

Value for money - I went for the medium sized breakfast "The Runt" costing £5.99, it included toast and unlimited hot drinks. I felt it was certainly well worth the money. Even better value if you like lots of hot drinks with your breakfast! 8/10

Veggie option - 1 Quorn sausage, 1 egg, 2 hash browns, mushrooms, beans, toast and unlimited tea/instant coffee. £3.99 
Overall - I hadn't found my best breakfast in the city centre but I had discovered somewhere that were serving a decent breakfast at a reasonable price. The self service drinks were a surprise and some tomatoes on the breakfast would have made a nice addition. With a nice environment to dine in and a friendly staff team the Pig & Whistle is definitely a place that is worth visiting for breakfast. 8/10

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Buddies - Northampton

The Old Mission School
Dychurch Lane


It was Bedlam Breakout time again! The perfect excuse to inspect another breakfast in Northampton.

Buddies is located on Dychurch Lane inside the old mission school, there is plenty of signage so it is easy to spot.

I love New York too, it is my favourite place I have ever visited. You can read about my 2013 New York food adventure here.

A selection of American themed breakfasts are on the menu, look at the menu closer here.

 The walls and ceiling are covered with American stuff.

 There are plenty of booths to sit at in different sizes.

Bottomless tea and coffee is always great value for money.

 The filter coffee was good, the American theme continues onto the mugs and saucers which is a nice touch.

Trivial pursuit cards keep you entertained whilst you wait for your food to arrive.

The menu's are huge and the ketchup is Heinz.

 Everyones toast arrived together on one plate with plenty of butter.

 This was the New York breakfast which cost £9.

 The sausages looked a bit overdone but tasted good.

A nice pair of eggs with runny yolks.

Not the most visually appealing bacon I have been served but it tasted ok.

 Its not often that four hash browns arrive on a breakfast. the mushrooms were very oily but tasted great.

I was happy to see the beans served in a pot but surprised it was a disposable polystyrene one, it certainly did the trick but visually cheapened the appearance a bit. 

An enjoyable enough breakfast that kept me going all day.

 My wife went for the veggie breakfast which also cost £9, the veggie sausages were really nice and this one featured plenty of tomatoes.

The bill arrived at the end with some mint humbugs, nice!

Last time I was in Northampton I ate breakfast at Jenny's Cafe, a decision which was not a particularly wise one! This time my wife and I were meeting our friends Mike and Michelle for breakfast and it looked like Buddies in the town centre was going to be a good option. I had previously visited Buddies USA in Rushden and enjoyed it (Read the review here) With Buddies in Northampton opening at 11.30 we would be eating breakfast a bit later today..

Upon entering - The amount of American memorabilia found inside is quite impressive with the walls and ceiling covered with flags, photos and signage. The seating is in the form of booths giving you a nice little space of your own whilst dining, each table has condiments nestled together and our table even had a stack of trivial pursuit cards. Cutlery and menus are brought over to the table, the menus are massive though and when everyone picks them up to look through the space in the booth suddenly feels quite compact, this is also the case when everything arrives at the table. Your order is taken at the table and everything is brought over when it is ready, drinks first and then the food. If you have ordered hot drink refills you will need to call the waitress over when you want a top up. At the end of the meal the bill arrives accompanied by some mint humbugs. It was certainly a nice environment to dine in and it had an impressive interior, I loved looking at some of the vintage New York photos displayed on the walls too. 8/10

Service - We were shown to a table when we arrived and menus were brought over to us. First our drinks order was taken, we all ordered coffee and tea refills, at no point did anyone come over to offer a refill but they were happy to do so when we asked. The toast arrived next and shortly after that the cooked breakfasts. Bread and butter comes with the breakfasts but they were happy to swap this for toast when we asked. The service was friendly enough and we were made to feel welcome. 7/10

Contents - 2 sausages, 2 bacon, 4 hash browns, 2 fried eggs, mushrooms, beans and two slices of toast and butter. 7/10

Presentation - The sausages were looking a bit overdone and the bacon a bit patchy in places, everything had its place on the plate though and the eggs looked nicely cooked. The polystyrene pot used for the beans kept them nice and hot but cheapened the look of the breakfast slightly. 6/10

The food - The sausages may have appeared overcooked but they tasted great with a nice meaty texture and good flavour, certainly a decent enough breakfast sausage. The bacon was fairly standard and the eggs really nice with good runny yolks. The hash browns were cooked nicely with crisp edges and fluffy centre. The mushrooms were delicious but very oily, the beans were hot but the juice hadn't really thickened enough for my liking. The toast was evenly toasted and served with real butter. A breakfast that was enjoyable enough to eat but nothing on the plate really stood out as being particularly special. 7/10

Value for money - The New York breakfast cost £9 and came with toast, quite expensive but plenty of food for the money. A coffee with refills cost £2, the more you drink the better value you get. 6/10

Veggie option - 2 veggie sausages, 4 hash browns, 2 fried eggs, mushrooms, beans, tomatoes and toast & butter. £9

Overall - A great little American Diner that is worth visiting, more so for the decor and vibe than the breakfast though. The breakfast is certainly nice but for the price not really that speciall. Also with it opening at 11.30am you will be fairly hungry when the doors finally open. The lunch menu looked like a good option though, 2 courses for £10, bargain! 7/10