Saturday, 28 June 2014

Bill's - Norwich

2-10 Back of the Inns

Breakfast served
Monday to Friday
8am till midday

8am till 1pm

Sunday (and bank holidays)
9am till 1pm

I had visited Bill's in Brighton, this one had just opened in Norwich, my expectations were high  

 The interior was great and the place had a nice vibe

 The till area was a hive of activity most of the time making it tricky to discreetly take photos!

Breakfast with all the extras and a drink isn't cheap, click here for the breakfast menu 

A nice little cluster of things but what is Bag O' Bills? 

It's a bag with a list of supplies you can order and collect at the end.

A small cappuccino costs £2.30  

The tea arrives in a pot with Bill's teabags

 I was delighted when the beautifully arranged breakfast arrived, disappointment soon set in though..

Over cooked chewy bacon

 Tiny sausages and rubbery eggs

Good bean juice reduction was at least one good point 

 My wife went for the veggie breakfast, she started off really impressed but the strange tasting mushrooms soon ruined it for her

My wife won't eat guacamole so I ate it instead, it was pretty good!

 I shared some crispy potato with my wife, without a doubt the highlight of this disappointing breakfast.

A good will gesture given to my wife after complaining about her mushrooms, a nice touch!

A big bill for such a disappointing breakfast..

In April 2011 I visited Bill's in Brighton and have fond memories of the impressive breakfast experience, read about it here. Over three years after that visit and I discover that Bill's are opening a restaurant in Norwich. Thoughts went through my mind about them possibly becoming the first chain in Norwich to earn a recommended sticker. I wondered how a chain could possibly get around displaying such a sticker in their window, they probably couldn't as head office and the procedures manual wouldn't allow. The sticker I had sent to the Brighton branch never got put up so I imagine it would be the same thing here. With all these thoughts going through my head I decided that I would first need to visit to see if the breakfast I discovered in Brighton was as good in Norwich. With so many amazing independent Norwich cafes serving stunning breakfasts was Bill's about to be added to this list too? I headed there with my wife to find out...

Upon entering - The restaurant covers two floors, I didn't venture upstairs but I could see there was plenty of seating downstairs so the entire seating capacity must be quite high. The modern/industrial look worked well and with many of the tables cordoned off into smaller booths it ensured your own little space to enjoy a meal here. Each table has a small metal bucket containing cutlery and a "Bag O' Bills" (use it to place an order of Bill's products which can be collected at the end) There is also a jar of sugar cubes and tiny salt and pepper pots, the salt and pepper pots looked great but trying to find them on a full table when the food had arrived was quite tricky! So a nice environment to dine in with full table service that has a good vibe and feels quite relaxing, the transformation here to turn it into a restaurant has certainly worked well. 8/10

Service - The staff serving here have been trained well, the service is impressive and friendly. We were shown to a table as soon as we arrived, moments later our drinks order was taken and shortly after that the food order was placed. My wife can't stand avocados and decided not to have the guacamole, I was up for having it though and they were happy to serve it on a separate plate and give it to me. The drinks arrived first and the food arrived in good time shortly after that, we were offered sauces and the ketchup was brought over. Towards the end we were asked if everything was ok, my wife explained that the mushrooms (her favourite breakfast item) tasted strange and she couldn't eat them. A few minutes later the bill arrived along with a complimentary large bar of Bill's chocolate to leave a sweet taste in her mouth, nice touch and appreciated! 9/10

Contents - 2 tiny sausages, 3 slices of smoked streaky bacon, 2 slices of black pudding, 2 fried eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, beans and 2 slices of toast. 8/10

Presentation - The breakfast looked amazing when it arrived with everything neatly organised in layers on top of the sourdough. The small garnish on top of the bacon worked well and the plate used was the perfect shape to accommodate the extras of beans and black pudding. The mushrooms and sausages were fairly hidden under other items but this was a nice surprise once you found them. The fact everything looked like it had been held longer than it should have at the pass was clearly evident though.. 7/10

The food - The tiny sausages were the same as the ones I had eaten in Brighton back in 2011, they seemed ok back then but this time I was pretty unimpressed, it was certainly no Archers! Each one was little more than a mouthful and was lightly seasoned with the texture of a tinned hot dog sausage. The bacon would most likely been pretty amazing had it been eaten earlier, sadly the delay at the pass had left it chewy and tough. The eggs had suffered the same fate as the bacon and this had resulted in rubbery whites and a yolk that looked runny but was in fact solid towards the bottom. The toast was ok and the tomatoes flavoursome with a tasty basil garnish. The black pudding was fairly standard but quite dry and the mushrooms alright (my wife's mushrooms tasted really strange though and totally different to mine, a bit of a mystery!?) The highlight of this breakfast was the crispy potato I tried that my wife had ordered and the beans in a nice, well reduced sauce. To sum up though a really disappointing breakfast that had taken too long to arrive at the table from being plated up, had it spent less time in transit the score would have been much higher but as it stands.. 4/10

Value for money - The Bills breakfast with beans and black pudding as extras and a cappuccino cost £12.75, a 10% optional service charge (I don't recall being given an option though!) bumps the bill up even further. Such a high price for a disappointing breakfast left me feeling fairly gloomy for sometime afterwards.. 3/10

Veggie option - 2 poached eggs, hummous, tomatoes, mushrooms, guacamole, sweet chilli sauce, basil and toast - £7.95

Overall - A lovely looking restaurant with friendly efficient staff, sadly on this occasion the food let it down and because of the high price tag this left me feeling dissapointed. Norwich has so many amazing independent cafes serving stunning breakfasts, chains need to be offering so much better than this to stand out from the crowd. 6.5/10

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Grumpy Mole - Ipswich

(Now closed)

21-23 Queens Street
IP1 1SW 

Opening hours
Monday to Saturday
8am till 3pm reopens 5.30pm till 10pm

10am till 5pm

All day breakfast available

I was keen to visit an independent cafe in Ipswich, The Grumpy Mole caught my eye as I passed it on Queens Street.

I was an hour early so decided to return a bit later.

This was what I was going to try, a bargain at £5!

When I returned later there was outside seating too.

There were plenty of places to sit inside.

Below the TV was a children's play area.

The counter and kitchen was in the far right corner.

I considered the Hungry breakfast but it didn't include a coffee so I went for the all day breakfast which seemed like much better value for money.

I am usually careful to hide any clues about my identity!

Not the greatest ketchup inside but I liked the bottle!

The coffee came with the breakfast and was ok.

The all day breakfast looked bigger than I was expecting when it arrived.

I wasn't sure about herb potatoes for breakfast and the tomatoes were really bitter tasting, everything else was quite nice though.

A bit too much bean juice and an interesting cut effect on the mushrooms, the highlight was the bacon.

My wife had a stall at an Ipswich arts and crafts market and I was going along to help her. As soon as I knew I would be spending the day in Ipswich I realised it would be a golden opportunity to do my first ever inspection there. I had asked for recommendations and searched online for possible places to visit. Initially I was going to visit Saints but they were closed on Sundays (I actually later discovered they were open in the end so.. time to update your website Saints!) another option was Isaacs on the quay, but with an 11.30am opening time I ruled them out too. I ended up walking until I spotted somewhere and it was Grumpy Mole on Queens Street that caught my eye...

Upon entering - This large cafe has many tables inside and a few tables outside too. It's very child friendly with a children's play area in a separate room so the kids will be kept amused whilst you tuck into your breakfast. I arrived when they had just opened so it was empty but a few people arrived by the time I had left. The decor is fairly modern and the walls very bright and colourful. There is a counter at the back where the till is, the kitchen is behind here too. It seemed quite dark inside but sitting by the window was ok with plenty of natural light, perfect for taking photos! Each table has cutlery in a pouch with a serviette on top of a side plate, a menu, plastic flower and salt & pepper. Sauces are available on request and sugar arrives with the hot drink if you order one. It was a fairly nice and relaxing environment to sit and eat breakfast in on this sunny Sunday morning! 7/10

Service - The name Grumpy Mole filled my mind with thoughts of a grumpy waiter coming over to take my order but thankfully the complete opposite happened when I walked through the door! The staff here are really helpful and friendly making you feel immediately welcome and serving you very efficiently. I was greeted with a smile and told to take a seat anywhere I wanted, a menu was brought over and I was given time to look through it (and take a sneaky photo of it!) I placed my order and was offered tea or coffee. The coffee arrived first and a little while later the food, I was offered sauces and later asked if everything was ok. I payed at the counter on my way out and was bid goodbye as I left, great service! 8/10

Contents - 1 sausage, 2 bacon (usually 1 but I got an extra slice!) 1 slice of black pudding, 1 fried egg, herb potatoes, 2 tomatoes, mushrooms, beans, 2 slices of toast and a hot drink. 7/10

Presentation - I could tell the egg was overcooked but it was a good distance from the beans ensuring bean juice/egg touching phobics would sigh in relief! There was more food on the plate than I was expecting and it was looking fairly good to me. The mushrooms had an unusual pattern of cuts I had not seen before, most likely to help them cook evenly but creating an almost flower like effect, maybe a local technique? 7/10

The food - The sausage was a fairly soft textured herby catering variety, not a really cheap one though and reasonably nice. The highlight was the bacon, full of flavour and nicely cooked, I prefer it softer than really crispy. The black pudding was a standard soft slice and the plentiful sea of beans sat in a lot juice. I enjoyed the herb potatoes with a nice crispy edge but didn't particularly feel the hint of garlic in them went with a breakfast. The mushrooms were delicious and the egg tasted good but was overcooked with a solid yolk. Nice bread had been used for the toast, thick margarine spread over it that hadn't melted was a bit disappointing though. 6/10

Value for money - Not the greatest breakfast in the world but a bargain for £5, especially considering it included an extra slice of bacon and a hot drink too! 7/10

Veggie option - Veggie sausage, fried egg, beans, herb potatoes, mushrooms, grilled tomato, toast and a hot drink for £5
Overall - I usually go for the bigger breakfast on the menu but here it seemed much better value to go for the smaller one. A pleasant environment and friendly service certainly make it a place to consider for this reasonably price breakfast. I look forward to visiting Ipswich some other time to see how other cafes compare! 7/10

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Golden Star - Norwich

57 Colegate

Breakfast served
Monday to Saturday
9.00am till 11.00am

Metered parking available on Colegate

 The banner outside had caught my eye a few weeks ago.

 Golden Star has a very traditional and welcoming feel to it.

 The Victoria sponge was very tempting but the breakfast menu sat behind it was the reason I was here.

 The breakfast looked good in the photo, did the cappuccino really come with a star on top though?

 It certainly did and it also came free with the breakfast!

HP and Heinz sauces but I didn't encounter any salt or pepper, these are possibly available on request though.

 A good breakfast selection on the menu including a veggie breakfast, not a veggie sausage to be seen anywhere but it does at least include beans.

 A nice looking breakfast arrived served piping hot.

The hash browns were an unexpected bonus!

 A decent fried egg, plenty of mushrooms and tasty tomatoes.

A tasty pair of Harvey's sausages could be found underneath the fried egg.

The only way I was going to visit the Golden Star was to go before work as they were doing breakfasts on weekdays only. It meant getting up an hour earlier but I was up for it, to give me more time I parked on Colegate knowing I could get to work within ten minutes of leaving the pub. It was a lovely sunny day and even at 7.30am the temperature was rapidly rising, I thought briefly about sitting outside but decided to head inside for a better look..

Upon entering - I had been in the Golden Star on the odd occasion in the past but usually during the evening enjoying a cider or vodka. I walked in and stood at the bar, nobody was there at first so it was a perfect opportunity to get some photos. It has a homely and traditional pub interior with plenty of character and although fairly small there are plenty of places to sit and eat. There was a breakfast menu on the bar beside some homemade chocolate brownies and Victoria sponge, both looked delicious! Simply place your order and pay at the bar, choose where to sit and wait for everything to arrive. Sauces and cutlery will be brought over to the table before the food arrives, not sure about salt and pepper but probably available if you ask for it. Read a newspaper with your coffee whilst waiting for the food to arrive, it is certainly a nice relaxing environment at this time of the morning. 8/10

Service - I was greeted with a smile as somebody appeared from behind the bar which was a nice welcome. I asked for the the Star breakfast and was told a hot drink is also included in the price, this was an unexpected bonus and not mentioned on the breakfast menu, nice! The cappuccino arrived at the table first and I was offered a selection of newspapers to read. Next the sauces and cutlery arrived along with a serviette, shortly after that the food arrived. Throughout my visit the service was really friendly and I was made to feel very welcome which always makes a massive difference and is crucial to an enjoyable breakfast experience. 9/10

Contents - 2 sausages, 2 bacon, 1 fried egg, 3 hash browns, mushrooms, tomato, 1 slice of buttered toast and a hot drink. 7/10

Presentation - As soon as I spotted the dusted star on top of the cappuccino I suspected the breakfast was going to look the part when it arrived and it didn't disappoint.  The sausages were hiding under the egg and the lack of beans was a rare sight but everything looked nicely cooked and sat together well on the plate. 7/10

The food - The plate was piping hot when it arrived ensuring the food was too. The meat supplied by Harvey's was excellent, thick and delicious rashers of bacon and a pair of really meaty sausages with a really good firm texture and devine flavour. The fried egg was cooked beautifully with no runny egg white but a perfect runny yolk, I layed this over the hot buttered toast and let the yolk absorb in to it. The hash browns were fairly standard along with the mushrooms, both were nicely cooked though and the tomatoes nicely rippened and full of flavour. 8/10

Value for money - £6.95 for the Star breakfast seemed a fair price but the fact it includes a hot drink and hash browns (neither mentioned on the menu) make it quite a bargain! 8/10

Veggie option - 2 hash browns, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, fried egg, toast and a hot drink for £5.95 


Overall - An impressive breakfast is being served at the Golden Star that represents great value for money, especially as the price includes a hot drink too! Friendly service and a warm welcome makes the Golden Star a pub that is well worth visiting. They only serve breakfast on weekdays but with them open from 7.30am why not do as I did and stop by there on the way to work. I like beans with my breakfast and they would have made a great addition but even without them still a great breakfast! 8/10

- Update, December 2014 -

Breakfast is now served on Saturday too.

Beans are now included on both breakfasts, a hot drink is no longer included in the price now though.

 Salt and pepper was on each table.

The Star breakfast.

 The veggie breakfast now includes vegetarian sausages.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Tatties - Cambridge

11 Sussex Street

Tatties said "breakfast" on the window, we were hungry so we headed inside.

We considered sitting outside but changed our minds, the tables were a bit too small.

"A bit of a tourist cafe" was my first thought, but certainly a pleasent environment inside.

The essentials were found on each table along with a menu.

The menu offered a reasonable breakfast selection.

The full monty came with a glass of orange juice, not freshly squeezed but good for the hangover.

The breakfast that arrived was pretty much what I was expecting, a few things stood out though.

The ring cooked fried eggs sat on the plate looking quite sorry for themselves..

Over cooked sausages and mushrooms..

A fairly tasteless tomato..

The bacon was excellent though!

The veggie breakfast with really nice hash browns cost £5.95

So having walked away in disgust from Don Pasquale the search for a place to eat breakfast continued. As we turned a corner onto Sussex Street the word "breakfast" displayed on a window caught our eye at Tatties. We were very hungry and incredibly thirsty so we decided to head inside..

Upon entering - What looked like a reasonably small cafe on the outside turned out to be much bigger inside with the seating areas divided by a wall. One side was where the counter was located, we sat the other side though as it would be much easier to get photos. The typically British enamel signs (Brooke Bond, Rowntrees etc) suggested this cafe was aiming at attracting Cambridge's many tourists. The tables were spread out nicely and everything was clean so a nice enough place to sit and eat a breakfast. The tables contained a basic selection of sauces in squeezy bottles, salt, pepper, sugar and a menu. The menu offered a fairly varied selection of breakfasts including vegetarian options. So it was a case of ordering at the counter, paying and waiting until the food arrived. 7/10

Service - The staff here were certainly efficient and fairly polite but nobody seemed particularly happy. We placed our order, collected our drinks and payed at the counter before choosing where to sit. After a reasonable amount of time the food arrived along with some cutlery. As far as the service goes thats all I can tell you, nobody came to ask if the food was ok and nobody said goodbye as we left. I can best describe the service here as very flat. 5/10

Contents - 2 sausages, 2 slices of bacon, 2 fried eggs, mushrooms, beans, half a tomato, 1 slice of toast and a glass of orange juice. 7/10

Presentation - The sausages looked well over cooked but the bacon looked juicy and delicious. The fried eggs looked like a pair of strange cakes, the mushrooms looked overcooked and the tomato looked like it would have no flavour. The beans and toast looked ok and the orange juice looked fairly cheap. Everything was placed on the large white plate quite reasonably but those eggs... Why!? 5/10

The food - Although overcooked I was quite surprised to discover the sausage was half decent quality when I cut through it and tasted pretty good too. The bacon was excellent, very juicy and full of flavour. The toast was reasonable and was the base to eat my sorry looking eggs on top of, with solid yolks and rubbery texture they did little more than help cure my hangover. The mushrooms were slightly overcooked, the tomato had little flavour and the beans were hot but with little sauce reduction. I think the highlight for me was necking that glass of cheap orange juice at the beginning. 5/10

Value for money - The full monty came with a glass of juice and cost £7.85, it filled a gap but wasn't very special at all really. It was in the city centre though so.. 5/10

Veggie options - 2 vegetable sausages, 2 eggs, 2 hash browns, mushrooms, beans and tomato for £5.95

Overall - A nice enough environment to eat a breakfast in but with very flat service and an uneventful breakfast on offer here the search for fry up perfection in Cambridge continues.. 5.5/10