Thursday 28 August 2014

The Owl Sanctuary - Norwich

Now at 7A Timber Hill, Norwich
(Updated blog post coming soon)

There are many places I enjoy eating breakfast in Norwich, my favourites all displaying a recommended sticker. Sometimes though other things in life need to be highly recommended and The Owl Sanctuary is a good example of this!

 You all know I enjoy a decent fry up but when the sun goes down I also enjoy a few drinks and seeing a good live band. By January 2014 there seemed to be nowhere decent in Norwich to do both of these things, the places I had been frequenting were rapidly going downhill. Then in February 2014 an exciting piece of news flashed up on my facebook news feed, a new pub and music venue The Owl Sanctuary would be opening in Norwich! I drove past each day on my way home from work watching it slowly transform from what had previously been The Marquee into The Owl Sanctuary. By the end of April the doors opened for the first time, never had this place looked so good!

Inside it has a clean, fresh look with vibrant colours, a varied jukebox and even a Metallica Pinball machine. 

 The long, well stocked bar certainly helps me enjoy my evening, there is a good selection of bar snacks too.

These are all tasty (Spicy Bikers are my favourite) and an excellent price too so more money for Vodka! 

Since opening, an excellent line up of bands have played at The Owl Sanctuary. Dan Hawcroft the manager has lots of experience in the music industry. He was a roadie for 16 years with bands like Motorhead, Biffy Clyro, Biffy Clyro, Subways, Capdown, Hell is for Heroes and Hundred Reasons, so rest assured he will put on some amazing bands.

I recently enjoyed seeing Canadian Psychobilly band The Brains, the band were happy to neck a few Sambuca's at the bar after the show with us, a great night!

More recently I saw Agnostic Front, another amazing night and a rare treat to see them in a venue this size. 

The Peacocks - 2015

 Faintest Idea - 2015

If you just fancy relaxing on the sofa's with a tea or coffee this is an option too, hot drinks cost just £1!

Dan, Sarah and their team of staff have certainly made Norwich an even better place now we have The Owl Sanctuary, I highly recommend it!

Monday 25 August 2014

River Garden - Norwich

36 Yarmouth Road

Breakfast served weekends only from 10am till 12pm

The River Garden is just over a mile away from Norwich Train Station along Yarmouth Road. We walked there, this was a good plan as we built up an appetite on the way and needed some exercise on the way back!

 This breakfast is only available for 2 hours at weekends.

Inside the River Garden is really nice, this area tempted us to sit down but we would be needing a table.

 This looked like a good place to sit, the sun was shining though so we looked for the garden.

The garden here is really nice with plenty of places to sit.

We sat right beside the river, a beautiful setting to enjoy breakfast!

Don't worry, I didn't give the sausage to the swan! Just showing you how close the river actually was to where we were sitting.

 A decent breakfast menu with a good vegetarian option. I had built up an appetite so decided on the biggest breakfast on the menu. The menu did contain some errors though, you will get toast with all breakfasts and an egg with the veggie breakfast.

 The Stokes ketchup was amazing.

Cutlery arrived next wrapped in a serviette.

 A decent cappuccino and sugar lumps.

A selection of brown and white toast arrived on a chopping board served with real butter. A good idea as this allowed plenty of space to spread the butter on.

 The big breakfast looked impressive when it arrived.

A pair of delicious Norfolk sausages and four slices of bacon, good job I was hungry!  

Golden and crispy fried bread, nicely reduced beans and tomatoes that tasted amazing! Could things get any better?

Yes they could! The mushrooms were excellent and the hash brown was homemade.

 The homemade hash brown was the best I have ever tasted, it was cheesy too resulting in something very special that your taste buds will thank you for.

 A nice pair of eggs completed this stunning line up.

Egg yolk seeping into the fried bread, this is what breakfast is all about!

One of the best breakfasts I have ever eaten, loved it!

My wife's vegetarian breakfast, the homemade vegetarian sausage was delicious but sadly the egg yolk was solid. She was very jealous of my hash brown and wished her breakfast had one on it, I shared mine with her though :-)

With my trip to Japan getting closer I was going to be staying in Norwich to save up as much money as possible. Having covered so much of Norwich now I was really delighted when my wife told me about River Garden now serving breakfast, then Tom contacted me saying he had eaten a decent breakfast there. My wife and I decided to go and try it out for ourselves, we walked there as the sun was shining knowing we would most likely appreciate walking it off on the way home...

Upon entering - The pub has a beautiful exterior compete with hanging baskets and a boat filled with flowers by the entrance. Inside there are various areas with different sized tables to choose from. The name of this pub suggested where we should be sitting on this beautiful sunny day though, so we headed out to the garden. The garden is really spacious with a number of tables right beside the river giving you a stunning back drop to enjoy whilst munching on your sausage. We were given a breakfast menu when we arrived, once you have decided what you want place your order and pay at the bar remembering to tell them your table number. Cutlery, sauces, drinks and the food will all be brought over to the table when it is ready. The peaceful surroundings of the garden looking out onto the river beside me certainly made this one of the nicest locations I had eaten breakfast at. The only downside is that the temperature of the food will decrease much quicker being outside. We felt the lovely view made it well worth while though and rest assured that everything arrives piping hot. One slightly confusing factor was the menu didn't mention that the standard breakfasts also include toast and the vegetarian breakfast includes and egg, remember to bear this in mind when ordering.  8/10

Service - We were greeted with a smile and immediately made to feel really welcome. We were given a breakfast menu and told we could sit anywhere we wanted. My wife placed the order at the bar leaving me to take some photos of the pub, she said the staff were really friendly and helpful. First the sauces and cutlery arrived closely followed by the hot drinks, shortly after that all the food arrived. Somebody came over and asked if everything was ok, they returned again at the end to collect everything. I was really impressed at their ability to carry everything that was on the table back to the kitchen in one go. Great service with a smile by a professional and friendly staff team is what you will find here, you won't be disappointed! 9/10

Contents - 2 sausages, 4 slices of bacon, 2 fried eggs, homemade hash brown, fried bread, beans, 2 large field mushrooms, tomatoes and toast served with real butter. 9/10

Presentation - I was really impressed when the food arrived at the table. Everything was nicely placed on the plate with the beans in a separate pot in a well reduced sauce. The sausages had split slightly but this was no huge concern, the fried bread looked crispy and the hash brown was making me curious. The toast served with real butter on a chopping board looked great and was the perfect surface to butter the toast on. 8/10

The food - The Norfolk sausages were really tasty with a good firm texture, definitely a decent breakfast sausage. The bacon was just as nice with a good flavour and some crispiness around the rind, quite a rare treat having four slices too! The highlight of this breakfast had to be the homemade hash brown, this recipe using cheese resulted in the best hash brown I had ever had the pleasure of eating. It tasted amazing and had a lovely crisp outer edge which combined with the soft centre gave it an excellent texture. My wife loved it as much as I did, she did wonder why the vegetarian breakfast didn't include one though, this was a very good point! The fried eggs were excellent with a nice runny yolk and the mushrooms tasted great. The fried bread was the type I always dream of, crispy throughout but not holding too much oil and golden in colour. The tomatoes were cooked nicely and packed full of flavour, often these days I find myself covering tasteless tomatoes in ketchup, no need to do that here though with these flavoursome gems. The beans were served in a nicely reduced sauce and the toast came with plenty of real butter. A really enjoyable breakfast, the hash brown was just out of this world but everything on the plate was excellent! I can't think of how anything could have been improved or cooked better so.. 10/10

Value for money - The River Garden big breakfast cost £9.95 and includes toast and butter. It certainly fills you up and tastes amazing so well worth the money. 8/10

Veggie option - Homemade vegetarian sausage, 1 egg, 1 mushroom, tomato, beans, fried bread and toast served with real butter £7.95

Overall - Stunning location, friendly staff and an excellent breakfast makes River Garden well worth a visit. Remember that breakfast is served only at weekends here though and be sure to try the hash brown. 9/10

Friday 22 August 2014

Charlie's - Norwich

Row C
Norwich Market

Opening hours
Monday to Saturday
6.30am till 2.30pm

Breakfast available all day

Facebook page

There is a vast choice of food available on Norwich Market, the all day breakfast found at Charlie's was the reason for my visit.

Charlie's is located on row C, fairly close to the back. 
This was to be my first fry up inspection where I would be standing.

This area is ideal for tea and a bacon roll, for a breakfast on a plate it was fairly tricky though. Never had the plate been so far away before!

I was a customer so no charge to me!

A hot drink and slice of bread came with the all day breakfast.

The coffee was Douwe Egberts continental instant, with it's nice frothy head I was happy enough!

A soft fluffy white slice of bread with a thick scraping of margarine.

The all day breakfast cost £5 and came on a proper plate.

I often complain of tomatoes having no taste, these ones tasted great, they were barely warm though.

I must be honest and say the eggs didn't really blow me away, they were cooked on a griddle though so I guess flipping was the only option. I had my fingers crossed that the yolks would be nice and runny.

If you like your bacon overcooked and tough as old boots this place is for you. The sausages are cut in half and split before hitting the griddle.

So much for crossing my fingers, the yolks were solid..

I have so many memories of Norwich Market since moving to Norwich in 1987. I recall drinking cider with Norwich Punks nearby at the taxi rank and walking through the market quite drunk to use the toilets. There was a chap (maybe still there) called Andy on the Leather stall on the back row, he would take photos of the Punks and Psychobilly's and sell them as greeting cards for £1. For nearly two decades Norwich Market provided me with discount tobacco, fish food and cheap suitcases. I used to eat cod and chips each week from the chippy in the centre, if I didn't have much money I would go for a pie and mushy peas on the pea stall. I only ever really visit the Market these days to buy an occasional whippy ice cream with a flake. Something recently was calling me back and making me curious though. Back in April I received an email informing me that Charlie's on Row C were serving the best fry up in the city. Having eaten so many of Norwich's finest breakfasts (found here) I had serious doubts about this claim but decided to visit Charlie's to see what all the fuss was about..

Upon entering - I didn't actually enter Charlie's and neither did I take a seat being it was a market stall, this was perfectly fine though and was exactly what I was expecting. There is a large menu displaying what is on offer, simply tell the person serving what you would like. There is a surface for you to place your food and drink on at the edge of the stall. This is great if you have a bacon roll and mug of tea, I found eating a plate of food from it was not too easy though and never had the plate been so far from my mouth! Salt, pepper and sauces are all within easy reach at the front of the stall, the cutlery is handed to you wrapped in a serviette. When the food is ready it is handed over to you and when you have finished you pay at the end. There was a great atmosphere on the stall with plenty of banter going on, this does kind of make up for the slightly uncomfortable angle you have to eat at from the plate. 6/10

Service - The two ladies working on the stall were really friendly and down to earth, I liked this a lot. My order was taken and I was offered a hot drink, I was even asked how many sugars I take and presented with the coffee already sugared. The fact I wasn't asked for the payment until the very end showed a good sense of trust. I was greeted with a smile and made to feel welcome, other customers included me in their banter. This kind of environment is quite priceless and a real joy to surround yourself in. 9/10

Contents - 1 jumbo sausage, bacon, 2 fried eggs, mushrooms, beans, tomatoes, 1 slice of bread and a hot drink. 7/10

Presentation - To be honest the placement of the items was quite different to most breakfasts I had been served, the beans covering everything on the plate. The tomatoes looked very undercooked, the meat looked overcooked and the eggs were looking a tad sorry for themselves. I reminded myself that everything had been cooked on the griddle though so presentation was going to be a bit of an issue. I was expecting it may have arrived in a polystyrene box but was nicely surprised when it arrived on a plate. 4/10

The food - What looked at first glance to be four sausages was in fact one huge jumbo sausage cut in half and split down the middle, it was cooked both sides and tasted quite bland. A fairly cheap sausage but a bit of firmness in the texture made it reasonably acceptable. The bacon was so overcooked it is difficult to say much other than it was a bitch to cut through. The eggs were crispy both sides with a solid yolk, I guess they needed flipping on the griddle but a hastier exit onto the plate may have resulted in a softer yolk scenario. The mushrooms were sliced and fairly tasty but the tomatoes were barely cooked at all, they were at least full of flavour though. There were plenty of piping hot beans and a slice of bread with a thick scraping of margarine. 4/10

Value for money - The all day breakfast cost £5 and included a slice of bread and a hot drink. A good price but not a particularly good breakfast. 5/10

Veggie option - No

Overall - The breakfast was pretty much what I was expecting for the price. Nothing fancy and obvious presentation issues are inevitable when using just a griddle. With decent butchers sausages available on neighbouring stalls I did briefly wonder why these were not being used. This is Norwich market though, home to a vast selection of affordable places to eat, customers swarm here daily for breakfast or lunch and this is the way they like it. What the breakfast lacked in here was certainly made up for in the welcoming service and friendly market banter. 6/10


Thursday 14 August 2014

Eat In - Fleet

Welcome Break
Fleet Services
M3 (Both directions)

Open daily
6am - 8pm


A Full English Breakfast is available to westbound traffic at Eat In on the M3, thankfully a connecting walkway ensures people heading eastbound don't miss out either.

Everything is cooked already so grab a tray and join the end of the queue.

A single portion of sauce (usually 20p) is offered free with every breakfast, I could hardly contain my excitement. My wife headed off to Subway as soon as she spotted no vegetarian breakfast on offer.

Because there was a constant queue of people wanting breakfast the food wasn't sitting too long under the hot lamps before making it onto plates.

The cloche was a good idea here as you wont be sitting down for some time!

I waited around 5 minutes queueing for the advertised "Lovely Cuppa"
During this time I watched the heat from my breakfast slowly disappearing..

The not so lovely cup of filter coffee cost £2.15, by the time I sat down to drink it the temperature had dropped considerably. I had been looking forward to a decent cup of coffee all weekend but what I had made in my campervan each morning using powdered milk seemed better than this.

With coffee and breakfast both on my tray I ended up here waiting to pay, nobody seemed to be in a hurry and the temperature of my food continued to drop..

It was still not time to eat though, a quick visit to collect cutlery, sugar etc was needed first.

I lifted the cloche and was quite impressed with what lurked underneath. Presentation was looking good, temperature was a big concern and where was my hash brown?

The mushrooms were really nice but the tomatoes tasted of nothing at all.

The fried bread and black pudding was the highlight of this breakfast, the sausages looked quite disappointing but were enjoyable.

Egg/bean juice contamination may have made many shudder, I am always happy to let the two combine though. 

This was my fifth visit to Boomtown Fair, it had been yet another amazing festival with a great line up of bands and mind blowingly good site layout. Early Saturday morning my wife and I were woken by the almost continual buzzing of my iphone on the dashboard of my campervan. My first thought was that moisture had damaged it causing it to vibrate, it was only when I checked the phone that I realised my article on the BBC had been published. For the rest of the weekend tweets, emails and facebook notifications flooded in, in 24 hours 249,500 page views were clocked up on the Fry Up Inspector Blog! I tried my hardest with what little signal I had to reply to people but emails were coming in faster than I could reply to them so I decided to continue with Boomtown partying! On Monday morning we woke up just before 7am, whilst everyone else was still sleeping we decided to leave the site and go in search of some breakfast. Winchester Services is where we had stopped last year (read about it here) but we wanted something that was still hot so we drove on to Fleet Services on the M3..

Upon entering - Fleet Services can be accessed from both sides of the M3, a raised walkway connects both sides. We needed to get across the motorway so headed across the slightly depressing walkway and ended up on the westbound side. A selection of different food outlets surround a large dining area, it all feels quite hectic and requires some patience. I studied the breakfast situation being offered by Eat In and went with that, my wife went to Subway and we decided to sit together after we had paid. I took a tray and decided the traditional breakfast with a couple of extras would be a good plan. A cloche is put over the food to keep it hot (it actually only keeps it warm though..) you then queue for a drink. Next you join another queue to pay and finally you collect cutlery, sugar etc before finding somewhere to sit. Standing around in queues watching your food slowly go cold in a quite hectic environment isn't much fun really, that said though motorway services are always a bit of a nightmare. 4/10

Service - There were plenty of staff doing their best to serve the breakfast items to the long queue of customers and they all seemed fairly friendly. Just one person serving drinks was causing a bottle neck in the system and he kept telling me the ketchup was by the till, it was actually in his section though causing even more confusion and delay. The lady on the till seemed to be the most efficient person in the team, the queue here was long but she soon put everything through the till ensuring people could finally sit down and eat. Considering the flow of people and lengthy system put in place the service was pretty good overall. 7/10

Contents - 2 sausages, 1 slice of bacon, 1 slice of black pudding, 1 fried egg, 2 slices of fried bread, mushrooms, beans and tomatoes. 8/10

Presentation - I was pleasantly surprised as I lifted the cloche off the plate, the realisation that they had forgotten the hash brown was a bit of a shocker but the placement of the items was pretty good. Quite a vibrant mix of colours making this breakfast one I was keen to get stuck into. 7/10

The food - I will firstly mention that everything was warm, I suppose this was to be expected though with such a lengthy queueing system put in place. The sausages are described as "British pork sausages from an award winning butcher" I would describe them as a rather small pork sausage with fairly good texture and nice enough taste, they reminded me a bit of school sausages if I'm honest but they were nice enough. The bacon tasted ok but was very soft with not a trace of crispiness anywhere. I really enjoyed the thick slice of black pudding, soft but not too crumbly with a decent flavour. The highlight of this breakfast though was definitely the golden crispy fried bread, with the fried egg perched on top releasing its nice runny yolk, things were looking up! The mushrooms were delicious, sadly the same can not be said for the tomatoes, these tasted of nothing at all so I left them. The fairly generous serving of beans provided the necessary wetness required on a breakfast but further sauce reduction would have been nice. I did rather enjoy this breakfast despite warm temperature and tasteless tomatoes, It certainly hit the spot in places. 6/10

Value for money - The traditional breakfast cost £6.99 (the hash brown was forgotten though..) The black pudding was 99p, the fried bread should also have been 99p but I didn't declare it at the till (Sorry Eat In!) So with a coffee everything came to £10.13. Motorway services are always expensive so for a large breakfast with drink the cost didn't really surprise me, just a shame it wasn't all piping hot though. 6/10

Veggie option - Not a specific vegetarian breakfast, you could create one from the items available though.
Overall - Not the most straight forward of breakfast experiences but this place gets busy so I guess this is the best system they have come up with. The breakfast is one of the best I have eaten at a motorway service chain but the fact it seems fairly impossible to eat it hot does put a quite a downer on it. Probably a better option if you can stop by here when it is much less busy, I would certainly attempt it again. 6/10