Saturday 27 December 2014

Highlights of 2014

My first breakfast outing of the year was at  Mustard Coffee Bar in Norwich, it was unusual for me to go somewhere that didn't serve a Full English but their breakfast ciabatta was excellent. I didn't get so lucky though at Coast to Coast in Norwich's Riverside complex, the food took ages to arrive and was fairly poor when it finally made an appearance. Money was knocked off the bill at least but still a reminder of how standards at chains are just not the same as independents.  

January's highlight was a new independent tea rooms that had opened in Bungay, Busby's Tea Hive. The beautiful and traditional tea rooms had excellent service and they served an amazing breakfast earning them a place in the recommended section.

 A free breakfast offer lead me and my wife back again to Riverside in Norwich, Chiquito to be precise. Could this chain fair any better than last months breakfast disaster at nearby Coast to Coast I wondered? Sadly not it seemed, shabby looking eggs and forgotten items was the offering here. The popular Unthank Kitchen in Norwich was one of the first inspections I had done when starting the blog so I went back to re-review it again. I was hearing about a new cafe that had opened at Norwich Prison so went along to investigate and discovered the excellent Britannia Cafe. My final visit in February was Cafe 338 in London, they served a great breakfast with a decent slab of bubble & squeak, lovely!

February's highlight was Mandy's Diner in Brooke. They had researched my blog to find out what people want on a breakfast, this had paid off well and they entered the recommended section.

A very quiet start to the month with my first inspection taking place in Northampton at Buddies, an American diner most memorable for serving beans in a separate polystyrene pot. Next up was the Pig & Whistle in Norwich, claiming to serve the city centre's best freshly cooked breakfast. I wouldn't say the best but certainly very good indeed.

March's highlight was not for the faint hearted and more memorable for being a disaster! I visited Bowthorpe Cafe in Norwich where the breakfast was served with an f word and wasn't a pretty sight. Chosen as a highlight purely because of the sheer volume of people who read and shared the review causing blog stats to rise immensely in 24 hours! The cafe has since closed down and I really hope that if it continues to run as a cafe it reopens as somewhere the people of Bowthorpe can be proud of.

They may only serve breakfast on a Sunday but the breakfast served at Louis Deli was amazing! Sadly they chose not to feature in the recommended section despite asking for a sticker. This prompted me to change the rules for receiving a recommended sticker as wasting them was not something I was willing to do anymore. Cafe on the corner in Norwich's Anglia Square didn't look particularly great and a visit confirmed it wasn't. Towards the end of the month I was back in London again, this time I discovered a really nice breakfast at Sam's Cafe on Bethnal Green Road. Realising I had now reviewed plenty of London cafes I created a new section on the blog, London breakfasts. My final inspection in April was in Wymondham where I discovered a fairly decent breakfast at Fairland Diner

April's highlight wasn't breakfast related but was much needed in Norwich, a decent pub and music venue. The Owl Sanctuary opened it's doors for the first time in April and has provided many excellent nights out for me and my friends. It also continues to put on some amazing live bands leaving us really spoilt for choice. What an amazing place run by lovely people, long live the Owl Sanctuary!!

My first inspection in May was at All Bar One in Norwich where I discovered a fairly decent breakfast experience, fairly shabby looking eggs though.  Woodgrove Cafe in Norwich may not have served the most amazing breakfast but the Lithuanian food on their menu sounded delicious. Next it was time to hit the road in my camper van for Bearded Theory Festival in the Midlands. On the way there I stopped off for a pretty nice breakfast at Chill Out Restaurant near Peterborough on the A47. On the return journey we stopped off covered in mud at Little Chef near Peterborough for a slightly disappointing breakfast.

 May's highlight was without a doubt The Muddy Cup in Norwich. An impressive looking breakfast complete with bacon and egg cupcakes that sent them into the recommended section of the blog.

A trip to Cambridge early in June was where I stumbled across Don Pasquale, the service here was terrible so we made a hasty exit to nearby Tatties. I was delighted to hear that The Golden Star in Norwich was now serving breakfast, I went along and left very impressed. Later in the month I found myself in Ipswich eating a fairly nice breakfast at The Grumpy Mole. There was lots of excitement back in Norwich with the opening of Bills, I left feeling robbed for a very disappointing breakfast that wasn't anywhere near as nice as I had experienced at their Brighton branch a few years back.

June's highlight was the launch of the Fry Up Inspector breakfast at Pandora's Kitchen in Norwich. The breakfast was added to the new menu and I was asked for some input into what was included on it and how it should look. The delicious breakfast has been very popular and they even included some information about me and my blog inside the menu, thanks Pandora's Kitchen!!

 July was all about the 2014 Spanish Food Adventure. I managed to inspect a really nice Lebanese inspired breakfast at Gatwick Airport on the way at Comptoir Libanais in the north terminal. For the following 8 days though it was all about the food I experienced in Calella and Barcelona.

 On the way home from Boomtown Fair I stopped off at Eat In on the M3 for a fairly disappointing breakfast and no end of queueing. Things didn't get much better at Charlie's on Norwich Market, an email from a customer telling me they served the best breakfast in Norwich prompted my visit, utter nonsense though!  Towards the end of the month things were looking up with the discovery of River Garden in Norwich. The breakfast was excellent, the staff were friendly but sadly the management were a bit strange and a tad rude..

August's highlight was the biggest thing to ever happen to the blog! An interview with the BBC was published on the 9th August (I was at Boomtown Fair at the time) and page views on the blog in 24 hours reached 249,500!! Over the following week the story spread onto a number of other websites including The Metro and Buzzfeed, the full list of publicity can be found here.

Ruth's Kitchen had just opened in Norwich, I went along and tried the Jerusalem breakfast which was delicious and it was nice to chat to the staff who were very passionate about what they were serving. People were wondering who served breakfast in Norwich on a Sunday so I created the Breakfasts in Norwich on a Sunday list to make a little life easier. My final inspection for a couple of weeks was a decent breakfast discovery at China Tang Tea House in Hethersett, I was about to head off to the other side of the world!

September's highlight was the launch of the Recommended trail map of Norwich. Everyone in the recommended section in Norwich would feature on the map which was beautifully hand drawn by Ella Goodwin Illustration.


October was dominated by one thing.. The most amazing place I had ever visited and the most incredible time ever, The Japanese Food Adventure! My trip to Japan covered 16 days and featured Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and Nara. Part 2 will be happening in 2016, can't wait!

It was a year since Sergeant Sausage had reviewed The Earlham Arms in Norwich, I decided to visit myself and wasn't disappointed. A brief visit to Hingham in Norfolk lead to the discovery of a fairly bland breakfast at Chalfont's Tearoom. My search for perfection continued next into Ipswich, Central Canteen was quite a disappointing find though. A weekend in London planned at the end of November resulted in my most expensive breakfast yet at The Fox & Anchor, a truly hideous breakfast at City View Hotel and a delicious vegan breakfast at Black Cat Cafe.

November was a busy month consisting of 3 highlights which were..

Chris Avey's excellent final flourish breakfast. It was sad to see the Old Bakery Cafe in Norwich close it's doors for the last time but they certainly finished in style!

The excellent 1940's inspired "Winston" breakfast I enjoyed at Blighty Coffee in London. 

The Full House breakfast at House Cafe in Norwich, I stopped by for my favourite breakfast a couple of times in November and thoroughly enjoyed it as always each time!

On an inspection back in 2011 I lost almost all the photos I had taken at Frank's Bar in Norwich so returned again in December. I was hoping the score would increase but warm food and lack of space saw the score drop. I had given my favourite Norwich Chip shop a recommended sticker back in the summer. It was in December though that I wrote an article on Grosvenor Fish Bar explaining why I loved it so much. 

December's highlight was Sunny Side Up in Norwich. Formerly Birchy's Diner and Hall Road Diner it had been taken over by new management and renamed. The breakfast being served here was excellent and so nicely presented sending it straight into the recommended section.

One final highlight of 2014 happened on 27th December when the blog had received 1000000 page views since 2010! Thanks to everyone that reads the blog and follows what I do, the search for perfection continues into 2015..

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Grosvenor Fish Bar - Norwich

28 Lower Goat Lane

Opening hours
Monday to Saturday
11am till 7pm

Grosvenor Fish Bar can be found on the corner of Lower Gate Lane and Pottergate in the centre of Norwich Lanes. I decided to feature it on my blog as it's my favourite fish and chip shop and somewhere I regularly stop off at for some lunch in Norwich when I'm not inspecting breakfasts. I'm certainly not alone in thinking this, it's been voted #1 out of 660 restaurants in Norwich on Trip Advisor

The first photo was taken when they had just opened at 11am and it took me ages to get a shot with no people in it. The reality of Grosvenor Fish Bar though is far better captured in this shot, this place is very popular and well worth queuing up for. The team working here will ensure you are not waiting for too long though, they are excellent at forward planning and often somebody greets your and takes your order whilst you are queuing. This ensures the food is either being cooked or ready when you reach the counter. The staff here are also more than happy for you to take a seat and they will bring over the food when it's ready.

For me it is always a tough decision between fish..

and sausages in batter or saveloy. 

I love the £3.50 daily special of battered sausage, chips, mushy peas and a bread roll. You can have the peas in a pot if you prefer and choose gravy or curry sauce instead. There are a good selection of other daily specials ranging from the popular Big Mack (crispy mackerel fillet in a salad roll with tartare sauce) to waco taco (steamed Mexican spiced cod wrapped with salad, sour cream cheese and salsa)

Cod and chips is another favourite of mine, really delicious and served with a wedge of lemon.

Grosvenor Fish Bar is about so much more than just the great food they serve though. The staff are incredibly efficient, friendly and welcoming and the place has so much character. The stylish interior makes it really stand out from the crowd with traditional lighting, beautifully illuminated window displays, stripy paper straws and a "gone fishing" sign displayed when its closed. You can take a seat by the window and even take your food over to the Birdcage Pub opposite and eat it there if you like. If you head downstairs though a hidden gem is revealed..

This giant illuminated G welcomes you to the bunker.

 There are plenty of tables down in the bunker for you to sit at and enjoy your food.

 Salt, vinegar and Tabasco sauce can be found on each table.

I discovered this American chip spice on my last visit, delicious!

They close at around 7ish in the evening so be sure to get there in time to experience great food and a warm welcome. Christian and his team have certainly created  somewhere much more special than your average chippy!

 Update - August 2015

This has become one of my favourites recently, the Big Mack. A crispy mackerel fillet in a roll with lettuce and tartare sauce, I always have it with chips too, delicious! I often eat mine on the grass outside the Grosvenor, today though I headed into the Birdcage opposite and enjoyed it with a drink.


Sunday 14 December 2014

Sunny Side Up - Norwich

118 Hall Road

Limited parking spaces outside
Breakfast served all day
Opening hours
Monday to Friday
7am till 2pm
Saturday and Sunday
8am till 2pm

Sunny Side Up can be found near the Co-op on Hall Road.

 Loving the traditional gingham table cloths and nicely spaced out tables.

The new menu is coming soon but the existing one had plenty of options.

The edits to the menu made a lot of sense, tomatoes and mushrooms are a must.

Branded sauces and a classic sugar dispenser on each table.

The coffee was fairly standard instant like I drink at home, it's included in the price of the breakfast though and bottomless during December!

I can never decide between toast or bread, no dilemmas here though as you get both.

Stunning!! It almost seemed a shame to destroy this breakfast masterpiece but it had to be done, lets take a closer look first though.

Crispy hash browns and a trio of juicy mushrooms.

 Perfect fried eggs and fried bread.

Not too much juice in the beans or tomatoes and great sausage and bacon.

118 Hall Road is becoming a familiar sight, I visited when it was Birchy's Diner a couple of years ago awarding it a recommended sticker for an excellent breakfast. It then closed and became Hall Road Diner which meant revisiting again and although still good it didn't quite score high enough for recommended. As soon as I saw it had recently been taken over and was re-named and under new management I knew it was time to revisit again. Keen to try out the breakfast I decided to call in before work..

Upon entering - The layout inside remains the same which works really well, tables either side and the counter and kitchen at the far end. The yellow gingham table cloths look great and brighten it up nicely, I love the new name too, the new sign had only recently been put up. New menus are available soon but the existing menus have an excellent choice for any appetite, vegetarians and those looking for a healthy option. Each table has a menu, sauces, sugar, salt and pepper, cutlery is found close to the till. Place your order and pay at the counter, collect your drink and take a seat, once the food is ready it will be brought over. The cafe had a nice friendly atmosphere, a great place to read your paper over a coffee and enjoy breakfast. 8/10

Service - The staff were really friendly and helpful, I placed my order and was told about the current discount on large and bumper fry ups. The toast arrived first followed by the breakfast, I was told during the breakfast that bottomless coffee was available if I wanted anymore. 8/10

Contents - The bumper breakfast consisted of.. 2 sausages, 2 bacon, 2 fried eggs, 2 hash browns, fried bread, mushrooms, beans, tomatoes, 1 slice of toast, 1 slice of bread and a hot drink. 8/10

Presentation - Visually stunning and I would say the most perfect looking breakfast I have ever been served! Everything sat incredibly neatly on the plate, a breakfast masterpiece served by somebody who very clearly cares about good presentation. Some may have problems with the beans touching the egg but I always eat them together so not an issue in the slighest for me. 10/10 

The food - Decent pork sausages with nice firm texture and great bacon, both tasted really good and were nicely cooked. The fried bread was exactly how I like it, golden and crunchy but not holding too much oil. The fried eggs could have been entered into a competition and easily won, they were that perfect! It's been a while now since I've eaten tinned tomatoes and I do really like them, these were served perfectly intact with no excess juice. The beans were in a good quantity of juice, the hash browns were crunchy and the mushrooms delicious. The combination of toast and bread was a great touch and the entire breakfast was a real pleasure to eat, I wouldn't have wanted it served any other way! 10/10

Value for money - The listed price for the bumper breakfast was £6.50, I paid £6 though as it's on special offer until Christmas 2014 and also currently includes bottomless tea or coffee. This was a bargain for such an amazing breakfast! 9/10

Veggie option - 3 different sized veggie breakfasts (see photo)

Overall - The new owners have certainly created something special here with Sunny Side Up. The beautifully presented traditional breakfast and the friendly welcome found here puts 118 Hall Road back in the recommended section once again! I noticed after ordering that black pudding is available as an extra and they also make their own bubble and squeak, I look forward to returning to try these soon. Excellent work Sunny Side Up, keep up the good work! 9/10

- Update, 31st December 2014 -

I returned again today for my final breakfast of 2014, this time I ordered black pudding too, another amazing breakfast!

My wife ordered and really enjoyed the medium vegetarian breakfast.

- Update, June 2018 -

Prices here have hardly risen in four years, the value for money here is still excellent as was the service. 

Today I chose the large breakfast and added bubble & squeak and black pudding as extras. It included a hot drink and everything came to just £7.84, definitely worth every penny!

As always the fried eggs were perfect, a thoroughly enjoyable breakfast!

Thursday 4 December 2014

Frank's Bar - Norwich

19 Bedford Street

Full English breakfast served on Sunday only between 10am - 6pm

 Frank's Bar can be found on Bedford Street in the City Centre.

 It was tricky to get interior shots but this is upstairs where we sat, there is very little space between the tables so breath in before taking a seat.

The menu is only served on Sundays but offers something for vegetarians and vegans too.

The drinks here are reasonably priced.

This cappucchino was excellent and a decent size too.

 The homemade ketchup is amazing.

 I can't say the breakfast was great though, it had potential but arrived barely warm.

 Great quality sausage and bacon but just one of each.

 I bet the egg, mushroom and tomato tasted great just after it was cooked, sadly when served lukewarm it all seemed quite lifeless.

A great slab of black pudding and some herby beans, both lukewarm though..

My wife was disappointed with her vegetarian breakfast, lukewarm, the main focus was beans and a poached egg with solid yolk.

 Frank's Bar seems to be a firm favourite in Norwich so I decided to return again over 3 years after my last visit. I am continually hearing about how great Frank's Bar is so was really looking forward to returning to see what all the fuss was about. On my last visit I managed to lose all but one photo (read that review here) so this was a good opportunity to take those missing photos again. My wife was keen to try the vegetarian breakfast so with high expectations we headed inside Frank's Bar once again..

Upon entering - We could immediately see how popular this place was with not a single table available downstairs, thankfully there was a table for two available upstairs though. The downstairs area is larger and quite dark, out the back there are plenty more tables and it's much lighter. There were menus already on the table and a small candle, ketchup is available on request and I'm guessing salt and pepper is too. Often in my reviews I mention "nicely spaced out tables" but this didn't seem to be the case here. With another table one side of us and some steps the other side we struggled to squeeze into the space. Once seated we had little if any room to manoeuvre making it fairly uncomfortable. This was quite a shame as despite how busy it was here the atmosphere did seem quite relaxing, just a bit tricky to relax in such a confined space. 7/10

Service - We were offered the last remaining table when we arrived and we didn't have to wait too long before placing our order, quite impressive considering they were full to capacity. The person serving us was friendly and our drinks arrived in good time, we were also asked if we were too hot as we were sitting fairly close to a radiator. The food arrived and we requested some ketchup, there was no salt and pepper on the table though and my wife went to look for some returning with just salt found on a window ledge. Our plates were collected when we had finished eating but there was no mention of "was everything ok" by anyone including the chap we paid on the way out. On this occasion we would have both mentioned that the food wasn't hot enough had we been asked. 5/10

Contents - 1 sausage, 1 slice of bacon, black pudding, saute potatoes, 1 egg, mushroom, tomato, beans and 1 slice of toast with butter 7/10

Presentation - I was quite impressed when it arrived, clearly good quality meats and a nicely fried egg. 8/10

The food - Excellent sausage with nice flavour and firm texture, the bacon was thick cut and the black pudding nice and coarse. The fried egg was cooked in all the right places with a nice runny yolk and the tomato tasted excellent. The mushroom was tasty but quite dry and the beans a bit heavy on the juice. The potatoes were ok and the toast fairly standard. Sadly everything on the plate was lukewarm though, I imagine it hadn't made it from the kitchen to the table in good enough time. 6/10

Value for money - The full English costs £8 and comes with just one of each item. Certainly less value for money than a number of places I can think of nearby offering great breakfasts with double items at the same price or less. The hot drinks menu seemed like great value for money though. 6/10

Veggie option - Roasted tomato and mushroom stack served with halloumi cheese, vegetarian black pudding, saute potatoes, herby beans, 1 egg and 1 slice of toast with butter. £6.50

Overall - Due to it's popularity I was expecting the breakfast here to impress me but served lukewarm it left me disappointed. A great atmosphere here for sure but I like enough space to eat too, for me the tables just seemed way too close together making it quite claustrophobic. I thought the vegan breakfast option was a really nice touch though and it's possibly just down to the sheer volume of customers that food was taking too long to get to the table. Sadly not the amazing breakfast experience I kept hearing about but clearly very popular with many all the same. 6.5/10