Monday 22 February 2016

Travelodge - Cambridge Central

Cambridge Leisure Park
Clifton Way

Breakfast served daily until 11am


I forgot to get an exterior shot of the hotel so here's a photo of the bed instead. Our room was a generous size and despite being in the centre of an entertainment complex we slept soundly in this well insulated hotel.

There was a breakfast menu in the room, I usually go elsewhere for breakfast when staying at a Travelodge but this time we would finally be trying it.

On paper it sounded fairly promising with plenty of big name brands listed and an option for vegetarians. I was already starting to wonder if I could manage everything on the menu and the fact they serve breakfast till 11am was a real bonus.

We were going to see The Savages at The Junction, a few metres away from the Travelodge. A great band and an impressive venue, unlike Norwich UEA you could actually see what was going on here.

After the gig had finished we returned back to the Travelodge, this is where we would be eating breakfast in the morning.

With a mild hangover we got up for breakfast and chose to sit at this table for two by the window.

I'm not a fan of cereal so took a pic and kept walking.

I didn't hang around long in this area either.

This was what I was looking for! In these situations it's always best to prepare everything else first though.

My wife popped some bread into the toaster.

We grabbed some hot drinks and orange juice, both essential with a hangover!

The orange juice was excellent and the coffee was nice. We were a bit disappointed with sunflower spread but it wasn't the end of the world.

Back at the hot food section I started to fill my plate.

My wife was delighted to find some veggie sausages and real tomatoes.

Back at the table we had everything we needed so we sat down to eat.

HP sauce and Heinz ketchup in sachets were already on the table beside the salt and pepper.

 I decided that triple sausage and bacon were needed to shift the hangover, usually fried eggs work wonders too but only scrambled eggs are available here.

The bacon was quite pale and didn't look too appealing, I rapidly hid it between some toast with ketchup.

The sausages were a basic Cumberland variety, quite firm and plump. Not the greatest sausage but far better than the dreaded air filled, foam textured economy variety, I later returned for a forth.

McCain hash browns, quite soft and chewy.

The scrambled eggs were pale and bland, the mushrooms were quite dry but the tomatoes tasted great.

My earlier disappointment with the sunflower spread soon ended when my wife found some real butter. I didn't want any more cooked items so went to fetch a croissant.

This was the highlight of my breakfast, a croissant with real butter and Nutella.

I enjoyed it so much I returned for another, this time with blackcurrant jam.

We were going to see The Savages at Cambridge Junction and decided to stay over night rather than leave early to catch the last train back to Norwich. With a Travelodge just moments away from the venue I booked a room with unlimited breakfast. We'd stayed at numerous Travelodge's over the years but usually on a room only basis. Having had very little luck at finding a decent breakfast in Cambridge I decided now was a good time to see what Travelodge had to offer...

Upon entering - The lady on reception asked us for our room number and checked us off her list. We were delighted to find an almost empty breakfast room, we were there at just gone 9am, I'm guessing it gets busier closer to 11am. The breakfast area was nicely lit with large windows covering one side, all the tables were laid with cutlery, serviettes and condiments. There was a vast selection of food and drink available, you serve yourself and could eat as much as you liked. Having been in many buffet breakfast situations in the past (often abroad) I knew that getting things in the correct order was crucial. I find the best order is fruit juices, hot drinks, toast and finally cooked breakfast. There was background music at just the right volume, everything was nice and clean and it was a pleasant environment to eat breakfast in, even with a hangover! Buffet breakfast areas are generally my least favourite place to eat breakfast in as they are often hectic and confusing. This was certainly the best I'd come across yet, a well thought out layout and not at all claustrophobic. 8/10

Service - There isn't very much to say about service really as we only had a brief encounter with the lady on reception taking our room number, she was very friendly though asking us if we had enjoyed our stay. There was a member of staff who appeared occasionally replenishing items, I guess we could have asked her for any help had we needed it but on this occasion we took care of everything ourselves. One thing did really stand out though, when checking in to the hotel and checking out at the end the staff were all really friendly, enthusiastic and happy to serve us. 8/10

Contents - Sausages, vegetarian sausages, scrambled eggs, mushrooms, beans, hash browns, tomatoes, toast, croissants, fruit salad, cereal, yogurt, hot drinks and fruit juice. Certainly a vast selection of items on offer here and you can eat as much as you like, not a fried egg or black pudding slice to be seen anywhere though. 8/10

Presentation - If you don't like the way your food has been served then you only have yourself to blame here! The presentation of the items on offer was clean and tidy, separate serving spoons and tongs were available for each item. 7/10

The food - The first thing to mention is that the cooked breakfast selection is kept hot but not piping hot, so by the time you start eating you will find everything on the plate soon becomes warm. The bacon was quite pale looking but tasted reasonable enough between some toast. The sausages were described as premium on the menu, the Cumberland variety were not bad at all, I was half expecting an economy catering sausage but the texture and taste of these was actually pretty good. The hash browns were quite chewy but tasted ok, the mushrooms quite dry and the beans sat in a lot of juice. The scrambled eggs had very little flavour but the tomatoes were quite tasty. So not the greatest breakfast but this was mainly down to the fact it wasn't particularly hot, I did return for another sausage though as they were quite nice. For me the highlight of this breakfast was the croissants eaten with real butter, Nutella and jam, delicious! The fresh orange juice and coffee was really nice too. 5/10

Value for money - For £7.95 you can eat and drink as much as you like and kids eat for free. If you're looking to fill yourself up for the day then this is great news, if you're looking to eat a really nice cooked breakfast though then you may want to consider the room only option. 7/10

Veggie option - Linda McCartney sausages are available. 

Overall - This was certainly the best Travelodge we've stayed in so far, good sound proofing ensuring you get a good nights sleep, spacious and clean rooms and really friendly staff. The breakfast was pretty much what I was expecting to find, just a shame it wasn't hotter though. We were hoping to have lunch in Cambridge later in the day but we had eaten too much for breakfast so this never happened. If you're looking for a delicious breakfast with locally sourced ingredients then this won't be for you, far better to find a local cafe or pub. If you're looking to fill yourself up for the day without spending a fortune though then this is a reasonable option, especially if you have kids as they can eat for free. 7/10

Thursday 11 February 2016

River Green Cafe - Trowse

 Taster Evening - February 9th 2016

The St
Trowse Newton
NR14 8AH


I'd recently heard the news that Chris Avey was joining Jan and Mike as joint owner and head chef at River Green Cafe in Trowse. Chris had previously owned The Old Bakery Cafe in Norwich and earned a recommended sticker for the excellent breakfast being served there. He kindly invited my wife and I along to the River Green Cafe taster evening, we couldn't wait to sample some of the food on the new menu.

We arrived on a dark and cold evening, it looked warm and welcoming inside though.

The kitchen is located at the rear and looks out onto the spacious dining area. I didn't take any photos of the dining area as it was full of customers but it was an impressive and well designed space.

As we sipped our glass of prosecco we read through the menu, it sounded like we were in for a mouth watering experience!

A selection of canapes were offered to us, these were vegan sushi which was of a perfectly soft and sticky consistency alongside mini poppadoms filled with salsa. 

A selection of entrees arrived with a mild tarka dahl which had a velvety texture and tasted superb.

The entrees were a selection of seasonal vegetable pakoras, pine nut, raisin and shallot brik pastries, cheese beignets, and edamame pods. They were served with a cucumber raita and an amazing spiced carrot chutney made by Candi Robertson of Dereham, I would say the finest chutney I've tried. 

Next came the soup course, rice noodle soup with tofu, edamame, shitaki, seaweed, cabbage and miso. This was superb and with a trip to Japan getting ever closer my wife and I have been enjoying similar styles of homemade soups at home recently. I'm a huge fan of edamame beans and shitaki mushrooms so really enjoyed this. 

Just as we were reflecting on the great food we'd already eaten, the mains arrived. Cashew and sweet potato slider burger in a homemade slider bap, pithivier with potato, spinach and mushrooms in a creamy white wine sauce. Warm chickpea salad, vegetable cous-cous, red cabbage slaw and dukkah. It was difficult knowing where to start first but we soon polished off everything on the plate and there were some great flavours going on here. We both agreed that our favourite thing on the plate had to be the pithivier packed with juicy mushrooms, just amazing!

This cashew and sweet potato slider was excellent, it was served in a homemade bap.

Crispy Turkish bread fattoush arrived just in time, it tasted great and was perfect to scoop up some of the salads on the plate.

By the time the desserts arrived we were quite full up but couldn't wait to try them. Chocolate orange mousse served in a mini chocolate cup was my favourite, the crunchy and smooth combination of chocolate textures were to die for. I didn't even realise it was pancake day at the time but this had been already thought out with the delicious crepe Suzette served with Ronaldo's vanilla ice cream. A mini blood orange Moroccan tart finished the evening off perfectly. (there were vegan and gluten free alternatives for all items on the menu)

The taster evening certainly impressed my wife and I, everything tasted so delicious and fresh. If you enjoy vegetarian food then be sure to visit River Green Cafe, we have already planned our next visit! Many thanks to Chris and the River Green team for inviting us to this excellent evening, I'm sure you're new menu will be a huge success.

Sunday 7 February 2016

Fine breakfasts in a fine city - My favourite five

Every week I'm asked where my favourite place in Norwich is to go for breakfast. There are so many places to get a great breakfast in Norwich it's really difficult to narrow it down to just one. Here are five of my favourite places (In alphabetical order) that I love returning to for a great breakfast.

House Café – 52 St Benedicts Street, Norwich
This popular café can get very busy and once you’ve tried the Full House breakfast you’ll understand why. They make their own delicious ciabatta, which is toasted and served with heaps of butter. The breakfast menu is varied and offers something for meat lovers, vegetarians, vegans and those who are gluten free. Enjoy a pot of tea here served with a strainer and mismatched vintage crockery. 

Olives – 40 Elm Hill, Norwich
If scrambled eggs are your thing then head along to Norwich's historic Elm Hill where you can find Olives. The breakfast here is a bit different to your average Full English but what they have created is an incredible taste sensation. P.B George sausages feature on this breakfast along with the best scrambled eggs I've ever tasted and delicious homemade bubble and squeak. It can get very busy at times but the traffic light in the corner of the cafe will indicate roughly how long you can expect to wait. 

Street Café – 147 Magdalen Street, Norwich
With it’s traditional interior and excellent service a visit to the Street Café feels really special before your order has even been taken. Chef Andy certainly knows how to serve a stunning Full English breakfast that always looks superb and is made using quality, locally sourced ingredients.  Archers sausages are used here, these sausages have won numerous awards and are a personal favourite of mine. 

Sunny Side Up - 118 Hall Road, Norwich
For a reasonably priced breakfast that's always beautifully presented head to Sunny Side Up on Hall Road in NR1. They certainly know how to fry eggs here and also make their own bubble and squeak which is available as an extra. I often can't decide between bread and butter or toast when ordering a breakfast, here you get both though when ordering the larger breakfasts which saves you the dilemma.

The Plasterers Arms - 43 Cowgate, Norwich
If you fancy a beer with your breakfast or haven't made it out of the house till the afternoon then be sure to head to The Plasterers Arms. They only serve breakfast at weekends but it's available till 2pm. This traditional real ale pub offers a beautifully presented and delicious breakfast made using locally sourced ingredients. If you end up spending the entire day in The Plasterers Arms why not try a Voodoo Daddy's pizza too, I recommend the Beast or Fat Elvis, both superb!

For my full list of favourite places to go for breakfast in Norwich take a look at my recommended trail map and the recommended section on my blog.

Monday 1 February 2016

Salubrious Sauce Co - Original British Breakfast Sauce

Jim from Salubrious Sauce Co contacted me recently to tell me about their breakfast sauce, he kindly popped a bottle in the post for me to try and I loved it! I tried it at home first with sausages, bacon and black pudding, it had a distinctive kick which meant it accompanied breakfast meats perfectly. Later in the week I tried it with some rump steak and even on top of some toasted muffins, it worked really nicely on so many things.

With it being a breakfast sauce I decided that the real test would be to try it on a full English breakfast. Pandora's Kitchen in Norwich already serve the sauce with their breakfasts so it was the perfect choice to try it on their Fry Up Inspector breakfast. 

This is how the breakfast sauce is described on their website.  At the "Salubrious Sauce Co" we love a cooked breakfast aka a fry up. We were getting a little tired of same old tomato ketchup flavour and felt that sometimes a brown sauce didn't quite work for us, so we went about creating British Breakfast Sauce. We worked on picking the best bits of the good old tomato ketchup with a nod to brown sauce, we added some more depth and flavour by adding some Worcestershire sauce and smoky chilli!

I usually like ketchup on my breakfast and sometimes brown sauce on my beans. I found this breakfast sauce went superbly with everything on the plate, I'm not a fan of anything really spicy but the subtle hint of chilli really gives this sauce the kick that makes it so special.

The stunning flavour and thick texture of the sauce has really won me over, my wife adores it too. There are a number of places stocking it which can be found here, hopefully this list will grow over time. If you know someone who would like to stock it then get in touch with Jim via the website. I thoroughly recommend this sauce, just what the full English breakfast has been waiting for!