Sunday, 30 November 2014

Black Cat Cafe - London

- Special Feature -

Black Cat Vegan Cafe
76 Clarence Road
E5 8HB


It was a wet day in London and I was invited for breakfast by Ben Williamson, press officer  from PETA. He wanted to show me a good vegan breakfast. I have a number of vegan friends I so was keen to find out more and accepted the offer. He told me about vegan life and how it can be quite difficult to find shops selling good vegan food. Hackney had quite a lot of places to buy vegan food he said and it was also home to one of his favourite cafes, Black Cat. The cafe is a non-profit making co-operative that aims to promote an ethical lifestyle.

These are the opening times, the Vegan fry up is only available at weekends though.

On this flyer it explained that vegan cookbooks were available in the bookshop and a selection of foods in the fridge. The selection in the fridge looked quite vast so a good opportunity for customers to pick up some supplies to take home.

There is a large menu behind the counter displaying what is on offer.

I didn't get any interior shots but the environment was relaxing and friendly.

I ordered a cappuccino when I first arrived, made with soya milk I couldn't tell the difference, It's only when Ben mentioned it that it even occurred to me.

The freshly squeezed orange juice here is amazing!

The vegan fry up costs £7 and comes with toast or a pancake, black pudding is optional and a vegusto sausage upgrade is available for an extra £1.50.

Delicious fried potatoes and a chunky slice of toast cut from a quality loaf. Underneath the toast was the black pudding which had a great taste and texture.

The vegusto sausage was really nice with plenty of flavour and a nice firm texture. The scrambled tofu tasted great and with a similar texture was certainly a great alternative to scrambled eggs. The tomato was flavoursome and delicous with a sprinkling of herbs.

The homemade baked beans served here are the best I have ever tasted in a thick rich sauce.

I loved Black Cat Cafe, an excellent environment to spend time in and run by a great staff team that are clearly passionate about the cafe and the food they serve. This was my first vegan breakfast and one I will remember for looking and tasting great. It was interesting to chat with Ben about his vegan experience and learn more about the food available. Any vegan friends reading this may already know about this cafe but if not be sure to give it a look. Keep up the great work Black Cat and thanks to Ben for buying me breakfast and taking the time to teach me more about Vegan food.

Friday, 28 November 2014

City View Hotel - London

113 Roman Road
Bethnal Green
E2 0QN

Nearest tube - Bethnal Green

Our hearts sunk when we saw the front of this hotel..

Thankfully it looked better if very dated inside though.

The large TV on the wall ensured everyone was looking in your direction whilst you ate.

 Spotty table cloths and a traditional sugar dispenser was the highlight of the breakfast experience here.

 The blue and green lighting overhead did little to add to the atmosphere.

A simple breakfast menu but the timings didn't make much sense!

The coffee was fairly bland instant but this was a budget hotel.

The breakfast was not for the faint hearted though.

Easily the worst fried eggs I had ever been served.

A puddle of luke warm economy beans.

The toast although underdone was ok and the butter was the highlight of this breakfast shambles.

I rearranged everything but it still looked a sorry sight..

The fork was really bendy, it looked shiny but was actually made of plastic.

Overcooked yolks and rubbery whites.

Towards the end of the breakfast an economy sausage arrived to join the party.

The grim taste will haunt me for some time.

Finally the orange juice arrived but even after drinking it the taste of the dire breakfast still remained.

My wife couldn't bring herself to eat her eggs wishing she had picked scrambled instead.

When I returned back to the room I discovered the ceiling had sprung a leak. Time to make a hasty exit!

We needed a hotel for the night and although we usually find a cheap Travelodge room in London, on this occasion everything was really expensive. We booked City View Hotel as it was the cheapest we could find, £55 for one night. It wasn't until I was on the train to London that out of boredom I decided to read the reviews on Trip Advisor. The reviews were not good and we dreaded turning up here. When we saw the frontage our hearts sunk, it looked awful and run down from the outside. Once inside we breathed a sigh of relief to discover that although like stepping back to the 1990's it was at least clean. We headed up to our room which was perfectly acceptable for the money with somewhere to hang clothes, wifi, clean bedding and a flat screen TV. So the hotel itself although quite depressing wasn't too bad although a I had a lucky escape from a leaking ceiling just before leaving, I was curious about the full English breakfast included in the price of the room though...

Upon entering - There were just 2 tables in the reception area for guests to eat breakfast at, when we arrived there were 3 spare seats but these were below a large TV. Everyone seemed to be watching the TV and we could feel everyone looking in our direction as we sat there so straight away we felt quite uncomfortable. There was a menu already on the table along with a jug of milk, serviettes, salt, pepper, sugar and a fabric flower. Somebody was serving breakfasts so we figured they would eventually be along to take our order. 4/10

Service - The lady serving breakfast didn't look too happy and wasn't at all friendly, I got the impression she would much rather be somewhere else. She asked us what we wanted and went away again, first the hot drinks arrived. Shortly after that the breakfast arrived, I was told that the sausage would be along later as it was still being cooked. To be honest I would sooner have waited for everything to be ready rather than get it in two halves. The orange juice we had asked for didn't show up so we asked again, she didn't look too happy about this but brought it out to us towards the end. Feeling like you are inconveniencing someone when asking for what is being offered is a fairly grim situation. 3/10

Contents - 1 sausage, 2 eggs, beans, toast & butter, jam, tea or coffee and orange juice. 
A full English breakfast is offered when booking so a tad disappointing for sure! 3/10

Presentation - How anybody could serve this with eggs looking that bad is beyond me and to add insult to injury I was given a plastic fork, totally unacceptable. 1/10

The food - I have eaten economy sausages on a few occasions now and although not great they are usually mildly bearable. The sausage I was served here was very strange though, firmer than your average economy banger but with a really grim flavour. The toast was underdone and the beans were luke warm. The eggs were the worst I have ever been served, I can only imagine they had been fried at some point and microwaved when needed. This resulted in a rubbery egg white and solid bone dry yolk. the only acceptable thing on the plate was the butter. 1/10

Value for money - Included in the cost of the room at £55 for one night. N/A

Veggie option - No

Overall - The promise of a full English breakfast resulted in a disappointing and unacceptable offering that was the worse I have experienced so far. Combine this with bad service and an awkward breakfast room layout and you will have wished you had skipped breakfast here and headed to the excellent E. Pellicci just 20 minutes walk away. 2.5/10

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Fox & Anchor - London

115 Charterhouse Street

Breakfast served
Monday to Friday
7am till 11am

8.30am till 1pm

8.30am till 11.30am

Nearest tube - Barbican

The Fox & Anchor is very close to Smithfield meat market on Charterhouse Street.

This would be the most expensive breakfast I have bought so far, it does include a pint of stout though.

With such low light inside getting a decent discreet photo with no flash is no easy task. The interior is quite amazing though with many original features, it doesn't get much more traditional than this.

I headed into the foxes den at the rear.

As well as a larger table there are smaller snug areas if you prefer.

I sat in this small snug which was very cosy inside.

 A few essentials are already on the table, a menu is bought over if you are here to eat.

 I chose to start with the pint of stout and really enjoyed it, really smooth and creamy.

Ketchup arrives in a large jar so no worries about not having enough.

 There is a lot of meat on the Foxes city boy breakfast.

This end of the plate had some amazing things going on including steak, liver and kidneys.

The other end of the plate contained some oil drenched fried bread, it did taste really nice though.

The fried egg was way too underdone for my liking and on writing this review I spotted that I should have been served a pair.

 Plenty of quality bacon and sausages, this breakfast also comes with white pudding.

Two large mushrooms and a better shot of those lamb kidneys.

I like a rare steak so was pleasantly surprised when I cut through it. 

A quality pair of sausages, different shapes but same great taste.

The Fox & Anchor was recently mentioned to me when I was asking about places to find a decent breakfast in London. I was told to try the "Foxes city boy breakfast" so I looked up the Fox & Anchor online, the breakfast itself was quite expensive but sounded really nice so I decided to give it a look..

Upon entering - The first thing that stopped me in my tracks was the stunning late Victorian exterior, the slender frontage made me think it would be fairly small inside. As I entered I realised it went back quite a long way and had an interior equally as stunning as the exterior. It's fairly dark inside but the low lighting does suit the feel of the place perfectly, it did however make taking photos very tricky so please excuse the grainy pictures taken on this inspection. A long bar runs up the side of the main room, tables can be found on the opposite side. I headed out to the foxes den at the back which was another more cosy looking area with a selection of little snugs going off it, each containing one table. Wood panelled walls, etched glass, and a distinctive Victorian style made for a very special environment to dine in. I decided to sit in a small snug area which felt like I was hidden away from the rest of the world to enjoy and photograph my breakfast in peace. Each table was ready for customers to arrive, neatly laid out with cutlery, napkin, sugar, salt and pepper, sauces are offered once the food has arrived. Place your order, sit back and enjoy the beautiful surroundings and the food will arrive when it is ready, simply pay on your way out at the bar. 9/10

Service - I enquired at the bar about breakfast and the barmaid told me it was available. A menu was bought over and I ordered the foxes city boy breakfast. I was asked if I wanted the stout now or after the breakfast, I chose now and the stout was brought straight over.  Around 15 minutes later the breakfast arrived, I was offered ketchup which arrived in a large jar. After eating I headed to the bar, was asked if everything was ok and paid. I was the only customer during my fairly early visit here and was made to feel welcome by the friendly and very efficient staff. 9/10

Contents - 2 sausages, 3 slices of bacon, 1 fried egg (Hmm, just noticed the menu offers 2 eggs cooked to your liking, not impressed with that!) minute steak, lamb kidney, calves liver, black & white pudding, tomato, mushrooms, beans, fried bread and a pint of stout. A potential 9/10 will be reduced though for that missing egg so.. 8/10

Presentation - A colourful meat feast of a breakfast served on a large wide plate. The undercooked egg wasn't a pretty sight and there was a bit of a gap on the plate, the missing egg or some bubble and squeak would have filled it nicely though. 7/10

The food - The pork and leek sausages were excellent, very firm with a high meat content. The sweet cured bacon was thick cut with an amazing taste and the minute steak cooked beautifully with a rare red centre. I love liver and kidneys and both found on this breakfast were delicious. I must have eaten the black pudding first without giving much thought to it but I do remember the smooth texture and great taste of the white pudding, something I would love to find on more breakfasts. Recently I have encountered no end of tasteless tomatoes, here though I encountered a tomato so full of flavour it really packed a punch when I took a bite. The beans were fairly standard and the large pair of mushrooms excellent. The fried bread was drenched in oil with very little crunch, I despaired as I cut through it but discovered the flavour of the oil was sensational, so a disappointing texture but amazing taste. The fried egg was way undercooked on top with a thick layer of uncooked egg white covering the yolk, some may like there eggs cooked this way but not me. The pint of London stout was something I wasn't particularly looking forward to having alongside a breakfast at 10.30 in the morning. How wrong was I though, this thick and creamy stout tasted great and seemed to accompany this breakfast perfectly! 7/10

Value for money - £16.95 is a lot of money to spend on a breakfast but this one does include a pint and more meat than your standard breakfast. 6/10

Veggie option - Not really but you could always go for eggs florentine or porridge.

Overall - An incredible breakfast with extras not usually found on a breakfast making it even more special. It wasn't all great though with one egg missing and the one that did show up being undercooked. The pub itself looks stunning and the service is great, meat lovers paradise for sure but vegetarians will most likely find the options available disappointing. I couldn't help thinking that such a magnificent breakfast should have also included bubble and squeak, this is London after all and it would have filled that space on the plate perfectly. £16.95 is a hefty price for breakfast and I price I don't feel particularly comfortable paying but as a one off it was a nice treat. Definitely worth a look if you're in London, are feeling flush and want to try a slightly different breakfast. If stouts not your thing then there is always the more traditional full monty for £10.95. 7.5/10

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Central Canteen - Ipswich

13 Queens Street

Opening hours
Monday to Saturday
8am till 4pm

9am till 3pm

Breakfast served all day 

 Keen to eat at an independent cafe I decided to try Central Canteen in Ipswich.

I have seen this same menu a few times on my inspections, it usually results in disappointment that not even a free drink can remedy.

Inside I discovered this place was fairly big with a large front section.

 There were some nicely spaced out tables towards the rear.

At the far rear were some smaller tables.

The free drink offer I spotted on the sign outside seemed insignificant on the all day breakfast as it already came with one, I chose to have this anyway with black pudding. It was only when the food arrived I realised it didn't include toast, I hadn't eaten a breakfast without toast in a long time.

"Eat good, feel good" it said on the menu, I was living in hope but only time would tell if there was any truth in this statement.

 The coffee was slightly better than I was expecting and quite enjoyable.

 Beans galore and just look at that egg!!

 I am very fond of beans but this was just ridiculous!

 The sausages were looking a bit cheap, two of the beans had taken a liking to them though.

I was slightly relieved to discover they were more like the type Wetherspoons serve than the evil air filled sponge cylinders found in some places.

Sadly the egg looked like it had been in a serious accident.

Very salty bacon like the type served on mobile catering trucks at festivals.

Half a tomato was seen hiding underneath the crispy stack of chips. 

A few months back I had eaten a fairly average breakfast at The Grumpy Mole in Ipswich. Here I was again helping my wife on her stall at a craft fair on St Peters Street, another opportunity to see what other breakfasts Ipswich had to offer. I wanted to visit an independent cafe and had been told about some places to try, the first place I had in mind was closed on Sundays and the others were a fair walk away. I decided to just walk around the town until I spotted somewhere independent serving breakfast, less than a minutes walk away from The Grumpy Mole I spotted Central Canteen. To be honest the picture menu outside didn't particularly fill me with hope but knowing I had limited time to eat breakfast I stepped inside..

Upon entering - This place was much bigger inside than I was expecting and even had a couple of tables outside too. The front section was well lit with plenty of places to sit, next I came to a counter with the kitchen behind, beside this were a few more smaller tables. At the back were even more tables but the light here was fairly dim, I sat here anyway to ensure I could get the photos I wanted without being spotted. Salt, pepper, sugar and a menu is already on each table, sauces and cutlery arrive later. Once seated your order is taken and you can expect full table service. There seemed to be a fairly nice feel to this place, it certainly felt alive and I felt quite comfortable here once I had sat down. A steady trickle of people arrived and it seemed fairly popular. 7/10

Service - No sooner had I sat down somebody was over to take my order, the drink, cutlery and sauces were on the table before I had a chance to take my first photos. My first thought was ultra efficient but by the end I was thinking more quick turn around. The food arrived without much of a wait and I was asked if everything was ok whilst eating it, the lady serving me was very friendly. Most of the staff serving here were being prompted by the lady behind the counter, not that they needed reminding of much as they were all doing a great job. I went to use the bathroom after eating and returned to find my bill on the table, I was guessing they were either wanting the table or displaying efficiency, it was difficult to tell. If you are in a hurry you will like the service here but if you want to sit and relax over for an hour or so I suspect you might not be quite so keen possibly feeling rushed, thankfully I was in a bit of a hurry. 7/10

Contents - 2 sausages, 2 bacon, 1 egg, 2 slices of black pudding, chips, mushrooms, tomato, beans and a hot drink. 7/10

Presentation - A huge sea of beans were being held back by a double sausage barrier which I know would certainly please those that like their beans well away from their egg. I do like beans on my breakfast but this many seemed just plain silly to me. The other side of the plate was where the main problem lied though. The egg was a very sorry sight indeed and clearly cooked with no love, it wept tears of egg yolk all over it's untidy looking self. The tomato was face down under a stack of chips and the bacon was hidden under pretty much everything. Somebody hadn't put much thought into how everything would look together on the plate resulting in a fairly shameful display. 4/10

The food - Although the sausages were far from luxury I sighed a breath of relief on the first cut to discover that they were not the worst air filled and spongy textured variety out there. These were very similar to the semi economy cumberland type found on a Wetherspoons breakfast, so mildly enjoyable. The bacon was a bit over salty and like you would expect to be served at a music festival, again mildly enjoyable. I was quite nicely surprised by the black pudding, two fairly thick chunks with a half decent texture, not too bad at all. The chips were cooked nicely with a crispy outside and fluffy inside, just the frozen variety but on this breakfast possibly the highlight. The tomato had a fairly nice flavour, the deep fried mushrooms were ok too. Finally that sea of beans, when I dived into them I discovered a sauce that had started to reduce slightly. The low point had to be that poor egg though, through eating it I discovered a mix of cooked and uncooked white and yolk, not a preety sight. 5/10

Value for money - The all day breakfast with extra black pudding included a hot drink and cost £8.30. A filling breakfast for sure but no toast and only mildly enjoyable. 4/10

Veggie option - Cheese omelette, beans, 2 hash browns and tomato for £6.20

Overall - The breakfast here was a bit of a let down and the egg presentation was appalling. The sausage barrier will keep some happy but vegetarians may feel let down with the omlette breakfast option. The food filled me up and was mildly enjoyable but this was probably not somewhere I would return to. It seemed like a popular place though and the service is swift and friendly. The menu here said "Eat good, feel good" but I left feeling "Eat average, feel alright" was more the case. 5.5/10