Category: Reviews

Coffee Beans, Leek (Staffordshire)

Visited on 29/10/11

Business Type:

Cafe and Bakery

Ambience:

Small cafe, ideal for shoppers.

Goods:

Everything you would expect from a bakery, but also, a large selection of teas, coffees and infusions. The baked goods were excellent. The soup was a concern, tasted like tinned tomatoes thinned down and warmed up. Opinion was split over whether the cheese scone was cheesy enough or too sweet. The tuna baguette was a good size, although plain, would have benefited from more interesting presentation. The tea was not loose leaf, the coffee was good and had a full-bodied taste.

Customer service:

Very good. Well staffed. The waitress we dealt with was concerned that we were happy with our meal, was very friendly, efficient and prompt. The cafe was full when we arrived, testament to its popularity.

What we had:

  • Herb and tomato soup
  • Cheese scones
  • Tuna baguette
  • Assorted sundries from bakery including chocolate brownie, Eccles cake, small Bakewell tart
  • Tea and coffee

How it could be better:

  • Attention needed to be paid to the soup. It’s all very well saying it’s homemade, but with the ‘homemade’ label comes a certain level of expectation. This soup was thin, watery, and tasted cheap.
  • A better range of sandwiches/baguettes/panini. All the old chestnuts are present and correct, but there’s nothing tantalising.
  • If you’re vegetarian, cheese and tomato seems to be pretty much the only option. Vegetarians are clearly an afterthought.

Chessill Pottery, Isle of Wight

Visited on 29/9/11

Business Type:

Pottery and tearoom

Ambience:

Very much a family place; we sat outside in the courtyard which was well kept, plenty of garden, and even a trunk of outdoor toys for children to play with.

Goods:

Typical tearoom fayre, although staff are proud to tell you that it’s all either made on the premises, or at the very least originates from the island. The scones for the cream tea were homemade, the jam was made by the ‘man down the road’ and the clotted cream was from a local dairy too. This was perhaps why the cream tea was advertised as ‘the ultimate’, which is a big claim and therefore leads to high expectations. Chessill Pottery was awarded the 2009 and 2010 prizes for the best Island cream tea, so this is probably why. Victorian lemonade and ginger beer is also available, as well asthe usual beverages such as Coke for those who are a little less adventurous. All portions are very generous, and there’s an excellent choice – there were four varieties of scone available with the cream tea, one of which was chocolate and apricot (unusual but very nice). There are also six or seven homemade cakes to choose from not including the numerous pastries.

A particularly thoughtful touch was that yesterday’s scones are sold of the next day in bags for 50p; great for minimising waste as well as providing a popular bargain!

Customer service:

Excellent service, engaging staff, keen to help and happy to talk.

What we had:

  • Cream tea
  • Ginger beer
  • Cheese scone
  • Chocolate cake

How it could be better:

  • The current system for bringing out the food and calling out for any takers isn’t very successful, several times the waitress had to take more than two laps of the yard before matching the food with the right customer. Perhaps table numbers might work, or perhaps if the person who took the order was the one to deliver the order – but at the moment the current system is a little intrusive and frustrating for all concerned.
  • Perhaps as well as the choice of scones, a choice of tea could also be offered. The tea was the low point, just normal tea, even a small choice would have been an improvement. But that said, it truly was the ultimate cream tea.

Rivaaz, Lymington

Visited on 28/9/11

Business Type:

Indian restaurant

Ambience:

Modern decor, clean, comfortable, and with soft, non-intrusive music.

Goods:

All you would expect from an Indian restaurant, all the favourites, but with a modern take. Extensive choice for four courses. Some interesting changes from the usal, such as inclusion of a coconut dip with the poppadoms. Food arrived promptly, hot, and well-presented. All food was expertly cooked, not overdone, the different spices were easily detectable.

Customer service:

Very friendly service, happy to accommodate minor adjustments to food, attentive (but not overly so), very polite and keen to help.This restaurant has won an award for best newcomer (not sure of what) two years running.

What we had:

  • Vegetable kashmiri
  • Vegetable biriani
  • Peshwari naan
  • Poppadoms and sauces
  • Masala tea

How it could be better:

  • Could have more interesting dessert menu; a lot of effort and consideration has gone into the remainder of the menu, but many of the desserts are the ‘bought-in’ ones familiar to most Indian restaurants
  • Kashmiri could have contained more fruit, but otherwise excellent.

The Walled Garden, Wrington

Business Type:

Cafe, restaurant

Ambience:

Cafe/restaurant in beautiful old brick building surrounded by a walled garden (obviously) and orchards. Dining tables outside or in a large ‘sunroom’ and other comfy seating also available. Slightly ‘potting shed’ feel, plenty of ‘foodie’ reading matter, old crockery, shelves of locally produced foodstuffs and drinks. Soundtrack trying to be edgy, but a bit out of sync with the surroundings. Signs outside tell you you are at the ‘Walled Garden’, however, inside there are signs for the ‘Ethicurean’. Are they both the same thing? I have no idea.

Goods:

Lovely meals, puddings, desserts and cakes made from locally sourced ingredients

Customer service:

Friendly greeting as soon as we entered. The waiting staff knew what was in their range of products (always a good start) and were keen to supply information on what we chose. Staff werepolite and seemed genuinely interested in making sure we had everything we needed. Lots of washing up going on in the open-plan kitchen, and some very thorough drying-up was remarked on too.

What we had:

Smoky loose-leaf tea, chocolate brownie, Fentiman’s Lemonade, Sticky Toffee Apple cake

How it could be better:

  • That’s really difficult, the place is beautiful, the staff knowledge, polite and attentive (but not too much), and the food is excellent. However, possibly the music could be reconsidered.
  • Even greater range of loose leaf tea would be good, to include Assam and Darjeeling as well as other less common varieties.

Five Poolside, Portishead

Business Type:

Cafe

Ambience:

Short-term lease, and therefore kept previous decor, which is fine. Relaxed atmosphere, huge windows with view of the sea from pretty much anywhere in the cafe. Sister cafe to 5 The Beach in Clevedon. Light and airy, but still cosy. Plenty of parking right outside.

Goods:

Generally a good selection of completely made-from-scratch meals, however as the end of the lease is coming up, several things were sold out. Excellent breakfast menu, and also a large blackboard with main meals, filled baguettes and lighter meals – all fresh, a good choice for vegetarians, and shows a real love for food and flair for cooking. Seriously superior puddings and desserts also – small range, but always something right up your street, although can be on the pricey side (which in most cases can be forgiven as the ingredients are high quality and fresh).

Customer service:

You would expect from the cafe at Clevedon that the emphasis on customer service would have been carried over, but today, unfortunately there wasn’t much of that in evidence. After waiting around a little while like spare parts, having one person walk past us several times to clear a table, another member of staff breezily informed us ‘Sorry we’ve stopped serving breakfasts’. Just that, nothing else. And this was before they start serving lunch, so what they are doing in the time they refer to as between ’11ish and 12′, I have no idea. Suggestions were not forthcoming either. It was clear that as the end of the lease is in sight, they can’t really be bothered with the inconvenience of customers. Although I’d like to make clear that the proprietor wasn’t there, we were only ‘dealt with’ or rather not dealt with by young employed staff who clearly would rather have been doing something else. This was a bit of a surprise as the staff at the Clevedon cafe are of all ages, and all are keen on providing a good service.

What we had:

Walked out with nothing. Hugely disappointing, reluctant to go back.

How it could be better:

  • Get rid of that ‘end of term’ feeling. The staff were clearly marking time when they should have been making customers welcome.
  • Don’t focus on what you don’t have. Customers want to be tempted by what you do have. OK, there’s no delicious muesli and Greek yogurt, but what can you offer instead?
  • Never ever walk past people who are offering to give you their cash.
  • The lease on this premises has been for about 6 months, but it’s never seemed anything other than temporary; daytime only opening is no good for people who work all week and want somewhere lovely to go in the evenings for good atmosphere, good food and drink and an all round good time. Could have tapped into the desires of Portishead here, but didn’t.
  • Also, the fact that cash is the only method of payment means you kind of have to go out of your way to have money available in an acceptable form before you start picking what you want. All in all, there’s a flavour of the customers bending over backwards to keep the cafe staff happy, when it should really be the other way round.