Monday, 21 March 2011

A review of Jonny’s Cafe, Hayle

50-51 Penpol Terrace, Hayle, Cornwal, TR27 4BQ

Apparently, us Britons are creatures of habit when it comes to choosing holiday destinations, with as many as a third of holidaymakers returning to the same spot each year. The survey also found that 10 per cent of the 2,156 adults polled had been to the same destination more than 20 times.

It’s clear that I fall into this third of Britons as, more often than not, I return to Hayle in Cornwall in August or September to chill out in a beach hut amongst the sand dunes, partake in a little light paddling and sample the delights of the local bakery scene. And, having been to Cornwall an apparently relatively small amount of times, it seems like I’m likely to keep on going back until I too can tick of my twentieth visit. Not that I’m competitive. 

So, why Hayle? Well, it’s around the bay from St Ives but miles more tranquil, it’s cheaper and has a much, much, much bigger beach. 3 miles of it. Oh, and, there’s the small matter of the amazing Philp’s bakery and conveniently located Jonny’s Cafe. 

Now, Philp’s bakery more than satisfies my compulsory quota of Cornish pasties, cream teas and saffron buns whilst in the Cornish county. However, sometimes one wants something a little different and, in Hayle, that’s where Jonny’s comes in. 

Slightly rough around the edges, Jonny’s has captured the delicate art of balancing exposed brick work and crumbling plaster with decadent furnishings to create the ideal ‘shabby-chic’ ambience. A cosy area at the front of the cafe creates a bit of extra softness against the otherwise quite industrial interior. A sofa, two comfy chairs and a small wood burner make the perfect spot to while away an hour or two with a good book. 

The cafe doubles as a shop selling various vegan foods, clothes and toiletries, with the vegan theme echoed in the menu which offers a selection of quiches, sandwiches, jackets, bean burgers and soups. My salad was adorned with tiny flowers and blackberries, the sort of unique touch which seals a place in the psyche and ensures you want to return.

Vegan brownies and banana and peach cake are displayed on the counter, tempting those with more will power than I I’m sure. 

You can check out Jonny’s Cafe blog, or follow them on Twitter.

Friday, 11 March 2011

A review of acanteen

 45 New London Road, Chelmsford, CM2 0ND

*New pictures added February 2012

Tucked away from the main hubbub of the town centre, this masterfully created piece of cafe culture seems quite at odds with the rest of this otherwise chain-saturated cityscape. If lucky enough to happen across it (or to have a well informed acquaintance generous enough to tell you where it is) you will be pleasantly surprised by its sprightly atmosphere enriched by a varied customer base and young, energetic staff. 

The feel of acanteen is quite antipodean, whether intentionally or not, and having visited a number of cafes in our other hemisphere I am always taken aback to find their distinctive character captured somewhere you’d least expect it. 

The name – acanteen – fits the establishment perfectly as its well worn wooden tables and chairs (some clearly rescued from a church at some point) do not detract from the overall clinical ambience synonymous with the word ‘canteen’. 

An eclectic mix of breakfast classics and unusual salads including roasted butternut squash, chilli and pomegranate as well as more substantial club sandwiches make this the perfect haunt for any time of day.  The large selection of cakes, pastries and muffins also adorning the counter top make it very difficult to avoid accidentally ordering something sweet to go with your mid morning latte.

I love the food here – it’s affordable, delicious and the menu’s varied enough for you not to get bored. I also love the feel of the place. It’s warm, welcoming and the communal seating arrangements encourage customers to dine amongst strangers – something which always gets me excited. Even in busy periods, the atmosphere is of convivial chaos, not full blown pandemonium. 

When ordering I was told up front which parts of the menu where unavailable and informed that there was a wait for food. This approach instantly put me at ease as I could make the decision whether to stay or go and not get riled waiting for my food as I was satisfied in the knowledge that it would turn up eventually. 

My only bug bear with this place is that the menu is often obscured by a long and impatient queue of people which you must navigate carefully to access the holy text. It’s also often quite hot – but now I’m clutching at straws. This place is awesome – I will and do go back again and again. 

Check out their website, or find them on Facebook

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

A review of Jam Cafe

12 Heathcote St, Nottingham, NG1 3AA

Returning from Australia fully versed in the attributes of Melbourne cafe culture, I found myself eager to seek out a replica breakfast-eating, coffee-drinking experience in my University hometown of Nottingham. A place which would fit into the everyday furniture of my life would be hard to find, or so I thought.

Picking up a copy of Impact, the uni’s surprisingly insightful student magazine, I found Jam Cafe featured as ‘Cafe of the month’. I soon worked up the courage to explore the rain-soaked, warren-like streets of Nottingham’s Lace Market, and managed to find Jam Cafe relatively easily.

Although marketed as an art/music/film cafe, Jam Cafe is nowhere near as pretentious as its image might suggest to the unaccustomed punter. Playing a sound track that could easily have been lifted from my own Ipod, I felt immediately at home slipping into a chair, being greeted by the friendly staff and offered a well needed menu. Familiar films playing on a screen at the back of the cafe, you can easily while away a few hours here alone without feeling like a lemon/plum/other suitably lonesome fruit. 

On opening the menu I was pleasantly surprised - great value for money, 10% student discount and loads of choice for any time of day. Homemade baked beans, dippy eggs with soldiers, salads, soups, sandwiches and a selection of hot pots can usually be found on the menu as well as more experimental dishes such as curried haddock... 

Jam cafe is probably my favourite cafe in Nottingham. I say probably because there are so many amazing ones in the city it makes it rather hard to choose. But Jam Cafe wins on its versatility alone, setting itself apart by covering all bases – quirky style, a great selection of fresh teas and coffee, a varied savoury menu as well as amazing cakes. This, along with the fact that it’s open in the evening with alcohol served and live music makes Jam Cafe almost too good to be true. 

Check out their website, Facebook and Twitter.