Sunday, 19 August 2012

A review of Strangers with Coffee

Strangers with Coffee, 31 St Cuthberts Street, Wells, Somerset, BA5 2AW 

It's not often that I'm quick enough off the mark to review a place that's recently opened, so I love when it happens by accident. On our recent country jaunt staying at The Swan, Wedmore, we ventured out into the rainy west country to the 'smallest city in England' - Wells. There's a massive Cathedral (hence city status) and buzzing food/antiques market on Wednesdays and Saturdays so we had a bit of a nose round and then sought out somewhere for lunch.

A little off the beaten track, Strangers with Coffee is opposite St Cuthbert's Church which is really near to the main visitors car park. There's a big A-board pointing you in the right direction. Opening at the end of June, they were welcomed on to the local cafe scene by none other than the Mayor herself.

The first thing we noticed was that they serve Allpress espresso, from the New Zealand roastery which has more recently set up shop in London's East End. Having visited and reviewed Allpress before, I was pretty excited to see the brand outside of London and we headed inside to try it out.
Although pretty compact on the inside, there's seating outside under a small shelter with bright scatter cushions and not too many smokers. We made the most of a brief interlude of sunshine by sitting outside and, unlike in some places, were not forgotten. The friendly proprietor saw to our every need and I will from now on always demand my apple juice in a wine glass - how very civilised!

The menu was brief but balanced with a range of sarnies, salads and breakfast options. My other half went for the cheese salad sandwich, and I opted for the croque monsieur. Both were tasty, generously proportioned and came served with crisps and salad - a nice touch.

It's great to see ambitious start ups making the most of the blossoming UK cafe culture and using trendy coffee brands like Allpress to really carve out a niche for themselves in their local coffee scene. I'm sure that by serving such a great espresso brand, Strangers with Coffee has already trumped many surrounding businesses.

The quality and taste of the coffee really came through in the cappuccino enjoyed by my other half, but I must say the pour was a little 'wet' for my liking. I like my cappuccino to have a good head of foam on it to really differentiate it from a latte, and on inspection there was only a few mm skimming the surface.

All credit to Allpress for taking the leap to supply other independent coffee houses, but I guess every extension of your brand leads to a little less quality control. Strangers with coffee - hone your pouring skills and you'll do Allpress proud. For now, I'll stick with the apple juice.

Check out Strangers with coffee on Facebook.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

A review of The Swan

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The Swan, Cheddar Road, Wedmore, Somerset, BS28 4EQ

What with it being the Olympics and all (hopefully that small fact hasn't escaped anyone's attention...) and living in East London, we thought it might be wise to 'jump ship' for a few days. Head out to the country and away from all the chaos.

Discovering The Swan on ("a hand-picked portfolio of beautiful boutique hotels, B&Bs and houses for rent, in some of the world's most stunning locations..."), we were easily persuaded by the pub's luxuriously giant beds and baths, posh smellies and decadent River Cottage inspired grub. Our room was supposed to be the most modest of the six on offer, but there was plenty of space for us to spend a very comfortable three nights swathed in luxury, playing at being grown ups.
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As well as having dinner at the incredible in-house restaurant which serves all seasonal, local ingredients the breakfast part of the 'B'n'B' was a real highlight of our trip. Regularly lumbered with the 'continental' option or a greasy fry up, we were spoilt for choice with their selection of yoghurt, granola, muesli, buttery scrambled egg and home cooked bread or full English. We tried something different almost everyday and, being tardy risers, were pretty much tided over until dinner for the most part.

Even the coffee was expertly poured and in the appropriate vessel (glass for a latte, cup for a cap) - pretty impressive for a pub more used to pouring pints.
They have a really laid back ethos at the Swan - "you can eat where and when you like". There's no set meal times and you can have the restaurant menu in the pub, or the bar snack menu in the restaurant - they really don't stand on ceremony. Cakes are available at breakfast if you're that way inclined, and there's always a newspaper or magazine lying around to flick through.

It was this relaxed approach to eating and drinking which really made the difference to our stay. Seriously refreshing in a world of intimidating holiday itineraries and 8am check out times. I would definitely recommend. 

The Swan has a website, Twitter and Facebook page.