You may recall that back in April, it was my birthday. One of my presents from Mrs MOFAD just happened to be tickets for court two on the opening day of Wimbledon 2016. It cannot be denied that this is a pretty awesome present.
I do enjoy a bit of tennis. It’s the only sport I’ve ever been much good at playing. I’ve been watching Wimbledon on TV for as long as I can remember. Navratilova, Graf, Evert, Mandlikova, Novotna, Sanchez Vicario, Martinez, Hingis, Sabatini, Borg, Connors, McEnroe, Becker, Edberg, Cash, Lendl, Ivanisevic, Stich, Agassi. I’ve watched them all in the 80s and 90s, and more since. The eternal wait for another British winner finally ended on the seventh of July 2013 when Andy Murray stepped up to win.
So against this backdrop of personal tennis history, we find ourselves wandering to Wimbledon. Once you get to Southfields tube station, it’s a ten minute stroll down Wimbledon Park Road and then into the ground. A quick bag search later (no flasks, no lenses over 300mm, no selfie sticks, no large flags, no political slogans, no tents, no etc. etc. etc.) and you’re in. Hello nine or more hours of tennis.
So, on to the food and drink bit, as that’s what I’m supposed to be writing about. We’ll start with the “Tea Lawn” which is a line of huts serving various things. “Huts” does them down a bit as they are very posh huts, with decking and snakey queuing systems. There are various food huts, including the sausage grill, a pizza place, a drinks hut, a champagne hut (if you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it) and of course the iconic strawberries and cream. More on those later.
As you will know by now, the sausage hut was the obvious destination for my first Wimbledon snack. During a break between sets whilst watching Edmund vs Mannarino, I popped out for a Cumberland sausage baguette. A pretty decent portion for 4 quid, tasty sausage and all freshly cooked. The only shame was the giant catering pack of Heinz so-called mustard to go with it, but as a handy snack whilst watching top class athletes, it was pretty good.
We watched the end of the match and then headed back towards the Long Bar, underneath centre court, so that Mrs MOFAD could have a sandwich. A good range of freshly made sandwiches available, alongside sausage rolls and cornish pasties, as well as other hot foods such as a pulled pork roll. Prices are a touch high, and probably not as good value as the sausage.
Staying with prices and the Long Bar for a moment, let’s talk booze. I’ve already mentioned the “price on application” champagne. If you fancy a glass (decent sized plastic cup) of Pimm’s, then be prepared for a shock. £8.30. And how about a pint of Stella? £5.20 to you sir. London prices indeed, and for a plastic pint glass too (for obvious safety reasons). Cheaper than the pint of prawns though (£12). They are a lot cheaper than that when you’re “down Southend”.
None of this is necessarily a bad thing, because you don’t really want a drunk and rowdy crowd at a tennis match, it’s not exactly in keeping with the image of the sport. Although there were a few people putting a few away.
The bad thing is the lack of proper beer. This is a crime when you consider that Wimbledon Brewery is just 3 miles down the road, with around 8 beers that could easily be dropped off every day. But when you’ve signed some deal to make wife beater the official beer of the championships, it’s easy to see where your priorities lie.
Anyway, enough moaning, back to food, and the summertime classic of strawberries and cream:-
£2.50 for that little lot, which is probably the best value of anything inside the grounds. They have been picked from the same farm in Kent for years. Over 2000kg are consumed every day, and they have remained at the same price for the last 6 years. Most importantly, they are delicious, and they don’t skimp on the cream. Even more importantly, HSBC (offical bank of the championships) customers can pick up a voucher for a free portion of them from the HSBC hut near court 1.
More food came later on, with a pizza from the pizza shed (you can’t really call it the pizza hut since it’s not affiliated with Pizza Hut), and some more strawberries. I also explored more food options around the grounds including the Aorangi Food Court (like a shopping centre food court in the bowels of court 1) and Aorangi Cafe (just to the left of the big – 40 metres big – screen that you see whenever Henman Hill/Murray Mound appears on TV). The correct name for that sloping piece of ground is Aorangi Terrace (hence the names for the cafe and food court). There are some more uncompetitively priced dishes available here, such as chicken goujons and chips for about £9 and scampi and chips for around £11. None of the food looks bad, it’s just the prices that are a bit jarring. I’ll return to that later.
There are even more options such as Cafe Pergola and The Pink Bar, The Baseline, Court Buffet, The Bakery, Canyon Coffee, Conservatory Kitchen and the Wingfield Restaurant. This boasts various hot and cold dishes, including Vale of Evesham asparagus, beetroot and pink grapefruit salad, and thyme roasted butternut with parsley pesto risotto. The Wingfield Restaurant is the only restaurant where you can reserve tables (although they all get booked up way in advance).
The only thing to be wary of is when a match finishes on centre court or court 1. When they turf out, queues suddenly go haywire, so keep your eyes on those matches if you’re thinking of nipping out to grab something to eat or drink. When the Djokovic match ended, the chances of getting a bowl of strawberries in less than 30 minutes were nil.
Wimbledon is an utterly fantastic day out, we both enjoyed it immensely. It would help if you like tennis obviously, but there are a hell of a lot of people there who are just there to be seen, and probably have little interest in the sport, so you wouldn’t be out of place if you didn’t.
I know I’ve whinged a bit about some of the prices, but it didn’t spoil our day, as there’s plenty of reasonably priced stuff available, and you can always bring in your own food and drink, subject to a few reasonable rules. You have to walk past Sainsbury’s on the way from the station, so it’s easy to do, but we wanted to go for the “full grounds experience”.
Given that this is a tournament with a total prize fund of £28.1 million and a surplus of over £30 million for the last 6 years, they’ve got to get the money from somewhere, and that means Joe Public as well as sponsorship money from the Official ball, soft drink, timekeeper, supplier of information technology, hire car, champagne, outfitter, banking partner, bottled water, coffee, beer and car.
Yes, it’s a massive international sporting tournament, so it has massive international corporate sponsors. But it still feels all about the tennis.
The bottom line is, if you’ve ever wanted to go, get in the ballot and go. It’s a grand day out. Thanks of course to Mrs MOFAD for the genius birthday present!