The Batch Cafe, Greenhill Leisure Park, Oxfordshire, May 2017

This premises has featured here before, under previous ownership. Last year, we came to this camp site over Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend, and used the on site cafe every day, twice on Saturday and Sunday. It wasn’t a perfect experience by any means, the food was good but they just couldn’t cope with the camp site’s size.

This weekend, we were back at the site. The cafe has changed hands, but it hasn’t changed size. So how would they cope?

By shrinking the menu, and shrinking their opening hours. They don’t open in the evenings and they don’t open on Sundays. This morning was our only chance to visit, so we popped in for breakfast. No full English any more, so I had sausage and egg with oatcakes.

Note quirky charity shop china – the tea pots were of the same ilk! A very tasty breakfast, and it certainly arrived quicker than the last time we were in here. The changes have certainly improved things, but the reduced opening hours are less convenient. You can’t have it all though, so I think I’ll settle for improved service and reduced hours.

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Longboat – Table Table, York, April 2017

It’s chain pub time again. We’ve been staying at the attached Premier Inn this weekend (Blossom Street South, not to be confused with Blossom Street North which is 2 doors up the road!) It’s a very handy hotel for visitors to York on a budget, just a few minutes walk from the train station, and not too far from the city centre for day and night activities. Having walked back through the city centre carnage last night (hen nights all over the shop, and plenty of suitably refreshed ladies and gentlemen), I think it’s fair to say the hotel is just outside the carnage zone, which is a good thing in my opinion!

As with many Premier Inns (like last year’s one), it has a Table Table pub attached to it. That means a full breakfast for £8.99 each, the same price as this time last year. As usual, lots of stuff to choose from, various cereals, croissants, bagels, pancakes, fruits, etc.

If you have full days of exploring the city ahead of you (which we did both yesterday and today) then you need some tasty proteins from a full English. However, unlike last year, where the Table Table at Springwood Park cooked your breakfast to order, this was a standard hotel buffet job, with dishes sitting out under lamps, beans congealing away in dishes and fried eggs sitting in oil.

It was not bad:-

Good value given how much you get for £8.99, but it was by no means the best breakfast in the world. The sausages were rather anaemic, and the beans were rather tired. However, it was quick and convenient, which is what was needed this weekend.

Triple Pork Nirvana 2017 #1

Suprisingly, the first triple pork nirvana of the year. 2016 was really the year of TPN, this year has been about different things, including triple salmon nirvana. We have been eating a lot more fish so far in 2017.

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Lunch at the Brew York brewery tap was some tasty pulled pork baps from Smokin’ Blues Street Food, some lovely rare breed pork shoulder, and not overpowered by a sickly sweet sauce. A nice crunchy slaw, much better than that supermarket stuff.

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Dinner at the Lamb and Lion was the Lamb and Lion burger, with bacon and cheddar, beer battered onion rings and a silly basket of skinny fries. This was really tasty, a cracking pub burger with lovely crispy onion rings.

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A very tasty triple, and a fine way to round out anyone’s 42nd year.

Greenhill Leisure Park cafe, Bletchingdon, Oxfordshire

A tale of Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend.

A new campsite for us, we are always on the lookout for sites in the Oxfordshire or nearby area, as it’s kind of in the middle for our friends who we meet up with over the summer (and occasionally in the winter).

A lovely site, friendly staff, good facilities, well maintained and several different areas to camp in.

On to the cafe. A new venture for 2016, this cafe has recently opened. An on-site cafe is usually a guaranteed money spinner – a captive audience of campers, many of whom will often fancy a break from cooking at some point during their stay.

We made several visits over a busy Bank Holiday weekend – the weather was pretty good throughout, which meant the camp site was fairly full – lots of potential customers.

We started Saturday morning with breakfast, predictably a full English for me:-

Mrs MOFAD had the “half full” and regular MOFAD companions Matt & Hazel had a full and half respectively. My breakfast was very tasty, although the beans and mushrooms could have done with being a larger portion than a spoonful. My dining companions found the sausages a bit of an odd flavour, but I was ok with them. Matt woud have preferred the eggs to be cooked more thoroughly, I like a runny yolk. And you can’t argue with a cup of tea for £1.

Onwards to Saturday evening. A hog roast was advertised, and a hog roast was duly delivered. It was set up just outside the front door to the cafe, and had been rotating and roasting all afternoon long. Delicious slow cooked pork in a bun, with your choice of salad, cous cous, and some other bits and pieces, as well as apple sauce, and lovely roasted new potatoes, which had been cooked above the pork. Go in to cafe, pay for food, receive poker chip, exchange for food. Simple mass catering with good ingredients makes for a perfect evening camping meal. Everyone who partook thoroughly enjoyed it.

Sunday morning arrives. Time for breakfast again. I enjoyed it yesterday, and with the likelihood of lunch being later on today, it was time for the full English again. Same issue as yesterday – more beans and mushrooms please! Tasty bacon again, and good sausage. Someone else to help out behind the counter or clearing tables might have come in handy. The bacon rolls on offer this morning were using up left over baps from last night’s hog roast.

To Sunday night. Like last night, they were advertising a special. Beer battered fish’n’chips. Sounds great. Everyone likes fish’n’chips, and if you’re advertising that, then perhaps some kind of van is arriving to cook fish’n’chips for everyone.

Err, no. It’s all being cooked in the cafe kitchen. Shouldn’t be a problem, because I’m sure they can cope with it.

Err, no. Their fryer can only do 2 fish at a time. So when the people before you order 6 portions, and you’ve ordered 3 portions, you think you might be in for a little bit of a wait.

Err, no. It turned out to be almost an hour that we had to wait.

I think it’s pretty irresponsible to advertise something like this knowing that you can’t really cope with all that much demand. If you put up a board outside with “Join us for fish’n’chips tonight – all welcome”, then you might rightly expect that board to increase demand. You need to increase supply to cope with that!

A dissapointing wait, but very nice fish’n’chips eventually!

On to the final part of this increasingly sorry tale. Breakfast on Bank Holiday Monday morning. We arrived at 10am, after starting to strike camp. We took a break for breakfast. It seemed more people had been doing this, as when we ordered, we were told that the sausages had run out. I guess someone forgot to look in the fridge yesterday lunchtime, and go out shopping for supplies. 2 sausages were replaced by one rasher of bacon, and an additional hash brown. Still no more beans and mushrooms though.

We waited for our teas and coffees. And waited. More customers arrived, and soon they were being turned away because the cafe had run out of breakfast completely.

Teas and coffees then arrived (again, a lack of bodies behind the counter) and then breakfast arrived. Again, tasty stuff, and well cooked (although they did mess up part of the order).

As the weekend wore on, the cracks started to show. I’m not sure they were ready for the level of customers you’re going to get on a sunny Bank Holiday weekend. They desperately needed more staff to help out, and they really need more space for a bigger kitchen and more tables. The quality of the food is good, but the premises is not big enough for the size of the camp site.

Look at somewhere like Merkins, who have a slightly larger cafe but a much smaller camp site.

Keep up the good work, but get more staff and think carefully about offering something you can’t cook a lot of! And don’t forget to go shopping!

TPN 2016 #15

A camping triple pork nirvana. For Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend we have been staying at Greenhill Leisure Park in Bletchingdon. This was a new camp site to us, although some of our friends had stayed here last year and on other trips.

Today’s triple pork nirvana quest started out in their cafe, a new venture for the site in 2016. I found the breakfast very tasty, although not everyone was completely enamoured with it. More mushrooms and beans would have been welcome, and not everyone likes their eggs cooked the same way (these ones were perfect for me). Things for this new cafe to learn.

For lunch we found ourselves in The Mitre, in Oxford, a good chain pub in the city centre. Loads of options to choose from, and a chicken, bacon and avocado burger was a lighter but still tasty TPN qualifier.

The evening found us back at the camp site.  A hog roast was advertised, and a hog roast was duly delivered. It was set up just outside the front door to the cafe, and had been rotating and roasting all afternoon long. Delicious slow cooked pork in a bun, with your choice of salad, cous cous, and some other bits and pieces, as well as apple sauce, and lovely roasted new potatoes, which had been cooked above the pork. Simple mass catering with good ingredients makes for a perfect evening camping meal. Everyone who partook thoroughly enjoyed it, and a hog roast is a cracking (and crackling) way to achieve triple pork nirvana.

Table Table, Springwood Park, Cheshire

The chain pub attached to a Premier Inn. Functional and family friendly. A captive audience, but one you still have to serve well. We were part of that audience, staying at Springwood Park with some friends for the weekend.

If the pub had allowed dogs, it’s fairly likely we might have eaten here for another meal, but as they didn’t we just came here for breakfast on both days, as our dog owners were staying somewhere else.

The Premier Inn breakfast is pretty good value. For £6.99, you get unlimited everything from the continental breakfast menu, including:-

Coffee
Twinings Tea
Fruit Juices
Smoothies
Freshly Baked Croissants
Cinnamon & Raisin Bagel
Pain au Chocolat
Flapjacks
Blueberry Mini Muffins
Sourdough crumpets
Bread/Toast : White, Malted or Gluten Free
American Style Buttermilk Pancakes
Peanut Butter, Nutella, Golden Syrup, Marmalade, Honey, Marmite , Jams
Dried Fruit & Seeds
Fruit Salad
Apples
Bananas
Grapefruit Segments
Yeo Valley Yoghurts
Kellogg’s Cereals
Porridge
Granola

But as we all know, continental breakfast is not a breakfast. You need to upgrade to the full breakfast, which is £8.99. The extra two quid gets you all of the above plus as much as you want from the following:-

Back bacon
Sausage
Mushrooms
Eggs – Scrambled, Fried, Poached, Boiled, Omelette
Hash Browns
Bubble & Squeak
Black Pudding (not MOFAD approved!)
Closed Cup Mushrooms
Halved Grilled Tomatoes
Baked Beans

And it looks a little something like this (from Saturday morning):-

You order exactly what you want, this is not your standard hotel buffet with things sitting out in pools of grease under weak light bulbs. And you can order as much as you want, so you can go for a real blow out, or just have a reasonable amount to set you up for a day of walking in the hills.

Here is Sunday’s version:-

All in all, a pretty good breakfast, and pretty good value. My one complaint is that the tomatoes need grilling properly to caramelise them and bring out the natural sugars. It’s not the best time of year for tomatoes, wherever they came from, and these were a bit tart and underdone.

An easy option for breakfast if you are staying next door. We had a very happy and friendly server on Saturday morning too!

TPN 2016 #10

Birthday triple pork nirvana! This is the first time it’s been achieved in years, due to various reasons. The missed opportunities don’t matter, all that matters is achieving nirvana when you can.

It started at Table Table in Springwood Park, with a full English:-

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Nirvana continues at the Robin Hood in Rainow, with the classic that is sausage baguette:-

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We save the best for last, with sticky Oriental ribs at the Vale Inn, Bollington:-

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It’s probably the most exotic ending to a triple yet, although the Cumbrian pizza at Dodd’s is still one of my favourites. Not the first rib-based TPN either, as this visit to the Empress of Blandings rounded off another triple in the same way. However, these ribs were probably the tasiest of the MOFAD era.