After last week’s LTHF trip to Costa Coffee in my local Tesco, I decided I’d do a tour of supermarket cafes. I know I should be using local independent cafes and, if we had any decent ones here, I would, believe me. As it is though, the town centre is slickly awash with greasy spoons but no other kind of cafe except for chains like Caffe Nero and Starbucks and although there’s nothing wrong with a greasy spoon (I’ll have egg, beans, chips and mushrooms, please), I feel it’s more of a Bank Holiday breakfast kind of venue, rather than a Friday lunchtime one.
And, anyway, a tour of supermarket cafes sounds fun. Doesn’t it? And when I’ve run out of supermarkets with cafes (which I think will be next week), I’m going to progress onto department stores. (If any potential employers read this – I’m not as tragic as I sound, honest.)
Today, I thought I’d give Waitrose a go. And if they didn’t let me in, I’d sit on the wall outside and eat a packet of cheese and onion crisps. However, they did let me in, even though, as I am the Queen Of Going In The Wrong Direction, I spent five miles cycling in the pouring rain to get there even though it’s only about three miles away and so wasn’t looking particularly posh when I arrived. I would have asked directions when I begun to get lost but I didn’t go past anyone I thought would shop in Waitrose. One good thing about going the wrong way though was I went past the new-ish John Lewis which led me to add that to my list of shops to have lunch in on a Friday. One especially bad thing about going the wrong way was the car driver who decided red lights didn’t apply to him and were I not of a paranoid persuasion and deeply mistrusting of motorists and like to wait at the lights to make sure all the cars have actually stopped, I would not be here typing this; I would be in hospital eating hospital food and although I’ve never had hospital food, I’d put money on mozzarella, basil and tomato panini not being on the menu.
The Waitrose cafe is open plan and in the corner of the store which means you’re eating and drinking in front of people doing their shopping which is a bit off-putting. It’s also deeply disappointing with its selection of food. The only vegetarian sandwich they had was a cheese and onion toastie and I really wanted a panini (I ALWAYS want a panini) but the only one they had was mozzarella, chicken and bacon. Being a vegetarian, I’m probably not the best person to judge the merits of a mozzarella/chicken/bacon combination but, even if I still ate meat, that would not appeal in the slightest. They probably cater more for the tea and cake brigade, as there was a wide selection of cakes and pastries by the till.
I sat down with my posh Cranberry Presse drink (you know things are posh when they add an extra ‘e’ onto stuff) which stated on the label it was 100% good. This is a lie. In my opinion, it was only about 66% good. I also thought it was lying about containing nothing artificial as I couldn’t remember ever seeing a citric acid tree but on undertaking an extensive and time-consuming investigation (i.e. I looked it up on Wikipedia) I found out citric acid is a natural preservative/conservative which occurs naturally in citrus fruits. That’s me told then.
Waitrose’s poshness evaporated when, because they don’t give you a number on a stick to take away with you so the waiters know where to bring the food, the girl behind the counter came out from behind the counter shouting CHEESE AND ONION TOASTIE and so I had to kind of gesture and wave and get her attention while everyone looked around and starting pointing the girl in my direction. Awkward.
The cheese and onion toastie was greasy and made me feel slightly sick and I didn’t hang around for long and soon went into the main part of the shop to see if they had any interesting vegetarian food (I’d brought my rucksack specifically for this purpose). Whoever says Waitrose is expensive obviously hasn’t been there on a day when they’re selling Linda McCartney Fishless Scampi for 99p (usually £2.60) or Quorn Mozzarella and Pesto Escalopes for 99p (usually £2.80). Bargain. I decided to wander round and see what was the poshest thing I could find and I reckon the roasted shallot and star anise dip takes that trophy. While I was on the lookout for posh stuff, I ventured over to the crisp aisle. It’s tiny and about a tenth of the size of the crisp aisle at Tesco but I did get some plantain crisps with lime and chilli which I reckon Tesco probably don’t do.
The poshest bit about Waitrose though by far were the fresh flowers and Dyson Airblade in the toilet. On the whole though, for a lunch experience in terms of food and atmosphere, Tesco was far better.