EDitorial ± 25-Feb-2011

Light Lunches: Bizzi Beans, Long Melford

How'd it get to be half-term so soon? Barely five minutes since the last one. With an impromptu day off, had kind of sort of possibly planned a family friendly lunchtime outing, then learned that (a) Eldest was in town with a mate, (b) Middler had a mate coming round, and (c) The Boy was out for a day trip with that Nana. Cool beans. Come on, Wifey, we're off.

Out past Hintlesham and Hadleigh and into the Lovejoy land of Lavenham and beyond to scratch an itch. See, at Jimmy's Harvest, we had some fantastic coffees -- lattes, long and hot -- from one of the numerous catering stands. I took away the drinks and their card; chap was from a cafe in Long Melford by the name of Bizzi Beans. Must go there, we said, and here we are, true to our caffeinated word.

Had assumed they had standalone premises. Not so: they're situated near Melford Hall in a garden centre (hello, Wyevale) named Cherry Lane. Put me off a bit, if I'm honest. However, walking away from the Weedol and kneelers and into their enclosed area is akin to Mr Benn walking out of his changing room and finding himself in a different world. Could be the fabric-covered seats, or the wooden block trivets, or the rows of Jussy's Jams, or the huge cakes. You'll exhale, de-stress and say to yourself, This Is Nice.

No menus: you order from the compact kitchen end with the nifty blackboard doored cupboards. Soup, sandwiches, jackets, the usual. Panini for her -- vg with colourful side salad -- and "mini breakfast" for me -- that'll be a good size beans on toast with egg and sausage. Quality branded condiments, welcome back. They're big on brunch at Bizzi's. Plus WiFi and colouring: shame that kids aren't here. Not.

Return to the counter for the main event: coffee. With cake. Main guy is obviously busy on the phone yet still manages to make our drinks, mostly one-handed. Like a proper barista, he takes a lot of care pouring the hot milk over the espresso, and somehow creates one of the best cups of coffee I've ever had. Comradely slice of Victoria sponge is the size of a small land mass. Only tension in the room is from the array of garden implements artfully secured to the walls. Careful with that hoe, Eugene.

If it was a car -- Range Rover Evoque.
If they were passing by -- Ralph Fiennes.

EDitorial ± 24-Feb-2011

Ipswich Lunches: Morrison's

Day of the big TT match, half-term and Andy has a wizard wheeze: let's meet up for high tea before the game. That boy's still got it. But first, to square the circle and find somewhere (a) not already done, (b) still open early evening and (c) located in the right part of town. Lightbulb!

With courtesies already extended to Messrs Asda, Sainsbury and Tesco, let's add to our supermarket sweep and swing by Sproughton Road to Morrison's. Plenty of parking on the former site of Solar Superstore. Pick a set of doors and it's left at the loos.

We're a bit baffled by the "place your orders here" desk, 'cos there's nobody around. Onwards, ever onwards, we're waved through to the lady at the till to make our selections. Rene is content with two-for-one pastries, Andy goes for a Ritz-style sandwich and scone, leaving me for something warming. Not quite up to a curry, I'll have the trad bangers and mash, plus fresh OJ. Maybe the juice is invisible since there seems to be no charge: ah, buy a meal and the drink is free. Bargain at £3.39. Could have claimed a free kid's meal too. Double bubble. At these prices, I'm surprised there aren't more people here, but that could be half-term talking.

Sat down, sipping my juice and a plate of sausages lightspeeds before my eyes. That'll be Usain Bolt finishing his shift in the kitchen. Fortunate that an athlete such as myself can easily metabolise three bangers (plus mash, plus peas, plus gravy) less than an hour before a major sporting event. Not so sure about my colleagues, both 2012 hopefuls. Andy's overly intrigued by the under-table tray storage, perhaps spotting another tech patent possibility.

To complete this late light lunch, I sprint back to the till for the pudding du jour, treacle sponge & custard. Too late! No more hot food after 7pm! Or maybe they're looking out for me. Ne'er mind, I'll take that wodge of cherry cake instead and a cuppa (woeful) coffee. There we go, pre-match nutrition as recommended by Jack Black.

If it was a car -- Morris Ital.
If they were passing by -- Nick Hancock.

EDitorial ± 23-Feb-2011

TT1011, Week 20

Senses dulled by our team high tea at Morrison's, it's a slow sluggish snaillike start for Ed against spinny serve Adrian. Match point down, could easily have lost in three straight ends. What's that, Ed? You've got a spade? Dig in, boy! A 3-2 victory followed.

Andy off to a poor 1-2, losing out to pro Pete. Thankfully their third player lacks consistency, gifting us all 3 points.

Pete and Adrian proved too good for Rene, just, despite the John Smiths enabling him to play freely and without mental restrictions, while Andy came good against Adrian.

Poor doubles: another coulda shoulda. Still, we'll take the win.

EDitorial ± 20-Feb-2011

Light Lunches: Hemingways Of Haslemere

[presenting a guest review by Andy Cassy: thanks!]

What better way to spend a leisurely Sunday morning with an hour or so to kill after dropping the kids off at the nearby swimming pool and you just happen to be in Haslemere.

Could have been Costa, Waitrose or the leisure centre itself, but we chose Hemingways. Could have been shopping for gifts or homeware but we just wanted a decent coffee and a wicked piece of cake. Could have sat outside or in, but now being a southern softie (like its fashionable name sake) we took up residence inside Hemingways Coffee Shop.

Instantly liked the place -– stylish yet relaxed. As their website says:

It is a marvellous mix or old and new, classy and comfortable, lively and relaxing with a wonderfully eclectic range of gifts and homeware that combines everyday warmth and charm with the unique and unusual.

Shame that the website piccies don't do the place justice.

Armed with a great mocha and slab of Rocky Road we sat and chewed the cud, musing over the delights of a recently purchased Cyrus pre-amp & 8XPd amp by my well-to-do host for the weekend whilst Buddha smiled on. Just as well that we didn’t know about Sunday Scrunch (see website for details) otherwise we might have been late collecting the kids -– how could we forget those little darlings.

If it was a car -- Volvo V70 (pre-Ford) with 7 seats and leather seats
If they were passing by -- Wayne Hemingway.

EDitorial ± 18-Feb-2011

Ipswich Lunches: B&Q

In the grand old town of Ipswich, there was once a time when, if you needed a handful of bolts or a drill bit, you'd head to your local hardware shop. Town centre-wise, that was Martin & Newby, of course. Then came Texas Homecare in place of the bowling alley near the greyhound track, followed by Homebase. And another Homebase, and a Focus, until the last little fella disappeared like a washer down a plughole. Yet smaller towns like Woodbridge, Stowmarket, Felixstowe and Diss have all managed to cling on to their own independent outlets. Discuss.

With Tesco-like dominance, the behemoth that is B&Q have not one but two Big Sheds around the town: one monster near the Asda park-and-ride, and this megastructure on Ransome's Europark, both of which have in-house caffs. Everything you need to know can be inferred from that functional orange upper case COFFEE SHOP lettering (hello, Felixstowe).

On the fresh off-white side:

  • they offer a range of jacket spuds and "B&Q cafe" be-labelled sandwiches
  • my chicken burger in a ciabatta with red onion & tomato was perfectly OK
  • cafe has loads of natural lighting
  • that wall of certificates leaves you in no doubt as to their hygiene
  • prices are reasonable

On the sad magnolia side:

  • distant view of Waitrose, oops, the Crane Site, is less than inspirational
  • no papers or WiFi and only home improvement pamphlets to browse
  • those canvas prints urging customers to Enjoy and Relax are akin to the Demotivator posters
  • that red sauce isn't by Heinz

It is what it is. Ideal if you're lugging the kids around, with nothing nice to spoil or knock over, plus choccy bars at the counter. Quite who would carry the B&Q coffee loyalty card, I do not know, but (a) you only have to collect six stamps and (b) they give you the first one free. And if you don't fancy it, then head home and D.I.Y.

If it was a car -- Vauxhall Vivaro.
If they were passing by -- Derek Martin.

EDitorial ± 16-Feb-2011

London Lunches: Elite Cafe

Boris Bikes and two Starbucks on every corner. Where else but swingin' London? Excitingly, I've been let out for the day to go visit the fine folk in our other less fashionably located office. Before we get down to the serious business of the day which, curiously, starts at 2pm, it's lunchtime. Coming along to the caff, Ed? Abso-bloomin'.

Through the capital's golden alleyways and we're on bustling Whitecross Street, home to a thriving takeaway food market. Tapas, chorizo sandwiches, falafel, Portuguese goodies, Brazilian stews, all present. Another time, dear traders, since our destination is there on the corner, the Elite Cafe. Squeeze past the hi-vis blokes at their Kesgrave Kitchenesque fixed tables to a rare spare four-seater towards the rear. Sitting among the box of unbranded condiments is a trusty laminated menu, or you can gawp at the huge printed version above the counter. Waitress service -- nice -- and the three of us each pick a different set menu, much like Kenny's. Can't come here and not order eggs / bacon / chips / beans (EBCB), plus a Dr Pepper for the nerves.

Establishment such as this has to be efficient, and bam, here's our food, a sizeable oval plate covering most of the main food groups. As I take those calories on-board, I'm staring at the large wall print of a Swiss scene, trying and failing to find the Von Trapps. Couple of minutes in and that crockery still contains the best part of a family portion.

Ran out of time for the cherry pie and custard, as advertised on the handwriten note tacked on the main menu. Would have been good with a frothy coffee. Back to work, job done.

If it was a car -- Morris J2.
If they were passing by -- Andy Parsons.

EDitorial ± 15-Feb-2011

TT1011, Week 19

(guest match report by Mr Andy "Where's?" Cassy)

With our star player down in the Big City and our peace keeper otherwise engaged we decide to discard our chance of promotion and turn out just our B-team: AndyC and Rene.

The visitors arrived before the hosts, as usual, and pleased to learn they already had a three point head-start. Difficult to say how the play unfolded as we persuaded Ivan to play both tables.

Two short three-enders, two tighter four-enders see us regain our lost lead, only to be cut short after two tough five-enders which we both lost to Mike, their star player of the night. Similar story in the doubles, with Rene not quite reaching form and wanting to rush back to his home office. Still, we should have done enough to retain our 5th place in the league.

EDitorial ± 11-Feb-2011

Light Lunches: Penny's, Orford

We're male men, much like Kevin Costner or Cliff Clavin. Ergo we're mildly autistic. In the same way that you might, say, collect Deadly 60 cards and not stop until you had Every Last One, we were all too aware of an incomplete set. With the Riverside reviewed and Pump Street praised, we had an obligation to Orford. Only one more for The Trinity, coincidentally the name of the Crown & Castle restaurant. They've got a bib gourmand: is it right to take toddlers to posh places?

Pleased with our Market Square parking spot, past Pump Street (hi, bakers!) and into the well-signed Penny's; still way too cold for outside seats. Sofa and solitary table are occupied so we're relegated next door to the long table within Orford's super-equipped general store. Perfectly fine, what with free WiFi and a pristine copy of The Times to paw over: Andy for the business section, me for the arts, darling. What would we like? Bring us Pen's Pies! Over to the deli goes the lady and oh dear, they've sold out. Shame.

Back to today's individually dated menu for our contingency, pork products: bacon sarnie for him, BLT for me with organic ketchup (like Cook's Shed). Filling outshone by the bread. By this time, we've acquired the sofa and are using the distinctive "P" and "C" shaped silver tables. Quiet today but come the summertime, this joint would be jumping. Compact interior is dead smart. Recently refurbed, I believe. Love the artwork.

Never mind the culture, there's lots of good-looking cake staring us in the face. White choc fruity flapjack for me plus a flat white -- made with Union Coffee, sez the sign -- and a family slab of carrot cake for Andy. We emerge, wodged. Consider The Trip(Tych) of Orford ticked off.

If it was a car -- Chevrolet Lacetti.
If they were passing by -- Samantha Bond.

EDitorial ± 8-Feb-2011

TT1011, Week 18

Enforced squad rotation this week with Andy C. (slight cold) dropping out. Fortunately we can call on another player -- that's 'Andy, the other one. He'll join Ed and Rene, making his first appearance since late November. Scraped a draw against the wizarding Merlins up at their pad. They're a tricky bunch, though, cannier than a Crosse & Blackwell factory.

Started gone 7:45pm and was all over by 9:15pm. PC Andy didn't detain the opposition, while Rene went to four ends against Nicola and Mick before skipping off on his dodgy Achilles. That left Ed to claim the team's only three points with straight wins including a Tonka tough game against Paul.

Doubles pairing of Andy and Ed couldn't keep pace with Nicola and Paul: another victory for the Merlins who remain, like the waves, above us.

EDitorial ± 3-Feb-2011

Woodbridge Lunches: Eat Drink Rugby

Surprising, perhaps, given the current Pestonian economic conditions, that more retail outlets haven't gone under in small market towns. Gone from Woodbridge are Woolies, of course, Jumper and the odd shoe shop. Would have taken a miracle to save Loaves & Fishes. Newly arrived have been the likes of Fat Face and Caffe Nero, while Oxfam has upsized its secondhand book shop. Be sure to Gift Aid.

That list of casualties includes Pickwicks, famed for their four egg omelette. With Mr Pickwick decamped, that Gobbits Yard gap has been filled by a curiously named new eatery -- Eat Drink Rugby. Oh-kay: we'll give it a try. Memorabilia is everywhere, with framed photos, balls and shirts to buy. If there's a book on our table, we'd expect it to be about preserves rather than a guide to the World Cup. No matter, let's order.

Soup or sarnie is simplicity itself: bacon & blue cheese for him, chicken & pesto & leek for me. Served with a manly ramekin of crisps, our sandwiches with their unlikely union of fillings are really, really good. Well done, five points. There's brief mention of why Jonny Wilkinson now plays in France -- er, the money -- before our rugger convers(atio)n flags.

Let's do a Frangipani and re-seat elsewhere for pudd. Past the well-stocked fridge of Cokes, J2Os and beers and into the boudoir, the inner sanctum, the pimped-up beating heart that is the telly room. Must be a right scrum in here when there's a match on. Claiming the squishy corner sofa, you feel like Clockwork Orange's Alex involuntarily watching the endless lineouts and hand-offs on the widescreen. Physical effort to pull ourselves away long enough for good coffee and brownie. Props to the enthusiastic and chatty lady running the place and hope she manages to stay onside.

If it was a car -- Fiat Punto.
If they were passing by -- Mark Bailey.

EDitorial ± 2-Feb-2011

Drilling Without Incident

Up at a major initialised DIY chain earlier this evening, I bought myself a lifetime's supply of wall plugs. Not the cheaper own brand option, no sir, but the costlier -- and therefore better -- Rawlplugs (TM). Which surely demonstrates my growing maturity, innit?

By doing so, I believe that I've located an elusive edge piece in the great jigsaw of modern life. Yes, screws, and yes, batteries, though those fusty old dry cells (what were we thinking?) have been swept away by the now stylings of the white & blue Sanyo Eneloop. However, when a chap can't rub together a couple of 7mm brown wall plugs, he needs to take a long hard look at himself.

Restate my assumptions
Beauty is not the same thing as youth
— Divine Comedy, Note To Self

This was hammered home by reading this article and nodding along. His father built stuff too. I grew up in a bungalow which, when I was about 6, morphed into a house. That would be my Dad, converting the loftspace into a fully functional third bedroom complete with walk-in cupboards, wardrobe, TV room and double glazing. OK, he did once put his foot through the living room ceiling, and we've never let him forget it. On a good day, given time, I can put up a mostly level shelf. Provided it's not on one of those dreadful partition walls.

I may not be able to plumb, or wire, or do whatever you do with breeze blocks, but I do possess 200 brown, 160 red, and 200 yellow wall plugs in a natty plastic box.

EDitorial ± 1-Feb-2011

TT1011, Week 17

No Rene -- long and pained in the tooth -- leaving the division 2 pairing of Ed and Andy C. to do the Dome, yet again. Another all div 3 night with Sparrows v. Merlins, Kingsfleet v. Phoenix and us v. Cormorants. That's an entire aviary.

Cruise control tonight, winning all our available points. And rightly so, what with the average age of the opposition hovering around the 70 mark, never mind their assorted injuries. Like a youth club up there, it was. If we can still hold a bat at that age, we'll be fine.