Time for a really big burger

Having taken my eldest for an early evening shopping trip, we decided to grab a bite to eat before heading home.

We didn’t really know what we wanted. Two places did appeal, Casa Brasil and The Real Greek, however both of these are so new they haven’t opened yet.

The Real Greek is replacing Chimmi-changa. I did have a nice meal there a couple of years ago, but hadn’t been back since. Quite like the idea of the new Greek place.

Casa Brasil, which is next door to Pizza Express will be an all you can eat barbecue restaurant. Again quite like the sound of this place.

However as both hadn’t opened yet, we had to make another choice. I was finding this quite a challenge but in the end the 2-4-1 on mains at Giraffe was the deciding factor. This seemed quite a generous offer for a Friday night, but then I wasn’t complaining. I was still being indecisive so went the Giraffe Ultimate Burger, where my eldest went with the beef brisket burger. So I enjoyed my burger, I think he made the better choice.

Burger

This was a generous burger complete with bacon and cheese, as well as two beef patties. This was full of flavour, not overly seasoned. A bit challenging to eat with your heads (as you would with a smaller burger) so out with the knife and fork. did enjoy eating the burger and the fries were nice.

Reflecting I realised there are quite a few burger places in Cabot Circus, there is the Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), Five Guys, Frankie and Benny’s must sell a fair few burgers as well. They are a staple of Coal too. Both Zizzi and Bella Italia has them on their menu too, not sure how Italian they are though?

I quite liked the environment at Giraffe, the staff were welcoming and friendly. With the two for one offer, it was also quite reasonably priced.

I want candy…

During my lunchtime walk, I noticed a new shop in Broadmead, actually I am not sure if it is a new shop, or had just moved from the Galleries. It is an American Candy store.

American Candy

As might be expected the store is full of American candy and chocolate, as well as some British sweets and European treats.

American Candy

As well as the candy, there are a few American products on sale, such as Lucky Charms cereal and Jack Daniels barbecue sauce.

I do wonder about the attraction of such a place (and to be honest it was rather busy) especially when you notice the pricing. I saw a peanut chocolate bar for £3 and the cupcake bites were £3 per box.

American Candy

The Jack Daniels barbecue sauce was ten pounds.

Did I buy anything? Not today. I have found in the past that American chocolate is over sweet and not to my taste, it has too much sugar in it. As for other things, again way too much sugar.

American Candy

I have noticed that these kinds of places are popping up all the time and even shops like WHSmith are selling American candy bars.

Do you buy and enjoy American candy?

Eating at the diner

Butlins American Diner

Recently I was on holiday at Butlins in Minehead. One evening we went to the relatively new Diner. This is an American style diner complete with booths, signage and singers.

It was much bigger on the inside then it looked from the exterior, somewhat like the TARDIS. It was quite early and we had a choice of seats, in the end we chose a booth close to the juke box. Alas the jukebox was fake… I didn’t quite understand why there was a fake jukebox, well actually I did, it was there for aesthetic purposes and not so diners could choose some music. The diner had music, but we as diners had no choice. I also wonder if it was a cost saving measure, as I know a juke box can be expensive to run, both in terms of licensing but also in maintenance. I did wonder if they could go with a digital jukebox. I did make the suggestion to the staff that they should get a real jukebox.

As I was in an American style diner, I decided to go with a burger and had the Fonz. This was a prime 6oz beefburger topped with Monterey Jack cheese, crispy bacon, BBQ sauce and diced avocado. Stacked up with homemade onion rings.

Fonz Burger

Was I surprised when the meal arrived in what could only be called a cutlery draining basket! Why can’t we have plates? What is wrong with plates? I think these basket things are quite normal in US diners. However the burger was delicious. I was less impressed with the roll, which was a standard floured bap. It was supposed to be a glazed brioche bun, but they had run out!

The ‘slaw was really interesting, this was no standard cheap coleslaw. I really liked the small peppers that it had. Not sure for this convention of called coleslaw, slaw, is this an American thing?

I really enjoyed the burger and I did feel that they had captured what an American diner from the movies and television was like. Was it like a real authentic American diner? Probably not, but this was Minehead!

That’s a darn fine cherry pie!

On the A420 from Oxford to Swindon are some roadside services. In the past there was a Little Chef located there, but that closed in February 2012.

In June a new venture took over the location and opened the Cherry Pie Diner.

Cherry Pie Diner

This is an independent company and this is their first physical location, they are expecting to open another soon in Grove. In addition they have a mobile trailer they take to events.

I have seen the diner a few times as I passed by, but never really had the time, the opportunity or the inclination to stop there for something to eat. No point in stopping if you’re not hungry. I usually catch the train to work, so I don’t drive much, and usually when I do drive, I probably use the A34 and then the M4 rather than the A420. The one time I did have some spare time to stop, it hadn’t actually opened.

However last Friday, knowing that the M5 would be a bit of “car park” took my time leaving Oxford and having missed lunch, decided to stop at the Cherry Pie Diner for a break and something to eat. The fact it was also the 4th July, made this visit a little special too.

Having parked the car in the large car park, I looked over the building. From the outside, despite some attempt to “Americanise” the exterior, you could tell that this was once a Little Chef. I went to try and find the menu in the window. When it comes to eating out, I can be somewhat indecisive, so like to look over the menu before committing. There wasn’t a menu in the window or by the door, so I was forced to commit, I needed to go in and ask! So I opened the door and went in…

Inside I looked around the tables, booths, red and white, it felt like an American Diner. Now I should point out that I have never been to the USA, so have never been into an authentic American Diner, the closest I have got is through the movies and the odd television show, such as the X-Files. The decor and ambience certainly met my expectations, this did not feel like Oxfordshire, it felt more like Arizona or Delaware. The tables, the chairs, even the uniforms, gave this a real authentic feel, much more so than places such as TGI Fridays where they try to do something similar and I think that place feels artificial, the Cherry Pie Diner felt real.

The place was full of people and all the tables and booths were full. There was a member of staff smiling as I entered, I explained I was in a hurry and asked how long service would take, she checked with the kitchen and I was assured that it was quite fast. In the end I sat on a bar stool at a high table and looked over the one page menu.

There was a lot of breakfast options, but this was Friday evening, so I wanted something more substantial. There was quite a limited choice. However I don’t see this as a negative, on the contrary, I found it rather reassuring. The problem with a four page menu, the kind of thing you find at Little Chef (or pub chains) is that it means the food is cooked to a system and very little of it would be freshly cooked. A more limited menu, generally means that the food is cooked to order from fresh, and not re-heated.

Alongside the breakfast menu, the main offering was hotdogs and burgers and variants of these. There were some sides on offer, as well as salads, ribs and a couple of vegetarian options. Though only a page, there was for me a fair bit of choice. As for drinks, there were two pages to that menu!

I was tempted to go with some buffalo wings, as for me that is a good test of the cooking in a place like this, are they cooked from fresh, or merely cooked in advance and then re-heated once ordered? However I knew I didn’t have a huge amount of time, so maybe later.

I went with the Cheesy Chariot Burger, a 6oz burger patty which according to the menu is made to a “secret recipe” using 100% locally sourced beef. It was served
in a bun with shredded iceberg lettuce, beefsteak tomato, sliced dill pickle and a “signature” Cherry Pie Diner relish. Alongside was a small portion of slaw and a bowl of fries.

Cheesy Burger

The burger was nice and I enjoyed it. I think the burger itself lacked though a depth of flavour I was expecting from a such a good looking burger. The bun was good, full of flavour and tasted very fresh. The cheese was so much better than the “plastic” cheese you find in most burgers, as was the pickle and the salad. The fries were fresh and crisp, however the slaw was a little sharp for my taste, they needed a slightly sweeter onion perhaps.

I went for a “classic” coke alongside the burger (I was driving) and it came in a bottle. Personally I much prefer the bottled version over the pump post-mix that was also available. I was tempted to have a milk shake, but in the end went with the cola. It was nicely chilled and I was offered more ice in my glass if I wanted it, you know to be more authentic. I am not a great fan of having coke over a glass full of ice, it waters it down too much for my liking, so I left it as it was, just a few cubes of ice in there.

Overall the food was very good, and for a roadside service station I thought it was very good value for money, the burger and fries were £11 and the cola was £2.30. You could easily spend nearly that amount at a Burger King on the motorway services.

Where I think this place will win out, over other service stations, will be in the quality of the service. Here they need to do a little more work, they are so nearly there, but I am guessing there are still a few teething issues to resolve. Don’t get me wrong, when I first walked in I thought, oh this looks really busy and I don’t really have time to wait too long for food, but when asked and true to their word, they were pushing the orders out really fast. So I didn’t have to wait too long for my food once ordered, though there was a delay in ordering, despite me telling one of the staff I was in a bit of a hurry. There seemed to be too many staff hanging around, either welcoming customers or talking to them, or even just standing around doing nothing, with only a dedicated couple actually taking orders! As I said though, once the order was placed, the food arrived very quickly. My drink though arrived after the food… now they are missing a trick, as I probably would have ordered two drinks in the time I was there, but the first didn’t arrive until much later, so as a result I only ordered one drink.

I did find it amusing though, after placing my order I popped to the men’s room and when I came back, one of the staff, I think she was a manager or supervisor, said to me “thanks for coming, goodbye”. I thought at least let me eat my food first! She did come and apologise once she realised that I hadn’t actually eaten yet.

These really are minor quibbles, as the quality of the service was good, the staff were smiling, friendly, and though the place was packed out, it was speedy and quick.

I liked the environment, it felt like an American Diner and I will go again.

That is just wrong!

I am sorry but this is just so wrong, on so many levels…

Dunkin Donuts Breakfast Donut

It would appear (and I know they are not alone, nor are they the first) to put a savoury food within a glazed donut. Yes that’s bacon and eggs in a sweet donut complete with icing.

What is that all about then?