Monday, January 7, 2013

First post of 2013

Ok, so I've been a bit slack of late with updating blogs. On the run up to Christmas I was incredibly busy and then I was in England for 2 weeks and have just returned. Today I started back at work, so it's time to start on the blog again. And when I say "the blog" my first resolution for 2013 is to reduce my blogging to just one blog. For the past year I have been trying to maintain a chess only blog, a personal blog and a local chess blog. This has proved too much, and from now on there will be just one blog....this one! So I'll apologise in advance to all my non chess playing readers, but there will be lots of chess content. I also apologise to my chess readers as there will often be random posts about my travels, my hobbies outside chess and anything else that takes my fancy (coffee being something that almost always takes my fancy!).

So to start the ball rolling, I can categorically state the best and worst of the coffee's I had in the UK on my 2 week holiday to see friends and family. Actually, it was much more than this as it was my parents 60th wedding anniversary.

I have an unusual background, with my Dad a catholic boy coming from Poland (I'm indebted to British Chess Magazine editor James Pratt for pointing out that my chess ability is derived from my eastern European father. When I told James that my Dad can't play chess, he waved his hand and told me it is 'in the blood'!) and my Mum, a Jewish  Londoner. They met after World War 2 when my father was demobbed to England, and somehow they met, fell in love and the rest is history as they say.

Anyway, as I was saying, the best coffee I had in England was on a trip to Winchester. Winchester was the Saxon and medieval capital of England and is steeped in history. The cathedral dates back to before the Norman invasion, the remains of the castle house King Arthur's legendary Round Table, and a statue of King Alfred the Great welcomes visitors to the main town centre, his remains having at one time lain within the cathedral.
King Alfred the Great
By chance my wife, Caroline, and I were at a stage of the day where we'd had enough sightseeing and Christmas shopping and needed some refreshment and were passing a cafe that looked inviting. We walked into Union Jacks having never heard of the place before, but went out after the best coffee I've had in England. There was a rich crema which held consistency and a gentle flavour with virtually no bitterness. The place was obviously popular as it was packed. The staff were really friendly and helpful, and the food and drinks were great. It was only after some time sitting in Union Jack's that we realised that it is the creation of 2 award winning chefs, Chris Bianco and Jamie Oliver!

Ok, enough of the good and on to the bad. Now I won't talk bout instant coffee, or filter stuff like you can get in pubs. I also won't talk about Starbucks who seem to have an outlet in every motorway service station in the UK. That's not because Starbuck's coffee is any good, but because I didn't even try it on principal! So there might be worse than I had, but you'll have to go to Starbucks to find out.

The sort of coffee I'm talking about is the barista made, thick, strong stuff with names such as cappuccino, latte, espresso etc. In Melbourne, I usually go for a long black which is hot water topped with an espresso double shot (as averse to an Americano which is the espresso topped with hot water). However, in England I opted for a simple double espresso. I wouldn't have thought this could have been too bad but Costa Coffee in Knutsford Services proved me wrong, and I found their offering somewhere between nauseous and undrinkable.

I'm not going to leave my first post of the year on a sour note, so an honourable mention must go to the County Hall Bakery in London. This French cafe sits just across Westminster Bridge from the Houses of Parliament and is situated at the back of County Hall (the front of County Hall is on Southbank right next to the London Eye). The coffee in the bakery was great, as were the pastries which was just the thing that we needed before heading off for a day of sightseeing and shopping!
London Eye, with County Hall to the right.

No comments:

Post a Comment