Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Breakfast re-visited

Back in November 2017, I wrote a lengthy post titled, “A good start to the day?”  It was, of course, an article about breakfast, and chronicled some of the best early morning repasts I have enjoyed over recent years, alongside a few of the places where I polished off these culinary delights.

Now I won’t repeat what I wrote almost 18 months ago, but I want to expand a little on the subject of the first meal of the day. First a bit of background information. I am quite frugal during the working week, where time pressures mean there is little time for anything other than hurriedly grabbing a quick bite to eat. Normally this is either a couple of slices of toast (topped with jam, marmalade or Marmite), or a bowl of cereal – porridge during the winter, and something a little lighter during the warmer months.

I don’t normally indulge myself too much in the mornings, at weekends either; although sometimes Mrs PBT’s will rustle up some French toast, or a couple of bacon sarnies. However, if son Matthew isn’t working, and is up in time, then him and I will normally go out and grab ourselves a breakfast. Being employed in retail means he is often rostered to work at weekends, so these breakfast forays certainly don’t happen every week, but when they do it is well worth making the effort to find somewhere decent.

I’ll be covering this area in a little more detail shortly, but before doing so it’s worth mentioning that  Mrs PBT’s likes to treat the Sabbath as an excuse to catch up on “refurbishing” herself, and not have to get “made up”; something her feminine pride normally insists on before venturing outdoors.

She also claims she can get a lot more done when husband and son are away, stuffing their faces with all sorts of greasy and unhealthy food, although personally I think it’s just an excuse to put her feet up and slob out in front of the TV, watching "Escape to the Country" or “Homes under the Hammer”!

Her body clock also seems to have altered since her dramatic hospitalisation last year, and is no longer much of a morning person. This particularly applies when we are away. Giving up smoking is to blame – not that that’s a bad thing; but with no pressing need to rush down to outside the hotel lobby, for her nicotine fix, she’d rather take her time and get herself ready in a far more leisurely fashion.

This slow, taking ones time in the morning does tend to mean missing out on breakfast, although even before last year’s episode I often tended to go down to breakfast on my own, smuggling her back the odd croissant or two to eat in the room.

This pattern continued when, back in February, on a visit to Norfolk to visit my father, Mrs PBT’s and I booked ourselves into the Norwich West Premier Inn, adjacent to the Norfolk Showground, for a couple of nights.

Now my good lady wife likes a Premier Inn, and I must admit that whilst they might be a little pricier than I would pay if I was travelling on my own, they offer a good standard of comfort, and you know what you are getting. Lenny Henry has even tested the beds for you!

Most Premier Inns have some sort of chain restaurant, either attached, or adjacent where, should you desire, you can tuck in to a decent breakfast. For cost-conscious individual like me, £10 is somewhat on the dear side, so on that recent Norfolk trip, I decided to go elsewhere, and ended up enjoying what was one of the best supermarket breakfasts around.

Longwater Retail Park lies virtually opposite the Premier Inn, on the other side of the busy A47 road. There, at the Sainsbury’s Superstore, you can enjoy a good satisfying breakfast for roughly half the cost of what Colonel Whitbread will charge you. I knew this from a previous stay, several years ago on a visit to Norfolk when mum was still with us.

So leaving Mrs PBT’s at the hotel to a more leisurely start to the day, I nipped across the road and treated myself to a fine full English, courtesy of Mr Sainsbury. I did however, remember to bring my wife back a subway roll and some nibbles. On the drive back to Kent the following morning, we called in at an similar-sized Sainsbury’s Superstore, just off the A11, outside Thetford, but unfortunately we missed breakfast by about 15 minutes.

Closer to home, the lad and I have recently tried the Gatehouse in Tonbridge; owned by the Stonegate Pub Company, and the Hilden Manor, which is part of the Beefeater chain.

Decent breakfasts aren’t really about dining at large chains though, and I include Wetherspoon’s in this description. Even before my boycott of arch-Brexiteer Tim Martin’s establishments, I felt the breakfast offering had started to go downhill, so it’s not as if I’m missing anything. So now, supermarkets aside, the search has been on locally for a place where my son and I can enjoy a good breakfast, at a reasonable price.

Last Sunday our quest for that perfect breakfast took us to Teal Café, just off the A21 at Morley’s Roundabout, between Hildenborough and Sevenoaks. This establishment is a fairly recent, and very welcome addition to the local dining scene. Painted white on the outside, and with a ramp providing disabled access, Teal has a bright and airy interior, with a modern and contemporary feel.

It was buzzing when we arrived, rather later than I would have liked, but blame the lad for over-sleeping. Despite this obvious popularity, the friendly and attentive staff still managed to find us a table for two. Matt went all out with two of everything, whilst I was rather more restrained. The breakfast was freshly cooked to order, and came with a welcoming pot of tea each.

I want to end by discussing a dish that doesn’t often appear on breakfast menus these days. The humble Kipper is an increasingly rare find, and the only places I have come across them have been in Norfolk and the Isle of Man. This is a great shame, as cooked properly kippers make a divine breakfast dish. Whole kippers, lightly grilled, and served with plenty of buttered toast are a rare treat to be enjoy and savoured, wherever you come across them.

Mrs PBT’s has never been keen on serving up them up at home; ostensibly because of their  lingering smell, but on the basis that every cloud has a silver lining, whilst she was recuperating in hospital, at the beginning of last year, I enjoyed freshly cooked kippers for three weekends on the trot.

I bought them whole from Sankey’s, our local fishmongers in Tonbridge who incidentally are owned by the same people who run the successful Sankey’s pub in Tunbridge Wells. An online search brought up the perfect way to cook them, and also the perfect way to minimise the smell.

First bring a pan of water to the boil, turn off the heat, fully immerse the kippers in water, cover and leave for around 7 minutes. The result, perfectly poached kippers, juicy, succulent and with the minimum amount of lingering smell. Pure heaven on a plate.!


retiredmartin said...

I enjoy your slices of real life Paul, and some of those breakfasts look great.

My frequent drinking companion Paul Mudge tells me Stonegate beat Spoons, but I have to tell you that Tim Martin has got the Miners Benedict (black pudding and poached egg) absolutely spot on.

Paul Bailey said...

Thanks, Martin. Paul Mudge is right about the Stonegate breakfast, but our last two visits to the Gatehouse have been just after opening (10.30am on a Sunday), and the place has been freezing cold. It's as if they've only just turned the heating on.

We'll try the place again, once the weather warms up.

ps. I came across German-style, Black Pudding in Cologne. One of my colleagues gave it a go, and passed a piece to me. It was much softer and less dense than our version, and I think this may have been due to less cereal/rusk. I wouldn't go out of my way to try it again.

retiredmartin said...

I'd have liked to try that.

Black pudding on most English breakfasts is hard and pointless, but I've tried the Spoons version three times recently and found it soft and crumbly. Unexpectedly 🤔

Etu said...

Rusk Never Sleeps.

Paul Bailey said...

He must do. I haven't heard from him for a while.