Tag Archives: sandwiches

A Canteen, Chelmsford 

A couple of weekends ago my life revolved around the Hackney Half marathon, a couple of friends and I had entered the race and the day before was spent trying our best to prepare, basically eating as many carbs as possible!! All in the hopes of being able to trudge around (in my case) the streets in and around Hackney the best we could. Our plan; to spend Saturday carbing up at their home in Chelmsford, then travel to Hackney early Sunday morning for the race. It’s a good job our friends love eating out as much as I do and had a suggestion up their sleeve, a place called A Canteen. An independent family run business that started off as a cafe and moved into larger premises in February.  On first impressions, this place wasn’t just a canteen, the space also housed a coffee shop/grocery, a bar and homeware/lifestyle shop! All of this under one roof!

IMG_0047

IMG_0049

IMG_0051

IMG_0035

IMG_0074

IMG_0068

It was soon obvious the place was a popular one, bustling with people, many tables were occupied and staff were bezzing around. Soon informed we could sit at a table, but there’d be a 25 minute wait for food, we took this into consideration, but were happy to wait as reports from their previous base had been good by all accounts. 

Drinks were ordered including a Bloody Mary and a few coffees, all arriving in time for our food order to be taken. The place has a varied lunch day menu, whether it be their all-day breakfast, a selection of sandwiches, wraps, salads, bigger plates such as fish and chips, burgers, also pizzas. 

For most of us carbing up was the priority so we went for sandwiches and baps, also some extras of roasted squash salad, sweet potato wedges and chips. The drinks were going down well, in particular the Bloody Mary which was very good with a good mix of sourness and spice and the coffee. Made using beans from local roasters The Coffee Officina, it was excellent and also a lovely surprise!! I remember first enjoying their coffee at a cupping in Leeds’ own La Bottega Milanese a few months ago, liking it so much I brought a bag home. 

  

The space became very full while we waited, virtually all tables became occupied and our waiting time was longer than expected, more than 35 minutes. When our food was brought across, it would’ve been nice for a ‘I’m sorry for the long wait’ sort of comment but nothing. Oh well. 

Portion sizes were decent, but there was another wait for the other half’s food (which an apology was given for) – some hiccup because the chef hadn’t paid careful enough attention to his order; asking for a lamb burger with gluten free bread, preferring sliced bread to the focaccia it should have been served, as it would’ve been laden with it. Also I found the idea of focaccia being used for a burger an odd choice, I may be wrong, but that’s just my opinion. After all that palaver, the lamb burger ended up being swapped for the Moroccan spiced lamb sandwich instead! When he finally got it, it fell apart as the sliced bread which was soft, a definite plus with gluten free bread broke apart easily when trying to hold/eat it. The lamb itself was well spiced and tasty enough.

Roasted squash, chilli & pomegranate salad
Poached salmon sandwich with lemon mayonnaise and watercress
Moroccan spiced lamb sandwich with chips

Portion wise, I was really happy with mine and there was a similar view across the table. My pork bap came with lots of chips and the bap was filled generously with pulled pork shoulder, stuffing, apple sauce and tomato. On taste, the pork shoulder lacked a little flavour but was moist, it benefitted from the stuffing which did its best to add what was missing. The chips were great, crisp, golden and fluffy on the inside!! After eating it all, I was pretty full and definitely needed a break afterwards. 

Slow roasted shoulder of pork bap with chips

Overall, I really liked the concept and the cool space they’ve created. The food in general was good, tasty and filling, however there were a couple of niggles which need ironing out, possibly a consequence of how busy they are. The speed of service is an obvious area for improvement, with the potential for a large number of covers to be served at any one time, they found it difficult to keep up the pace. Yes, it was Saturday lunchtime and located in a prime spot, so high numbers would be expected, but to wait ages for food without even a hint of an apology was a bit of a shame, as well as the mess up with the order. 

The place has definitely got a lot going for it and tonnes of potential, it’d be good to see how the place improves and develops over the next few months. 

A Canteen 

35 New London Road

Chelmsford

Essex

https://www.facebook.com/acanteen?fref=ts&rf=166700683378343

Mrs Atha’s – The North’s Coffee Community, pt IV

The start of my series on The North’s coffee community concentrated on Leeds’ three original independents, now I’d like to focus on more recently established coffee haunts.

image

Mrs Atha’s opened in October 2012 by owners Jonathan and Warren. Found around the back of House of Fraser, Mrs Atha’s has quickly become one of the most quirky and interesting independent coffee shops to have opened in recent years. With such established shops almost with landmark status in Leeds coffee, Mrs Atha’s has had to find it own way into the hearts and minds of Leeds folk.

image

They’ve completely transformed a space into a beautiful coffee shop, with a boutiquey ambience, reminiscent of a bohemian New York vibe that’s just perfect for relaxing in. The team at Mrs Atha’s want it to be somewhere you can eat, drink, socialise, read, plug in your Macbook and work if necessary. With dimmed lighting and even table lamps, Wifi and plug sockets a plenty it’s tailor made for this. With the combination of great coffee and food in the mix, it’s sounds pretty good – don’t you think?

image

The interior is slightly bohemian, with a feel of the industrial about it. One large wall is left with exposed red brick and a statement RSJ beam handsomely frames the displayed art work, whereas the opposite wall counterbalances this with some sort of polished plaster (stucco). Complete with quirky, yet functional furniture, it’s definitely a place to spend a few hours in very relaxed surroundings. They are also blessed to have extra seating downstairs, which also houses their open kitchen.

image

OK, so what about the coffee, well this is expertly sourced and selected by the team. With Scott who’s previously worked at La Bottega Milanese, and Matt the two main men when it comes to the coffee they have baristas with a tonne of knowledge, in some cases to the point of obsession with the drink. They use their own blend of coffee from roasters Has-Bean and often host guest coffees.

image

The knowledge and attention to detail they have I found incredible. In my limited time learning more about the drink, I’d never met a full-on coffee geek till I met Matt, a self-confessed coffee connoisseur/aficionado. This is where it gets scientific! To get the perfect cup each time they have fine-tuned their coffee depending on the amount of TDS in each shot of coffee, that’s ‘total dissolved solids’ to you and me. Knowing exactly the precise parameters to work with so the % TDS fall within a certain range – resulting in a coffee that has undergone optimum extraction and possesses the perfect balance between bitterness and sweetness etc. I also learned the importance of water temperature and for this they have an Über boiler (LOVE the name). It delivers exact volumes of water at exact temperatures, giving the barista control over different parameters for each individual cup. They also recently bought a serious bit of kit – the EK-43 grinder which has the ability to grind beans into a whole array of finenesses, allowing coffee to have a greater level of clarity and definition. All VERY GEEKY!!

I NEVER had any inclination whatsoever that coffee was so scientific. Being a so-called science teacher in my normal, boring life I found this really interesting and it made me want to find out more, so I even spent time looking it up!!  I don’t think I’ll turn into a coffee geek just yet, but it was a little addictive researching it!

image

With Warren’s interest in interiors, it’s no surprise that Mrs Atha’s are a big supporter of local artists and always have work displayed for sale. Some may think the space is a little pretentious, but as an ardent art/museum/exhibition lover I really liked the aesthetic it provides the space with. 

image

image

On the food side they showcase local producers, such as That Old Chestnut with a selection of Vegan cakes and their bread comes from Bondgate Bakery. The have a very supportive network, including family friends who bake much loved cakes for Mrs Atha’s, and they are so good that they have built up of following of visitors who come not necessarily for the type of cake, but because it’s made by this particular person. A great testament to the baker I think!
image
A good selection of loose leaf teas are also available, which they are proud to know their exact provenance, drunk from one of their gorgeous vintage tea cups, and a slice of cake…ahhhh lovely!
They have plans to drive Mrs Atha’s forward in the future – last year they had a pop-up restaurant which went down really well. So they’d like to build on this with more of an emphasis on dining, not just cakes and sandwiches which they already do. I hear they already serve cracking breakfasts and lunches, I really need to try out these for myself ASAP!
Other possible plans include holding events/courses to educate about the nuances and technical side to making a great cup. With Scott and Matt’s knowledge and passion I’m sure these courses will be very popular.
 image

I’ve been a number of times and I must admit the coffee is pretty great. Whatever they do with the whole science/coffee geekery it certainly works! The people at Mrs Atha’s are lovely, friendly and interesting. Always wearing a fab selection of hats and more than willing to educate and inform the customer, which I really like. 

Mrs Atha’s

Central Road
Leeds
LS1 6DE
http://mrsathasleeds.com/
Opening Hours: Monday-Tuesday 9am-6pm, Wednesday 8am-6pm, Thursday-Saturday 9am-10pm, Sunday 10am-5pm.