Once again, I apologise for any omissions - I can't be calling in everywhere, I'd have extreme caffeine overload and be twenty stone.
Also, I was asked about access for people with disabilities. I don't actually think any of the places I've mentioned here have an accessible toilet, and some are downright awkward even for the able-bodied.
Just to recap, to get my highest rating (and I'm introducing a star rating now), cafes must have:
- a comfortable, pleasant and welcoming interior,
- inside and and outside seating,
- good quality coffee and tea,
- nice cakes,
- good clean loos,
- pleasant, efficient, fast service,
- interesting reading matter
- fresh, tasty, reasonably priced food.
I don't go for dark bar-type places full of pounding music and brooding youth.
So, starting off on the sea-front opposite Warrior Square, it is good to find a seaside cafe. Position is great, but is exposed to any wind whipping along the front. No inside seating. Coffee is not good, cakes were stale last time we went, and I don't like those Warrior Square loos. So, only ** I'm afraid, despite the location.
|Sea front - somewhat exposed|
|A little basic....|
Anyway, on the other side of the road we have Gecko, Smiths and Kassa. I'm sure Gecko is fine but it doesn't seem to be open at coffee time, and looks more like a bar hang-out aimed at youth. I've never been in there. I may be wrong, and it may be full of Guardian-reading persons of a certain age, but it doesn't give that impression.
|Kassa, Smiths and Gecko on Grand Parade|
Coffee is good, cakes are good but not much choice. Menu is extensive, food is excellent and reasonably priced, and they do very good fresh juices. I love their egg dishes, their salads and their Welsh rarebit. Service is pleasant, but can be slow at busy times. Loo is OK, and there is usually plenty of reading matter. **** for Smiths, I think.
|Sunny view from Smiths|
Round the corner into London Road, passing the One Cafe, which I have never visited. Looks quite quirky though.
Opposite, on the corner of Norman Road is the Love Cafe. It is a real local landmark with a vibrant mural outside. The mural used to be a Ben Eine (as given by Cameron to Obama) pixilated Prince Charles, but that has been replaced. I have been into the cafe, but not for a long time, so I won't give it a rating. It has plenty of outside seating, and a quirky interior, but when we did go, the service was totally chaotic. In my view, life is stressful enough without having to contend with chaotic catering.
The loo is very strange, thorough an unmarked door across the gallery floor. On the wall, there is a faintly spooky stag's head and a pair of crossed skis (that looks wrong, should it be ski's?) for decoration. Last time I was in there the light suddenly went out and left me scrabbling around in total darkness. If it had been a comedy movie, I would have reeled out into the light wearing the head and clutching the skis, but no. ****
|Gallery and cake...|
|Unusual loo decor|
Opposite Moose's, Jempson's took over a nice old shop a while ago and turned it into a bland, soulless cafe. Their sandwiches are boring and the coffee is flavourless, but I will still be requesting a Jempson's doughnut on my deathbed. I just love them. Loo is up steep stairs. * for the doughnuts alone.
Round the corner is Roomz. Yeah, like a too awesomely youth place for Battleaxe.
Down on the sea-front, Poffley's Coffee Shop has taken over the premises first occupied by Aardvark, and then by the Post Office Tearooms. We still miss David and Peter. In its current incarnation, Poffley's has set up more outside seating, but many of the interior seats in the front of the cafe are hard wooden benches, leading to a slightly spartan feel. The coffee is good, so are the cakes, and indeed, so are the sandwiches. Service is fast and friendly. Loo is OK. ***
Further along, beneath Marine Court, there is the Armenian Cafe Relax - never been there.
I think that's all. So which gets my top rating? (OK, only from the one's I have visited). For food, Smiths or the Little Larder. For coffee and cake - Michala's Cute Cakes at the Baker Mamonova Gallery.
Please let me know what I have left out or got wrong!