I’ve long felt that the Scores on the Doors ratings for all premises selling food should be displayed by all shops, cafes and restaurants: not just those with a good score.
If you chat to people in the trade on a regular basis, as I do, you’ll know that it’s quite easy to make a silly slip-up that can get you a low score: forgetting to note a fridge temperature, for example. But it’s also easy to be re-assessed, which is what any self-respecting purveyor will do.
So, when you look at your Scores on the Doors app or the website and you see a result that horrifies you, it’s worth checking how recently an inspection took place. If it was very recently, then mention it if you are thinking of making a booking.
However, if the last inspection was several months ago, you have to ask why anyone with a low score has not insisted on a quick reinspection. It may be that inspectors are unavailable, or it may be that the owner simply isn’t that bothered.
You are the customer. Where you spend your money, and with whom you trust your safety, are your choices. Be careful out there.
There is something romantic about artisan crafts tucked away in strange places: cheeses maturing in caves, fine vintage wines gathering dust in chateau cellars and, in much greater number than I expected, shops and bakeries.
If visible to the public at all, it is often a small retail frontage with tightly packed wares, while the main workings of the bakery are further inside the hefty structures that hold up the railway lines, trains and passengers.
Nick May of the Slow Bread Company in London apologised for shattering my romantic illusions. He and his wife set up their family business after years of baking naturally leavened bread for family and friends.
They needed an affordable location with three phase power for the ovens that was close to the pubs and restaurants they supply, rather than a distant industrial estate.
Rents are reasonable and train noise is not a problem. Nick says you can use the tube trains like a clock: they start at 5.20am every day. But temperature control is something you must live with: proving your bread is quicker in summer than in winter.
The e5 Bakehouse, also in London, has a shop next door to the bakery, which is in “a spruced up railway arch beneath London Fields Station”.
A video on the website shows the arched ceiling above the bakery and shop. They say the location offer big spaces good for transport links, and in 2015 they took on their third arch to house a stone mill.
Peel and Stone in Birmingham is known to the public mainly for its little sandwich shop at the front of the arch, which was listed as one of Britain’s 30 best places for brunch in the Daily Telegraph in May.
I’ve been popping in here for a year or so now for imaginative sandwiches and salads, or something hot if preferred. However, their main output is selling bread wholesale to pubs, bars and restaurants.
Peel and Stone evolved from the Soul Food Project: initially a small catering operation, providing food for an inner-city pub that was influenced by the cooking styles of the southern states of America: jambalaya, gumbo, and other things in that song by The Carpenters. Later the Soul Food Project took on its own pub – The Church in the Jewellery Quarter. The Church ran for a year selling the same style of food before the Project expanded by opening the Peel and Stone Bakery in Arch 33 on Water Street – a small Peel and Stone café and shop has opened recently in Harborne.
When I was allowed behind the shop inside Arch 33, it reminded me of an aircraft carrier. There are no windows – the bakery has a false ceiling and installed ventilation. The arch is high and wide because overhead is Snowhill station with its rail and tram lines. The space is rented from Network Rail and, important for a small growing business, reasonably priced.
Temperatures are moderated a little by the ovens, but away from them it is hot in summer and in winter it is cold. The day staff are in at 6.30am, and the night staff leave around 4.00am.
The bakeries I spoke with do like their curvaceous locations and, if railway arches seem a little eccentric to some … well, maybe just one or two of the bakers are too.
The interview I recorded with Dave Finn as part of the research for this article will be broadcast on Sunday 9th July around 9.15am on WCR FM (www.wcrfm.com). Next week I’ll try to put a copy here if you miss the broadcast … though the whole show will be available on Listen Again on the WCR FM website for a few weeks.
A shorter version of this article was published in the July – September issue of True Loaf, the magazine published by the Real Bread Campaign. There you can read all about Real Bread, find how to celebrate Sourdough September … and, if you’re not sure, find out what real sourdough is and why you probably can’t buy it in many if any supermarkets.
This report will be repeated in the New Year’s Eve 2017 edition of Taste Wolverhampton.
In February, my wife and I spent a couple of weeks staying with friends who moved to work in Florida a few years ago. They live in Kissimmee (pronounced Kiss-emmy locally) which is within 15 minutes of all the Disney theme parks.
There are family-friendly fast food places everywhere, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you fancy something a bit special or eating and drinking somewhere that’s perhaps run by a family and not part of a national chain, where do you go?
The last couple of trips, I’ve had a look at Trip Advisor, and that’s taken me to great authentic Mexican restaurant just out of Kissimmee, but not much else. So this trip, I decided to pack my recording gear and do some serious research on where to eat and where to drink before we left.
Previously I’ve visited a couple of wineries and tasted the local wine … which, to be honest, is poor stuff. But there’s a tradition of making fruit wines in Florida, so I decided to track down a couple of specialists.
I found there’s quarterly magazine called Edible Orlando which supports local artisan foodies: both makers and eaters. We’ll hear from the publisher in the second hour of the programme.
If Florida isn’t the best part of America to taste local wine … and it isn’t … then the alcoholic drink they are really good at is beer. We’re going to hear from two craft brewers today: John Cheek from Orlando Brewing, who’s an established and experienced brewer, and Jared Zakerowsy from the Crooked Can Brewery that’s barely two year’s old.
They’re both producing fabulous beer in a great variety of styles, so let’s start in Orlando – one of the most popular holiday destinations for British tourists. Most head for the theme parks, but lots of breweries in the States offer both free brewery tours and entertainment at their bars through the afternoon and evening. So, let’s head to a business and industrial area close to central Orlando.
And if you’d like to read more about Orlando brewing or, if you’re heading to Florida this summer, check out the entertainment evenings on the website: www.orlandobrewing.com.
I don’t think it’s unfair to say the wine-buying American public is generally less knowledgeable than in the UK. Maybe because the UK vineyards have established their credentials so recently compared to the rest of the world, our supermarkets really got their acts together from the 1970s onwards importing good wine. Also, we never had Prohibition.
In Florida … I was trying to find a Californian Zinfandel in one big supermarket, which was made harder because the wines were in alphabetical order of whatever the biggest word is on the label. Very odd.
We found a huge wine warehouse in Orlando open to the public that is hugely impressive (totalwine.com): lots of European wines, a lot of American wines, and 2 narrow shelves of Florida wines. Sad but a sensible decision, because only the Muscadine grape can grow in Florida, and its wine tastes like dentist mouth rinse.
However, because so much fruit grows in Florida, particularly citrus fruit, there are now many producers of fruit wines. But buyer beware … most of those I’ve tried are very sweet and very poorly made.
Do go to a tasting if you can, because the locals love a sweet wine … maybe because so much of what they eat is sweeter than we are used to. A lot of the wines you’ll see being sold in roadside stores use wine made from the local Muscadine grape with a little fruit juice added.
However, in a lovely place called St Petersburg, a couple of hours drive from Orlando, they make fruit wine just from the named fruit. This does make it a bit expensive; but there again, I saw their wine being sold by an orange grower near Kissimmee alongside some they made themselves diluted with grape juice, all sold at the same price. So check the label and taste a sample if you can before parting with dollars.
Let’s get an insight into all aspects of the Florida wine business from Vincent Shuck from the Florida Fruit Wines company.
While Trip Adviser must reflect what people write most about, there are other websites and publications that aim to list Florida foodie events and uncover great local producers. One such source is Edible Orlando magazine and website, which is part of a nationwide network of food and drink publications.
For the final Florida interview, recorded in February, I found a new brewery in a lovely town called Winter Garden. Plant Street Market is a building full of character that houses some fine products, people to cook them for you, tables to eat at, and a brewery to provide a remarkable range of beers to wash the food down with. I’d happily move to Winter Garden.
I spoke with Jared Czachorowski from the Crooked Can Brewery.
As a fan of good cask ale, I read this article by Pete Brown* expecting to strongly disagree with it; but actually, I found that I agreed with pretty much every word. If you like a pint with your lunch, as I often do, our chances of a good drink are already reduced, unless you can guess which hand pull has already been used that lunchtime.
I was recently disappointed in one of Wolverhampton CAMRA branch’s past pubs of the year. I made the mistake of having Holden’s Special: later it became clear that Golden Glow was the popular drink that lunchtime. My pint wasn’t bad enough to take back with full confidence: it just wasn’t as good as it could and should have been.
The growth in real ale choice over the last two decades is impressive, but too many pubs now put too many beers on their bars: and sometimes all “golden” ales. They can’t sell it quickly enough. No wonder people are put off what for me is still the champagne presentation style of beer, in favour of craft beers – the prosecco of beers to conclude my sparkling wine analogy. Craft beers can be good, though they can also be too cold and too fizzy; but certainly they are a lot more reliable and enjoyable than a cask-conditioned ale sold by staff not monitoring the quality of what they sell.
The Campaign for Real Ale has just conducted extensive research into what its future should be. I hope, for those of us who appreciate a cask-conditioned ale in top condition, that they concentrate less on how many guest beers are available and more on the quality of what is being sold.
Pete Brown: why it’s time to say no to bad cask ale
Beer writer Pete Brown explains why he has turned his back on the drink he has obsessed over for many years.
Roger Protz, the editor of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide, has written a response to Pete Brown’s article which is fair and reasoned, but I think Roger must be luckier than me with his recent drinking experiences:
Just read this fascinating blog post where a brewer explains that perhaps we are not paying enough for cask ale. Which makes me wonder; if we paid a little more, could we expect more in terms of quality?
Nominations are now open for the first annual Wolverhampton Independent Retail Excellence (WIRE) Awards.
The awards, commissioned by the Leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, Councillor Roger Lawrence, are being led by Wolverhampton Business Improvement District (BID) in partnership with the council.
The aim is to celebrate and praise the entrepreneurial spirit, dedication and hard work of those involved in running and managing a successful independent business, as well as to recognise the loyalty and dedication of the staff that work in this sector. There are 12 honours up for grabs, with nominations called for in 11 categories. A public vote is open to find Wolverhampton’s ‘Favourite Retailer’.
The other categories are Independent Retailer of the Year, Retail Personality of the Year, Excellence in Customer Service, Best Dressed Shop or Outlet, Employee of the Year, Leader’s Award – Apprentice or Trainee of the Year, Excellence in Staff Development, Hospitality and Leisure Business of the Year, Community Retailer of the Year, Most Improved Business of the Year, and New Business of the Year.
The awards are open to independent retailers from across the city, provided they have a Wolverhampton postcode.
Also see the WIRE awards website.
There are some places in Wolverhampton that have had a grade 1 for months. Shouldn’t they close until re-inspected and approved by Wolverhampton City Council?
Eateries with a current Grade 1:
KFC Bentley, inspected December 2016
The Stile Polish Restaurant, last inspected in April 2016.
Bottle & Brew Limited, 92A Showell Road, Wolverhampton.
Calif Bar, 179 Stafford Court, Stafford Street, Whitmore Reans.
Eat4Less, 4 Dudley Street, City Centre, Wolverhampton.
India Gates, 6 – 8 Mount Pleasant, Wolverhampton.
Kentucky Fried Chicken, Unit 7, Bentley Bridge Park.
Snacks & Sweets, 312 Prestwood Road, Wolverhampton.
The Stile (Polish Restaurant), The Stile, 3 Harrow Street, Wolverhampton.
Category : news
This is where I’ll be on Saturday afternoon: at the Shrewsbury Chocolate Festival.
I interviewed Ed Kimber there last year: a charming chap.
I will take my recording kit with me again this weekend … though the temptation is always to taste rather than talk.
Sadly not the same as the last 2 years somehow. A different atmosphere ans somehow … less chocolatey.
On Saturday 11th June, I did a 3-hour live broadcast from the Wolverhampton Beer festival. We had a few technical glitches which sadly took out most of one interview, but overall it went well I think.
Special thanks are due to the many people interviewed, + Andy Beaton, Andy Walters and Ian Burt, who all made it happen.