The 5 day experiment

Where to eat at lunchtime has always been an issue with me and I usually end up in M&S. I just have this thing about going into small cafe’s with a big chalkboard on the wall and the staff glare at you as you try to decide what you want, it just feels like an unnecessary lunchtime pressure….oh can I just pick something nice off the shelf, go to a till and leave? For that reason I usually end up with a packed lunch or go to M&S.

And that’s where my 5 day experiment comes in, yes a whole working week forcing myself into all these wee cafes I’ve spotted on my travels around BT1, and putting up with that big board on the wall.

Day 1 – Beans (Chichester Street)
So in I went, the first day and the first coffee shop. After a quick scan of the wall, it’s a turkey, ham, tomato wrap.

I headed outside with my little brown bag, on one of those rare dry lunchbreaks and sat in the grounds of the City Hall to try out my first ‘5 day experiment’ lunch out in Belfast.
In the end it was pretty bland and flavourless. Beans serves its purpose as a functional sandwich shop, but a bland one at that. This particular sandwich shop closed not long after I visited.

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Day 2 – The Little Cupcake Cafe (Bedford Street)

The place looks cute with all the cupcakes in the window and cute signage. I noticed the sign saying free cupcake with every meal and regular hot drink, so let’s test it. ‘A regular hot chocolate and a bowl of stew please’, (yes stew in mid summer…it is summer isn’t it?) and hurray, I was offered my free cupcake. I felt like I was winning by getting something for free!. Really lovely stew, lovely marshmallow filled hot chocolate and a lovely little cupcake. I will probably go back!

Day 3 – California Coffee
This was the day I met up with Mel from Bespoke Belfast, and I suggested that as it was July 4th, we should go to somewhere American, and California fitted the bill perfectly. So in we went with the star spangled banner everywhere, and the place was heaving (always a good sign!) Wednesday was one of those dry days, so we made the most of it and sat outside.

I ordered the San Ramon sandwich and a Monkey Shake (chocolate and strawberry), and they were both delicious and tasty. And surprise of all surprises, the service was superb, there’s nothing like a smiling member of staff, a bit of banter and tasty food to entice you back, and I will be back, sooner rather than later.

Day 4 – Oscars Champagne Cafe (Chichester Street)
I’ve passed this place hundreds of times and always noticed that ‘champagne’ word and thought…yum! So it made sense to try it out. In I went and was handed a menu. The waitress told me to take a seat and she would serve me. So off I went and sat down, but I noticed the menu said that all food could be prepared to take away, perfect, that was my preferred option. 5 minutes later I was served, and I asked for a chicken salad sandwich to go. She asked, ‘white or brown bread’……what does brown bread entail? Granary? Seeded? Wholemeal? Wholegrain? Or just boring old brown bread?

I paid my bill and left. No smile, no customer service, not going back. I did also notice an A4 sign on the counter saying no credit card transaction under £10….really? Nice customer focussed touch…or not.

Day 5 – The Bakery (Howard Street)
On the last of the 5 days I headed up to The Bakery on Howard Street, as recommended by a fellow tweeter.
I chose the New York Deli Wrap. The wrap was tasty enough, the cafe was cute, the service was just ok.

And that was it, my 5 days eating lunch out in Belfast customer. Overall the service was just ok. Maybe they were bored or just having a bad day! Either way it doesn’t take much to be a wee bit happy looking when you work with the public.

Post Author: admin

17 thoughts on “The 5 day experiment

    Melita Williams

    (August 8, 2012 - 5:30 pm)

    Your California coffee experience was the best due to the company of the charming Director of Bespoke Belfast, not the cute waitress, cheeky! And I believed I paid!

      Admin

      (August 8, 2012 - 5:33 pm)

      I do believe you have stated some facts there 😉

    The Pickled Quince

    (August 8, 2012 - 9:27 am)

    Great reviews, there definitely seems to be a severe lacking of good quality cheap eats in the city centre.

    California Coffee

    (July 17, 2012 - 2:53 pm)

    Thank for you for a wonderful review, we love what we do and we love to see you happy! Look forward to seeing you again soon.

    Thanks again

    The California Coffee team

      Admin

      (July 17, 2012 - 3:01 pm)

      You are very welcome! Keep up the good work.

    Chocolate Orange Soup

    (July 16, 2012 - 9:57 pm)

    Love your blog and can relate to quite a few of your experiences in these places! One thing I’m interested in is, what draws people to the coffee shop? Is it location, the service, their favourite gastro delights, the quirky decor? One thing I think i love about some coffee shops/cafe’s is the ability to people watch freely, without feeling like you’re being forced to eat/drink and leave allowing the next punter to fill your semi-warm seat. Good service, but not forced upon you in any way!! Also, another query to consider… do we more often than not resort to the likes of M&S off-the-shelf food when we are on our own and unaccompanied? Maybe it’s just me?

      Admin

      (July 16, 2012 - 10:18 pm)

      Thanks for your comment. For me the coffee shop is somewhere to go for that quick sandwich where you can sit, relax and work/read/people watch inside. But the service needs to be welcoming to keep me coming back. I know I end up in M&S because of the good selection and I can pay by card and go, even if it’s only a £3 purchase. I intend to try out more of the Belfast cafes from now on. For me, it was a great experiment which broke down personal barriers of going in on my own, and also opened my eyes on the levels of service they provide. There’s a whole new cafe world in Belfast waiting to be explored!

    Dawniepants

    (July 11, 2012 - 4:09 pm)

    I’ve only been to a few of the places in question. I really like ground in next as the staff are lovely really chatty and friendly, I even have passed them in the street and they said hello. Which is lovely. I do find them a bit expensive though :/ I was in California Coffee the other day and even though the service was lovely my frapp was really poor which made me a bit hesitant to go back.

      Admin

      (July 11, 2012 - 4:15 pm)

      Haven’t been to Ground, but it’s good to know its recommended! Pity about the California frap. I think it’s game on now to find the best little cafe/deli in the city for food/drink/service. Now there’s a challenge…The Belfast City Cafe Challenge!

        Dawniepants

        (July 12, 2012 - 6:43 pm)

        It’s a good little cafe. Where I live in east bel sorely lacks a good coffee shop. Clements is always a dream but it’s not a deli really I do sit there with a book and a panini though. I like StrEAT and o’brians but I find o’brians absolutely crazy expensive. Give ground in next a go.

      California Coffee

      (July 17, 2012 - 2:45 pm)

      Hi Dawniepants, sorry you didn’t like our Frapp, we think it is by far the best in town! Give us another chance please, we’d really love to show you how good it is. Say hi and let us know when you are in. Looking forward to making you happy :o)

    loz8188

    (July 11, 2012 - 2:36 pm)

    Brilliant idea! I always end up staring blankly at M&S shelves too. I may well try it out! Seems fitting as some of yours were on Chichester Street and that is the name of my town : )

      Admin

      (July 11, 2012 - 4:11 pm)

      Thanks! Time to get out and experiment then…you never know what little gems you’ll come across.

    Charlie Deraba

    (July 11, 2012 - 6:02 am)

    why is it a pet hate to be asked brown or white , mayo or butter? the staff are just asking rather than presuming. i think that’s a bit of a small complaint and the majority would complain if not asked but good reviews none the less

      Admin

      (July 11, 2012 - 6:33 am)

      I agree that it’s a small complaint, but it’s only a pet hate because of the lack of choice. There’s more to bread than white or brown, and there’s more to spread than mayo or butter. Thanks for the feedback!

    Patrick McGuigan

    (July 10, 2012 - 9:41 pm)

    A great little experiment. And interesting to see your results. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of buying/making the same old lunch everyday, when your lunch break should be a little bit of escapism from the desk! But there is the potential for so many great little cafes to exist. It’s just a shame that something so simple as good customer service lets a lot of these places down. I spent nigh on 4 years working in a Hotel/Bar/Restaurant/Club, and you learn so quickly that good customer service (and the odd smile) goes a long way. I often get the distinct impression that a lot of the people who work in these places are of the opinion that they’ll still get paid and still have somewhere to work regardless of how they react to customers! Don’t get me wrong, I do think there are some great places to eat in Belfast, it just seems a real shame that there are so many others that are just decidedly average. Maybe I should treat myself to a coffee from California Coffee tomorrow….

      Admin

      (July 10, 2012 - 9:48 pm)

      Thanks for the comment! Maybe see you in California tomorrow then!

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