Monday, 29 August 2016

HR Cafe, Windsor Street, Stratford-upon-Avon

This is one of those places Stratford-upon-Avon does best. Small, but perfectly formed, chicly resplendent in glowing whites and natural woods and a front courtyard that, while tiny, is the sunniest spot in the town all day. The emphasis is on the local and organic, food cooked on the premises by friendly, ebullient staff. Access may be slightly limited but such staff as these will always go out of their way to help.

My breakfast was poached egg on granary toast. Served with a little tumbleweed of watercress (which I studiously ignored) the eggs were creamy white with deep golden yolks on lovely crumbly granary. Drew chose the vegan breakfast and designated it the best in the town. This is no simple exercise in substitution ('if in doubt, replace it with quorn') but an original combinations of mushrooms and avocado served on sourdough bread dished up in a generous portion.

The coffee is Monsoon, a brand I once designated on this very blog as tasting akin to having phone sex with Alan Rickman (rich, dark, leaves you feeling lightheaded afterward). Due to the gentleman's untimely demise this year*, I contemplated adjusting the comparison. Perhaps comparing it to a similar experience with Keanu Reeves? But since such a definition would run along the lines of 'flat, monotonous in tone and lacking in surprises', then I will let the comparison stand, if only in memoriam. Like the late, lamented Mr Rickman himself, this coffee is made of worthy, likeable stuff.**
*I have missed him dreadfully. Oh, you've noticed?
**Yes, yes, alright, I'll say it. 'Espresso Patronem!' Sheesh! Happy now?


Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Zebra Cafe, Natural History Museum, Tring, Hertfordshire

This is not really a café as such just a small room on the Lower Ground floor that does a selection of sandwiches and various snacky bits. Access is fine, there's a lift - although busy - and a ramp from the outside. My tuna and cucumber sandwiches were generously filled, scone with butter and jam was generic, but tasty enough and the tea was fine and free refills available.

But this place is strange. It's a museum of stuffed animals. That's all it is. Oh, yes, there are various signs and notices that use terms like 'science' and 'research' and 'zoology' and they even bung in the odd apologetic 'eccentric' and 'rich' in case you're wondering how on earth this vast collection of taxidermy actually exists. Someone with pots of cash and a mania for nature somehow leads to this dark wood and parquet-floored repository of glassy-eyed, inert lions and tigers and bears (oh my).

Still, it's interesting. If only because you have the opportunity to snort with derision at signs that announce that a species is 'extinct' and announce loudly that 'well, it's no wonder, is it?' If only for the culture clash of 'twenty-first century eco-hippy sensibility meets misguided Victorian paternalistic altruism'. And because, occasionally, the sheer cumulative oddness of the place bends reality enough to create its own universe of the fantastic. When there is just you, standing in the quiet, under the subdued lighting between these vast glass cabinets, staring at the masses of fur, feathers and fins, there is a creeping tingle in your bones that makes everything before you and behind you seem palpably, feelingly alive.