Best Part: The PantsPrice for 2 diners: £22.10 (incl Cake)In and out within 1 hr: Yes, less in factWhere: Top floor of M&S, by the toiletsRating: 5.9/10
Today we only had half an hour for lunch. This posed quite a problem. There wasn’t time to wait for an order so we needed to find somewhere with pre-made lunches and indoor seating, the weather being inclement. This was surprisingly difficult. There are plenty of places to get a good takeaway sandwich like Simmons and Wenzels but very few with seating.
This is how we found ourselves in the M&S café. We were lucky enough to get the last table. At 12pm it was still full of shoppers having elevenses. Let’s take a moment to consider those shoppers and what they want. People go to M&S not to buy something cheaply made and cheaply priced but a good quality, reliable item at a reasonable price. Therefore, in keeping with the brand one would expect their café to look good and serve above average food. This was confusingly not the case! The furniture and cutlery looked on the cheap side and the lunch choices were basic. The interesting broccoli and Stilton soup I ordered was not available and the replacement tomato and basil was basic. I didn’t even finish it.
Even worse was the layout. Admittedly they have to be careful to not use up too much retail space, but every time I wanted to get from one part of the café to the other, which happened quite a lot as it was all self service, I had to do a complicate route involving identifying where there were unoccupied seats or avoiding when people where starting to stand up. It was frustrating and did not add to a relaxed dining experience.
Mr Midweek lunch got his premature Christmas vibe on with a Pigs in Blanket roll (despite it only just being November). This is a concept that was new to him, and the reason became quickly apparent. Pigs in blankets are very tubular, and as a consequence roll very easily. A roll is in no way sealed and as such does a very poor job of restraining the pigs, which were spilling out every time I picked it up. Spilling possibly suggests more pigs than the 4 I actually ended up with, maybe I should just stick with rolling out of the roll. Taste-wise it was all pretty good, but could have done with some mustard which was not present.
On the plus side, their tea and cake was very good. I enjoyed my first mince pie of the season and was pleased that the tea was provided in a pot. Mr Midweek lunch had something, along with a black forest hot chocolate (or schwarzvaldkircheheißeschokolade) which was a) super awesome and b) something I have never experienced before. In this area at least M&S filled the brief.
To conclude, we think M&S should consider bringing their café in line with their overall brand. Some of their own lovely dining furniture would set a good tone and serving some imaginative food from their own food hall would be the icing on the cake. However, they were full during our visit (and not just with people queuing to use the toilet) so perhaps no one else minds.