EDitorial ± 1-Sep-2023

Ipswich Lunches: Encore Coffee House

Mention of The Odeon in Ipswich is convoluted. Do you mean The Odeon (now Club 3000) at the top of Lloyds Avenue where I saw Superman in 1978? Perhaps you're referring to The Odeon (now The Regent) on St Helen's Street where I saw Three Men And A Baby in 1987? Or The Odeon (now The Hope Centre) next to The Regent where I saw Batman around 1989? Googling tells me, though, that this newest Odeon only opened in 1991, so someone's mistaken, prob'ly me.

That last incarnation ceased to operate as a cinema around the time YouTube launched and has stood redundant in its silver art deco finish for nearly 20 years. Now The Hope Church -- insert the subtitle of Star Wars episode IV here -- has splashed the cash to rescue the building and, natch, open the Encore Coffee House. Yep, a bit like River Coffee down at St Mary-at-the-Quay. If you're wondering about The Hope Church like what I was, they've got six core values:

  • word -- table talk is of the upcoming table tennis season starting later this month and our respective hols, Andy to Brittany, me to, erm, Wales
  • spirit -- if willing, Andy selects some piggy flesh which arrives in a couple of vg seedy rolls and forms part of a top value meal deal with a hot drink (non-alcoholic)
  • church -- foyer has the feel of a corporate atrium rather than, say, Reims cathedral, but the seating area is sizeable; no pews but booths and big circular tables, not suitable for ping-pong
  • grace -- most welcoming are the various staff taking orders and delivering our food
  • prayer -- we both counted our blessings and chose the rocky road, yum, esp. with an excellently prepared flat white, praise be
  • diversity -- not many places offer multiple flavours of bottled 500ml Lipton; that's diverse tea

In 1945's Road to Utopia, Bob Hope walks into a tough turn-of-the-century Alaskan bar and orders a lemonade. Seeing looks of surprise and hearing menacing sounds, he modifies his order: "In a dirty glass." None of that here at The Hope Centre: Encore!

If it was a car -- HopeStar ON360
If they were passing by -- Katie Piper.

EDitorial ± 24-Aug-2023

Light Lunches: The Old Drapery, Grundisburgh

Chauffeur service from Andy is usually hard to beat. Sure, the punctuality can be a little wanting but that's true for the both of us, and that's where Find My Friends comes in: what, he's still in Melton? None of that today, though the door-to-door service ain't happening 'cos he's forgotten his pass. Two minutes later and I've freewheeled out of Adastral to find his endangered Panda. And off we go.

Five years ago, on a trip for grub with the gee-gees at Newton Hall Equitation, we spotted Williams Stores of Grundisburgh. Six months ago, we aimed for it and instead found ourselves up the road at the delightful Grundisburgh Dog Deli. Today's finally the day with Andy leaving his Fiat by the ford by one of his (shhhh) quiet lanes. Opposite's a large premises with three magic words: "coffee shop open".

Inside has echoes of Deadwood general stores although they probably didn't sell too many jigsaws or garden tools in the wild west. Here, they offer a laundry service, there are plants, there's BBQ fuel, et cetera. Oh, and through the Mr Benn doorway on the right is The Old Drapery coffee shop, dressed for the coronation and currently empty. Both rooms were full this morning, reassures the nice woman in charge. Take a seat!

Sometimes the savoury simply sorts itself out: that's true now with a shared sausage roll and bacon & cheese twist enhanced with a bag o' crisps, and somehow we both chose the ginger beer. Place has been a shop since 1840, she says, and once sold fashionable clothing direct from London, hence that Are You Being Served? name. As time's gone on they've continued to diversify, no longer renting out TVs but now offering coffee 'n' cake.

Talking of which, that sweet selection requires a tad more thought. Blueberry and lemon ring? Coffee and walnut? Frank Lampard's Chelsea bun? Bit of classic Victoria sponge for me, ta, and a big-as-your-hand Danish for the driver. Loves his icing, that boy. Continuing that precious things vibe, a huge dresser standing behind the counter has various items for sale including teapots, vases, and even a black and white Grundisburgh calendar. I'm very happy with my mug of milky coffee, and I see the place is dog-friendly too as well as offering umpteen meeting group. Venerable Williams Stores is a veritable hub.

If it was a car -- Frank Williams FX3B.
If they were passing by -- John Hawkes.

EDitorial ± 26-Jul-2023

Felixstowe Light Lunches: Crescent Cafe

Like wannabe members of the Woodbridge Cruising Club, we hiked along Hamilton Road, loafed past the library and sauntered by the sea before beating a path back up Bent Hill into Felixstowe Central. All this, naturally, in Andy's VW EcoWagon which he eventually docked on Leopold Road. Our 15-year mission? To seek out new lunches and new civilised cafes.

Us two (along with Kev and Mrs C.) experienced Unit 4 in pre-Covid 2019 when it was operating as The Mad House. That insanity came to an end when Lewis and Daniel moved in and opened The Crescent Cafe in March 2020, within a week of the first OG Covid lockdown. They've somehow battled through, like Lewis and Clark, and made the place somewhat easier on the eye. Calmer, chameleon.

The breakfast offerings were over at midday. Now, at 1pm, the separate lunch menu has everything from Crescent Favourites (hunter's chicken, gammon, etc.) to burgers to hot dogs to fish & chips and the rest; other folk on other tables are already tucking in. Andy, aka Alberto Frog, delays things further by ordering a chocolate milkshake so I may well as join him with a top-of-the-shop vanilla. To think I used to get annoyed when The Boy always chose that particular flavour from the AMT kiosk at Ipswich station.

Our tall ice cream glasses half empty, time to select savoury: for him the southern-fried chicken panini, for me the chilli jacket, a Rexel staple. Plenty of time for a ping-pong catch-up before sight of the grub: did a job, much like All Things Nice or Cafe On The Corner.

Shockingly at 1:45pm, all the cakes have gone. Freestyling, they offer ice cream (yes please, says the driver) or a fruit scone (yes from me), and that'll more than do with a decent mug of frothy flat white. Do the basics right (tick), smile when you serve (tick), and they will come.

If it was a car -- Suzuki Cultus Crescent.
If they were passing by -- Mike Scott.

EDitorial ± 24-Jul-2023

Latitude 2023

Left it late to book my Latitude ticket this year and thought I'd be making the usual solo journey (see last year). Then it turned out that friend Tom was also going along on the Friday, so offered him a lift. A week later G. announced that, being desperate to see Pulp, she'd bought a ticket together with her mate. That'll be a planet-pleasing four of us in the Polo, then. planet.

Our quarter has already split along gender lines on the long walk into the site; we gents grab a Greenpeace coffee ("Do you have oat milk?" "That's all we offer.") and enjoy the lo-fi stylings of Metronmony keyboard player Oscar Cash, noodling on a Shuttleworth-esque Yamaha. Shall we try number 79, Folk Baroque? Most relaxing start. Checking my app, as everyone does relentlessly, I see that Laser Kiwi, a surreal sketch circus that was on my list, has somehow shifted from 4pm to midday. No way I'm going to make it into the far-off theatre in time. Oh well.

I catch a few upbeat tunes from sister and brother Olivia and Will in the Wasia Project before yomping away to find some writing event called We're All Poets. I'm trying to find the Faraway Forest, I ask the stewards. Dunno, mate, they say. Tried the map on the app? Which says I'm here among the trees: maybe the poets are creatively camouflaged? Back past the panoply of food stalls to picnic rug central, aka the grass area by the mighty Obelisk stage. Playing are Tinariwen, the Mali masters of desert blues. Quite like 'em, up their in their Star Wars planet outfits, and then their shuffling jam takes hold of me and won't let go and I have to stay for the whole set. Best part of an hour later and they're off. Tremendous.

Finally have the will to make the short walk to the stripey BBC Sounds tent for the final half-hour of Do Nothing. Powerful stuff ticking my art rock and post punk boxes, and with frontman Chris snarling in a suit. Realise I've screwed up the timing for An Evening with Christopher Bliss so it's over the water into The Alcove for a coupla psychedelic tunes from Max Fulcrum and The Win. Would have loved to linger but my belly needs a large £13 falafel wrap to consume while standing near the "performance interpreting" section, back in BBC Sounds, as The Murder Capital do their excitable show. Wondering where the main man is from my side-on view, I realise he's in the crowd, again.

Once again across a bridge for the opening few numbers by hotly tipped The Last Dinner Party, a female quintet already getting in the crowds. Most promising but that schedule demands I make another attempt to locate the Faraway Forest. Didn't you ask us before? says that same steward. At which point I bump into G., who's also here to watch Ben Moor, wherever he may be, and her mate S., who needs a nap. That tall weird guy in the jumper and small clearing is our man, we gather, and he'll be doing his Fringe show Who Here's Lost? Which is funny and clever and sad and compels me to buy the book a day later. Nice to sit down on the grass; not so nice to get up again 45 minutes later. S.'s attempts to grab forty winks were thwarted multiple times by kindly passers-by enquiring if she was alright. Latitude, the caring festival.

Another farewell to my wife as I walk by Luke Wright in the Listening Post on my way to spiky Dry Cleaning with Florence Shaw dressed in red declaiming in her near-constant straight face while her band puts in a shift. Great, though I'd have appreciated running subtitles, and good to see her smile at the end. And there's Tom, unseen since midday, so time for a sit-down soft drink. I fancy Panic Shack but there's a queue for The Alcove. Not for me, ta.

As the Human League once sand, there's "decisions to be made". I um and I ah and I locate a coffee-and-brownie stand to buy a coffee-and-brownie then take my coffee-and-brownie to the Obelisk, there to grab a spot for Metronomy. I loved their English Riviera album that came out in 2011 and have heard pretty much nothing since then. Enjoyed their show, their only UK appearance in 2023 (!), aided by their smiling female drummer.

They finished. Nobody moved. In fact, others surged forward. Why? 'Cos Pulp were due on stage next and that was the hot ticket. How were they? Awesome and worth the £93 alone, I'd suggest. By my reckoning the last time I'd seen them was at Cambridge Corn Exchange in March 1992, over 30 years ago, when they were supporting The Fall. My hazy memory is that we -- me and Jeff -- experienced them for one song then went to the bar. Lights, confetti, an orchestra, big tunes, and that man Jarvis. Particulary loved This Is Hardcore. Show over and curfew at 11pm, a mass of humanity all around, and we all somehow managed to meet at the L-A-T-I-T-U-D-E sign around 11:30am for the slow walk back with hot chocs all round. Easily found the car between us and mostly beat the queues getting out.

...and still missed The Beths, Connie Constance and English Teacher.

EDitorial ± 5-Jul-2023

Light Lunches: Harvey & Co

A few years back I made efforts to watch The Numbers Station, a 2013 "actioner" with John "High Fidelity" Cusack as, checks notes, a burned-out CIA agent. Some great shots of the Orwell Bridge over the credits, plus Snape and the railway museum at Chappel in Essex. Most intriguingly, it was largely filmed at the old RAF Bentwaters. Fascinating locations, frightful film. If you only catch one John Cusack picture this year, avoid this and try Grosse Pointe Blank, say.

Come 1:15pm and we're edging over the speedbumps of the Base Business Park, not expecting Cusack but keeping 'em peeled for America House. Up here on the left, it's not white, as you might expect, but SR-71A black, apart from the pink bits. Lettering screams CAFE to the left. BAKERY to the right and Harvey & Co in the centre. Four Barbie-coloured picnic benches complete the picture.

Through the black cloth strips and we're in a space both fab and groovy with mismatched furniture and aa wall illustrating the soudough process complete with a kitchen peephole, if that's your sort of thing. Much of the counter is covered with baked goodness, a la Two Magpies, with sriracha chicken brioche, cheese scones with chilli jam, authentic baguettes, to name only a trio. For some reason Andy's French toast with caramelised bananas ain't available today so he'll slum it with a serrano & chorizo toastie. I'm tempted by the Turkish eggs but go for the posh beans on toast. Love a pulse, me. Windy out so inside table for us.

That "Harvey" is Harvey Allen, he of Honey & Harvey -- see also their Ipswich premises -- who's done a Peter Gabriel and gone Han Solo. Food's fab, obviously, and clearly a bunch of their trade is takeaway. Oh, and they're also supplying various local pubs, delis, etc.

Andy, who'd passed a memory test the previous day with flying colours, so he said, couldn't quite remember if he'd ordered me that flat white I'd asked for; his chai latte appeared a good five minutes before my drink. Which was excellent, by the way, alongside a necessarily shared slab of bakewell. Driving away, did a quick check that The Diner is still there, which it is, then I got overexcited having glimpsed the familiar silhouette of an A-10 Thunderbolt. You should try the Cold War Museum, suggested the driver: coupled with some grub from Harvey & Co. what an outing that would be.

If it was a car -- Lancia Flavia.
If they were passing by -- Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

EDitorial ± 30-Jun-2023

Woodbridge Lunches: Two Magpies

One for sorrow. Of the three of us, I'm first there, never a good sign, and I'm going to have to explain the rules -- well, more guidelines -- to newest luncheoner Johnny. Seating, hot drinks, caffs. That Boathouse place, opposite Coffeelink, is very much a restaurant. Not there, said Johnny having turned up, next door, pointing to the Boathouse Deli, which is shut and devoid of life. Oh dear.

Cue manual rerouting and bike wheeling away from the Deben and into town, those racks outside Caffe Nero handy as ever. Right past hexpensive Honey & Harvey to the Turban Centre and into Two Magpies, here since early 2022 when it moved into the vacated Browsers bookshop, now about 50m away. More exposition required: 2M, who started life in Southwold, took over the Darsham Hamper as a bakery school from the Co-op -- see birthday mention here -- and have stealthily set up shops in N*rwich, Blakeney, Wells, etc. Ain't no Holting them.

Any thoroughfare up, we're here and, dispensing with the lunch menus, decide to go with a hand-picked selection from the droolingly good counter display. Emmenthal pizza bread, Moroccan sausage roll, foccacia, and an empanada, gracias. We'll bring them over, smiles the nice young woman. Whereupon Andy arrives to find out we've already ordered. Ten minutes later and we're all quite peckish: have they forgotten us? Takes a reminder for the plates to start arriving, though it's worth the wait, esp. the cheesy sourdough. Wasn't easy to divide two savoury scalene triangles into three, let me tell you. Good San Pellegrino pomegranate.

Employed me having bought the first course, over to recently free-as-a-bird Johnny to surprise us with some sweet treats. Arriving far more rapidly are fulsome pieces of seed cake, bread pudding and bundt, which it's left to me to finish off ahead of my return cycle ride to Martlesham, aided by a wowsers macchiato. Wonder if they'll copy Honey & Harvey and build an Ipswich nest? Regardless, it's two for joy.

If it was a car -- Fiat 124 Spider.
If they were passing by -- Jenny Hanley.

EDitorial ± 21-Jun-2023

Ipswich Lunches: River Coffee

Don't hassle Amy Pond's daughter. Don't upset David Cartwright's grandson. And don't irritate the young Indiana Jones. For Jimmy Cliff was right: there are, to be sure, many rivers to cross.

Andy's fresh from his physio and all the better for his recently acquired massage gun, plus he's nabbed free waterfront parking on a secret side street. He's already slurping from a cold can when I walk in to the magnificent setting of St Mary-at-the-Quay, recently refurbed and looking not unlike St Stephen's; in fact there's a stage with a mic & keyboard all ready for Andy's one-man Erasure tribute act. For the last couple of years it's been home to the River Church, "an HTB network church plant" (?) who've been going from strength to strength and who've now expanded the brand with River Coffee.

Their menu is understandably limited at present so that'll be all the savoury options, please, namely sausage roll and steak slice and two bags of Pipers crisps (and a rhubarb Cawston's). Guy behind the counter is all smiles and doesn't try to upsell us on the Alpha course. We've got our pick of the comfy styling grey seats all under that stunning roof, and that background poppy music adds to the ambience. Seems like a lifetime ago that we lunched in St Lawrence, very much still open for business.

Good to see some other folk in here, this site being awkwardly placed 'twixt town centre and the dock. Just desserts left: both remaining slices of apple cake, ta v. much, and an affogato for Andy, throwing me back to Bawdsey. Helpful guy brings over the ice-cream scoop to our table then pours the espresso over it from a dainty glass receptacle; top service, there. All good, with River Church T-shirts and tote bags for sale, and good for the soul too.

If it was a car -- Lady Gaga's vintage blood red Rolls Royce
If they were passing by -- Rev Richard Coles.