Author Archives: Gary W Hartley

TRAVELODGE ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT ENGLISH BREAKFAST

travel-lodge-kids-eat-free-breakfast

I went to Joshua’s wedding. I reviewed the food at said wedding. I left all our loyal three readers hanging with the promise of a review of my Travelodge breakfast.

Well, here it is goddamit. Late but not forgotten. I hope you have not lost two weeks of your precious life waiting for this banger to drop.

But if you have, let’s get straight to the chase: the Travelodge all-you-can-eat English breakfast is an absolute crock of shit.

At £8.95 premium on top of your room cost, this is probably one of the worst ways you can spend money, in a nation where it’s hard to extract any value from anything whatsoever.

It features uncooked lukewarm tomatoes, flavourless and lukewarm mushrooms dribbling a liquid that may well be tears, and the kind of sausage that could be achieved with well-mashed paper and budget sausage flavouring. I can’t even be bothered describing the rest. The Heinz condiments were at least reliable.

On the day I visited, there weren’t even initially any forks available, so I resorted to attempting to cut bacon, which was probably the highlight of this profound shit show, with a spoon.

All-you-can-eat? I ate very little. Even that was far too much.

Of course, you could argue that I should have tried the ‘continental’ breakfast elements as part of my nine-quid haemorrhage to try and lessen the damage, but by this point I was psychologically broken. I left my key card on the desk with a quietly-uttered and insincere thanks and walked into the suburban street, a sense of hopelessness consuming me.

1/10

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JOSHUA’S WEDDING

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The chicken option

How’s the food? Are you enjoying the food?”

Have you enjoyed yourself?”

With limited personal time on his most ceremonial of occasions, my Average Food Blog co-conspirator Joshua Seigal, in his interactions with me, cast himself in the role of nervous food industry PR supremo at the opening of a new restaurant or bag of crisps.

Rightly so. The cuckoo clock of fate had turned around, and betrothal boy is facing the full critical force of his own co-creation.

I retained a non-committal air in response to his entreaties, for I had cast myself as a meandering, increasingly vague guy with no plus-one, eating and drinking excessively, for free. The increasing vagueness seems to unnerve Josh further – he displayed far greater anxiety in these brief chit-chats than he did during the wedding ceremony itself, where he appeared collected and utterly confident in his life decisions.

The ceremony itself is, however, not what we’re here for. So, to the consumables.

As is customary, before the sit-down face-stuffing, guests were offered snacks on platters in a phase of forced socialising, table-setting, and speedy front-loading of alcohol. The offerings were at the mildly fancy end of pretty standard fare; mini tartlets, spring rolls, bit of fish on a stick. Nothing to either be too interested in or too concerned about. This gave me a degree of hope that Josh was truly living up to his Average Food roots. Yet he was to reveal his hand in due course.

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Kids’ poet and wedding guest extraordinaire Neil Zetter was more enthusiastic about the appetisers than I

My selections were duck to start, chicken to middle, the dessert selection that everybody got by default.

The duck was sweet, crispy and compelling. The chicken was tender and juicy, with a spinach and blended carrot accompaniment that was disappointing only at the side of the meat. The dessert selection was undoubtedly the pièce de résistance, and the cheesecake the pièce de résistance of the pièce de résistance. An assault of fruit and dairy flavours ravaged the palette.

What I am saying here is that this food was not average. It was not even average by wedding standards. I felt more than a little betrayed. I wanted more.

Sadly my credentials as a food critic were not acknowledged by the venue staff, so I did not get to try everything. The items I couldn’t select I will report on using the overheard quotes of others on my table:

some sort of weird salsa, possibly a ratatouille.”

The tomatoes were prone to spraying”

A meal and a puzzle.”

If it were socially acceptable, I would like the plate clean.”

That is all the vowel noises.”

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Another piss-poor picture of food taken by a wine-drunk man

I am unable to properly critique wine, but I will comment briefly thus: both white and red were good, but the red was noticeably better.

It is hard to sum up this eating experience, or keep this blog to a length that could be considered reasonable by our 10-15 regular readers.

Never in all my years of consuming and reviewing average food had I been faced with such a multi-layered assault of undeniable quality, and left with so many questions. Why were white chocolate fingers or bacon-flavoured pop chips not on the menu? Has Josh sold out entirely, or is this an isolated occasion where average must be abandoned in the name of social cohesion? How can love win in an age of casual hate? Why was there no gravy?

An epilogue to this blog will follow, in which I review the Travelodge all-you-can-eat breakfast, my pivotal and formative experience in the morning after the nuptials.

APPETISERS: 6/10

STARTER: 8/10

MAIN: 8.5/10

DESSERT: 10/10

JOSHUA’S WEDDING OVERALL CONSUMABLES RATING: 8.5/10

MAXIM PREMIUM ICE CREAM LOLLY – BOROVNICA (BLUEBERRY)

Maxim Premium

As a child, my mum always used to say to me: “Never underestimate Slovenian ice cream lollies.”

I nodded dutifully, while never fully understanding the weight, or indeed point, of her words.

But now the day has come, and I understand clearly. For Slovenia’s very own Maxim Premium blueberry-flavoured ice cream lolly is one of the leaders of its kind.

From the sublime crunch of the white chocolate coating to the subtle nudges of fruit provided by the cold creamy goodness within, this is a once-in-a-generation sweet freezer-originating treat. Inspired. Experimental. Traditional. Confusing, in all the right ways.

I cannot give it a ten out of ten. The Slovenians, as far as I’m aware, are a modest people, and I am very concerned that they would take a full marks as a badge of satire. I am absolutely not here to lampoon. In the realm of European sweetmeats, I have a reputation for taking matters extremely seriously indeed.

Also, if we’re going to get down to the very brass tacks of the matter, this ice cream lolly is too small. You could argue that eating a Maxim Premium is an experience to be treasured regardless of such crass issues as size, but it’s also, crucially, one that calls for elongation. The latter argument is, for me, far more compelling, so gets 0.5 points knocked off.

Another 0.5 reduction is for having a brand name that more evokes a type of scented condom than a delicious cold food experience. 

I can admit it now: for all these years, I have unconsciously been underestimating Slovenian ice cream lollies, flying in the face of my mother’s marvellous advice. Never again. Never. Again.

Oi, Magnum: Ljubljana called. It’s just chuckling on the end of the line. Shall I tell it you’ll call back later?

9/10

FISH FINGERS

fish fingers on a plate

Someone else’s serving suggestion.

I truly cannot believe that we haven’t at any point in the patchy life of Average Food Blog covered fish fingers, but I have analysed the content in forensic detail and concluded that this is indeed the case. Sadly the case.

Sincerest apologies, microscopic readership, but it’s make-up time.

For my most recent bit of life I have been spending some time in Greece, where the cuisine is mostly fantastic, with very occasional bouts of true mediocrity. Given the mostly fantastic part of the last sentence, you may assume that I have not been, at any point in this period, eating fish fingers.

Of course, whenever ‘you may assume’ features in writing, there follows with tiresome predictability a striking down of that assumption. This is not a forum for striking down assumptions about assumptions. I have retained fish fingers in my diet.

The psychologies behind this may well be complex; perhaps a mix of tightly gripping on to parochial culture, a longing for home or a deep-seated desire to wilfully participate in the destruction of all life on earth. I am not a psychologist.

What I will remark upon with greater certainty is that I am and always will be a profoundly unimaginative home cook, and that I actually like fish fingers, in as much as you can have affection for any of the most average of foods.

A review of the goods in question is almost completely redundant. The fish fingers of any sea-flour mill tradition are more or less identical in all but one feature.

They taste without being tasty, and get a bit crispy when exposed to significant heat for 20 minutes or so. In the parlance of lower-league football, they ‘do a job’ – they’re your 6.5/10 every game defensive midfield journeyman, a real fans’ favourite.

The signifiant key difference brand-to-brand is in regards to tendency towards losing crumb to baking trays through a phenomenon known as ‘sticking’. I have noted that major Greek fish finger brands sadly do have this tendency. In contrast, Bird’s Eye will be with you, fully intact, until the end. Sometimes, there is a reason why the market leader is just that. No-one wants a partially-soggy finger.

Point of note: fish fingers can act as either a trigger or salve of bouts of depression, depending on the specific tone of gold they display upon exit from the oven.

Sauces? I’ve tried a few. Normally I go in for a splodge of both ketchup and mayonnaise. So string me up and pelt me with those ice crystals that form at the back of the freezer.

FISH FINGERS: 6.5/10

MI CASA BACON AND EGG BURRITO

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An unrepresentative image

What is food?

I guess this is the big question this blog has been meandering towards all along.

And while this has become an overly sandwich and mobile food-focused medium over the last few posts, perhaps it has only helped sharpen us towards this point.

Is food merely sustenance, or should its aims be loftier?

Average Food Blog does not know for sure, but it does know that while eating at a transport interchange means your expectations are inevitably lowered somewhat, some standards can be maintained. Your brain must, at bare minimum, be registering the eating experience as something slightly more than a series of mastications and swallows.

The Mi Casa bacon and egg burrito has all but no discernible texture, colour, smell or taste. It is scrambled egg juice squirted maliciously onto a highly-faded watercolour painting of tomatoes, wrapped. It has mass, but little more can be added. Maybe this is what just under £4.00 gets you in a corporate food setting in pre-Brexit Britain.

It is surely among the worst cuisine-based cultural parodies ever. Mexico should sue or invade or both.

Incidentally, the location of this eating is not ‘Mi Casa’; it is Manchester fucking Airport. This house decrees that no food is present in this aluminium foil.

[unrated / not food]

CLUB SANDWICH

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Club sandwich: the publicity image

If nothing else, dear handful of readers, I do hope Average Food Blog, when in full flow, has proved that mediocre foods can at times transcend their mediocrity and provide a stunning experience.

This is something no club sandwich anywhere has ever done.

There is mediocrity and there is mediocrity, and the club sandwich represents the most soul-sapping sort of foodstuff available. It is the menu option offered by lobotomised pseudo-chefs snorting coke in the back tooled up with the note they robbed off the last club sandwich eater.

Recently, I have eaten two club sandwiches. This, admittedly, says as much about me and my current mental state as the kitchen coke fiends mentioned above.

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Club sandwich: the half-eaten truth

This plate-based melee of proteins and carbs is the Cinderella’s ball of blandness, never anything but spectacularly disappointing. Crap meats between toasted but still slightly-soggy bread, a straggling bit of lettuce and tomato offering a pale parody of health food as you continue your headlong plunge into the grave selecting this consumable, when there could potentially, possibly, be art and beauty all around you.

You’d think that the few slightly-overdone chips would be the end of the insult, but oh no. The stick. The wooden stick of the type only associated with plant pots and club sandwiches, holding this shitshow together. Note to club sandwich-offerers of the world: this is not a gourmet flourish.

I would go as far to conclude that the club sandwich is not even a food; merely a reminder that, beneath our t-shirts and hair-cuts and music tastes and football fandom and affected interest in experimental theatre we are all average; so damn average.

Stop the tape, this is done.

Club Sandwich: [no rating]

ELITE CRACKERS

Elite crackers

There’s a lot of talk about the elites these days. It’s often pejorative, and mostly comes from either Owen Jones or Nigel Farage.

But Elite crackers, found across the Mediterranean nations, are the kind of elite even they might publicly get behind, perhaps even without an appearance fee.

These are modestly-priced cracker for the 99%, and considering their limited constituent parts, represent something of a triumph in the ranks of Average Food.

A common criticism levelled at cracker makers is that they lazily, unimaginatively get by on their crack, while ignoring the possibility of a greater range of notable characteristics. This is not the case among the skilled bakers, nay artisans, of the Elite brand. This cracker transcends crack.

There is an entire range of flavours, incorporating semi-natural and entirely-synthesised ingredients heavily focused around herbs, seeds and cheeses, and the sub-types I have sampled have all convinced. They are moreish, one might even be bold enough to postulate.

These snacks arrive in simple packaging, not flaunting themselves in a chauffeur-driven blacked-out Mercedes, but make no mistake, they represent a low-end luxury of sorts.

You can mark me down as a full-blooded supporter of Elite-ism.

9/10