Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published November 7th 2013
For Ladies Who Lunch
Don't you just hate it when you are running low on the essentials? It means having to take a trip to the supermarket for just a few items. Hardly seems worth the effort, does it? Unless that is of course, you are going to Marks & Spencer's. Not only do they have a food hall, but are verging on the classification of 'department store', with own brand fashion, gifts, and a cafe.
Marks & Spencer's Cafe
While not every M&S has the full shebang, so but the one at Colliers Wood has everything you need to turn an errand into an enjoyable shopping experience, without the having to go all the way into the main town.
Scones & Croissants
Classifying ourselves as 'ladies who lunch', my mum and I did our grocery shop, and then decided to replenish our energy levels with a trip upstairs to their cafe. Back in the summer I gave a review about Marks and Spencer's Afternoon Tea, but their cafe has a lot more to offer than just that. Upon entry, you see the range of pastries available, including various scones and croissants.
Move a little further down, and you have a selection of pre-made sandwiches and toasties. Mum couldn't decide which type she wanted, so chose the assorted box, which included ham and cheese, egg and cress, prawn mayo, and a BLT.
View from a cafe.
From here you can see the hot meals menu pinned to the wall, which includes jacket potatoes, soup, chicken and mushroom pie, and smoked haddock. They also have a display of indulgent cakes and tarts such as lemon drizzle, Victoria sponge, carrot cake, and cherry bakewells. Everything is reasonably priced, with light bites and finger food below £4, and main meals from £4.50.
Usually I spend a long time deciding what to order, but on this occasion I knew exactly what I wanted. I was just in the mood for a jacket potato. The optional fillings were chilli con carne, baked beans, grated cheese, or tuna and sweetcorn. For me it was a no brainer; I'll go for tuna and sweetcorn every time.
Ice Strawberry Smoothie
Knowing that my main meal would be filling, I didn't buy my usual piece of cake. Instead, I had a strawberry smoothie, which can be order for £2.50 with or without ice. If you choose an iced smoothie, then I recommend leaving it for a little while before you start, because otherwise it is so cold that you can't actually taste anything. Once the ice stars to melt, however, the flavour is delicious.
Their service system has much improved since the last time I ordered hot food there. Previously, those with a nervous temperament were in for the fright of their lives. We were given a small device that looked a bit like a pager, and told to take our seats. Then during mi- sip of a cup of tea, we were sent jumping out of our seats as the device began to buzz vigorously as it vibrated on the table. This was an indication that our food was ready, and we had to go back up to the till to collect it. With these buzzers going off at every table every few minutes, it was not conducive of a relaxing dining experience.
All that has now been changed to a more conventional system, where you get given a numbered card, and the waitress comes to you. I have always associated Marks & Spencer with quality, which can be seen by the fact that they are constantly improving themselves, and learning what works best for their customers. Marks & Spencer also emphasis their goal towards sustainability, and fresh produce.
Tuna & Sweetcorn Jacket Potato
My jacket potato was ready before we had even sat down. This is because the food is kept warm under an oven, meaning you don't have to wait for ages. The slight disadvantage of that, however, is that the potato ended up being a little dry. I could have used some more mayonnaise with the tuna to moisten it up. You can buy extra butter, but once you're sat down, it hardly seems worth the bother to get back in the queue for a small pot of butter.
My only other issue was that the filling was cold. I find this is the case with most places that serve jacket potatoes though. I like my fillings as hot as the potato, but that is just personal preference.
The potato was served with a side salad; it was just the right size too. A lot of places fill half your plate with the stuff - far more than you want. What I also like is that they serve the vinaigrette separately; not everyone likes salad dressing, so here you have the option.
There are many seating choices at the cafe. You can sit by the window overlooking women's fashion area on the lower level; you can sit on stools at the breakfast bar and admire the kitchenware on sale, or, if you are just popping in for a cuppa, you can lounge on the sofa. This is a particularly handy area if you have young children, as it means you can sit them on your knee or let them to wander about.
Marks & Spencer's cafe can't be found in every store, so it is best to check if your local has one. It is a great place to recharge and have a chinwag after a shopping session.