Yes, this is where it all began. Way back in 2005 Matt and Cat had a disappointing experience at Sainsbury’s café. So moved were they that they started a website… the results you see before you. You can read that first review further down the page.
It’s probably not revealing too much about it to say that M & C have not eaten at Sainsbury’s since 2005: until now.
Read on to see whether Sainsbury’s managed to impress the doughty duo.
October 2008 review
After a plaintive plea from reader and Sainsbury’s staff member Joe Fishburn, Matt and Cat decided to take a trip back to the restaurant. They weren’t particularly optimistic about this reunion, but three years is a long time. Would Sainsbury’s have turned the corner?
In order to get the most challenging Sainsbury’s restaurant experience, Matt and Cat chose to go there for lunch; their time was limited and, discovering the venue was apparently at peak capacity they assumed that Joe may have been a bit hasty when throwing down the metaphorical gauntlet. The car park was pretty full and, peering through the restaurant’s vast picture windows, it soon became apparent that half term had an impact on the demographic of the venue’s patrons.
Pausing only to buy poppies from the veteran in the supermarket’s foyer, Matt and Cat made their way to the restaurant. The layout of the place hadn’t changed in the years since they had last visited. However, the walls had been enlivened by large images of glistening scrummy-looking food, photographed up close and personal.
M & C meandered amongst the trollies until they arrived at the once-familiar counter in front of the café. A huge menu board advertised a modest but wholesome-looking range of hot meals, jacket potatoes and toasted sandwiches, all for less than £5. A keenly-priced kids’ section also looked good value.
The drinks machine was broken, and anyway it did not dispense water – as it once had – so Matt and Cat made their way to the queue to pay, where they ordered their food and asked for water from the charming and helpful lady who was able to gracefully chat, serve another customer who approached from the other side, issue instructions to a colleague and take the money all at once. One thing that can certainly be said for Sainsbury’s is that the staff seem to be well-trained in customer service. Whilst it’s hardly silver-service there’s no doubt that Sainsbury’s could teach a few lessons to some more up-market eateries.
Matt and Cat found a table – as it was lunchtime the place was pretty busy and all the vacant tables were piled with crockery or spattered with debris. Not ideal, and Cat buttonholed a passing youth with a dishcloth and requested that he clean the table. He grunted some kind of response and vanished. M & C noted the time they had sat down, and made ready to pass sarcastic remarks about the failure to clean the table, the non-availability of water, and the slow delivery of food. This proved unnecessary. Within two minutes, the dishcloth-wielding young man was back, swished the table clean with a grin and was on his way. Matt and Cat nodded reluctantly. That was pretty good. Two cups of tepid water were delivered next, with no delay. Cold would have been nicer, and freely available without having to ask for it would have been even better. Still, despite the throngs, the food was only a few minutes behind the water. OK, now your reviewers were quite impressed.
Cat took delivery of a beef lasagne. It came with a very generous mound of fresh salad, and two little garlic bread slices. Although the top looked distinctly carbonised and was seared onto the dish, once Cat had fought her way through this exoskeleton she found the lasagne to be hot, tasty, and full of nice lean mince. No gristly bits, and plenty of sauce.
Matt had, predictably, ordered the mega all-day brunch. A reasonable plateful, it included two sausages, two eggs, bacon, chips, beans mushrooms and tomato. Not bad – and all freshly cooked. This got the thumbs-up from Matt.
So did Sainsbury’s redeem itself? Never let it be said that M & C are unfair. It may have taken three years but they were willing to give Sainsbury’s another try, and yes, it was not too bad. A lack of easily obtainable cold water was the only real gripe. So well done, Sainsbury’s, keep it up. To show no hard feelings we’ll promote you to ‘we like’. If this improvement continues you’ll soon be almost as good as you were in 2004.
November 2005 review
Once upon a time Sainsbury’s supermarket did a buy one get one free offer on their cooked meals in the cafeteria. The food was nice, the menu varied and the patrons were mostly pensioners. Cat’s kinda place – cheap, clean and few kids. However, in the interests of progress (and possibly profits) the offer has ended, the menu updated to exclude half of the previous items and the service diminished in both speed and quality. To add insult to injury, the free chilled tap water that accompanied the meal – very welcome – has been replaced by a plastic jug of tepid water on the cleaning station which, more often than not, is empty anyway.
The staff try their best and are friendly, especially Colin, but that does not make up for the fact that, where one used to get a freshly cooked meal, now you are expected to eat some fossilised mystery that has perished under the heat of a lamp for at least a day. The menu is less varied and ceased to have Matt’s favourite – chilli, cheese and chips, and Cat’s favourite, chicken korma.
Apart from the moans about the dismal food and the grubby tables, the fact that free newspapers are available is a plus point, and, needless to say, it’s pretty cheap. However, having waited 50 minutes for dinner recently, this one’s off the list for now.
Sainsbury’s – wanna prove us wrong?
Note: it was this dining experience at Sainsbury’s that inspired Matt and Cat to finally start writing their own reviews. So, although Sainsbury’s probably don’t know it or care, M & C have much to thank them for.