Thursday, 21 March 2013

My Favourite Cafe

When we lived in Coventry for the first seven years of my life, we used to shop in the Precincts. One of those terms like "ring road" and "dual carriageway" with which I was very familiar due to regularly hearing it. But I did not know exactly what it meant.

The precincts spread far and wide and, doing a morning's shopping, we would range over them, going into shops here and there, retracing our steps on occasion. Sometimes the sight I longed for came into view, from a number of different angles. But it would be a very rare occasion that we would venture in.

My favourite cafe was round. It was on the highest level of the precincts and to reach it you had to walk up a ramp. Walking up it, the lower levels of the precincts far below, was almost like crossing a moat to reach a castle. Inside, it was a Wimpy bar. These were the days before McDonald's persuaded them to get their act together and so there was, for example, a ketchup-encrusted plastic bottle on each table in the shape of a tomato.

I would tend to have the same thing: a fillet o' fish: an orange breadcrumbed square, with chips. Puddings were out of the question, beg as I might, but I would look longingly at the photographs on the menus with wordy descriptions of what was on offer. The idea of a Banana Longboat thrilled me, with its piles of "cocktail fruit" and scoops of vanilla ice cream. Then there was the "Brown Derby" which I used to pronounce as though it rhymed with herby. A sort of doughnut, I seem to recall.

More often than to my "Favourite cafe", if we ate out at all during these shopping expeditions, it would be to Elizabeth the Chef we would go: a steamy, bustling coffee-scented place that was altogether more sophisticated than the frankly greasy and tatty Wimpy Bar. But it didn't have the tomato-shaped bottles on the table, no fillet o' fish, and no Banana Longboats.

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