Friday, 26 June 2015

Café delight and yet another one

On Thursday I finally got to have a coffee in L'Oliva and I have to admit it was a delight — a treat in fact. 

You can see why. A lovely cup of viscous coffee full of flavour for £2 and two 'Scilian treats'. The larger one £1.20 with a coffee filling and the smaller one, 95p, filled with hazelnut chocolate, both delicious.

For a while there was just Susan and me. It was very quiet, then another customer came in. As the photographs below show, the owner has kept the old butcher's interior and used it to good advantage:

The ceiling has been lined with pages from newspapers and periodicals. The café has a spacious feel despite being quite small. With so many cafés in Beeston I am sure you have to be original to prosper and L'Oliva manages that.

You can find L'Oliva on my Beeston Pubs & Cafés Map (see right-hand column). It currently shows 20 cafés and 12 pubs, all of which serve coffee and a good few cake as well!

Talking of competition, yet another one is in the process of being fitted out.

I have no idea when the 'Greenwood Coffee House' will open (next door to Thirnton's chocolate shop) or what its USP (unique selling point) is going to be. I am sure I will find out soon enough.

At the moment The Local not global deli run by Jo on Chilwell Road, opposite its junction with Imperial Road, remains my favourite for light lunches and apple pie, everything in fact, closely followed by Mason & Mason for good cake and the best Mocha I have had in Beeston. I like Costa's Mocha and had one in Waterstone's in the city centre today, but the Beeston Costa plays loud music and that is a real no no with me.

Of the chains, Caffe Nero is the best. The staff are unfailingly cheerful. 

I could go on, because a good few others are a pleasure too, especially the Fusion Café by Cator Lane and is part of Chilwell Creative Corner. A good black Americano and another place for good cake.

Since 2013, when I created the first version of my Underground style diagrammatic map, I have believed Beeston's cafés and pubs should be at the centre of campaigns to pull visitors and shoppers in the town. I am currently working of a new 'spider' version of my map which I plan to launch once the Tram has a start date. I am also planning a 'Beeston Nights' page.

As you can see, Beeston's café scene is alive and well, and continues to grow. I am sure an enterprising post-graduate student could write a thesis about Beeston's cafés, their number, USPs, customer profiles and if there is tipping point and, if so, what is the number — 25, 30?

Monday, 22 June 2015

Unnoticed magnificence, The Food Bar and Beeston's woodhenge

I try to walk the main shopping street from Park Road to Marlborough Road every couple of weeks and continue to be amazed at what I miss. I call it 'walking eyes wide shut'. We all do it. Not looking for the unexpected that is, and last Monday was another such day. 

It's like walking past The Flower Shop on Chilwell Road and never photographing it before. It really does bring a touch of brightness to the street. Every street should have one. I am tempted to do a blog post devoted to Beeston flower shops, so watch this space.

A tram figured in my last post and here are another two. You wait four years and then they all start coming together. One trundled past me as I walked down Chilwell Road...

...and when I walked back a few minutes later there was another tram coming towards me. It really can't be long now until we have a date for when the trams go operational and start carrying passengers.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned things I miss. I have to confess that it was only last Monday that I took in the full magnificence of this building. I have walked past in countless times. It is Beeston telephone exchange. Around the countries there must be hundreds like in style if not size, but the point is it is the only one in Beeston and for this reason should be treasured.

It hides behind the south side of Beeston High Road off Acacia Walk and to its west is the Tesco car park, from where I took this photograph.

Another change I missed was the cafe I had marked as 'Brunch' becoming The Food Bar, where I stopped for coffee and a chat with its owner Tom. There was a steady stream of regulars whilst I was there calling in for take-away 'fresh salad boxes' and 'wholegrain wraps', all made on the spot by Tom. On the menu is something called, if I remember correctly, 'dry coleslaw'. I will be going back soon with Susan. His crayfish tails looked delicious and so did the other fillings The Food Bar has to offer.

Tom recently won the 'New (Beeston) Business of the year' award in a competition organised by Beeston BID. His bananas were also ripe and ready to eat, as you may just see in the above pic of Tom standing behind the counter in The Food Bar. Well worth a visit and his prices are good. Just £2 bought me a good black coffee (very hot with a clean fresh taste that lingered).

The Food Bar is also open EVERY DAY (8.30am–5.30pm). Most Beeston cafés don't open on a Sunday and a few do not open on a Monday. Another big plus point for Tom.

As I continued my walk along Beeston High Road I looked down into Broadgate Park and overheard someone asked 'Who's that?'  Back came the reply 'Queen Victoria'. I didn't think it was, but I couldn't remember who it was. I have looked at it a good free times over the years and it is yet another example off what we can miss or easily forget.

It is a memorial to the Boer War and on the reverse side are the names of Beeston soldiers who died. Another reminder of our imperial past and of lives lost long ago in a pointless conflict.

Another shop I have never photographed until now is Charlie Fogg's. The very first shop at the eastern end of Beeston High Road. We have been going there for years, having shoes and bags repaired, for keys and a couple of shopping trollies. Always helpful and a shop where I seem to meet people I know.

I turned back and walked up Marlborough Road towards home and took one final photograph for the day of what I think of as Beeston's very own 'Woodhenge'. The first time I saw it, it seemed quite out of place. Now I would miss it. I rather like the idea of a quiet public space in Beeston defined by huge upright timbers surrounded by stones and gravel.

Whoever is responsible deserves our thanks for sharing his or her vision with all who care to walk past and stop awhile. Five minutes later I was home. I walk past it every week and Woodhenge is one thing I always notice!

Monday, 15 June 2015

Beeston Garden Trail delight

Earlier today we walked to the Victoria Hotel, which backs onto Beeston railway statio, for an early lunch so that we could be ready for a 1pm start, with a view to visiting five gardens on the Beeston & Chilwell Garden Trail.

Yesterday (Saturday) must have been a washout for the garden owners because, as locals will know, it rained all day and although Sunday was overcast the weather forecasts (all of them) were saying it would be 3pm before the rain came.

On the way we caught sight of a tram and watched it pull away from the new Beeston Interchange as it headed towards Nottingham.

This will be a common enough sight a few months from now when the trams finally come into service. For now this is just a glimpse of the everyday future that awaits Beeston.

Our first garden was within yards of the Victoria Hotel, where we had an excellent lunch. I am showing you the gardens with no names, so enjoy a few of the photographs I took. We walked home via four gardens and it was only the fine penetrating drizzle which stopped us visiting a fifth.

The photograph below does not show it, but by the time we reached the fourth garden the rain had set in for the rest of the afternoon and we quickly had the garden to ourselves.

Our own garden is a picture thanks to all the work put in by the previous owner. This year, apart from planting runner beans, some salad stuff and plants from friends and family, we are just watching. 

Yesterday we saw a hedgehog in the garden. Perhaps what I have enjoyed the most is continuing to have a small pond (we had one in our Lenton garden, which had newts and was used by birds). One thing which never flowered for some reason was the water lilies, so you can imagine how delighted I was to see the scene below. They opened on Saturday in all the heavy rain and I took the photograph yesterday.

All four gardens we visited gave us ideas. The blue clematis on the corner of a garage was fantastic. Even if it looked as good as this for just one day, it would be worth all the effort, but it was, perhaps, the display of baby hostas in their little pots which caught our attention and, after chatting with the garden owner in the rain, some ideas about how and where to grow them in our own garden. We will be growing hostas in pots quite soon and protecting them with a home-made 'garlic spray' to a recipe we were given yesterday.

It was a great day out, despite the weather. A good walk, good food and local gardens we were able to visit thanks to all the garden owners and organisers of the Beeston & Chilwell Garden Trail. We are looking forward to next year already.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Cafés in the news: L'Oliva, Edwards and Fusion, plus a word about the White Lion and Sergio

Beeston High Road's newest café, L'Oliva, got its first mention in the Nottingham Post back in February 2015 when the news report said it 'was a few weeks away'. It finally arrived last week and I will sample its coffee in the next day or two. I wish the new owners well, but the shopfront continues to look a little tired, with the old 'Virtual Deli' facia still in place and missing mosaic tiles on the frontage. I hope these things to not deter customers. Walking past today it looked busy.

With so many cafés and bistro type places to choose from, there is plenty of competition. I have updated my Beeston Pubs & Café map (see entry in right-hand column) to include L'Oliva.

Also, My Place café on Wollaton Road became Edwards last week, with a new owner.

Edwards is on the northern approach to Beeston town centre down Wollaton Road from The Nurseryman pub and Derby Road, and is the first café visitors see. There is parking outside. I wish the new owner well. Edwards is within a few minutes of my front door, so it does not figure on my radar, but I would encourage any shop browser to explore Wollaton Road and to have a welcome break at Edwards before returning to the shops in Beeston Town Centre.

Talking of Wollaton Road, the next time you walk down it towards the High Road think about what you would use the great white wall above the card shop to promote. I'm presently using it to promote this blog. 

How about the Beeston Express?

I will end where I started. This time with Fusion Café, which is part of Chilwell Art Corner at the western end of Beeston town centre. I blogged about Creative Corner in January ( and said then that AJ, who runs Fusion Café, made the best coffee in Beeston and I stand by what I said then.

AJ has applied for a license at Fusion to sell alcohol every day from 10am–10pm. There is a large notice in the latest issue of the Beeston Express.

From the front, Fusion looks quite small and is located on the left-hand side of the Mish Mash Gallery. It is, in fact, bigger than it looks, wrapping as it does around the back of the gallery. I hope AJ's application is successful.

He often has private parties who book Fusion and this is clearly an important part of the café's business, so I am sure being able to sell alcohol will make Fusion an even more attractive venue than it already is.

Between March and May this year I facilitated a writing group which met at Fusion thanks to the generosity of AJ. It is a friendly venue and on the few occasions I have been there at weekends, there have always been families inside and mums outside with their buggies and children.

Fusion is the perfect place to start a visit to Beeston town centre if arriving by bus or tram. From here it is a leisurely walk into town and then down the High Road to Humber Road and Broadgate Park, from where you catch the same buses and trams.

I suspect that if I had a mind to this blog could become exclusively about Beeston pubs and cafés. In truth I do not visit them often enough because I never have the time. In my ideal world I would have cake at Fusion and Mason & Mason at least once a week and lunch at the Local Not Global Deli and the White Lion once a week as well. I like large custard tarts from Birds and Home Bakery too.

It is the first Beeston Food and Drink Festival this coming weekend (12–13 June). Unfortunately it clashes with a planned walk and Sunday clashes with the Beeston & Chilwell Garden Trail weekend. I just hope that in the midst of all this activity I will find the time to sample some of the delights on offer.

If you read this and are coming to Beeston this weekend, I urge you to visit the White Lion and the Local Not Global Deli. the folk who run these places are here every week of the year. As far as I am concerned, they make living, eating and drinking in Beeston like having a food festival an all-year event. I will end with a pic I have used before. I think of it as one of my best:

A happy Sergio at the White Lion bringing me and friends cake (real yummy cake)! He does a fantastic fish stew and lots of other good food too, drawing on his Portuguese–Brazilian heritage. If any person should be the face of Beeston food it is Sergio. He has a long letter in the latest edition of the Beeston Express (5 June 2015) about his fight to keep the White Lion open. It is worth reading.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Walking around eyes wide shut

My last post was about news which changed my world and I would like to say thank you to those who have contacted me and to bring readers up-to-date with what has happened to date, but first a couple of photographs I have taken in the last few days.

I have stood under this sign countless times loaded down with shopping, waiting the little to carry me up the hill, yet until last week the wonderful Commercial Inn pub sign never registered. I must have looked at it eyes wide shut. Now I see every time. I must find out more about the scene depicted.

I was also slow to notice the demise of the Belle & Jerome Café Bar and its replacement by Rye. From what I have read elsewhere, Rye is owned and managed by the same people who ran Belle & Jerome, so it can be fairly described as a rebranding exercise. Looking at the price list, it appears to be offering themed food days for £10 including a drink. I will go and try the coffee before too long. I do like the frontage and the signage. According to Beestonia the name is a nod in the direction of Beeston Rylands as well as alcohol.

Right now though, Susan and I are so pleased that when we decided to downsize from Lenton last year after thirty-five years we were determined to look no further than Beeston or Chilwell (OK, we did look at Bramcote and Sandiacre too, but in each case just once, honest). Our main reasoning was to do with being close to shops, public transport and hospitals.

We only ever needed the latter big time back in 2006, when Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer and we found ourselves visiting the City Hospital regularly for about three months. The attention and care was excellent then and it has been during the past month for me. Since the 8 May I have been to my GP or hospital nine times, with three hospital visits already booked for June, and the attention and care from the local NHS has been fantastic.

In my case I can only describe myself as one lucky bunny. My visit to the Nottingham City Hospital Respiratory Assessment Unit (RAU) resulted in better news than I and Susan dared expect after the x-ray report from the QMC two weeks ago, which said I showed signs of ‘established fibrosis of the lungs’. My young doctor moved fast — hence the visit to the City Hospital last week.

The specialist doctor we saw ordered another x-ray, which was identical to the first one on 8 May and she said what the x-rays showed was ‘some scarring (of the lungs)', but not enough to produce the symptoms, so it is unlikely that I will need any treatment now. Having presented early they want to see what happens, as they don’t know what causes scarring/fibrosis in 40% of cases

There have since been further blood tests, a chest scan and next week I have a heart scan, because when the hospital doctor examined me she identified some calcification of the aortic valve of the heart, not unusual in someone of my age.

My cough can probably be traced back to a virus I had before Christmas for three weeks and the accompanying cough in some people continued for up to two months afterwards. I then cleared out the loft, followed by some reaction to cutting grass for the first time in twenty-seven years and the blood I saw was probably from small blood vessels in my throat rupturing.

I have been told to avoid crowds and public transport during the winter and my GP is being told that if I ever have a chest infection, I am to be prescribed anti-biotics. On hearing this, my daughter Alicia’s comment was ‘No more buses for you Dad’.

As you can imagined all this comes as a relief, but I am not sure life will ever be ‘normal’ again. It is the closest I have come to examining my own mortality. How I am going to miss those winter bus rides!

It will probably be another couple of months before I fully understand what has happened, but I will try to find some way in which I can do more to help promote public awareness of lung fibrosis and how people can best support and fund research into finding a treatment just to arrest its progress. If I understand what I have read, the medical profession and researchers have given up trying to find a cure — and that is a dramatic measure of just how bad lung fibrosis is!

For now, to repeat myself, I am one lucky bunny!

Our NHS is a truly wonderful institution, which I am sure we all know from personal experience. Occasionally it will get things wrong and when it does they need to be put right ASAP.

Living in Beeston, we are truly blessed when it comes to easy access to hospitals. A close friend, who lives in Gainsborough, has a knee problem and will  be coming to the QMC later this month to see what can be done. Beeston, truly, is a great place to live.