After completing several pressing deadlines and consequently having been stuck at the laptop for hours on end, I was in need of a change of scenery and a nice cup of coffee. My wonderfully, supportive husband suggested that we go out for a coffee and a bite to eat. ‘How lovely’,  I thought to myself and so I applied a lick of war paint and off out we headed.

Once out we found a little restaurant, called Le Figaro, Aberystwyth. It looked charming from the outside and I thought perhaps we’d manage to find a nice coffee and a good bite to eat. Once seated inside Le Figaro, I must admit the décor looked a little worse for wear and I did feel that it needed sprucing up, but it was pleasant enough.  The menus arrived and gazing at the menu I was once again left with the question, ‘what has happened to British food? ‘ On the menu was ‘posh burger and chips’, accompanied by its less fortunate friend a plain burger and chips. For vegetarians the sandwich option was cheese or the exotic cheese and pickle sandwich.  To be fair even if you ate meat your sandwich options were limited and mainly centered around ham. Now, if the choices are rather limited and on the plain side then you expect that the dish will be well executed, sadly this was not the case at this glorified cafe. I ordered a sandwich and so did my husband, and I thought to myself its been a while since I had a cheese and pickle sandwich, I can say after eating part of the one served to me that day, I’ve still not had a cheese and pickle sandwich. What arrived on my table was not restaurant standard, café standard or even transport cafe standard, it was a pitiful substitute for a sandwich. Processed, thin, white bread, encased a small amount of cheap, pre-grated cheese and a dollop of overwhelmingly acidic pickle. I think a sandwich you grab from the garage may have had more taste and substance. My husband’s ham and cheese sandwich was no better.

Sadly, today’s dining out culture has not increased standards in the sandwich and basic fare. I travel quite a lot with work and I must say that getting something basic like a sandwich of a decent quality is difficult. There was a time when you could have walked into a café and ordered a jacket potato and found it to be oven baked, now the cost of a jacket potato tends to be five pounds and over and they are often microwaved and unappetizing.  There was a time that a sandwich would have come with a generous filling and coffee wasn’t all froth, but alas in a culture of chain coffee shops and independents that just care about costing sheets this is now getting to be a rarity.

I feel that we live in an age where lunching out is becoming over-priced and of poor quality. Sandwiches and basic fare are most definitely overpriced and underwhelming, in far too many establishments. I don’t want a sandwich from a chain café , that is taken out of a plastic wrapper and squashed under a toasting iron and then slapped on a plate with a serving of oily limp lettuce, I’d like a nice fresh sandwich made with some care. However, when boycotting a chain in favour of independents; it is disappointing to find that so many independents food and service are severely lacking.  It seems that in many establishments more care is taken in describing a dish on a menu than is actually taken in preparing it.

I would love to welcome back the era in which you could pop out for lunch and get a decent lunch and a nice coffee. Plain and simple would be fine as long as quality prevailed.  I am left staring at far too many lunchtime menus wondering, ‘why?’ Indeed in a world that considers burgers can be gourmet and smashed avocados must accompany chilli and poached eggs for breakfast, I often lament, ‘where has all the food gone.’