When I was younger, the greasy spoon was a key feature on most high streets in the UK.
I have always had fond memories of such places as my Grandfather (George) use to take me down, as a special treat when we lived with my grandparents for a period, to the local cafe in the park for egg and chips (which I use to absolutely loved).
It is probably fair to say that George was not a great gourmand (he loved Bernie Inns – his steak nuked – and Happy Eaters, both thankfully now defuncted, and thought oven chips were the best thing since sliced bread), but he knew a good greasy spoon when he saw one.
These were cheap and cheerful places where formica was king and you could get a filling meal at a very reasonable price. Nothing fancy dan food wise, just good honest grub such as all day breakfasts, ham, egg and chips, cottage pie and dishes of that ilk.
The age of the greasy spoon seems, however, to be passing. They are now few and far between, being replaced inexorably by the ubiqutous coffee shops and more upmarket gaffs like the Early Bird Bakery. Nothing wrong with those sort of places (I love Early Bird and am very partial to a decent cup of coffee), but it would be a shame if the old fashioned greasy spoon disappeared altogether.
This brings me, in my usual roundabout way to the Bull Terrier cafe. I was in Cardiff’s central market (buying cheese from the lovely Cheese Pantry) of a lunch time and the hunger pangs kicked in. I though whilst there I would give the Bull Terrier cafe a go, with it being situated upstairs in the market (the post title referring to that most famous of bull terriers, in the form of Bill Sike’s Bullseye).
The Bull Terrier cafe seems very much to fit the classic brief for a greasy spoon – no frills, but offering cheap and plentiful staples
It is functional at best, but pleasant enough with a nice view of the market below.
The food on offer is as expected, with all day breakfasts and chips with pretty much everything else in terms of the bigger meals.
The breakfast offering includes the “love it or loathe it” laverbread. Whilst this is a Welsh speciality, I am not a huge fan of it in its unadulterated state, although I don’t mind it so much if it is in a fritter.
Lighter meals/snacks are available (many in effect just stuff off the main menu sans the chips and, of course, just chips),
as well as specials.
As I said nothing fancy pants, but oddly appealing all the same.
After the all day breakfast, the go to dish (for me at least) in a greasy spoon is ham, egg and chips. A deceptively simple dish (I mean who can’t fry an egg), but in reality I have probably had more rubbish (and overpriced) ham, egg and chips dishes than good (cheap) ones.
Here the ham egg and chips was not half bad for the minimalist £4.40 price tag (better certainly than the Cornerhouse’s vastly more expensive – £9.95 – effort).
The ham was plentiful and not of the plastic variety. Whilst the chips were clearly cooked from frozen, they were piping hot, crispy and the portion size was generous
The all important eggs were nicely cooked with a crispy skirt and the all important runny yolk (an inability to dunk chips in the egg represents a epic fail for this dish in my eyes). Good level of dunkability achieved here.
Whilst condiments were on the table, the one missing element was the option to apply a good dollop of nasal clearing English mustard.
The drinks menu is short and sweet, but endearingly cheap. A quid for a can and £1.30 for a cuppa is not bad at all.
I noted, with interest and some alarm, the inclusion of Sunny Delight on the menu. I though this had been banned years ago under the Chemical Weapons Convention, its development deemed a heinous crime against humanity and any trace of it removed by people in hazmat suits!!! This batch was clearly missed in the sweep.
I went for a boring can of coke, which bumped the total price of my meal to a heady £5.40!!
The Bull Terrier is what I regard as an archetypal greasy spoon. It ain’t pretty (although its location in Cardiff central market is)
and the food ain’t fancy, but based on what I had it delivers up a filling and above all good value product. A mere £4.40 for a bountiful and decent enough plate of ham, egg and chips, which I happily polished off, it not to be sniffed at.
Ok it isn’t going to win any culinary awards and the food is fairly basic, but my ham, egg and chips was perfectly acceptable and endearingly cheap (putting some of the more pricey iterations of this classic I have had to shame). I was pleasantly surprised with what I got.
Would I go back? Yes – cheap and cheerful is in my view a good combo.
I think there should always remain a place in the food universe for the greasy spoon and to me it would be a great shame if they disappeared from our high streets and city centres. Our tastes may have gotten more sophisticated over time, but who doesn’t love a plate of ham, egg and chips or a proper fry up once in a while.
This place and the great Luvly Grub (with the latter taking the concept up a notch or two without, commendably, sacrificing the all important value element of the equation) show why we should continue to visit good old greasy spoons.
Address: Central Market (mezzanine level), Cardiff, CF10 1AU
Tel: 029 2038 3987
Website: click here