The Food Company, Marks Tey, Essex

No question about it, The Food Company is a mecca for foodies.  While they do stock other items, the ground floor of this high-end supermarket stationed with its back towards the A12 shy of Colchester sells every gourmet food you can imagine, then some, for a price.

What’s more, they have a restaurant that sells goods from the store, guaranteeing you the best ingredients money can buy.  I’ve been there once before, with my mother, for a light lunch and coffee.  My memory on that visit is clear: the wild garlic and mushroom soup was excellent, as was the accompanying bread; the coffee was good and strong too, but service was a touch on the slow side, even for taking orders, despite the sizeable space being barely a third full.

On this occasion I was in the mood for a breakfast so made it hot food to the FC to sample and review.

First signs are certainly welcoming – plenty of young and keen staff to meet and greet, to show you to a table and take orders.  In fact, the place was not packed but was clearly doing some business and has earned a reputation for doing a decent breakfast, judging by the buzz.

A quick scout around reveals a well-thought through venture, with fresh citrus juices (alas, apple from a bottle though), milkshakes, and delightful pastries on display.  In hindsight I wish I had tried the orange juice, and maybe there is or at least should be an all-inclusive breakfast where you can sample everything?

OJ notwithstanding, to give the best overall impression I ordered a full English (£8.95) and my customary black Americano (£2.10), which is more expensive than some cafes but not bad value for money in terms of quality or quantity.  Everything was slick in delivery and in presentation, though I would have liked a bigger coffee for morning consumption.

The full English was indeed a plateful, plus two rounds of granary toast on the side, butter lovingly cubed and put in separate micro-dishes.  This being the full version, I was given two fried eggs, two sausages and two rashers of bacon to accompany my tiny bowl of beans, a perfect sliver of black pudding , one grilled field mushroom and a properly roasted half tomato (even if it did squirt juice at the coffee cup when pierced.)

Best of all, the ketchup came as two tiny pots of Tiptree ketchup, the best there is apart from making it yourself.  Clearly not the cheapest around, so I take this as first hand evidence that the management apply the same quality strictures to every component.

Indeed, this was good stuff, with particular praise to the dainty slice of black pudding, perfectly grilled and not oozing oil from every pore – just as it should be. The eggs, mushroom and tomato were well-cooked,

Perfect?  Not quite.  I’d have liked the bacon just done a tad more so the fatty edge was crisped up, the meaty sausages just browned a little more, and in the current vogue home-made baked beans rather than tinned.

That leaves just the hash brown.  I’m trying to think what to say about the well-crisped hash brown, which was not the cheapo freezer-to-frier variety one usually gets these days, though I don’t believe it was home made either.  It served well to soak up the valuable egg yolk, though I may need another try before I’m sure.

As you’ll see by the picture above, there are plenty of other choices, including a full range of benedicts (the standard, florentine and royale), and as good a range as you may wish for of other choices.  One such was kedgeree, which I’m quite sure my late dad would have lapped up contentedly.

Before I rate the Food Company’s cafe I may yet need a third visit, just to be sure – particularly if any friends want to join me and foot the bill.  All in the cause of accuracy using quantitative as well as qualitative research, you understand.

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