Special Dispatch: High Street Cafe, Bedford
5 High Street
by Bob El Ensquique
The sun was up, the sparrows were singing and, being underemployed, the day was mine. After taking a morning stroll along the blossoming riverbank of the graceful Great Ouse, I fancied some nourishment. As it is ideally situated by the town bridge, I decided to try the High Street Cafe.
Barging in through the sturdy metal framed door, my reception was like a cuddle from a chubby aunt. A chirpy waitress with an impressive pony-tail greeted me; everything felt right. I ordered the vegetarian set: egg, beans, tomatoes, hash browns, bubble & squeak, toast, and tea/coffee. With all this for just £4.50, it was a veritable snip.
After spending a few minutes admiring the cafe’s decor – as well as blackboards and coat pegs the walls featured, to my surprise, Las Vegas cityscapes – and listening to two talkative pensioners planning their afternoon shopping spree at Bhs, my cuppa arrived. The hot tea did well in both key departments: it was bracing in strength but also refreshingly milky.
An oval platter of fried enjoyment was soon slid under my nose, followed by four pieces of hot buttered triangular toast. The presentation was tidy; three hunks of tomato lined the top of the plate, with beans taking centre stage, flanked by bubble on one side, and egg and hash browns on the other.
Unfortunately, the asymmetry of the plate’s arrangement was matched in its ability to satisfy. The bubble and squeak was flavoursome and filling, but lacked texture; there was no crunch to it. The hash browns were a joy, striking the perfect balance between brittle shell and tender innards. Heinz beans and a little fried egg with a creamy yolk provided ample slipperiness to the dish, but I wasn’t keen on the tomatoes, which I found a tad soggy. My tomato worries were eased however when I combined them with the toast to make bespoke toasties, and I did manage to clear the plate(s).
The great build-up to the food may have made me overly critical of my meal, because I really had no strong complaints and I even tipped the proprietor.
Full, I departed the High Street Cafe and continued my aimless riverside walk.