Opening Times: Confusing! The menu said that breakfast was served only on a Saturday & Sunday from 9-11am. However the sandwich board outside said that they were open from 8am daily. To further confuse things the website says that they are open from 9:30am. This link suggests there is a weekday menu, but no times are given. Take your pick!
Last Visited: October 2011
As breakfast locations go, only Bills can compete with Thorne’s Foods for lay-out and cafe setup that we have visited so far; with a trendy food shop on the ground floor, a local art display on the first and a large converted loft cafe on the second. Their attractive website and menu online demanded a visit.
The Mrs had spotted Thornes on one of her lunch time strolls through the lanes. Hidden down one of the back roads it's not something you would happen upon unless you veer away from the well trodden paths of Kensington Street. However, if you did wander past it would be difficult to keep yourself from wandering in.
They've hit all the right notes; fresh veggies in old looking wooden crates and crusty loaves of bread stacked in the window. Shelves are filled with packets and jars containing all manner of local and organic niceties from lime curds to strong bread flours. A meat counter is packed to the brim with inventive sausage flavours and beautifully arranged cuts of local meat. There's a sharp level of design polish which has gone into the layout of every nook and cranny. They've created a high end version of the modern organic market place and done so with aplomb.
The same can be said of the second floor cafe. Reached by a lift, the doors slide apart to reveal an open plan dining area bathed in sunlight from the large east facing windows. Huge tables made from reclaimed wood are paired with refurbished chairs to continue the upmarket country aesthetic. Curiously, to decorate the tables there are lumps of rock adorned with different crystals and minerals. Somehow it all works though.
The breakfast menu is nothing surprising but does well to waggle the taste buds. Their Sussex breakfast was difficult to pass up, tempting with homemade baked beans, thyme oiled tomato, and a potato cake. With food, cappucinos and teas ordered, we all eagerly awaited our munch.
A long enough wait had passed until we had plates in front of us. Nothing substantial, but enough for us to start craning our necks towards the open kitchen area, my seat of choice giving me a good view to see the chefs at work. Finally with our plates in front of us and my impatience getting the better of me I took a few bites before Mr NoEggs realised we were missing potato cakes. The waitress apologised and barely a blink later a plate of 4 arrived at our table. I wondered if they were forgotten and they couldn't bring themselves to admit their mistake unless we noticed.
Our plates complete I dug into my poached egg, cooked right through. I could have put it in my picnic basket for the day it was so overdone. The rest of our groups eggs were the same. The black pudding and the bacon had met a similar fate, both overcooked to the point of losing all flavour and moisture. When set upon by my cutlery the black pudding relented by flying across the table and bursting into clouds of dust (I wish I was exaggerating). The bacon was like cardboard and under a blindfold test you would be hard pressed to identify it as a relative of the swine family. The only flavour it was able to impart was that of the griddle it had been cooked on; a lovely metallic after taste with a hint of cooking fat.
Surely the local sausage can save the day? I'm afraid it couldn't. I don't believe I have tasted a sausage this bland, in this case it hadn't even been overcooked so I can't blame the chef. The problem was entirely the fault of the cheap ingredient they had masquerading as a high end sausage from their deli counter. If it is from their store then I would be even more stumped as to how they managed to turn a decent bit of pork into something that tasted of, quite literally, nothing.
The late to arrive potato cakes were so dry and lacking seasoning that I left most of it. The tomato was ok but missing the thyme punch I was expecting, though alongside the beans and mushroom were the only items that helped me eat any of this disaster. Not even their bread could help as they hadn't bothered to butter it. The highlight of the meal for me was the sauteed spinach (and onions?) that wasn't even mentioned on the menu!
I'm in no way a fussy eater and I hate to see food go to waste but in this case I couldn't finish. It was completely inedible. Quite simply the worst breakfast I have had since we started TBM. I'm not one to judge rashly but context is king. In an out of date bikers cafe I expect to be served low quality ingredients cooked piping hot in a cheap and cheerful manner. When you put the food served by Thornes in the context of its surroundings, it fails in every way imaginable.
I can barely hazard guesses as to why they failed so miserably. There were more staff than customers at the time, 5 of which were in the kitchen area (though we guessed some were busy preparing Sunday lunch). The ingredients didn't seem up to par as well. The cost of the breakfast at £7.50 is a lot cheaper compared to others in the area and I would be happy to pay more for food that was worthy of the setting.
I've clearly overstayed my welcome by now but at a mention must be given to the granola and croissant sampled by Mrs Chipolata. She was pretty happy with her meal and I was jealous that hers was edible. A hint perhaps as the pastries are baked elsewhere and bought in and there's not a lot you can screw up when pouring granola and some fruit into a bowl, but the components were enjoyed in this case.
Mr Chipolata has gone into the execution of the breakfast and the location so I will stick to my meal.
Siding with the majority of our group I went for The Sussex breakfast. On ordering I was asked for my choice of item to substitute for my eggs. Little did I know that my selection of extra bacon, usually a safe move, would be such an arduous gambit. After a wait of 15 minutes in a virtually deserted restaurant our breakfasts arrived. Despite its hearty appearance something did not sit right, missing from all of our plates was a vital component and the one item I was looking forward to most, the potato cake. Luckily after confirming with the apologetic and friendly waitress a plate of potato cakes were quickly to delivered to us.
The first bite of the bacon should have given me a rich pork taste, but I was left with nothing but a bland and chewy taste of what used to be bacon. The substitution of my egg had given me two additional slices and it would take all my resolve to get through them. Like the bacon, the sausage was also a non-event, The potato cake was not really worth the wait, the tin drums (bubble and squeak) effort was far better and again had more flavour. The spinach, mushroom and beans were the highlights for me. We have to compare this to other high-end breakfasts and this did not match up to Nia and Bills.
After seemingly spending a vast amount on setting up in a very desirable area of the city, I expected a lot more. The surroundings are superb, as a location the building easily rivals Bills and any other. Their website and literature promote great tasting ingredients so I had high expectations. As a group we were openly deflated after our experience. Further research after the breakfast has shown that their website’s “sample menu” differed from what was offered on our visit, so this location may well get a second chance to impress. But it may be a while before I venture back up to the second floor of Thorne’s.