Destination: Harpers, Half Moon Lane, Pepperstock, Nr. Slip End, Bedfordshire LU1 4LL
Date: Sunday, 26 October 2014
Hot drink of choice: Cappuccino
Total mileage: 11.5km
Bicycle: Lorelei the Puch Princess
Almost exactly a year ago, I used a new-bike-shake-down ride for coffeeneuring.... or a coffeeneuring ride as a shake-down. Here I am, doing that again.
This past Sunday, I wanted to check out the new Harpers Food Hall and Cafe the other side of Slip End. Harpers are a family run business going back to just after WWII. They started out basically as butchers, gradually expanding into a range of premium meats and even meat-based ready meals. For decades, they were in Studham, not too far to the west of us, but last year they refurbished an abandoned and delapidated old pub as a spacious "show room" for their wares, with a meat counter, cafe and function rooms.
In any case, this was a perfect excuse to get away from the books (finally finishing my law degree) and see how the recent re-build has changed Lorelei.
|Yes, I still have a thing for tree tunnels.|
|I love the autumnal change in the air.|
Arriving at Harpers, I was pleased to see that one car parking space had been made over for bicycle parking. The stands are not at all secure -- in reality, they simply serve as kickstands that are fixed to the ground rather than mounted to your bike. As token security, I put a D-lock through the stand and the front wheel.
However, in most instances, cyclists stopping here will plan on enjoying their food and drink at the tables outdoors, within sight of their bikes. Also, we find on group rides there's always someone who for one reason or another doesn't plan to go inside the premises and acts as 'guard' for everyone's bikes outside, whether they are properly parked up or not. Another variation is people taking turns to watch over everyone's bikes.
On that criteria, I was prepared to give Harpers a thumbs up as a potential mid-ride coffee stop when planning future group rides.
The building design is quite rustic. It's obviously new though. I like the dark wooden cladding, but am not too sure about the large bare beams -- the wood looks exposed and dry and every beam has lots of cracks!
All that aside, the real question is.... is the coffee any good?
I am pleased to say "Yes"!
Since the coffee had passed my tests and as it was already nearly 2pm (oops, 1pm as the clocks had changed that morning) and given the fact that Harpers' reputation rests on the quality of its food, I decided to stay for lunch. I ordered "vegetable soup", expecting something of a medley, and got what appeared to be a squash puree. Not bad -- it was hot and creamy -- but it was not seasoned or spiced in any way and was, well, frankly, a bit bland. The wholegrain roll likewise was not anything out of the ordinary -- particularly not on the same day as seeing Fixie Pixie's Hill of Tara photos on Facebook this morning and spending the rest of the day salivating over my own memories of the most incredible soda bread served in the Tara Tearooms!)
Nonetheless, the portions were generous and good value. Upon finishing, I carried my cup and plates inside to spare the waitress another trip out into what (she was convinced) was the dead of winter. I was the only patron eating outdoors so it seemed only fair.
I then enjoyed a leisurely trip around the Food Hall, featuring an amazing variety of meats and cheeses, sauces and delicatessen items. (No fruit and veg, and that seems right for a place like this.) I had checked out Harpers' website before leaving home and so had a list of items in mind to look for. The varieties of sausage available were different from those on the website but I am looking forward to trying each of the ones I bought in due course: pork and leak, venison.. and a third one that escapes me just now. Likewise with the three cheeses -- only Cashel Blue sticks in my mind! Adam and I have slices or chunks of cheeses in our lunches every day so these new ones will add some variety.
My bag of goods dropped neatly into my Carradice Barley, which is always satisfying!
And the bike? I think this build has unleashed qualities I've always sensed might be lying beneath the surface. The jury is still out, but this may be the fastest bike in my stable. We simply flew up the hills! And that's not wholly down to me just now!
There are a few more details to complete (wrapping the handlebars being one, swapping out the Brooks for a saddle better suited to my undercarriage for another). I'll post full build details and photos soon. But for now, I am very pleased with the results.