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Jan 21, 2009 09:45 AM

Heston Blumenthal remakes a fast food place

He took on a "Little Chef" in the UK and relaunched it with a new menu. And prices that are not typical of his places.
The food sounds good.
And some of the other recipes on the page also sound good.

Green tea trifle. For desert.

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  1. Green tea trifle.

    I read this as "green pea trifle". Ummm, I don't think so. :-)

    1 Reply
    1. re: LindaWhit

      Well, sin Blumenthal is famous for things like bacon ice cream...

    2. I'm currently trying to watch "Big Chef takes on Little Chef" (3 episodes total); so far the Little Chef menu looks horrible. "Thai options" because there weren't enough lighter choices available for women, portions that rival what I was getting in Philadelphia/Cherry Hill… lots and lots of microwave.

      Should be interesting to see how this pans out.

      1. Little Chef is our iconic roadside diner type place. It has served awful food for years but, as with any fast food national chain, gets many, many customers (me included - where else are you going to get breakfast when driving through an area you don't know).

        Lots of good TV in the series if very little by of what tou'd have expected a business reality to have been, wouldnt you say?

        That said, I'd have been happy to fix Little Chef's problems for a much smaller fee than the three hundred grand HB is getting. Pretty simple - roadside food - simple, tasty, fast. - problem solved.

        For info, link to the current (non-Heston) breakfast menu -

        And a link that will then help you find the Heston breakfast menu that's on trial at the one outlet in the south of England (not got a clue where Popham is)

        6 Replies
        1. re: Harters

          In looking at the original breakfast menu of Little Chef, it doesn't look any different from a U.S. diner's offerings.....not something you'd want on a daily basis (unless you were working a farm and were able to work off those calories!), but it just seems *right* for road food.

          And in checking the new Main menu - there are several things I'd not have a problem ordering - braised ox cheeks, steak & ale pie, and the tagliatelle with bolognese - an approximately $10.50 USD price point makes for a VERY good price for that dish!

          So should I ever make it back to England and Blumenthal's menu has spread to other Little Chefs, I might check it out in my travels. :-)

          1. re: LindaWhit


            You're right. Breakfast is the mainstay of Little Chef's business and there isnt that much difference between the original menu and the Heston menu. It's more of a modern revamp and focus on the British breakfast rather than something pseudo-American. As mentioned in the programme, ingredient quality has been the issue, but is one that LC had been addressing beofre this. Heston is right to be concerned that this is a marketing ploy.

            I've never been to a Little Chef for lunch or dinner and doubt that I will even if a new menu is rolled out. If I want cheap fast food, I can normally get what will probably get that better ina pub. As you point out, the new menu main courses are much more focussed on Britishness, which fits in well with the iconic nature of the business.

          2. re: Harters

            Man, when I looked at that current menu, I wondered who could afford to eat out in Britain! At my local greasy spoon here in Toronto, I get 3 eggs, 4 sausage links, home fries, a tomato slice, and two pieces of toast, plus coffee with free refills, for $4.50 Cdn = two pounds 60 at current exchange rates.

            OK, I don't get the baked beans, and it's either/or with sausage or bacon, but that "Early Starter" has, I assume, 1 each of sausage, bacon rasher, and egg, hash browns, and beans. Add in a coffee at 2 pounds (!), and that breakfast works out to nearly $14 Cdn, before tax and tip. It seems to me I get way more food for way less money over here!

            1. re: KevinB


              You'll be right - eating out in north america is generally much cheaper than in Europe. So, I expect that Europeans don't eat out as often as Americans or Canadias - and when we do, it's often something of a celebration rather than an alternative to cooking dinner (not that anyone is going to Little Chef for a celebration :-0 )

              But take a couple of things into consideration by way of comparison.

              Little Chef is not a neighbourhood greasy spoon. The only time I've reviewed a greasy spoon for CH, it was a place in London - for £4.95 I got a slice each of bacon, black pudding & white pudding, a sausage, beans, mushrooms, tomato, fried bread, fried egg, bubble & squeak, toast and coffee. I thought that good value for London. Out in the sticks where I live (smallish town of about 300,000 people in north west England) prices are cheaper.

              Tax is always included in British prices. Nor would we tip in a greasy spoon or Little Chef sort of place - it's just not expected.

              1. re: Harters

                Thanks for the info re: taxes. Here, practically everyone posts a price that doesn't include GST (our version of VAT) so that things look cheaper.

                Note that I used the term "greasy spoon" advisedly; the place is a very clean, very nice owner-operated spot. I called it a "gs" to differentiate it from a chain. I think we have a chain somewhat like Little Chef in Canada called "Cora's" - they offer (to me) very expensive breakfasts centred around pancakes or waffles, with various combinations of eggs, bacon, sausage, etc. Their signature, rather than beans, is a fresh fruit salad on practically everything. Pretty much the same price point - most people spend about $15 Cdn. per person for breakfast. If you check the Canada board, you'll find Cora's is quite often considered a disappointment for the money!

                And, if you'll allow, a word about UK tipping practice: when I was waiting tables, the three categories we hated (and sometimes bribed the hostesses NOT to get) were 1) kids (tables where no one was over 25), 2) women, and 3) Brits. I would get a table of people visiting from Britain, they'd have a great meal and a great time, but only tip 5-10%, instead of the 15-20% I'd get from North Americans. I don't know if this is still the case, but man, it used to annoy us no end!

                1. re: KevinB


                  No wish to take this off-topic (not least because Brit tipping crops with regularity on the boards) but we'd regard 10% as the general norm for a tip (in those places where tipping is even considered). Mid range restaurants (and up) in the UK now tend to add a service charge (as in a number of other European countries) that will be anything from 10 - 15%. I suspect the staff love it when North Americans visit and tip on top of this (or, indeed, even tip at North American rates).

                  It's one of those subjects where the thoughtful traveller will have researched local practice and follow it - but, of course, not all travellers are thoughtful. For instance, I now try hard to curtail my 10% tipping when I visit Spain as, generally, it's far too high (and , of course, there are countries like Japan and New Zealand where tipping would be considered an insult).


          3. Was it just me or was Ian, the M.D. of Little Chef, totally a real life David Brent? With his use of stupid terms like blue sky thinking, wanting Heston to be more out there with the menu items when his customers really wanted more familiar food, and him actually hanging up on Heston and turning his phone off, he can't really be for real, is he?

            1 Reply
            1. re: gyc

              I found it hard with this series to separate what was real and what was done for TV, but he certainly came across as a complete tosser.

            2. DON'T GO THERE! On our way to Salisbury last Sunday we had breakfast there - we travelled hungry from Kent especially to try it. We waited 10 mins for a table, then sat at the "bar". From placing our order to receiving it was over 30 mins, and then only because we asked the supervisor where it was (it appeared in 4 mins). The Olympic breakfast was very poor, tiny sausages which seemed more bread than meat, and not much of anything really. I chose smoked salmon scrambled egg which wasn't very big and also wasn't very warm. We did complain and were told our complaints "would be passed to Heston". The couple opposite us waited even longer for their breakfast, it must have been nearly 40 mins, before they too complained and it miraculously appeared. Overpriced, bad service, not very inspiring food. All in all very disappointing and we wished we had eaten before leaving home!