Sunday, 20 September 2009

The Comfort Café, Little Abington

Started in 1922 by the splendidly named Albert E. Puddlethorpe, the Comfort Café has since welcomed over a million customers through its doors. After a visit there, I can see why. As you can probably gather from the first line of its address, the Comfort Café is what my family, when I was growing up, would have confusingly called "a services". Ignore this dubious linguistic coupling of singular and plural - if you just think of it as an alternative to the Motos, RoadChefs and Welcome Breaks that litter our major road network, then you'll get the idea.

It sells itself as being at the gateway to East Anglia, and that's fitting given that it's the first services you come to on the A11 after leaving the M11. Once you've peeled off the dual-carriageway, follow the Services roadsigns but don't be lured by the Little Thief Chef, Travelodge and petrol station you come to first, but carry on just a few short yards past these and you'll find the Comfort Café.

They're very welcoming here - the big car-park is an indication that truckers, coach parties and convoys of bikers are all frequent visitors. But they're just as welcoming to you and me in our humble cars too. Which is just as well, because the tea, though simple, is excellent - hot and strong, just the way your reviewer likes it. Served with a big smile too, which always helps. There's some choice too - fruit teas and decaff are available if memory serves, as are (perish the thought) all sorts of coffees. The food menu is also very comprehensive - huge breakfasts, lighter bites, burgers, muffins and cakes, chocolate... all the sort of stuff you want from a service station but without the rip-off prices that the corporate chains charge. At the risk of stating the obvious, this is a good thing.

Then there's the actual building itself. No, it may not be much to look at from the outside, but trust me... There's a range of seating, from the conventional caff inside, to the glass-topped conservatory-style annexe on the side, to the large patio out front (heated in Winter, sheaded in Summer). And there are plenty of newspapers (not just red-tops but "proper" papers too) and magazines on hand for you to read as you eat your cake and drink your great tea.

Yes, it's a services, as my dad used to say. But we don't do snobbery here, and it's a place that serves great tea in a warm and refreshingly honest way. Why would you ever go to a Little Chef again?

Contact them: 01223 837891 | www.comfortcafe.co.uk