CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Pret A Mange

Back Buzz - January 29, 2018

The corner of where Fargate and Church Street meet in Sheffield's City Centre, opposite the Sheffield Cathedral and tram stop, is what used to be known as Cole’s Corner. Named after the Cole Brothers department store that used to be here, and immortalised in song by Sheffield’s own Richard Hawley, the corner was most recently an HSBC bank whose outdoor cash machines were conveniently located behind the two bus stops I regularly use. But because bank branches are now a dying species, HSBC closed its doors last year and took away its cash machines, and the corner sat vacant for some time.

And then in November of last year, Sheffield’s first Pret A Mange appeared on the spot. Because I was instantly intrigued by the slightly surreal location, curving around the end of Fargate on a very busy corner, I decided to treat myself and stop in for lunch and a coffee.

Commonly known as Pret, this cafe chain started in the summer of 1986 when Julian Metcalfe opened the first Pret in London. Today there are Prets in seven countries, with 500 in the UK alone expected by this year. Pret A Mange is basically sort of an upscale sandwich shop, with packaged sandwiches, wraps, salads, and lunch boxes displayed in fridges on one side, and a counter with espresso drinks and pastries in the middle. This new Pret seemed to have taken a very competitive location, as it’s directly across from Caffe Nero and directly next door to Starbucks. Has this end of Fargate become a new war ground for national coffee chains?

I sat against the window that looks up at my nightly bus stop home. I was tempted by a toasty or one of the salad boxes -- the one with the fresh salmon fillet and adzuki beans -- but when I spotted the crawfish and avocado sandwich I figured that would better suit my lunch needs. And I have to admit the sandwich was really yummy, simple but well thought out, with a bit of mayo and lemon and some nice lettuce and really good quality crawfish. At £3.40 it wasn't completely outrageous in price, either. I would happily stop in occasionally and splurge on some of the other items.

For my drink I went for a double macchiato which was served in a large cup. It was all right, perfectly drinkable, but nothing to write home about. Perhaps their other hot drinks are a bit more impressive.

I do admit I was impressed by the friendly service, and I became more impressed as I read about this chain. In the interest of the environment, they will be introducing a 50% discount for customers who bring in their own reusable cups. And in the interest of the state of today’s society, every night they send their unsold food out to homeless shelters and food banks. They have their own fleet of vans to do this. This is great to hear from such a large upmarket chain. So much perfectly good food is wasted these days, especially by supermarkets and restaurants, that we need to see more and more of this type of effort.

There. I'll climb down from my soapbox now.

Speaking of soap and boxes reminds me of an extremely recent Facebook posting session about microorganisms:

I have seen the future and it is fungus-infused. I hope Trump's wall will not be self-healing.

"Fungus-infused concrete offers prospect of self-healing buildings"

One day, tiny cracks in concrete might be fixed by fungus infused in the material.
I wonder if algae is beneficial as well. I've always had a soft spot for algae. I'm always amazed by how much we have in common. Algae is one of my passions. I'll never forget, when I was very young, being introduced to my first phaeophycea. Such a beautiful memory. I always think fondly of my first aquarium. I would stare at the algae for hours. I always found the fish to be a major distraction. I like lichen. I met my first lichen at 6th grade camp. That was the highlight of the entire week.