While everyone else prepares for exams, I know my priorities and over the next week will be working my way down Portswood road in an attempt to answer the ultimate question; where is the best place to get breakfast on the way to Highfield or Avenue.
Having managed to avoid visiting Sainsbury’s for breakfast since it opened, and usually having a love of supermarket café breakfasts, I decided that the new Sainsbury’s would be a perfect starting point.
So, first stop was the queue. Despite being one of only two people waiting when I arrived, the system of one person taking orders and preparing drinks has to be the least efficient ever. It took nearly four minutes to serve the person in front of me, who bought a single coffee.
That said, actually being served, for me, having a cup of tea, was incredibly smooth and painless, and it took less than a minute to give my order, have my drink prepared and pay.
Total Queue Waiting Time: 3m 48s
Supermarkets will never compare to actual cafés or restaurants, but the music was an improvement on most supermarkets (the oldest song played was from September last year), and the were no recordings of the supermarket pretending to run a radio station as Asda subject you to. The frequent PA announcements were a pain, but didn’t break the atmosphere too much.
The hustle and bustle of the rest of the supermarket had an almost soothing quality. It was a little way down, not very noisy and generally not a problem. The corrugated metal roof and bare pipes don’t do the cafe feeling any favours, especially when a lot of supermarkets avoid them completely in the café area.
This is one of my big gripes. While most supermarket cafés operate canteen style and prepare the food in advance, then serve it in front of you, Sainsbury’s feel the need to prepare it behind closed doors while you sit at your table attempting to stop your drink going cold.
I waited 14m 21s for the food to arrive. I can’t see any justification for this. It wasn’t busy (10 of 50 tables were occupied, most people already eating), other supermarkets working on a similar system usually keep you waiting around the five minute mark at most, often a lot less.
The most frustrating part was the lack of any acknowledgement that I had waited longer than is expected.
Another far from perfect point. I went for the “new, improved big breakfast” consisted of 9 items. At a cost of £4.29, this works out at almost 48p per item. Compared to the Asda equivalent, which has around 14 items, for just 60p more, making the items less than 35p each.
Total cost for breakfast and cup of tea: £5.18
At last, the redeeming feature! The items themselves were very well cooked and generally delicious. Sausages were chewier than I typically enjoy, but a lot of people like them that way. Everything was hot, and seemed recently prepared, which made a change, even if it meant a frustrating wait to get stuck in.
Perhaps worryingly, the best point by far was the toast, which was made of thick sliced and very crusty bread. It was definitely the best toast I have had with a cooked breakfast, probably in my life!
The only part I’m not particularly happy with is that a ‘big breakfast’ is only 9 items, so I left not feeling anywhere near full.
Sainsbury’s is probably the closest place to Highfield (apart from those places that are actually on campus) that serves a proper breakfast. It’s a 14 minute walk at normal walking speed, but you could probably manage it in 10 if you were to try your best (possibly not the best idea if you’ve just eaten the big breakfast). It’s also an 18 minute walk from Avenue.
So, in conclusion;
- The queue was slow moving, but this would be easy to fix
- The atmosphere was good, but not quite as good as a lot of supermarket cafés
- I waited nearly 15 minutes for my food, it wasn’t busy and I don’t think that can be justified in a supermarket café
- Items cost nearly 50p each, way above what most people charge for them, the big breakfast and a cup of tea was £5.18
- The food was very well cooked, the toast was amazing
- Their biggest breakfast wasn’t big enough for me
- It’s close enough to Highfield and Avenue to eat before a lecture.
My rating: 5/10. It’s not bad as supermarket cafés go, but that’s not without some significant problems.
If you’re in no rush and don’t mind paying more, go for it, you’ll enjoy most of the atmosphere and especially the toast, but it’s certainly not somewhere to stop off on the way to lectures with a typical student breakfast budget.