The Little Chef, Weston on the Green, A34 near Oxford
It’s not in Birmingham, and it’s not independent, but the Little Chef breakfast is certainly iconic, and all the signs were telling us that on the long drive back to Birmingham we should eschew looking for a lovely independent cafe, and instead do what we did in our childhoods and eat at the Little Chef.
How did we know this was the right choice? Firstly, the Olympics are on! If you are every to review the Little Chef Olympic breakfast, Olympic season is the time to do it. Secondly, in a random turn of events the Little Chef liked one of my Instagram pictures yesterday. Surely not as random as it seemed, and more likely the universe speaking to us. And thirdly, the Weston on the Green branch was exactly at the point on our journey when we got hungry, so practicality, as well as the Fates, was appeased by our choice.
The first thing that you notice is that it is so red. The branding is dominated by red to an intense degree. Somehow, it comes off as jolly rather than the more negative connotations of the colour: more Christmas than sea-of-blood. Caveat: this Little Chef, it later turned out, was one of ten that Heston Blumenthal had a hand in doing up on his ill-starred turn with the company. Potentially, this Little Chef is therefore a bit different to most of the chain.
The place was reasonably busy, around ten tables filled exclusively with older couples and motorcycling couples. One pair had an adorable dog. The interior was clean and oh-so-red, with printed tiles on the ceiling to look like the sky. It was very bright, the chairs were comfy, and while the battered dark red pleather benches I remember from my childhood were gone, that turns out to be a good thing.
The whole place felt very calm and welcoming: our waitress was delightfully friendly, quickly seating us, taking our order, and helpfully pointing out that is is actually cheaper to just order the Olympic breakfast than to order the smaller Early Starter. I was frankly too frightened by the size of the Olympic and paid the surcharge for the smaller meal.
The Olympic breakfast, £8 to include a cup of tea, but not including the hash browns shown on the left here, is really enormous. There is so much of it, it is clearly far too much for a normal human being to eat in one sitting. The sauted potatoes were a nice addition, although again there were millions of them. Eggs on both dishes were perfectly gooey, the bacon was very nice, and the sausages were a bit average. You can choose fried or normal toast, in white or brown.
The toilets are nicely tiled, and stocked with paper and soap, but in contrast to the rest of the restaurant, which glowed with cleanliness (and redness) were slightly grubby, and one toilet was out of order.
You pay at the till in the Little Chef, and the most delightful treat of all waits for you there. Despite not having been to one for 15 years, they still have a big bowl of Little Chef boiled sweet lollies (technically for the kids I suppose), just as they always have, to take on leaving. Amazing.
I don’t think you can necessarily generalise about the quality of Little Chef’s around the country, so I’m only commenting on this one, but this branch does exactly what you want: solid menu, well-cooked, friendly service, clean and attractive surroundings. We left refreshed, and would go again.
Price: mid range but a lot for your money: £8 for the Olympic breakfast
Atmosphere and design: very red, functional, but in a jolly and fun way
Food: British dishes, exactly as they always have been
Toilets: functional, but not as clean as they could be
Enjoyment: a solid place to stop and recharge on a long journey. Lovely staff.