REMEMBER the last time you dropped into a Little Chef?
Cheap and cheerful “greasy spoon” food, stodgy puds and a free lolly for the kids before you headed off on the highways and byways of Britain once again are probably your abiding memories of the chain of roadside eateries.
But things have changed at Little Chef in recent years. The number of branches across the country has fallen and there has been a re-focus of the menu by none other than celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal who set about revamping tired and outdated restaurants and whizzing through the menu like a hot knife through butter.
The firm’s branch just north of Redhouse on the A1(M) is one of the branches chosen for a lick of paint and a whole host of new grub. Yes, the legendary fry-ups are still there but they’ve been tweaked and brought kicking and screaming into the new millennium.
So while the Olympic Breakfast has survived onto Heston’s new menu, it now comes complete with “a slice of posh black pudding from Ramsay of Carluke” and “a slice of toasted bloomer bread.” No ordinary white bread toast nowadays, sunshine. And its not every day that a roadside eating joint offers up braised ox cheeks - which is precisely what I tucked into on a recent lunchtime stop-off.
If, like me, you thought an ox only had a tail, let alone cheeks (although I don’t wish to know which type of cheeks!) its inclusion proves that Little Chef is accounting for changing tastes on the nation’s plates - and how.
While the tradtionals remain (bangers and mash, macaroni cheese, fish and chips) they’ve all been made, well a bit more modern. As has the restaurant itself.
Cleaner, sleeker, more bright and spacious and with a sky-blue, cloud flecked ceiling, its now feels a lot more up to date.
So, what about those ox cheeks? Well, with all the wild, windy and wet weather we’ve been enduring recently, its the perfect comfort food. Succulent and tender chunks of meat, served in a rich and warming red wine and onion sauce would be enough on its own as a hearty meal - but when it comes with a huge scoop of to die for buttery mash and a side of crushed garden peas, you can’t go wrong.
One of the key strengths of Little Chef is that whether you walk in just after the doors have opened at seven in the morning or you call in just before closing at ten, you can have whatever you want off the menu.
So if you fancy steak and ale pie for breakfast or a supper of porridge, there’s absolutely nothing to stop you.
Other new innovations include a takeway area for coffees and cakes and of course, there’s the obligatory Wi-Fi connections to keep you up to speed on your emails.
Traditionalists will be delighted to know the little shop selling travel sweets, atlases and the like still remains however. And don’t forget to check out the “loos” (no toilets in the new, modern world of Little Chef) - you’ll be treated to a down on the farm experience complete with baa-ing sheep and birdsong!
Little Chef - big changes - and that’s a very good thing.
* Darren Burke