Lloyds Cafe & Bistro, Catherine Street

EE RecommendsIf I was in to fluffing out my review titles with a tagline, I would say that it was ‘A little bit of London in Exeter‘.  The atmosphere, the bustle and professionalism of the service felt like something that was more akin to central London fine-dining than an Exeter cafe.

Tori and I met some friends who we’d not met in person before on Saturday afternoon, the whole experience was a very positive one and this was (not just because they were lovely people) helped immensely by the fact that we went somewhere that was so nice.
We met them outside The Royal Clarence hotel and after a bit of debate we said that we’d head up to the Giraffe Cafe in Princesshay which I had not been to in years, and I was feeling up for a revisit review.

But after a few steps up towards Princesshay along Catherine Street our curiosity got the better of us and we had a quick look at Lloyds menu and I was tempted immediately by their Olympic Breakfast.  Something that heralded back to my youth when I would go to the Haldon Little Chef with my grandmother to eat very traditional English cafe food, and the Olympic Breakfast that was a signature dish of the Little Chefs.

So Lloyds is quite a new addition to Exeter’s already brimming portfolio of places that serve food.  In terms of cafe’s Exeter doesn’t have many traditional cafes as I have lamented in previous reviews.  The centre of Exeter has the Milk Maid and Gourmandine and now Lloyds Cafe and Bistro.

What makes this establishment stand out though is that Lloyd’s can turn itself in to a restaurant in the evening, continuing the service beyond the realms of the cafe’s next door.

The prices are about average for such a central location.  They might be a bit more pricey than a few other places but you pay for the experience.

I think the ultimate test to any service is trying to get a table when it is at its busiest.  It was a Saturday lunchtime when we visited, so by definition it was busy, really really busy.  There was a queue to get in, I don’t think I have ever queued to get in to a place apart from the odd occasion in London when you wait to get in to some of the more popular restaurants, but a queue to get in? This place must be either good or very small.

It is not a small establishment, there is a fair number of covers but I was reassured when I counted five service staff (including the manager) too whizzing around. Not panicked or flapping but calmly and professionally.  As you can imagine, when it gets this busy there is no encouragement to sit and chat after you have finished your meal, the manager was assuring those trying to get a table how long they would have to wait, normally between five or ten minutes at the most.

We were lucky and were able to sneak in and get a table for four relatively quickly.  The table was cleaned before we sat down and we were handed our menu’s.  We ordered drinks, mine as usual was a cup of tea at £1.75 for an almighty mug, not in a pot which was a nice change.

The service was quick to bring our drink orders and take our food orders.  We had to ask the waitress to come back as we were not finished deciding which she did very willingly.  A couple of minutes later another waitress came back and we had to say that we hadn’t made up our minds just yet (we were being very indecisve).  So again another waitress came back after this, and we were ready to give the orders.  In a classic comedy of  miscommunication the waitress misheard Ryan when he said ‘I’m sorry I will just have to have…’ she thought that he was about to say ‘I’m sorry we’ll need to have another minute’ and she stomped off to deal with another customer just as Ryan said what he wanted to order.  We were all stunned that she had just walked off, but laughed about the fact it was only more evidence to further prove that Ryan scares off waitresses.
The fourth visit by a waitress finally got our food orders down on paper, we did mention this comedy moment to the waitress who took our orders, and she was quite apologetic and a bit stunned,  although we felt it was a bit rude for the other waitress to assume what was about to be said it didn’t necessarily impact on the whole experience.

Our food orders were very quick.  They all came out at the same time, and they were hot.  The presentation was consistent, there were two Olympic breakfasts on our table and they both looked relatively the same.  Portions were fair and equally laid out.

Although you would go to other places and find that you would get maybe slightly more for your money in terms of quantity the quality of the food was very good.  The sausages were evenly cooked and flavorsome, the bacon was crisp but not incinerated.  The poached eggs were well-done, the mushrooms were moist but not greasy and the tomato wasn’t cooked to oblivion.  It was a very well cooked meal with minimal grease on the plate.  The bread was toasted to perfection and the whole thing just felt like it had been done by a chef, not a cook.

After we finished our meal, the service was quick and the bill came at lightening speed.  As I was eating my meal, I had noticed that the queue had diminished but then come back at various points, clearly Saturday was a day not to come if you were averse to waiting for a table but then I am averse to waiting for a table.  I hate waiting, but the service was so professional I didn’t mind as I knew how long I would have to wait and that when I got there, I would be taken care of.

My concluding thoughts are positive.  A well cooked meal, although higher in price than I might choose to normally pay, was reaffirmed by the professional and competent service.  The bustle and standard of this cafe is really a little bit of London in a small pocket of Exeter.  A lovely Cafe & Bistro with an appealing Brunch menu which is still affordable.  If you want to keep in touch with Lloyds Cafe then they have a website which seems to be under construction at the moment, but they are on Twitter!/eat_Lloydscafe here.


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