My elder daughter, who is revising for her second year exams, declared that she needed a break from studying at home. So we headed to the Central Library, she with her laptop and I with the book I need to have read for our reading group next Friday (Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife, if you're interested).
Reading and writing are hungry work so, after a couple of hours we stopped for lunch and headed across College Green to Woodes.
Established in 1966 this little cafe is a popular destination for people working or shopping nearby. The polished wooden decor, the winding staircase and the tarnished mirrors are reminiscent of a Parisian cafe. The atmosphere is bustling, warm and friendly.
We chose sandwiches from a selection just inside the front door and ordered hot drinks at the bar. The cafe was packed but we managed to find a table upstairs and stuck into our lunch. My daughter had brie and cranberry on an olive roll. I had egg mayonnaise and cress on white bread. The bread was soft and the fillings generous, and at £2.50 - £3.00 the sandwiches represented good value. Takeaway prices are lower.
I drank a cup of tea, no better or worse than could be expected from a tea bag in a mug. I do prefer my tea poured from a pot. My daughter's hot chocolate was hot and chocolatey but was served in a ridiculously tall thin mug, which I had visions of overturning as I negotiated the winding staircase. Why do proprietors feel the need to opt for style over practicality when it comes to crockery?
My daughter has a sweet tooth and so, after we'd finished out sandwiches, I popped back downstairs to find a slice of millionaire's shortbread from the cake display. At 95p it wasn't as expensive as some I've seen, but this did little to compensate for the disappointment on biting into it. It didn't appear to be homemade and it smelt and tasted of playdoh. The layers of caramel and chocolate were miserly. A poor finish to what had otherwise been a perfectly pleasant lunch.
We didn't loiter, mainly because we wanted to fit in a visit to see Leonardo's drawings at the Museum and Art Gallery, but also because it's not the sort of cafe in which to linger. The wooden seats don't invite you to lounge and the turnover, at least at lunchtime, is brisk.
It wasn't my first visit to Woodes and I'm sure it won't be my last. But next time I won't bother with a cake!