After all the media coverage of Heston Blumenthal's revamp of Little Chef, Tom Vaughan assesses the new breakfast menu of an iconic restaurant saved from the doldrums
What a turnaround. Viewers of Channel 4's Big Chef Takes On Little Chef will have a vague idea just what an upheaval the Little Chef menu has undergone since the dishevelled company brought in über-chef Heston Blumenthal to help revamp its menu, but it really does need to be seen to be believed.
Now, at the same price as the greasy offering that came before, Blumenthal has engineered a breakfast menu of superb standard and value, currently available only at the Popham Services branch of the restaurant.
The Olympic breakfast has survived the cull. Griddled eggs are still there, and there's now Wiltshire cured back bacon - but gone are the fried potatoes and the excess of breadcrumb sausage filler, replaced with cleaner, less oily flavours such as roasted field mushroom and Ramsay of Carluke black pudding, alongside a choice of either grilled tomato or Heinz baked beans. All still for £6.95.
The bacon sarnie that was once a droopy excuse for breakfast is now two rashers of Wiltshire cured back bacon and three rashers of crispy streaky bacon between bloomer bread (£3.95). The American breakfast is gone - part of Blumenthal's bid to return the chain to its roots of wholesome British cuisine - and is replaced by Scottish kippers on toast (£5.50) and porridge made with organic oats and served with a jug of hot, semi-skimmed milk and unrefined sugar on the side (£4.25).
The scrambled eggs, microwaved into oblivion pre-Blumenthal, are now made in a water bath and have the creamy, moist texture you'd expect (£4.50, or £5.50 with smoked salmon). There's a healthy option of strawberry, yogurt and granola breakfast (£4.85) or a choice of pastries - croissant, chocolate croissant or cinnamon swirl - at £2.15 each. There's even the choice of buying an apple or an orange at 45p each.
From the dark days of Little Chef buying in ready-made omelettes and generally serving one of the worst breakfasts on the road, Blumenthal has gone back to basics and sourced good ingredients at a sound price point to transform Little Chef into what should become a popular choice for everyone, not just truckers and the desperate. Although at present the menu is available only at Popham, it will hopefully be rolled out nationwide in time. It may be a couple of decades late but, at last, Little Chef is moving with the times.
Is yours the best breakfast?
In association with Heinz, Caterer will be selecting an annual Best Breakfast offer from those featured in the Breakfastwatch column, with the winner to be announced in the spring.
To qualify, you must run a breakfast menu with a cooked offering. The sponsor's judges will be looking for food selection, healthiness and value, among other criteria.
To put forward a menu, send it and any supporting information to firstname.lastname@example.org.