Archive for February, 2009

Starbucks and its instant coffee – VIA

February 23, 2009

Starbucks has started marketing its own brand of coffee – VIA which I find somewhat puzzling.   However, perhaps it is not so surprising that Starbucks wants a bit of the instant coffee action when you consider that about 80% of coffee consumed in this part of the world is instant and that the total instant coffee market generates about $17bn in sales.

The chain hasn’t been faring well over the past year and in January 2009 announced the loss of nearly 7000 jobs plus the closure of 300  more outlets.  According to a great article by Christopher Caldwell in the Financial Times lately, Starbucks is supposed to be a chain of expresso shops but in reality turns out a poor expresso and instead concentrates on producing an array of steamed milky concotions at superior prices.

A sachet of the instant coffee retails for about $1 which is far from cheap.  Christopher Caldwell rightly points out that Starbucks positioned itself in areas with high income, high population and high education but feels that the chain may be challenged in our current economic climate.

On a positive note for Starbucks,  as people find themselves out of work, they need to be cheered up and often end up at the coffee house.  Instant coffee or otherwise, this should be a ray of sunshine for Starbucks in what has been a rather bleak time for this company.  I am still happy that my town still has an array of private coffee shops rather than endless chains.

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Bar Lunch at Ballynahinch Castle

February 14, 2009

Ballynahinch Castle never disappoints!  Not only is the location superb with fabulous views over the river and  mountains but the food in the bar is always good  (Sadly I can’t speak for the accommodation because I stay with family in the area).

Unlike many new hotels around the countryside that all seem alike (in fact, once in these hotels you could be anywhere in the world), this hotel has retained its original charm from decades ago.  Guests and local fishermen, gillies etc all mingle together in the cosy bar in front of a roaring fire.  There is nothing like a hearty soup and a plateful of sandwiches after a day’s activities in Connemara.  There are loads of fun walks nearby, either in the woods or along the beach at Dogs Bay near Roundstone.

Even if you don’t plan to stay here, drop by and have a drink and a snack at the bar.  You’ll love it!!

Breakfast on Irish Rail – Cork to Dublin

February 14, 2009

The celtic tiger has definitely forced us into complacency about what we eat!  Having spent the few days before my train trip savouring the delightful fresh crispy pain au chocolat at The Yew Tree Bakery in Oughterard, Co Galway, my breakfast on the Cork to Dublin train was a real let down.

For starters, forget being able to buy a cup of herb tea (Take note Irish Rail – Herb Tea Bags last a very long time and are not heavy to transport!).  All I got when I asked for this was a vacant stare from a seriously unenthusiastic chap who spoke very poor English  (Should I have told him that there are probably 100s in this country who would be more than happy for his job right now!).  So I settled for watery hot chocolate (or rather, as it said on the cup – a hot chocolate flavoured drink).  Avoid this, it’s terrible!  For euro 5.25 I bought the hot chocolate and a fruit danish in so much plastic that it felt like I was unwrapping a christmas present and destroying the planet in the process.  The list of additives on the packaging was beyond belief and I seriously wondered if I would survive the day.

There is no reason why food standards cannot be much higher on our public transport system.  Starbucks – Please come and help us out!   Tourists  – Be warned!  Bring a pack snack if travelling by rail here

A snack at the G Hotel in Galway

February 14, 2009

The G Hotel is located on the edge of a shopping complex on the outskirts of Galway.  It overlooks the bay so be sure to ask for a room with a view over the bay if you are staying  (The back looks over the likes of PC World etc – not a pretty sight!).

The decor certainly doesn’t disappoint – A glitzy purple theme with a certain wow factor.  The bar and dining room do look a bit ‘nightclubish’ during the day time so we chose to sit in the bright seated area next to the reception – This area has a great view over the bay and if you are lucky, you will be serenaded by a pianist like we were.

We tucked into scones, soup and burgers.  The food was disappointing aside from the crumbly plain and chocolate scones with a light dusting of icing sugar – These were delicious.  The soup was far too watery.  The burgers were way below average as were the tired looking chips.  In fact, the best part of that dish was the thin lid of crispy pastry used as a decoration.

Two of us had drinks but I tried to plump for hot chocolate to go with my scones – No luck.  There had obviously been a run on the hot chocolate as this drink wasn’t available which I considered poor for this class of hotel.  I settled for mint tea which was good but it came in the smallest tea pot I have ever seen and was barely enough to fill the cup.

Visit here for the view, the quirky purple decor and perhaps the chance to listen to the pianist in the background.  Stick to the scones and definitely avoid the soup and burgers.  Personally, I hate to see Pallas foods listed on the menu as one of the suppliers and this was the case at the G hotel.  What is wrong with the food in this country now is that we have become far too dependant on bulk suppliers such as Cuisine de France and Pallas Foods.  All chefs have to do is open the package and warm up the produce.  Perhaps now that the economy is in meltdown, we will see the re-emergence of the artisan bakers, cooks etc.  I really look forward to that as I am tired of seeing the same produce showing up in every outlet!