Dobbies Altrincham, Green Lane, Altrincham, WA15 8QP.
Dobbies Altrincham, not to be confused with the house-elf of Harry Potter fame, is the café restaurant attached to the garden centre chain. To set the record straight, Dobbies does not (and has never) sold itself as an institute of fine dining. Rather, Dobbies acts a catch-all for elderly day trippers, parents of young children and the occasional, green-fingered aficionado.
With that in mind, it may seem harsh to single out the humble eatery. The relentless march of culinary critique, however, bows for no horticultural retail giant.
Statistically, Dobbies is the worst rated restaurant in Timperley according to TripAdvisor. Despite boasting the number one soup in the village (admittedly, out of one), the 2.5 rated café finds itself at the bottom of the pile for breakfasts. But why?
With the bravery befitting only the mightiest of investigative journalists, I embarked on the savoury mission of testing Dobbies’ appetising dishes. Has the café’s reputation experienced an unpalatable miscarriage of justice or will I be left terri-fried by the breadful offering?
Upon entering the sprawling garden centre, the explosions of colour from the plentiful flowers draws the gaze. A mini-Garden of Eden. Yet, it is almost impossible to shed the uneasy feeling found only in the solitude of a dying American mall. A lack of natural activity populates the floral maze en route to the café, which slowly emerges as a hybrid of an oasis and The Backrooms.
The first signs of human life. An elderly couple share a coffee tucked away in a corner, warmed by the natural light flooding through the translucent glass roof. After a summary review of the short but sweet breakfast menu, it is straight to the queue at the till.
“… oh no, never this Sunday – it is always far too busy…”
Although only a brief snippet of a conversation between the kindly old lady before me and the waitress, the impact of the message lands the same. The café, which looks fit to seat around one hundred at max capacity, is to provide the arena for a Mother’s Day brunch bonanza. Not so shabby for the alleged worst-rated local eatery.
I decided to opt for the high-stakes Dobbies Full Breakfast. Two sausages and bacon rashers, black pudding, grilled tomatoes, hash brown, baked beans, toast and an egg.
After collecting my extra-large teapot and cutlery, I settled down into the sensible yet unforgiving furniture. A slight slide of the tray did little to rouse any suspicions. Upon attempting to pour from the comically oversized ceramic, however, and my worst fears materialised. I was powerless to stop the manic rocking of the table, causing a mini tsunami of the aromatic beverage.
Not that the mess made too much of a difference. Patches of mud and prints littered the floor, understandable in a dog-friendly, garden centre café. Less justifiable was the stains on the table.
Amongst this, Dobbies’ finest English breakfast had arrived. A wait time of less than five minutes – a far-cry from the reviews that had bemoaned of half-hour plus waits.
The offering, as shown below, succeeded the eye-test of this hardened reviewer. Thick wedges of white toast flanked a symphony of delectable delights. The hash brown gave way with an electric crunch under the pressure of the fork. Further north, a lagoon of yolk awaited, cocooned in a fried egg that laid perilously atop the edge of a well-cooked mushroom.
To reference a Clint Eastwood classic, let’s get down to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
A herby eruption accompanies each mouthful of sausage – an enchanting surprise that justified the price of the breakfast alone. The egg, despite its misshapen nature, offered hearty stodge while the mushroom was cooked to perfection. The greatest surprise of all? A well spiced black pudding that too often finds itself neglected by other big breakfast players.
Unfortunately, a couple of culprits soured the party. Greasy, stringy bacon limply occupied space on the plate. Worse yet, the toast’s fluffy aesthetics transpired as nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Good bread, much like the foundation of a building, is a key component of the English breakfast – without it, you run the risk of it all falling down.
Finally, ‘The Ugly’. The hash browns lacked flavour despite passing initial sight/sound tests and the flacid temperature of the beans spoiled the taste. A morsel of the tomatoes confirmed they were grilled and edible, but it is an item I often avoid.
Overall, in this reviewer’s opinion, Dobbies has fallen victim to negative press. The wait time was exceptional while the price and food quality was more than acceptable. Although fleeting, encounters with the staff were helpful and jolly. Cleanliness could do with some attention, but the complete experience is far more deserving of a 3.5.