Sunday, November 27, 2016

Review: Town Mill Bakery

The Virtues of Fresh Ingredients

On top: an egg and bacon sandwich, served with ketchup
Below: my egg-in-a-basket served with roast tomato and onion relish

I expected seafood to be the culinary highlight of my time in Dorset, but here I am writing about a bakery. The food here was so good that we came back for breakfast twice while in Lyme Regis, and my partner bought a loaf of bread to take home as well. That's definitely unusual, especially for me, as I'm always gunning to try new places no matter how much I may have enjoyed a meal somewhere. 

The venue - a hipster hardboard affair

I'll start off by admitting that this isn't the most usual of venues: there's quite a bit of self-service involved in eating here, a bit like a school cafeteria. Go in and find yourself a seat at the long, communal tables. Help yourself to unlimited toast from a counter, as well jam, butter and peanut butter from shared bowls. Look around the other counters in the room, and help yourself to whatever baked goods, cold drinks and cereals you fancy. Order coffee from the person near the coffee machine, and hot food from the cook near the griddle. Pay for anything you've had as you leave. Simple enough, if you know what's going on.

The cooking station, where you can have a look at the menu
as well as order hot food

Unfortunately no one's there to explain all this to you when you come in. I can see why some people would be put off, especially if they were coming in looking for table service. At the same time, I do like the laid back approach. There's no pressure to order or awkward wait to be seated, and I love the trust implied by letting you pay at the end. Staff were nice and helpful when we did speak to them, and explained how everything worked. Perhaps they should just invest in explanatory signs - it would be an easy way to avoid confusion, especially during the busy summer season.

My egg filled croissant - not on the menu, I just asked for the bacon
to be taken out and tomatoes added. Strong cappuccino on the side

As for the food, the real strength of this place lies in its use of fresh ingredients. Biting into my fried egg on my first visit, I wondered for a moment why it tasted so strange. Then I remembered that this what eggs are actually meant to taste like. The roasted tomatoes were juicy and tangy, so much better than anything I've been able to make myself from supermarket produce. And of course, anything baked was very fresh. I had an egg filled croissant for my second visit (not on the menu, I asked specifically), and it made for a surprisingly interesting breakfast given what it sounds like. The croissant was light and airy, and aside from the egg it was filled with tomatoes (I'd asked for extra to replace the bacon), and green leaves dressed in pesto. The cooking was obviously good elsewhere too - the ketchup and onion relish actually held their own as enjoyable components of the meal rather than optional extras. 

On the left, cereals and bread to toast
On the right, bowls of communal butter, peanut butter and jam

I wish I'd tried some of the tray bakes on offer, but there's only so much food I can justify for breakfast. I did try some toast with butter and jam - and I can report that the jam is of a super-sweet runny raspberry variety. I also didn't try lunch here, but apparently they serve soups (in bread bowls) and sandwiches. Of course, every place has a few disadvantages. This particular bakery is purposefully (hipster-fully?) ramshackle: it's basically like a DIY extension, and can get quite cold if not full of people. The meat, egg and veg are all cooked on a shared griddle, so there is no way to have a real vegetarian meal here. For me, this holds the score down a little. A quick breakdown of the prices: unlimited toast was £3.20 for an adult, most sweet tray bakes around £3.00, hot breakfast items started at £5.50, and coffee around £2.50. We paid around £16 for two hot sandwiches and coffees, so while not cheap it's definitely not inflated to big city prices. And don't believe what Google says, they're currently open for lunch and breakfast 7 days a week! 

Food: 7.5/10
Service: 7.5/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Value: 7/10

Final Score: 7.5/10

Contact Information
A: 2 Coombe St, Lyme Regis DT7 3PY, United Kindgom
T: +44 (0)1297 444754

NB. The final score, while influenced by the sub-scores, is a qualitative reflection of my overall impression of the establishment.

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