Food review: Loaf & Bloom, Debenhams, Wolverhampton
Debenhams has finally opened in Wolverhampton and it comes with a new deli restaurant Loaf & Bloom. Emily Bridgewater pays a visit . . .
I blame the Prosecco. Lunchtime drinking never ends well.
A glass of fizz each and my colleague and I decided it was high time for a spot of Christmas shopping in Boots.
And so we found ourselves anxiously dashing around the aisles scouting the three-for-two gifts.
To add to the angst-induced frenzy of Christmas bargain hunting while half tipsy, the high street favourite was offering £10 worth of Advantage points – if you spend £50.
Just the thought of the maths involved to make this deal worthwhile has me breaking a sweat. Six gifts for £12.50, or three for £25 . . . Do I actually need six gifts, but do I know anyone worthy of a £25 Soap & Glory gift set? But is it really £25, if you get three for the price of two? Gah. And breathe.
Does anyone else find the whole three-for-two debacle as stressful as cooking a gluten free Christmas lunch for a cantakerous old aunt you never see for the other 364 days of the year? That’s all of us then.
And our lunch break had started so well . . .
We decided to try out the café inside Wolverhampton’s glossy new branch of Debenhams.
Having braved the crowds on opening day, we were relieved to find the store a bit quieter.
However, on arrival at Loaf & Bloom, on the second floor next to the children’s clothes, chaos still reigned with both staff and customers not qute knowing what was what.
A meek woman displaying a Debenhams’s badge was attempting to hand out menus on clipboards at the restaurant’s entrance, while other members of staff from behind the counter tried to attract diners’ attention with calls of ‘can I help you?’. It wasn’t quite clear how the ordering process worked.
That aside, the new ‘deli kitchen’ looked very inviting. The mixture of light wood furniture, darker parquet-style flooring, plenty of greenery and furnishings the colours of summery sorbet, it has the feel of a spa restaurant.
‘A tranquil and uplifting space, allowing you to put down your bags and take a break from shopping’, says the Loaf & Bloom web spiel.
But what about the food? Promising ‘healthy, tasty lunches and snacks from our wholesome, seasonal menu’ we were keen to tuck in.
Sandwiches and huge bowls of inventive-looking salads were appealing. There were decadent cakes behind glass domes and a fridge dislplaying drinks and pots of fresh fruit. We browsed the hot food menu which includes options such as beef meatballs, or butternut squash and rosemary soup, both served with handcut sourdough bread. Loaf & Bloom also serves brunch, and after 2pm, there are platters of food to share.
My friend chose from the hot food selection, opting for the salmon and broccoli fishcakes, which came served with a choice of salad. I meanwhile, couldn’t resist the look of the unusual salad bowls and chose three of those. I could have accompanied it with roast chicken or smoked salmon but, with a plate piled high, it was enough on its own.
We ordered soft drinks, two glasses of Prosecco from the small but pleasant wine list, and two cakes for good measure. It came to £35.
We grabbed one of the tables with comfy chairs – think conservatory chic rather than pensioner’s palace – and awaited the arrival of my friend’s fishcakes and our glasses of fizz. And wait we did. The fishcakes came fairly quickly although we feared the Prosecco had been forgotten. However, as my pal rightly pointed out ‘maybe it’s wise we eat a bit first’. The salads were delish. Of the selection of five, I chose the beetroot, parsley and pistachio; the freekah with raisins and cauliflower; and the giant cous cous with sweet potato. They were the kind of ingredient-rich salads popularised by Jamie Oliver and Yotam Ottolenghi. The beetroot salad was superb with plenty of crunchy, vivid green pistachio nuts and a subtle amount of parsley.
The freekah (which always wants me to break into a rendition of Another Level’s Freak Me) was gently spiced with the flavours of a Moroccoan souk, while the sweet potato and cous cous mix was disappointingly flavourless. The root vegetable was undercooked and the grains lacked seasoning. All the combinations worked well together though, and it made a really delicious change from the usual tomato/lettuce/cucumber option which all too often consitutes as a salad.
Meanwhile, my friend described her fishcakes as ‘chunky, meaty and delicious but could’ve done with more broccoli’. She was served two generous cakes and a bowl of salad for the reasonable price of £8.75. Her accompanying pea and mint salad was refreshing and light, although she was less enamoured by the wild rice and cranberry combo.
Eventually the Prosecco arrived and was a lovely, light accompaniment to our salad. Our lunch was now fizzing along nicely. Despite the wait for our drinks, the service was polite; nothing felt like too much trouble.
Sweet treats included a spectacular maple and chocolate slice, and less than fantastic brownie. The maple slice was rich and caramely, with the texture of a biscuit fridge cake. Sadly, the brownie was dry and lacked a real punch of decadent cocoa.
As talk turned to Christmas shopping, we decided it was time to leave this tranquil paradise.
In hindsight, with the madness of Boots and its triple whammy of points and gifts that followed, we probably should have shopped first and then recovered in Loaf & Bloom afterwards.
Still, there’s always next time . . .