The Deli has had a refurb, and it’s very much a ‘take everything away and start again’ refurb.
The problem with The Deli’s predecessor, The Venue, was not really the food, but the way you felt a little bit like you were sat at the breakfast bar of a show-home kitchen. Old Deli had a similar (lack of) ambience. So, credit is definitely due to whoever designed New Deli, because they’ve finally created a space where someone might want to sit and spend time in. The lighting is lower and the tables seem slightly closer together. The serving area’s been moved to the far wall (the one closest to Alex Square) which does create a bit of a squash, to be honest, but at least you’re not queueing out of the door, as you used to.
The main hot product at lunch is the cryptically-named ‘stew’. Your subtext reviewer drone chose vegetable and took a seat. When it came it was very nice, with carrots, barley and onions. There’s also an accompanying jar, containing two blanched slices of carrot, some cauliflower and a pickled gherkin, in a bit of vinegar. Are you supposed to add it to the stew, or something? Lose the gherkin if you want this to happen.
For those just wanting something to take away, there are plenty of sandwiches and salads, including the Turkey Focaccia Club and a California Veggie Sandwich.
There’s a lot of space on the new menu devoted to coffee. Sadly, the ‘drip blends’ (filter coffee to you and me) from Atkinson’s hadn’t yet arrived in stock, so subtext lingered over a latte while admiring the coffee ‘tasting notes’ from the menu. Who’s going to be able to resist the Guatemala Pensativo, a ‘coffee from the immediate vicinity affected by the Fuego volcanic eruption’? As we enjoy the ‘custard cream biscuit mouthfeel’ we’re encouraged to ‘spare a moment to think of those stoic communities around Pensativo.’ What a world we live in today.
One of the most agonising aspects of being at Lancaster used to be the dispiriting decision about which truly awful food outlet to take external visitors to, and how long exactly to spend apologising to said visitors for the lack of a suitable eating venue on campus. (Lancaster House Hotel was to a certain extent an the exception to this conundrum, but was a little far for lunch for those based in North Campus, and a little heavy on the old departmental budgets).
This all changed when The Lounge ‘came on stream’, as management types like to say these days. While connoisseurs of Lancaster’s night-time economy may have at first wondered whether the venerable but long-defunct nightclub of the same name in the city centre was opening a branch on campus, it turned to be something of a surprise: a halfway decent restaurant, with a menu that changed once in a while, table service, and above all, an ambience that did not involve dart-boards or formica tables.
After some initial wobbles around service from staff more used to doling out mashed potatoes in a cafeteria, The Lounge quickly came into its own, offering a choice of hot, substantial lunches alongside quicker options such as soup or sandwiches, and a variety of salads for the health-conscious. There was always at least one, and usually two or three vegetarian dishes for each course. More recently they have started offering vegan and gluten-free dishes as well. Despite occasional mislabellings on the menu (salmon is rarely considered vegetarian these days), the dishes generally not only sound good on the page but also look good on the plate, for example the rather seasonal ‘Parsnip gnocchi with roasted beetroot, sautéed winter greens, and sun-dried tomato sauce’ or a ‘Deli open sandwich with mushroom and stem broccoli and kale pesto’.
Food is only served 12-2, and this slot can get rather busy, particularly around Christmas and exam board time. Nevertheless, with a quick heads up to the staff, it is usually possible to get in and out within an hour, and to leave full and contented, and most importantly, not embarrassed in front of visitors.
As part of a possibly ongoing series of reviews of the places that matter on campus (i.e. food and drink venues) we have dispatched our gaggle of taster drones on a culinary fact finding mission. The first to report back was last seen in public staggering out of Go Burrito, clutching its stomach-parts and softly whimpering ‘can’t… eat… any… moar’.
The campus Go Burrito started as a rather ingenious attempt to keep a business afloat – or rather, not afloat, given the mothership premises are on Church Street in Lancaster, in one of the areas of the city centre worst affected by flooding following Storm Desmond in late 2015.
The formula is relatively simple, and superficially reminiscent of the Starbucks/Subway style choice system, where customers are given a series of increasingly complex options about what exactly they want in their food. At Go Burrito, fortunately, rather than over-sweetened and overpriced coffee drinks or limp-looking bread rolls topped with limp-looking other stuff, the choices are rather more appealing. Patrons are invited to choose their burrito size, type of beans, spicy or mild rice, main filling (a choice of around 5-6 meat or vegetarian options including beef/veggie chilli, pulled pork, stir fry veg, and sometimes specials), salsas of various spiciness, and a large selection of other fillings including jalapeños, guacamole and, for some bizarre reason, crushed tortilla chips.
There isn’t much in the way of sides: currently curly fries or nachos, and the hot cheese sauce is a bit too like what you might find in a cinema chain (our drone preferred sour cream as a topping). The drinks are also a little on the sugary side (who even knew that Lilt still existed?), but by and large Go Burrito offers a decent lunch of not too unhealthy fast-food at non-astronomical prices. And if you ramp up the spice levels enough, you might even be able to stay awake after lunch despite having consumed a large burrito oozing with cheesy chilli goodness.