The Restaurant: Toby Carvery
Specimen Venue: Colchester
Menu: Hot buffet*
Price: £3.99 all you can eat, bottomless coffee additional £1.99, other additional sundries at cost depending on location*
Highlight: Sausage and mushrooms*
Lowlight: not great for restrictive diets
General Score: 8/10 *
*fairly serious variations between restaurants on price, inclusions and quality
Although it wasn’t the first one we had out, our first visit to Toby for a breakfast was certainly the habit former which bought us to the point where I have enough experience to blog about restaurant breakfasting. I have to say I’m not a massive fan of the self proclaimed ‘Home of the Roast’- for those who are unfamiliar Toby are a chain of carvery style restaurants with wallet friendly prices and often unfortunately cooked vegetables. My opinion is slightly tainted by genetics (or being raised in a family with extreme roast potato prejudice), and I must admit that a Toby dinner will certainly do in a pinch. By ‘pinch’ I mean usually when we’re a day late with the big shop and don’t want to go to Sainsbury’s on an empty tummy but there is only old butter and half a lime in the fridge.
But enough on the roast, we’re talking about breakfast, and a Toby breakfast is a special thing indeed. In Colchester. My friends a Toby brekkie is highly location sensitive, as I shall explain shortly. But in my neck of the woods you pay on entry, pick up your mug on the way through (seriously who doesn’t have coffee?) and choose your own table in a large and generally warm and comfy dining area. Fill up your coffee, hit the buffet bar.
Toby get a point for having warmed plates that don’t burn your hands, and another one for being the only place I have ever been where the first item on the run is Yorkshire puddings and breakfast gravy. I have to say I have never indulged, but plenty do. On to your more expected bacon, sausage (bloody good sausage at that), fried egg, scrambled egg, hash browns, grilled and plum tomatoes, beans, mushrooms. An extra point for managing to turn out mass produced scrambled egg which isn’t like at home but doesn’t resemble a hot block of polystyrene either.The second Toby Exclusive once you’re over your breakfast yorkie is Toby Hash- a devilishly moreish pot of potatoes, bacon, cheese and onions. Dieters, go home! Sideline of bread and crumpets available with one of those horrid little mini grill contraptions and yes, you can go up as much as you want and take as much as you want, as many times as you want. A Toby breakfast day is a no-more-food-til-dinner day without fail.
On the whole, at our Colchester branch, it’s very good. The sausages are brilliant, the mushrooms pass my rigorous quality control and if it’s a good hash day, it’s amazing. The real top tip here is to go when it’s relatively busy as the pots are all topped up pretty quickly and you are less likely to end up with sad, rubberifying egg that’s been sat in its own oil for the last half hour. The best method I have found is to arrive about 0845 on a weekend to get your first sitting in before the masses descend- herein the added bonus of there being a really big queue by the time you have finished your first plate which helps discourage an unnecessary second trip to the sausage pot.
For the sake of balance- Toby isn’t for everyone. It’s not very veggie friendly though I believe you can get quorn items on request but as with all buffets the spoons are mixed about and the herbivores don’t like that. It’s not one for dieters either though Atkins types can fill their boots. Toby is also
full of kids family friendly and incredibly informal- you’re not there for a refined or relaxing experience.
Actually I’m not done.
Flashback to some friends visiting from Cardiff some months ago and our breakfast date with them. Flashback to a throwaway comment of ‘Oh good, they do mushrooms here, you have to pay at home’. I wish that I had paid more attention to this comment, but I was hungry at the time.
Flash not quite so far back to a return visit to the above friends, where I purposely booked a low cost hotel chain that had a conveniently located Toby, next door, for breakfast. For the win, I oh so incorrectly assumed.
If Toby Whitchurch had been the first Toby of my life, it would have been the last, it may even have put me off breakfast forever. Awful. Same prices as home with a much more restrictive selection, by which I mean fried eggs, hard bacon, sausage, three grilled tomatoes for the entire place and a week old hash that was welded to the bottom of the pan. All severely over salted and not a single item topped up while we were there. Worsened by the fact that it was the first ever Toby visit for the Mothership and she really never will go back.
The death toll on on a Welsh Toby is that you have to order your mushrooms separately for a couple of quid surplus to your ‘all you can eat’ £3.99. Mushrooms are the corner stone of my treat breakfast, I love them and we don’t tend to have them at home as they boy doesn’t eat them. I want my mushrooms. Of course I’m going to pay extra for mushrooms. They came in a paltry amount, in a sad little bowl swimming in oil and more salt. Not lovely and juicy and roasted like at home. And not included in the price. This was the ultimate betrayal and before you tell me not to judge the land by one site, this is apparently, just what it’s like in Wales as my Cardiff friends are also Toby aficionados and one is an ex Toby employee. I will not do Toby ever, ever again on the
wrong other side of the Severn Bridge.
So in summary if you aren’t too posh, and you aren’t on a diet, and you’re not in Cardiff, go check out a Toby breakfast, you wont get a much better breakfast for two at less than twelve quid.