The Restaurant: Harvester
Specimen Venue: Colchester
Menu: ‘Continental’ Buffet, unlimited hot items cooked to order
Price: £2.99 (99p kids) all you can eat continental, £4.99 (£1.99 kids) to include hot items, bottomless coffee additional £2.25, other sundries available at further cost.
Highlight: Good range on cold items
Lowlight: see below!
General Score: 5/10 *
You know when you discover something, and it’s great and you love it and you tell everyone about it and as soon as you do it turns to crap and everyone thinks you’re a bit of a mental for being an advocate of it? Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Harvester Breakfast: Discovered by the boy some time ago when on his way to a solo Toby outing- the bright lights and silly low price tempted him off the long road to Copford to drop in on the Harvester instead. He would not shut up about it and I was taken there under force at the next available opportunity.
And it was great. Quiet, clean enough and incredibly good value for an extensive cereal spread and all you can go fry up. First off, I will lodge here my objection to the use of ‘continental’ to describe a cereal buffet. This is not a continental buffet, it is yoghurt, cereal, fruit and various bread based items. No meat or cheese, no continental. To my mind anyway. So it’s not continental, but it is good with a mix of your family favourite cereals (including coco pops hurrah!) tinned and fresh fruit, greek yoghurt and a sweet sticky berry compote mix which is to die for. Possibly literally so given the recent recommendations on reducing one’s sugar intake. Standard issue toaster machine of hell with sliced bread and crumpets also present. It was marvellous in the old days, as was my fry up. Again, a seriously extensive list of items as many as you want of all usual suspects plus black pudding and a several variants on the fried potato. Steak or chips available to add at extra cost. Have as many rounds of as much as you want, cooked to order. This is a good idea to me vs the hot buffet, as it reigns in the more
self loathing modest diner as I personally feel a bit funny ordering a second plate from a waitress but wouldn’t think twice about nipping up to help myself to extra sausages from a hot cart. Favourable on my stretch marks and also a money saver for the establishment as even though it is all you can eat, you tend to eat less.
It was great, piping hot and well done and wow, that bill isn’t hurty at all so why not go all out and have the bottomless coffee too. Said coffee was never that great, but it took some time before it became truly awful.
The sad fact of the matter is that people found out about it, and came in their droves, and the restaurant just can’t cope. In fact they make no effort to. I’m no chef but I’ve worked in kitchens and I don’t know how on earth half the stuff they serve these days gets across the pass. In recent visits we’ve endured black sausages (no, they shouldn’t have been), so over scrambled eggs that they were actually powdering again, poached eggs I slipped in my handbag to bring home for pan scouring use and cold black pudding. It hadn’t been cooked and gone cold- it had gone straight from fridge to plate. Their mushrooms are inevitably fried in margarine with all the dirt left in. Worst of all these days you have to wait half an hour or more for it. I have no issue waiting my turn in a busy restaurant, but not for this shit, and it breaks my heart because when the Harvester Breakfast first came to Colchester it was a thing of glory indeed. They can’t serve the demand, the scant staff are visibly stressed, the cold items don’t get topped up and their coffee is frequently reminiscent of a big whiff of burning tyres. A kitchen should be prepared for and even thrive on high demand periods, even if you are on the lower end of the budget scale. If I could give them one tip as a previously frequent customer- take a lesson from another breakfast establishment soon to be added to these digital tomes and turn people away. If you can’t cope, say no, sorry, no tables. Because when you over seat, you give everyone a little slice of rubbish that they wont forget. If I can’t get a table somewhere I like, I moan like a drain about it. Then I book, and I go back again. I’m not going back to my local Harvester for breakfast, ever.
So why a five out of ten? Because it’s a chain, not a single site and we have had some very nice outings over the course of various budget hotel trips in the last year or so, I could particularly recommend breaking your fast at Harvester at the Bridgend retail park. Marvellous.
Update 12/11/15- prices have changed and all you can eat on hot food no longer available