Wimpy, Happy Eater, Berni Inns: Names of Great British eateries from a bygone era guaranteed to stir nostalgia in anyone over a certain age. And all defunct - or so I thought until a couple of months ago. That was when I heard that Wimpy were to open in Bicester. My first thought was do they still exist? My second was yes, get in! I was even more overjoyed when I heard they were to be moving into the old (sadly missed) Maba building. As a resident of Chapel Street and fast food devotee with a school run taking me directly past the building twice a day, they could not have got their marketing any more spot on. Talk about location, location, location!
|The view from across the street, shortly before opening.|
I was trying to work out the last time I went in a Wimpy and I have narrowed it down to some time in the Autumn of 1993. I was working at Tesco Head Office in Cheshunt at the time and often used to pop into the nearby Waltham Cross shopping centre at lunchtime. One wet Wednesday I recall ducking in there during a torrential downpour and ordering a Pork Bender - that's a whirly sausage thing that goes round and round and round. Simply delightful. On perusing the new menu, I was delighted to discover that the legendary Pork Bender still exists.
So what about Wimpy in Bicester? Well, it has opening hours of 9am to 10pm - again ideal for after the school run. And not too late that you are going to get a lot of drunken idiots. The menu is faithful to the Wimpy of yesteryear - breakfasts, burgers, ice cream floats are all available.
After school this afternoon, I took my two boys down there for a treat on the way home from school in order to go undercover to write this review. It would have been quite wrong of me to reveal my true persona as a famous author and food critic in order to get special treatment, so I pretended to just be an ordinary Joe. No Michael Winner delusions of grandeur here, and anyway, I've heard some disturbing stories about what some chefs once did in his soup, so anonymity is the best way.
We received a warm welcome and sat in a little booth around the corner, facing on to Chapel Street. There was plenty to entertain them in there. There was a TV on the wall showing the latest Top 10 which was good to catch up with - apart from One Direction of course. Ollie ventured the opinion that he didn't like them but that some of the girls in his class do. So that's who's buying all their songs - 8 year old girls. I knew there had to be some explanation. We were also given some place mats with games on them as you can see - Snakes and Ladders and the like.
The food didn't take long to come and was lovely and fresh. Here's a picture of Jamie's fish fingers. He wolfed all of them down as well as two of Ollie's chicken nuggets. Meanwhile I was getting stuck into a nice big plate of sausage, burger and bacon. Just the job.
|Extra long fish fingers|
There have been a few criticisms levelled about the new Wimpy on the Bicester Town Centre Chat forum. To answer these in turn:
1) Bicester doesn't need any more food places.
Personally, I think we need more. After all, why do we need all these estate agents cluttering up the place? Most people only need to buy or sell a house about once a decade, but we need to eat every day. I think we should get rid of all of them and replace them with more restaurants.
2) It's expensive
I don't think so. Prices compare very favourably with other such establishments in Bicester e.g. Deans Diner and there are all sorts of reasonably priced specials - e.g. at the moment they are doing a festive Pigs In Blankets breakfast for £2.99. Anyway, we had three meals and three drinks and it came to £18. Admittedly two of those were children's meals, but I did have the International Grill, the biggest thing on the menu, and as you can see from this piccie, it's a whopper. You'll be hard pressed to find a meal that comes with more chips than this.
|A light snack, Mr Ayres?|
3) It's unhealthy.
Well, it's all down to personal choice isn't it? Nobody's forcing anyone to eat there. Personally, I think life's too short not to indulge in the things you enjoy. Smoking and drinking aren't good for you either, but it doesn't stop people from doing them. Still no doubt I'll get some do-gooders berating me for "poisoning my children" and such like. I call it giving them a treat.
So in conclusion - it's a warm welcome to Wimpy in Bicester from me, and I'm sure I shall be seeing lots of you in there over the next few weeks!
Jason Ayres has just released his latest novel, Global Cooling. You can find it on Amazon by clicking here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Global-Cooling-Time-Bubble-Book-ebook/dp/B00OTTETV4/
Also available from Jason Ayres:
The Time Bubble
The Sausage Man