It's not often I start a review of a Surrey venue by discussing the toilets but I think, in this case, it's only fair to warn you about the ones at Mike's Kitchen, in Carshalton. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with them: they are easily accessed from the cafe and, when I visited them, they were extremely clean. It's just...THEY'RE THE SMALLEST CUBICLES I'VE EVER SEEN!
I took the second photo while perched on the cistern, in order to give you a personal viewpoint of the gap (or lack of) between the toilet and the door. In order to get out you have to undertake a sort of 'shuffling backwards with your legs on either side of the bowl' manoeuvre. Not impossible but definitely challenging, especially if you are wearing a long skirt.
I only mention the toilets because if you decide to visit Mike's Kitchen on the strength of the good review I'm going to give it (I don't have a 'tiny toilet' criteria that may have marked it down otherwise) and you happen to be carrying anything bigger than a clutch bag when you need to pay a visit then you better be a pretty good contortionist. I made the error of entering with my everyday bag and my laptop bag plus a coat and a scarf over my arm and, being immensely claustrophobic at the best of times, had a small moment of panic when I realised that any kind of change of direction was going to involve an amount of bendiness that I wasn't sure I had.
I'll leave you to guess whether I managed to get out or if I gave up and simply set up office in there instead. (It's not that bad, actually; I just have to time phone calls between flushings.)
Wrythe Lane, Carshalton, is not the first area I think about if I'm planning to get out the house and do some freelance writing but, having found myself over that way for another reason entirely, I was desperate for some caffeine and somewhere to park my laptop for a while.
I'm not sure how long Mike and his kitchen have been in situ (although the first TripAdvisor review dates back to October 2015 so I'd take a guess at around that time) but everything about the place, from the sign over the door to the decor inside, feels fresh and new.
There are tables outside the café which, even accounting for the hideous weather when I visited, I'm not sure I'd take advantage of: Wrythe Lane is busy. Busy with cars, lorries and buses which, obviously, means it's pretty noisy. I'm not a fan of taking in large gulps of petrol fumes with my coffee so, even in warmer weather, I think I'd always opt for indoors on this particular road.
And the inside of Mike's Kitchen, luckily, is a much nicer place to be. Warm and immaculately clean, there are quite a few tables to choose from and a huge choice of food and drink for a small place.
Often, an enormous menu can be off-putting. Can the chef really put the same amount of care and attention into all those dishes that he would into a smaller, but more manageable, selection? In the case of Mike's Kitchen, however, it appears that the chef can. I didn't eat on this occasion but the plates that did get taken past me to other customers looked appetising and the reviews (and pictures) on TripAdvisor certainly point to well-received food by everybody.
The man who took my order (possibly Mike himself?) and the woman who then served me were smiley and friendly and my coffee arrived quickly, at the perfect temperature (i.e. hot but not so scalding that you have to wait for half an hour before bringing it anywhere near your lips...).
I was there mid-morning and, although there were a few customers who came in and out, it was quiet enough that I could get my head down and work without needing to plug in my earphones. The noise from the constant traffic outside was surprisingly well-muffled and not a distraction at all.
While Mike's Kitchen isn't quite the kind of place I would deliberately drive all the way from Ashtead to visit (unlike, say, All Things Nice in Ewell or Carolina's in Bookham), if I'm ever back in the Rose Hill/ St Helier location I'd be more than happy to visit it again. Affable staff, good coffee and some peace to work in: what's not to like about that?
After a bustlingly busy half-term, complete with trips here and there to celebrate birthdays and friendships, it's been lovely and peaceful sitting here this morning, in a quiet house, getting back into the swing of writing and working.
In the spirit of my resolution to be more open to new things (see my recent blog post about bursting out of my comfort zone!) I'm genuinely thrilled at the number of interesting opportunities that have been coming my way lately. My Brilliant Business Blogging Workshops are selling out really quickly (soon to be a regular monthly fixture) and I'm running my first Write Freely Workshop at the lovely new venue of Sarah and Bendrix in Cheam, Surrey on Thursday 22 February. Visit my Workshops page for more information and to book your place now!
(I'm also at the preliminary planning stages of my first writing retreat...VERY excited about that!)
P.S. Check out my lovely new logos - appearing on social media everywhere soon - made by the fab Swash & Fold...
I'll leave it to you to guess as to whether I did indeed manage to get out or if I gave up and set up office in there instead. (It's not that bad really, I just have to time phone calls between flushings.)