The highlight of the weekly club run is, for many, the cafe stop. A chance to chat, relax and refuel for the ride home with a tasty snack. Some refuel with cake. Those in the know go for a savoury option. For some, including me, the savoury snack of choice is the humble bacon sandwich. A simple classic that is – when done well – one of life’s true pleasures.
What follows is a review of the bacon sandwiches served at the cafes frequented by BRC on the Saturday club run – the result of extensive research conducted over many years. Consider it authoritative.
For the uninitiated, the bacon sandwich has just two compulsory ingredients; bacon and bread. That’s it. Additional optional ingredients include butter/margarine and some sort of sauce, usually tomato or brown. Some order it with a fried egg. I don’t. There is no place for any form of salad in a bacon sandwich, unless we’re talking about a cold sandwich, such as the BLT, which we’re not. No, we’re talking about the traditional British version made with hot bacon and absolutely no salad. The bacon can be streaky or back, smoked or unsmoked, thin or thick cut. It can be fried, grilled, oven baked or even air fried (I’m told). The bread can be white or brown, in the form of a roll, sliced loaf, baguette or even a panini. Basically, anything goes when it comes to the bread.
Well, the bacon must be of good quality and freshly cooked. Ideally, the rind will be crispy, though a small amount of softer fat is acceptable. For back bacon, two or three rashers is enough. One isn’t. The bread must be fresh and of the right consistency. Too soft or airy and the sandwich will collapse in the hands. Too tough or dense and a jet of sauce may be fired out the side as it is bitten into. Nothing is more annoying than this. The bread to bacon ratio is important. Too much bread makes it difficult to taste the bacon and can lead to bloated-ness. Too little bread can cause structural issues and an unsatisfied appetite. No one wants to tackle the inevitable major climb seconds after leaving the cafe over or under-fuelled. When it comes to extras, this very much comes down to personal preference. I favour a small amount of butter and tomato sauce.
So with that, on with the reviews.
Flawless. Two perfectly cooked thick-cut smoked rashers served on buttered freshly baked brown bread, sliced from a large bloomer loaf. The choice of the bloomer is inspired, resulting in an easy to handle long, narrow sandwich. A fairly new cafe for BRC, about 5 miles north-west of Usk on the B4598. Well worth the out-and-back detour.
Be warned: The breakfast menu ends at 11:30am (strictly enforced). A prompt departure and brisk pace out of Bristol is therefore required, with no hold-ups, to avoid disappointment.
A proper doorstep sandwich. Two well cooked thick-cut rashers served on chunky hand-sliced, fresh bread (tinned loaf), with a small amount of butter. Usually excellent, though occasionally the bread is sliced too thickly, or worse, in a wedge shape! Thankfully, mistakes such as this are becoming less frequent. Avoid if you’re looking to set a PB up the gorge.
Top tip: Big enough to share, particularly if you also share a cake, as a dessert.
A modern twist on the old classic. Layers of thinly sliced streaky bacon served in a toasted panini with homemade tomato relish. I was skeptical, but it definitely works. Delicious.
Two good quality rashers (as you might expect from a farm shop) served in a lightly toasted, buttered bap. Very tasty, but on the small side.
Two rashers served in a large pre-sliced ‘burger bun’. Decent bacon let down by the bread.
Two rashers of well cooked bacon served in….well….it depends. Either a floury bap or a sliced loaf, with a small amount of margarine. Not the highest quality bread in either case, but passable and good value.
Not bad. Nothing to write home about. Can’t help but think there must be better options in Monmouth.
Not up to the standard of Cafe Gorge over the road, so rarely visited these days, but an acceptable offering. Two average quality rashers on average quality sliced bread. Bang average all round.
Yet another average offering. Two rashers with under-cooked rind, served in either pre-sliced tin loaf bread, or a bap (pictured). The sliced bread in particular is a bit too airy. Prone to collapse. Only available until 11:30am.
Very similar to the Morris’s offering above (sliced bread version). The bread is way too light. I’ve experienced ketchup escaping through the bread on more than one occasion here!
Unremarkable. Same flaws as The Boathouse and Morris’s Garden Centre. Nice spot by the canal though.
It’s only fair to mention that I’ve only had a bacon sandwich here once, and may have caught them on a bad day. I was served three rashers in a stale baguette. Lots of rind, all of it soggy. Served with a completely unnecessary side salad.
Top tip: There are better options in Tintern, but if you find yourself in this place, order something else, such as the extra large toasted teacake.