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Arsenal v Chelsea – the catering review


Hope springs eternal on the Holloway Road – the catering tour continues

First a disclaimer: this is not a match report (although it may comment on the team’s performance at some stage) this is about food and drink, so you have been warned…

This week, two separate venues, plus the usual update on the incompetence within Arsenal stadium.

The Hope Worker’s café, 111 Holloway Road

I’ve been dining at the Hope before home matches for a few years now as I suspect have many Arsenal fans. It’s a pretty traditional ‘greasy spoon’ with an impressively wide-ranging menu.

You can have a variety of all day breakfasts (one of which looks like it would take me all day to consume it) all at fairly low prices. The sign says you can’t substitute items (I don’t like tinned tomatoes) but other than that there should be something for everyone’s taste. They do burgers in all combinations, steak pie, gammon and cod.

Pretty much everything comes with chips – except the desserts (like crumbles) naturally. Its all good wholesome English grub mixed in with a few continental extras that reflect the ownership. So you will also find lasagne on the menu along with feta and spinach pie.

This is a family business and heading it up is the matriarch, a wonderful woman with a powerful voice who runs the kitchen behind her with military precision. You place your order at the counter and pay then – she shouts out the order to the kitchen and pours you tea or coffee, fetches a soft drink or alcohol (they have a small selection) – you can then relax and take in the surroundings.

The Hope has long wooden tables and chairs, retro adverts for Cola and the like on the walls and an assortment of plastic sauce bottles dotted about. You can imagine it before the smoking ban with a fog hanging above the tables. Because it is always busy on match nights I often end up chatting with someone I’ve never met; it starts with ‘pass the salt mate’ and develops into an analysis of Wenger’s tactics or whether Frimpong is quite as mad as he seems.

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I find it a very friendly place and the landlady helps make it like that with her warmth and personality. On Wednesday night (ahead of Coventry in the League cup) I had fish, chips and peas. It cost me a fiver, arrived in about five minutes and was excellent. If you haven’t tried the Hope before I thoroughly recommend it.

One final point here – the Coventry fans were singing ‘North London’s a sh*t hole, I wanna go home’. I lived in Coventry for six month once. Never again. Banter is banter but those folks were seriously deluded.

The Coronet, 338-346 Holloway Road

Wind forward to Saturday and Tony and I were heading to the Emirates for the early ko against Chelski. Walking down the Holloway Road from Archway we decided to stop off at the Coronet pub which is about five minutes walk from the ground.

The first surprise was being asked for our match tickets by the door staff. Clearly they only let in fans they know are going to the game. However, we spotted at least two people (clearly local Hibernians) who didn’t look like they would make it to this match or indeed any match.

The first impression of the Coronet is its size –  it is massive. Full of Gooners it looked quite good but I bet on a quiet Monday it is dead. Wetherspoons own it so it has quite a large selection of beers and lagers and it does food (which we didn’t have time to sample). I have my doubts about the W’s chain – the beer is relatively cheap but as an ale lover I’m not always sure they keep it that well. However, my Adnams was fine and Tony’s reassuringly expensive lager seemed to go down well enough.

Relaxing on the leather sofas at the back we had a chance to look around. The Coronet is an old cinema; according to the company’s website it ‘was originally the Savoy cinema.  Designed by William Glenn, it opened in 1940 and was renamed the ABC in 1962, and then the Coronet in 1979, screening its last film four years later.’

It was taken over as a pub in 1991. Like so many old cinemas it was presumably forced to close with the advent of video and the ubiquitous multi-screen. Very few old picture houses survive (the Phoenix, East Finchley being a notable and favourite exception) sadly.

The Coronet remembers its past with lots of large screen shots of old stars like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Bogart and Bacall. The old stage is still evident and there is even a disused projector (or at least a mock up of one). So the place has a sort of character even if it is does represent faded nostalgia rather than a real sense of period charm.

And I suppose that’s where we come to with the match itself. In the home team we have real history and class while the away side represented bought glory and a jarring sense of modern arrogance. ‘Champions of Europe, we know what we are’ the joyful Blue clad horde sang. ‘A billionaire’s plaything, we know what you are’ we might have replied. Bitter, me? Thank you very much, don’t mind if I do.

Inside the ground

The issue of trying to buy food and drink within the Emirates Stadium is always the same – there is no organisation and staff are not trained.  (On the latter point even the gentle Stefan got agitated at half time and missed the start of the second half, because of this problem).

A burger ordered at seven minutes before kick off had still not arrived by kick off.  A refund was demanded as one wished to see the game.  This involved getting a supervisor, who paused for a chat with another along the way, and duly the money was handed over.

At half time, amazingly the same thing was happening.  A cheeseburger could not be delivered because none were available.  A burger was ordered as a substitute, and that was achieved – but the gentleman serving looked bemused and aghast at the request for the 50p refund (the difference in price between a cheeseburger and a burger).  Same story – find a supervisor who takes a stroll and deals with other problems along the way, before opening a till.

The issue is simple: availability.   Don’t advertise it Arsenal if you can’t provide it.

@blacksheep63.  Inside the ground comments by Tony.



11 comments to Arsenal v Chelsea – the catering review

  • robl

    Thank you, good review. And I concur heartily regarding Coventry – my other half always maligned it (unfairly I thought at the time) having worked there dealing with the public, however a train I was on stopped there en route to the NEC and a loud, drunk girl got on who preceeded to start a fight with everyone on the train. I got a shrug and an “I told you so”.
    Regarding the Grove catering, we used to get a box for the Emirates cup and the restaurant food was always spot on with excellent, polite service.

  • CB

    Hope Workers – don’t go there, I don’t want it to get overcrowded (I would try to pretend it is rubbish, but it’s not).

    On the same side of Holloway Road closer to the ground (100 yards on) the fish and chips shop ‘Chip Inn’ is great. But get there early, I don’t want to queue too long.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Untold Arsenal, the Michelin guide of football food 😉

    It will be a difficult choice when I come over for the Fulham game 🙂
    But first Schalke and some B-wurst

  • Ong Bing

    Thank you very much for the article, I like it.

    As a overseas gooner, I lived in place with different culture. So story before, during and after game always interested for me.

  • Off topic,di Manure lose their game on saturday@Oldtoilet??? I dont see it anywhere i just see Arsenal losing!!! What happening to the whore-lists did they watch that game?? Ha ha ha they where paid in kind danm.

  • nicky

    Thoroughly enjoyed the catering report. Each one is a pleasant change from the usual post mortem on matches past and suggested line-ups for games to come.
    Hope there will be more to come.

  • Ong Bing

    Yes, I want more reports like this.

    Away game will interesting, specially when we play away in Champion League.

  • ClockEndRider

    The staff and organisation at the ground are a shambles. Saturday in the North Bank, they had changed all the bars round – some we’re serving beer, others weren’t. At the ones which were you could get a pint of bitter but not lager? Why? You had to go to a separate bar for a pint of lager.
    Oh and re the bitter, backstage, the staff were opening tins of bitter and pouring them into plastic glasses. What the hell is going on! It’s like some third rate wedding. Only third rate weddings don’t charge £4.20 a pint.

  • Piebury

    @blacksheep and Tony, Please feel free to pop along to The Piebury and sample our latest addition to our ‘PieLegend’ menu The ‘Paddy Galligan’ steak ‘n’ guinness pie, sold out first on his first day. Goes well with the ‘Chippy Brady’ roast tat ties on the side.

  • MissBlack

    Delaware North have the contract at the stadium to do the catering for the red memberships. They are a shower of utter *****. I hope the club do not renew it & get a better company in to do it. As you correctly point out, it is a disorganised mess, you can’t get served quickly & often the food & drink is horrible. I’ve had hot chocolate that is like dishwater, how do you screw that up? & I gingerly ordered fries for £3, which had clearly been sitting around too long so were Luke warm & not good. Haven’t bought food in the stadium for 2 seasons, will not do so again unless DN improve (unlikely). They also are responsible for the,catering at Wembley… Bring back the Highbury bagels!

  • Pat

    Agree about the Emirates catering staff not being trained. I would hazard a guess they are also poorly paid and inexperienced. Fans deserve a better service, especially as the food and drink are not cheap.
    I also find it annoying that they open the bottles of water. I wanted to buy two bottles to save queueing at half time but would then have had to juggle two open bottles while watching the match. And this is at £2 a bottle.
    Small things possibly, but still irritating.