Well, what happened is not all bad. The trains are all quite old but he's toshed them over with a paint job and new seat covers etc. Got the picture? We sat in the dining car on the 0900 Euston to Manchester train. It left on time which was a good omen. We were immediately offered coffee or tea and we went for coffee - a big mistake. It looked OK, but the taste was horrid. Now why was this? The breakfast was very good, (especially the sausages) a reputation InterCity always had, but we don't remember the coffee always being so bad.
Is there then some secret to good coffee? We think not, so why, Mr Branson is yours so dreadful?
Good coffee should have bags of flavour, a richness and aroma. It is, after all, one of the most stimulating drinks around and it should make a decent impression on our taste buds. Virgin's coffee had none of these qualities.
Nosh Brothers to the rescue. For a good cup of coffee you will first need to source a good quality, well-roasted bean. The degree of roasting is important; do you want a full-on dark roast or a softer, lighter roast? Then, deciding what bean or blend is most appropriate will need a little research. And the beans need to be ground to suit the method of "brewing" ie, fine for filter, medium for cafetiere etc.
Finally, it's most important is to use the right amount of coffee. If you have the coffee measured about right you can still muck it up by putting too much water through - you will not only get weak coffee, which is pointless, but it will also taste bitter, because you've "over-extracted" the coffee, letting the bitter part of the bean get into the brew. The water temperature is also quite crucial. Unlike tea, which requires boiling water, coffee will "scorch" if boiling water is used, destroying the delicate aromatic oils, leaving a burnt taste. Water should be just "off the boil" at about 97C.
Are you paying attention, Mr Branson? We hope so. We're sure you want to do something about it and we know the boys to talk to - Mr Torz and Mr Macatonia. In our opinion, they're this country's finest coffee roasters. For those of you who only have domestic train sets, Mr T and Mr M will mail you the best to your door if you ring them on 0171-515 7770.
The Nosh Brothers' book `Entertaining' is available in all good bookshops or from MacMillan on 0181-324 5700. Their new television series, `Winter Nosh', will be transmitted on Carlton Food Network on 8 January '98 with the book of the series published beginning December '97 (HarperCollins)Reuse content