“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Diary Of A Wimpy Kid

Those were the days. Back in the 70s and 80s my sister and I would at times go on little excursions with our Mum, either to Maidstone or Ashford, usually on the bus. Usually these trips involved lots of tromping around shops and were quite tiring. I think these little shopping trips were the genesis of my and Sis's great dislike of shopping in general. However there was always light at the end of the tunnel - there was usually food to be had at some point. In both Ashford and Maidstone there were (and are, still) plenty of eateries, but the one that endures in the memory for me at least is the Wimpy. Nice burgers, breakfasts, chips etc. and a wonderful dessert menu that included such decadent delights as the Banana Boat (a version of the banana split), the Knickerbocker Glory (sadly no longer available) and my favourite, the fiendishly simple, er, sinful Brown Derby, a fresh doughnut topped with Tastee-Freez ice cream and chocolate sauce, and a sprinkle of nuts.
You may now drool.
Well, on Saturday Laura and I went to Maidstone and I was craving Wimpy before we even got off the bus. I knew what I wanted. But let us flash back a little in time...

The Wimpy brand was created in the 1930s. The name was inspired by the character of J. Wellington Wimpy, the perpetually hungry "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" character from the Popeye cartoons created by E. C. Segar. Eddie Gold was running 12 restaurants by the early 1950s, when the concept of fast food came to the attention of the directors of J. Lyons and Co. Lyons licensed the brand for use in the United Kingdom and in 1954 the first "Wimpy Bar" Lyons was established at the Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street, London. Originally the bar was a special fast-food section within the more traditional Corner House restaurants, but the success soon led to the establishment of separate Wimpy restaurants serving only hamburger based meals. By 1970 the business had expanded to over a thousand restaurants in 23 countries.

In 1974 McDonalds opened their first UK restaurant, and by the late 70s Wimpy was beginning to feel the pinch. United Biscuits acquired them in 1977, and so began the conversion of some of the 'table service' restaurants to counter service. In 1988 Grand Metropolitan acquired Burger King and Wimpy was acquired the following year. After a couple of management buy-outs, Famous Brands, the owners of the South African franchise, acquired the UK restaurants in 2007 and thus began another re-branding. However, a lot of the old favourites are still there as well as some new classics.

A few weeks back I went to the Wimpy in Tufton Street, Ashford, and it was like being ten years old again.

Ketchup and vinegar on the table at all times!

The Country Breakfast. I must go for that sometime.

A new dessert entitled the Eskimo Waffle. Read the description.

Laura in burger heaven.

My Spicy Bean Burger, which is fab. Wimpy is the only  UK fast food franchise that serves Quorn burgers.
So there we were in Maidstone yesterday, and we entered the Wimpy on Gabriels Hill, and here are the resulting pictures...

Very light and airy, not like some other fast food places we could mention.


One thing I like is that you get to see the food being cooked to order in front of you.

The Wimpy Club - a new twist on an old classic. Burger, cheese, lettuce and relish on the bottom half, bacon and egg on the top half. Mm mm mm.

I also love that 'wheatmeal' bun on the regular burgers. 
So it was that we left Wimpy with a deep sense of satisfaction in knowing that here was still in existence a burger joint in the traditional, non-fast food sense of the word, a place that was around long before Ray Kroc and his clown-burger emporium, a place that still knows how to do justice to a circular slab of minced beef (and their coffee's not too shabby either). We would have stayed for dessert, but we were stuffed to the gills. Maybe next time. Maybe we're just too wimpy.

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